Olympus XA2 + A11 Flash Night Photography Review

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Ok so first things first, I have a short disclaimer to make. I would discourage you from judging this camera based solely on the images in this review. To switch things up, I decided to shoot the majority of these images at night, often without the flash. That was a mistake. While it preformed admirably given the conditions, nighttime isn't the time to shoot this camera, or any entry-level film point + shoot for that matter. Because of this, a lot of the images are blurry, very underexposed, or downright ugly, and a lot of that comes down to user error. As far as compact cameras go, this one did a descent job. Now, with that out of the way, back to the actual review.

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The Olympus XA series is probably one of the first cameras to gain a cult status among film point-and-shoot enthusiasts, and that makes sense, because its also one of the oldest. Originally released in '79, The original XA was one of the first higher-end compacts to hit the market. The XA2 came out a year later, and featured what are essentially dumbed-down controls, as well as a slower lens. though its image quality isn't quite as good as the XA, It is much easier to use, and features fully automatic exposure, with only an adjustable ISO dial to control your exposure settings; a big downside, in my opinion.

The exposure isn't the only control that leaves something to be desired, though. In fact, I found this camera to be incredibly awkward to use. The first and biggest flaw is the focus. While I can see the appeal for the time in which it was produced, in my opinion it's crude zone focus system lacks a place in modern photography. Rather than auto focus or a precise manual focus system, it gives only 3 focus settings. Furthermore, when the clamshell cover is closed it resets to its mid-range focus distance. Because of this, I found it to be totally unintuitive in use. Even for street photography, one of the only cases were some might prefer to zone focus, it is nearly useless, since it resets when closed. With it being slow, as you have to refocus whenever turned on/off, as well as imprecise, it just leaves me wondering when this type of camera is actually the best option, especially at its price. That being said, if this appeals to you, then it may prove to be a unique fit to your shooting style.

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So with the flawed control system, why is this camera so highly regarded? Well, like so many popular film compacts, the hype around this camera revolves around one thing, its lens. With excellent image quality, many people would consider it one of the better options at its price. Though it is slower and not quite as sharp as its older brother the XA, the lens on the XA2 is still an exceptional piece of glass. It is sharp and renders nicely, with little vignetting or distortion. Though I prefer both the Olympus AF-10 and Infinity Stylus to the XA2, I will admit that the image quality on the XA2 is slightly better than both of the former.

So heres the bottom line. Would I shoot it myself? No, but that shouldn't stop you, especially if you can get it at a good price. While I didn't personally enjoy the way it shoots, it has a very good lens, and if you can work with its limitations this camera is capable of making some very nice images. 

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