"A bit of an enigma, the XA. I really wanted to like this camera more than the Mju-II because it allowed the focus to be where I wanted it, I could set the asa rating of the film, I could choose my own f-stop, and, without the flash unit attached, I wouldn't have to keep turning the flash off as I do with the Mju-II. And, of course, it does all this. It's a wonderful piece of design. The meter on the XA is superb - I've never had a duff exposure, even in some almost impossible situations. I quite often set it down at f16, for example, and then let the meter sort it all out in relative darkness. And up it comes up with the right exposure with all sorts of weird blurred effects.
But the reality is that the focus is, actually, a little difficult as the viewfinder isn't very big and the rangefinder zone is small and sometimes hard to see. Of course one can set it to f5.6 and place the focus on 3m and it works well enough as a point and shoot, but it's hard to resist taking a bit of time to check the focus. The main issue for me, though, is that the Mju-II is so good at doing most of what the XA does, without having to spend a bit of time getting a shot prepared. The lens on the Mju-II is also a little better, I think, although it may actually be the same lens in both cameras for all I know and I'm looking at the images too closely and making up differences. Again, comparing it to the Mju-II the clamshell seems a little flimsy and the overall feel is that the XA isn't quite as tough. Like the Mju-II it is rather light and I feel I'm in danger of not holding the XA still.
So - it's uses. Well, that's it really. If I want the best quality image I can, I'll take out my M2. If I want a point and shoot, I'll take out my Mju-II. If I want interchangeable lenses I'll take out the OM's. So why would I take out the XA? I don't know. I never take it out... Which is a shame because it does its thing really well."
I've just put the above in inverted commas and greyed it off because that's what I wrote a year or two ago, and now I don't think the same. I have found a definite place for this camera in my arsenal. I could simply remove the above text and start again, but it occurred to me that the journey I've been on with this camera might be a common one, and the alteration of an assessment and its implications would be lost.
So what's changed? Well, nothing with the camera itself, obviously, but I have found that juggling the Leica and light meter in their padded zip bag removes so much immediacy that I miss lots of opportunities or simply don't bother to go through the whole rigmarole. There's less of a rigmarole with the OM's, but there is still a bit of bulk and a lack of discretion. The Mju-II? Well, with the Mju-II I can't push the film, and if I forgot to kill off the flash just once it could be a disaster when shooting discretely, for example at the side of a stage. Trip 35? Won't do long exposures.
So the XA is a great discrete camera, and excells in low light. The exposure accuracy is spot on and the resolution of the lens is as good as many other Zuikos on other cameras. And I've got better at seeing the focus patch in the viewfinder, though often don't bother to check it too closely as it's easy to read off the general idea from above the camera. The result? I'm taking it out more and more, taking more pictures with it, and I'm never disapointed with the results. But I have discovered a Trip...
Below: Look at the fun you can have with plonking it down and doing a timed release on f16!
And the exposure's still perfect.