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Film Camera Review, Olympus XA4 Macro 35mm Distance Focus Film Camera

Film Camera Review: Olympus XA4 Macro
A sharp and sweet 35mm Olympus capsule camera with a Zuiko 28mm F3.5 macro lens.

The Olympus XA Capsule Cameras from Olympus, produced between 1979 to 1985, were a series of beautifully designed compact 35mm autoexposure film cameras with a slide-cover clam-shell case. The original model, the XA, which features true rangefinder focusing, comes with a fast 6 elements in 5-group 35mm F2.8 lens, and aperture priority metering.

Based on the concept of parallel growth, other iterations of the series are not at all meant to replace or upgrade the previous model, but rather to expand the offerings to not only different consumer, age, or interest groups but also to address an expanding field of photography genres. The last iteration of the series, the Olympus XA4 Macro, is a prime statement of this philosophy.

Right up on the front, the Olympus XA4 Macro comes fitted with a super-wide 5-element in 5-groups Zuiko 28mm F3.5 lens with a minimum focusing distance of 0.3 meters, a standard that sets it away from the rest of the clan who were fitted mainly with wide-angle 35mm focal length lens. The XA4 Macro is even provided with a unique wrist lanyard which is used to measure the correct camera-to-subject macro distance.

The only drawback that the Olympus XA4 Macro faces in its quest to be acknowledged as another prime factor of the XA series is its short production run, which lasted only through 1985. The date itself was also the end of the XA series' life cycle. The XA4 Micro was never long enough in the limelight to be assessed, may be recognized, and subsequently treated as an equal to the XA.

    Oly35mm Review - XA4

    The XA made its debut in 1985 and its exit about a year later. This, along with its close focus 28mm f3.5 lens, makes it quite the collectible camera. Sample photos at:

With the limited production numbers and scarce distribution, you might still be able to access an Olympus XA4 Micro from auction or sales sites, at the cost of an arm or a leg.

Design and Built

The Olympus XA4 Macro is the last iteration of the Olympus XA 35mm Autoexposure Capsule Camera series. It is a macro-mode model, fitted with a close-focus 5-elements in 5-groups Zuiko 28mm F3.5 macro lens, a seven zone distance scale focusing from 0.3 meters to infinity, electromagnetic shutter release with a programmed auto-exposure range from 2 seconds at F3.5 to 1/750 second at F14, and accepts DX-coded film with ISO speed from 25 to 1600.

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Top Front

Other functionalities include a 12-second delay self-timer capability, a backlight +1.5 compensation switch, an autoflash function with propriety XA flash units, and a flash adaptor for close-up shots. An accessory item included as a kit is the wrist lanyard, which can be used, when stretched out, to 'measure' the correct camera to distance macro shots.

Basic Camera Features

The XA series is one of the most compact 35mm film camera series ever produced. Though strikingly similar to the other XAs in the series, the bulge on the front of the XA4 is slightly elongated when compared to the oval of the XA.

Olympus XA4 Macro, Front

With the cover closed, the front panel of the camera only displays the Focusing Lever with the distance scale etched either in the Metric or Imperial distance set. A Self-Timer/Battery Check LED sits towards the top.

When opened, the cover reveals the lens and its housing mount with a CdS Light Sensor sitting on top of the lens ring, just below the viewfinder window, and the Film ISO Speed dial and the Flash Lever below it, all lining up vertically.

Olympus XA4 Macro, Top

On the top left of the camera is the film rewind crank, which will be almost covered when the clamshell cover slid back, central is the Self-Time/Battery Check beeper, to its right, is the Electro-sensitive Shutter Release, and the Exposure Counter.

Olympus XA4 Macro, Back

The Film Forward Wind is located on the top right shoulder of the camera back, with the Viewfinder Eyepiece located centrally, covered when the capsule cover is closed. The film back is a non-interchangeable hinge type.

Olympus XA4 Macro, Bottom

Located on the bottom plate are the Battery Chamber Cover, Tripod Socket, Rewind Release Button, and on the right front edge of the plate, the Self-Timer/Battery Check/Exposure Compensation selector lever. The selector lever is turned horizontally out when the Self-Timer mode is activated, this adds a leverage point for stabilizing the body when the camera is placed on a flat surface.

Olympus XA4 Macro, Film box

Film loading is standard easy load with the film chamber, shutter frame, forward sprocket, a multislot take-up spool, and the standard two blank shots to load the film to frame 1.

Viewfinder Readout

The viewfinder is plain, bright, and clear, displaying only the bright-line parallax film 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 seconds or under, indicating that you should on the flash unit or place the camera on a tripod. A zig-zag flash arrow on the icon is displayed on the left side of the bright-line frame when the flash unit is switched on.

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Top Back

A shortcoming of the electronic membrane shutter system is the inability to use the camera in exposure lock mode, something which I use often enough and would like to see available in each and every camera that I use. What we have instead, is a small lever on the front of the bottom plate that switches from a +1.5EV exposure compensation for backlight, battery check, and self-timer. The lever, when extended, also acts as stabilizer support when the camera is placed on a flat surface for self-timer shooting.

Super Wide-Angle Lens

One thing you want to be excited about the XA4 Macro is the super wide-angle 28mm lens (all other XA's have 35mm lenses), which should be perfect for landscapes, people at work, or at play, once you get the chance to get right into their midst.

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Cut Out

Though slower at F3.5, the lens actually provides a greater depth of field across its focusing range. This is probably more forgiving for people like me who are more acclimatized to today's compact autofocus digital point-and-shoots, where I tend to forget to set the lens to the correct focusing zone for each shot.

Macro Shooting Mode

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Macro Shooting Mode #1

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Macro Shooting Mode #2
In macro shooting mode, you will probably use the strap that comes with the camera as the measure for the distance setting, which can be set to measure either 0.3 meters (12 inches), or 0.7 meters (1.7 feet), and to make sure that the zone focus setting is set equivalent to the distance measured, one which I always try to remind myself of. When closed, the clamshell cover of the camera resets the focus zone to the default 3-meter mark.


The Olympus XA4 Macro uses a pair of the standard LR44 1.5V. batteries which should not be too hard to acquire.

Camera Body Weight

The Olympus XA4 Macro has a body weight of 230 grams without batteries.

Using the camera

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Using the camera

The XA4 Macro is a cute and handy little camera, though not quite as fast on the draw as the Olympus XA1, which I liked very much. The need to always remind yourself that it is a zone focus camera, as opposed to the fixed focus XA1, is something you have to get used to.

The zone focus range defaults back to a 3-meter mark when you close the clamshell lens cover, which stays at the same mark when you slide the cover open again for another shot. Did you miss a step here? Probably yes if you did not twiddle the focus zone lever to the correct distance setting for the next shot you are taking.

Sharp and Sweet

Images are of course, sharp and sweet. For these test images, I took the XA4 down to the Ramadan Bazaar for a freestyle shootout, this time, more on the hawkers themselves rather than the shoppers. They are, as always, nice and friendly folks, some are willing to pose for you (the youngsters of course), others gave their smiles away, while I ended up meeting a guy who is from the same rural area, back from the east, where I came from.

#CameraReview Olympus XA4, Sharp and Sweet 01
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These images are shot on Fujifilm Superia 200 color negative film, I had the scanned images converted to monochrome for this presentation. Post-processing on Olympus Viewer 3 (OV3) was limited to Tilt Adjustment, Crop; Monochrome & Sepia conversion with Green or Red color filter added, and contrast setting at 30%; Unsharp Mask, and Noise Reduction.

Olympus XA4 Instructions: Click here to download from

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