Let me start out this review by saying this; I never thought I would own a point and shoot camera. I went to an estate sale on my day off, looking for film cameras, and ended up leaving with two point and shoots, both from the same era.
The XA2 is not nearly as popular as its predecessor, the original XA. The XA put a little bit more of the exposure equation in the hands of the photographer, allowing them to choose focus distance, ISO, AND the aperture. The XA also had a slightly faster lens, with an f/2.8 instead of the XA2’s f/3.5 lens. While there are slight differences between the original XA and all its subsequent siblings, they all revolve around a 35mm lens in a very pocketable body. Most came new with some sort of flash unit attachment, which adds a little bit of length as it attaches to the side. The XA2 came with the A-11 flash unit, which I have, for the most part, left at home. The flash is like a bomb going off, usually providing a wonderful ‘deer in the headlights’ look.
Now that I’ve said my part about the flash, I’ll start with the body itself. It’s basically a plastic brick that fits in the palm of your hand, slides easily into any pocket, and does not draw any attention to the one holding it. The slider conveniently covers the lens, viewfinder, and light meter when closed, and also deactivates the shutter so you can’t accidentally take any shots. This small plastic brick houses a 35mm f/3.5 lens which is surprisingly sharp for it’s age. To keep the body as small as possible, they used a leaf shutter instead of a focal plane shutter. For those don’t know what either of those terms mean, just know that a leaf shutter is massively quieter than a focal plane shutter. The leaf shutter in this camera is one of the few things that isn’t plastic. Pressing the shutter button provides a quick click sound. Maybe the sound of a pen clicking, but much quieter? I’m not sure honestly, but it’s quiet.
The loudest thing about this camera is advancing the film to the next frame. Think disposable camera wind on noisy, and that’s exactly what this sounds and feels like. My particular copy doesn’t have the most consistent framing, but I have not had any shots overlap, yet. Besides pressing the shutter and selecting ISO sensitivity for the lighter meter, you can also shoot the focus range! The options are located to the left of the lens and show pictures interpreting the distance that the lens should about focus to.
Bottom - Head & Shoulders - 4 feet
Center - Full Body - 9 feet
Top - Mountain - 40 feet
This method is called zone focusing, and is essentially a guess as to where your subject is. If it’s bright enough out, it doesn’t really matter if you set it in the right place, though I usually leave mine in the default center position. Which reminds me, the tab for the focus resets to the center when you close the slider, handy, but also annoying at times.
So there are three different things you can control, focus, ISO, the flash (if you have it on), and firing of the shutter. There are a few things about this camera that I don’t quite understand. There is the red light on the front of the camera, and I have no idea what it does. I haven’t seen it light up at any point in time since I’ve had it. There is a red light on the inside of the viewfinder that lights up if the shutter will be too slow, but the front light does not light up with it? Superfluous red light cover to make it look better? Another thing I don’t quite understand was the addition of a tripod socket on the bottom. I can’t imagine any person, ever, mounting this on a tripod. The socket itself is plastic, so I’m not sure how many uses it could take before it breaks. Also on the bottom of the camera is a little switch for a self-timer (which would explain the need for a tripod socket), and the battery check. I have no idea if it’s just my camera, but when I turn the switch to battery check, it makes a horrendously high-pitched whining noise. It doesn’t sound right, but the camera works so I haven’t worried about it. I haven’t tested the self-timer, but I’m sure it’s something like two or ten seconds before it goes off. I’ll try it one of these days.
Now that I’ve covered most of the body, I’ll dive into what I like and don’t like about shooting with it.
First off, sometimes it’s nice not to have to think about what you’re doing. See something cool? Point, and shoot. These cameras are great for a quick capture, a moment. If that sounds like your perfect shooting scenario, go ahead and get one of these, because they’re perfect for it! Most of the time I am very methodical about what and how I shoot. This camera is simply fun to use, so it’s an appreciated deviation from my normal style. I wish I had a little bit more control like I could with the original XA, but I’m not sure it would be quite as enjoyable of an experience.
So far, the camera is quiet, fun, and easy to use. The thing I absolutely love about this camera is how incredibly portable it is. Back pocket, front pocket, fanny pack; you name it, and it’ll fit. I haven’t tested the durability of it, but you could take this camera along with you just about anywhere, and it wouldn’t add more than half a pound of weight.
Portable, quiet, fun, and easy to use. It’s honestly a great camera, one of the only major complaints I have is the rewind crank. Remember when I said the camera is a plastic brick? So is the rewind crank. It feels like it is going to break the entire time I’m rolling up a finished canister of film. 36 frames feels monstrously worse than 24 as you have 12 more frames of resistance to fight back into the film canister. I’m honestly surprised it hasn’t broken yet. Another thing I despise about the rewind crank is how it’s engaged. There is a tiny little button on the bottom of the camera, it unlocks the gears in the camera that advances the frame. If you don’t press this little button in, you can still get the film rewound, but each and every sprocket will rip and tear, and your entire roll of film with essentially be destroyed. Any guesses as to how I figured this out?
If this does happen to you, I wish you the best of luck in cleaning out the tiny little squares of broken film sprockets, and I hope developing it goes as smoothly as possible. I’m surprised I even wasted time developing that roll of film after how fucked it got. I ended up throwing the entire roll of film away, just glad that the camera could take pictures.
If it weren’t for the rewind crank, and the rewind crank button, I think this would be an almost perfect camera. But since I can’t get over the rewind crank, I’ll probably keep looking for a better point and shoot that will work for me better. My next review will be on the Canon Sure Shot, which is another point and shoot that I’ve enjoyed using these past couple of months.
TLDR: It’s fun and easy to use, get it, but be careful rewinding the film.
Now onto more pictures!