Bargain bucket photography

by Helen Hooker April. 01, 2019 831 views
One of my first shots with the XA1, on a foggy morning at Hatfield Forest, shooting into the sun. I'm amazed this bargain camera handled the contrast so well!

One of my first shots with the XA1, on a foggy morning at Hatfield Forest, shooting into the sun. I'm amazed this bargain camera handled the contrast so well!

A few weeks ago, I bought an Olympux XA1 camera on eBay for the princely sum of £12.50, including postage. I’d read good things about the Olympus XA but at that point hadn’t quite realised the difference between the various models. It turns out the original XA is the one to have, as it’s a full rangefinder with a 35mm f2.8 lens. It’s become very popular in recent years and prices have shot up. As a result, it’s quite easy to spend over £100 on a model in good working order.

Shooting into the sun again. With the fog gone, there's a little lens flare, but still not a bad effort. I love the long shadows of the trees.

Shooting into the sun again. With the fog gone, there's a little lens flare, but still not a bad effort. I love the long shadows of the trees.

One of Hatfield Forest's ancient hornbeams

One of Hatfield Forest's ancient hornbeams

Down by the river in Cambridge

Down by the river in Cambridge

The Geometric Bridge at Queen's College, Cambridge

The Geometric Bridge at Queen's College, Cambridge

My little XA1, by comparison, is a much humbler model, with a fixed focus f4 lens. It has a selenium cell for metering (like the Olympus Trip 35), which doesn’t need a battery, and has absolutely no creative controls other than how your compose your pictures. Realising my error, I figured I may as well run a roll of film through it, if only to check whether it works before selling it again. I finished off a cheap roll of Kentmere ISO 400 monochrome film last week, sent it off for developing and held my breath….

West Dean Gardens.

West Dean Gardens.

I thought shooting up at this blossoming magnolia might be a test too far, but apparently not!

I thought shooting up at this blossoming magnolia might be a test too far, but apparently not!

When the negatives arrived in the post, I was delighted to find they contained some pictures – at least that meant the meter and shutter both work! Having digitised them, they hold up quite well to closer inspection. Subjects closer than 1.5 metres are out of the question, but thankfully I only tried close ups in three frames. Aside from that, with careful composition it’s possible to take some interesting pictures.

Inside the apple store in West Dean Gardens. The XA1 only has two shutter speeds (1/40 and 1/200 of a second) so I wasn't sure if this one would work at all

Inside the apple store in West Dean Gardens. The XA1 only has two shutter speeds (1/40 and 1/200 of a second) so I wasn't sure if this one would work at all

The camera itself is very small and light (lots of plastic in its construction) and so simple to use – a literal point and shoot camera. It’s so compact (not to mention cheap) that I feel inclined to load a roll of film and keep it in my coat pocket for spontaneous use whenever the mood takes me. One thing’s for sure – it’s not going back on eBay yet!

My little pocket rocket. The XA1 may be the most underrated model in the family, but I think I got a bit of a bargain!

My little pocket rocket. The XA1 may be the most underrated model in the family, but I think I got a bit of a bargain!

A close up of the lens and selenium cell

A close up of the lens and selenium cell

You can only use ISO 100 or 400 film!

You can only use ISO 100 or 400 film!

1 April 2019

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There are 5 comments , add yours!
Abigail Gossage 2 years, 2 months ago

A less experienced photographer might have a problem but to me it looks as though you have a keeper!

2 years, 2 months ago Edited
Heidi Egerman 2 years, 2 months ago

These are wonderful monochrome images.

2 years, 2 months ago Edited
Kay Hooker 2 years, 2 months ago

Great experiment Helen.  Look forward to seeing more from this little gem.

2 years, 2 months ago Edited
Jolien Dekens 2 years, 2 months ago

Impressive! I don't think I would manage that well without all the help from my digital camera sweat smile

2 years, 2 months ago Edited
Russell Smith 2 years, 2 months ago

Do you find yourself check the back of the camera from time to time. I have found myself doing that to check the histogram if I am unsure of how the exposure was.

2 years, 2 months ago Edited
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