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Film Camera Review, Olympus XA2 35mm Zone Focus Film Camera

Film Camera Review: Olympus XA2
A 35mm sharpshooter with a 3-zone focus 35mm F3.5 lens from the Olympus XA camera series.

Talk about the superlatives of the Olympus XA series of 35mm Capsule Cameras produced by Olympus from 1979 to 1985, and the wish to have at least a touch and feel, if not to keep, each and every iteration of the series. Having fulfilled the wish, and having the collection, it is time for the reviews. This one is of the Olympus XA2.

The Olympus XA2, the second iteration of the XA Capsule Camera series from Olympus, is a simplified version of the highly acknowledged Olympus XA 35mm Rangefinder. Sold alongside the Olympus XA as an economical alternative, and with the lesser of the two lenses, the XA2 manages to stand out on its own as a very capable camera with a wonderfully sharp lens, one which is almost on par with that of the XA.

Olympus XA2, Kit with A11 flash, instruction, box, and case

Compared to the two, the XA2 has a smaller more rounded oval shape on the slide cover and a 4-elements in 4-groups D.Zuiko 35mm F3.5 lens instead of the 6-elements in 5-groups F.Zuiko 35mm F2.8 as found on the Olympus XA. Both cameras accept film ISO speed settings from 25 to 800 and are compatible with all XA flash units available, activated by a switch on the camera body which will set the camera to auto flash.

    Oly35mm Review - Olympus XA2

    A inconspicuous street shooter in your pocket, the XA2 combines nice optics and ease of use. The second in the XA line, the zone focus XA2 made its debut in ...

The automatic exposure system on the XA2 is controlled by a programmed shutter with an automatic exposure range from 2 seconds at F3.5 to 1/750 second at F14. The electronic self-timer delay is 12 seconds. When the slide cover is closed, the zone-focus distance will reset to its default setting, the power switches off, and the shutter locks.

Basic Camera Features

The XA2 is available in four body colors - urban white, heart red, blue, and a special and very rare commemorative pink. The XA2 was also the recipient of the Good Design Mark Competition (1981), sponsored by the Japan Industrial Design Promotion Association.

Olympus XA2, A11 Flash, Front

With the capsule design cover closed, the front panel of the camera only displays the zone focusing slider switch and the battery check/self-timer LED located up towards the edge of the top panel. 

When slid back, the cover reveals, top-down, the viewfinder window, the lens, and its housing mount with a CdS light sensor sitting on top of the lens ring, the film ISO speed selector, and the lever to engage the flash.

Olympus XA2, A11 Flash, Top

On the top plane, to the left is the film rewind crank, which will be partially covered with the clamshell cover opened, the self-timer battery check beeper, and to the right, the electro-sensitive shutter release pad, and film frame window.

Olympus XA2, A11 Flash, Back

On the back, the viewfinder eyepiece (with the cover opened), the film forward thumb wind located on the top right corner, and the non-interchangeable hinge type film back occupy the rest of the camera's back.

Olympus XA2, A11 Flash, Bottom

On the bottom, the battery check/self-timer selector lever is located right at the top-left corner of the plate, the film rewind release button, the battery chamber, its access cover, and the tripod socket. The selector lever is turned horizontally out when the self-timer mode is activated, and this adds a leverage point for stabilizing the body when the camera is placed on a flat surface.

Olympus XA2, Film box

Film loading is the standard easy load type with a film canister chamber, shutter frame, forward sprocket gear, and a multislot take-up spool lining up from left to right. Once the film is properly tensioned and the film back closed, the standard two blank shots are used to load the film to frame 1.

Viewfinder Readout

Olympus XA 2, Viewfinder readout

The viewfinder is plain, bright, and clear, displaying only the bright-line frame and a green diode, down on the bottom right corner of the viewfinder window, which lights up when the shutter speed is at 1/30 second or slower, signaling that you should turn the flash unit on or place the camera on a tripod. A zig-zag arrow flash icon is displayed on the left side of the bright-line frame when the flash unit is switched on.

Zone Focusing

Olympus XA 2, Zone Focusing

The Olympus XA2 focuses manually with a simple three-position zone-focus system. The distance setting slider switch, with the distance setting displayed in graphic form, is located on the front body panel. The slider can be easily adjusted with your finger as you put the camera into focus. Focusing distances are 1.5 meters, 3 meters, and infinity.

Olympus XA2, A11 Flash

The zone focus range defaults back to the group photo 3-meter mark when the slide cover is closed and stays put at the same distance zone when the cover is slid open again, a reminder here that you should always check the distance setting for every shot you are taking.

Flash Compatibility

For flash photography, and like the rest of the XA camera series, the XA2 can only be fitted with the proprietary XA series camera flash units. The XA2 was sold with the A11 flash unit as a package but will also work with others (A16, A1L, and A9M) of the series.


The self-timer delay is about 12 seconds. It is activated by pulling out the battery check/self-timer lever all the way out of the body to the vertical position, which will double as a stabilizer when the camera is placed on a flat surface. The timer delay is actuated when the shutter is released.

The ElectroMagnetic Shutter Pad

On a good working unit, the electronic membrane shutter system is light to the touch, needing only a tab with your finger to release the shutter. No exposure lock trick here, and no +1.5EV exposure compensation lever for the backlight either, as can be found on the original XA, and later XA models, namely the XA3 and XA4.


The Olympus XA2 uses a pair of the standard LR44 1.5-volt batteries to operate its autoexposure system and electronic shutter. A continuous 'beep' and LED display of the self-timer/battery check LED will indicate that the battery still has the power to go.

Camera Body Weight

The Olympus XA2 weighs 200 grams without batteries.

Early Images

My first outing with the Olympus XA2 was on a very bright and sunny morning, and again, as I have done with the XA4, went on a shooting spree without regard to the zone focus setting. It probably works out just as well with these sample images I am posting.

#CameraReview Olympus XA 2, Getting Started With 01

#CameraReview Olympus XA 2, Getting Started With 02

Set the film ISO setting a notch higher than its real rating, your shots will be slightly under-exposed, and the images will come up with a slightly deeper color concentration.

#CameraReview Olympus XA 2, Getting Started With 03

#CameraReview Olympus XA 2, Getting Started With 04

There was also the element of fun with the diminutively small camera, especially this guy who was very curious about the camera I was carrying and decided to demo his version of 'Dance of the Bubble Fish' when asked to pose for a couple of shots.

#CameraReview Olympus XA 2, Getting Started With 01

#CameraReview Olympus XA 2, Getting Started With 02

Though not as 'Grab-and-Go' as the Olympus XA1, which I liked very much as a hipster shooter, the XA2 is very much a camera to be considered if you are more serious about getting a camera that should suit you well with the basic genres of film photography.

Olympus XA2 Instructions: Click here to download from

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  1. Thanks for the article - very helpful. Only one part got me confused: "Set the film ISO setting a notch lower than its real rating, your shots will be slightly under-exposed, and the images will come up with a slightly deeper color concentration." shouldn't it set the ISO on the camera higher than the films rating to archive a bjt of underexposure?

    1. Wow, my bad, should have been more thorough with these terms, corrected, thanks!

  2. Hi, great write up. I've just bought one for £41 (including postage). Been after one for a while and having found your article has convinced me I've spent my money well. Thanx


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