A test roll in my malfunctioning Olympus XA

I got out my Olympus XA specifically to shoot some Kodak Plus-X I bought recently. Because the film has always been stored frozen, and because Plus-X is so hardy, I expect it to behave as if new.

Olympus XA

After I put batteries in the XA, I noticed that the needle inside the viewfinder read a few stops off. Drat it! The XA actually, and strangely, has two meters, one that controls the viewfinder needle and one that controls the shutter speed. It was possible that the shutter-speed meter was fine, and only the viewfinder needle meter was off.

I decided to shoot a test roll to check for that. But there was no way I was going to potentially waste a precious roll of Plus-X. Instead, I used a roll of T-Max 100. I shot all but a few frames with the XA set in its snapshot mode, focused to three meters at an aperture of f/5.6. Both of these settings are marked in orange on the camera.

I developed the film in Rodinal 1+50. The negatives were appropriately dense. This is the first time I’ve scanned T-Max 100 on my Plustek 8100, and I wasn’t wowed by the images straight off the scanner. I boosted contrast considerably on all of the images. But they were all properly exposed. Here are the best of the images.

Pool house
Looking out over the retention pond
The American House, Burlington
Suburban houses
The road, she is closed
Dance studio
Bathroom mirror selfie

Several of my film cameras are queued to be sent for repair and CLA, and with this, my Olympus XA joins the group. I enjoy this camera enough to invest in having it overhauled and having its needle meter repaired. But because the camera sets exposure properly and otherwise works fine, it goes to the end of the repair line.

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15 responses to “A test roll in my malfunctioning Olympus XA”

  1. kodachromeguy Avatar

    I did not know that the XA cameras were repairable. I hope it works out.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      John Hermanson of Camtech Photo Services says he can repair them.

      1. Brian Lowe Avatar
        Brian Lowe

        Did you ever resolve the issue with the meter discrepancies? I also have an XA with the viewfinder needle reading at least 2-3, stops from a correct shutter speed exposure, yet the actual shutter speed seems to yield a correct exposure. It’s a very annoying malfunction, which seems to be commonly reported by people still trying to use this camera. Otherwise, I love the clamshell form factor of the XA for their pocketability. I would love to have mine fixed so the viewfinder would display the actual shutter speed.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I haven’t yet. This camera is on my list to send out for repair. I’m going to send it to John Hermanson (http://www.zuiko.com/) as he repairs XAs.

  2. Greg Clawson Avatar
    Greg Clawson

    Jim, how do you like the Rodinal? I’ve been using PaRodinal(home made Rodinal) since I started developing film last year. It works just like Rodinal and costs about a buck for 1\2 L.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I find Rodinal to be reliable, but a grain enhancer. My other developer, HC-110, doesn’t bring out nearly as much grain. I use these two developers largely because they last — an open bottle of Rodinal can be good for years.

  3. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    Jim your scanning is coming along, these look great! Just a reminder, you WANT your negatives to look a bit flat when you scan them, if they’re too contrasty to begin with there’s only so much you can do. Optimizing everything in Post is always my preferred way of working.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Right, but there’s a bit flat and flaaaaaaaaaaat! I’m getting closer to the latter. I’m experimenting with VueScan settings to improve my starting point for Photoshop.

      1. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

        Better to err on the flat side! Doubtless your film and developer combo will vary how flat the scans appear every time you use your scanner. If the results look good then I don’t see a point in constantly changing your scan settings just to get the scan a little closer to how you want the finished image to be. Possibly necessary if you’re dealing with underexposed/overexposed images and you’re noticing scanning errors being brought into your images, but besides that if it’s not broke don’t fix it! My entire workflow involves bringing my scans into Affinity Photo for final processing, I’m surprised to read you complaining about having to do extra work ;)

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Ok, solid points. Yes, every film/dev combo gives me different results off the scanner. This one, Rodinal and TMax 100, is so incredibly flat with my default settings that I had to boost contrast to 90-100 to get the look I wanted! Maybe that’s my signal that I just don’t like this film/dev combo.

          1. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

            How are you working on the scans? Do you bring everything into Photoshop?

        2. Jim Grey Avatar

          Yes, Photoshop. The other tool available to me is Lightroom, but I didn’t take to it.

          1. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

            Just use it for every image, everytime. I make it like an assembly line, do a roll or two at a time and get all the postwork done pretty quickly that way.

  4. Christoph Avatar

    Hi Jim, dropped my XA last week and while the actual meter seem to work fine, the needle meter has to be replaced. Did you manage to get yours repaired? Prices for XA kind of exploded here in Germany (bought mine for 35 €, now they are around 200), so just getteing another one is not an option.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve not sent my XA out for repair yet. It’s near the back of the queue since it does work. I agree, the prices of these used are just crazy now!

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