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1990 all over again

the roots of an obsession

in Film , Saturday, April 20, 2013

Many, many years ago, the first camera I ever owned - leaving aside an Agfa Instamatic I had as a child, which I barely remember - was an Olympus XA1, which I bought in Oxford St, London, when I was a University student. According to current internet lore, the XA1 was rubbish, but apart from the fact that it was all I could afford, it was good enough for me at the time. This set me off on the path towards becoming what I believe is called a full-blown Olympus fanboy - although there was to be a decade long Canon diversion in my future. Later, I bought an XA3 (slightly less crap) to take to the Antarctic, and it was the ideal camera to have at hand in the cockpit of the Twin Otter I spent most of my working hours in. Indeed, my team mate and pilot had an XA, which I coveted, although I probably was better off with the zone focussing XA3.

Anyway, both my XA1 and XA3 have long since vanished, but a few weeks ago in the local antique / junk Saturday market, which I very rarely visit, I noticed a pretty clean looking XA complete with flash. It was going for 37 Swiss Francs (about $40), which I was quite prepared to hand over, but in true Monty Python style the stall holder insisted on haggling me down to CHF 25, which was even better.

Drm 2013 04 20 EP32755

So, I bought a roll of Fuji Superia 200, which is all I could find at the time, and here are a few shots. I took a few frames for me to get used to the rangefinder and the exposure meter, but the camera doesn’t seem to have an y light leaks or other faults.  Not bad for the price.

Drm xa 0004


Drm xa 0003


Drm xa 0002


Drm xa 0001

I’m not that keen on Superia 200 - I think Kodak Portra 160, or Ektar 100, would be better, but I have to order those.  The real shock is that at least at 1-hour photo lab prices, processing a 24 Exposure roll of colour print film costs CHF 35 - more than the camera!

I scanned the negatives using Silverfast’s Superia 200 Negafix preset, but the results were very much on the cool side and nothing like the lab’s interpretation.  The Fuji Press 400 preset, on the other, was almost spot-on.  That’s one of the problems with scanning colour negative rather than positive (slide) - there’s no real reference point, and it’s all down to interpretation.

It’s fun using the Olympus XA, and the results are pretty good. But I’m not sure how relevant it remains in the digital age.

Posted in category "Film" on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 08:16 PM

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