Olympus XA4 Macro, Sharp and Sweet

Olympus XA4 Macro 35mm Capsule Camera

Film Camera Review:

Olympus XA4 Macro, Sharp and Sweet

'A quick look review at the Olympus XA4 Macro 35mm capsule camera, sharp and sweet with its Zuiko 28mm F3.5 macro lens'

Introduction and Overview

The Olympus XA series of cameras, designed for Olympus by Maitani Yoshihisa (chief camera designer and managing director of Olympus Optical Co Ltd.), was a range of very compact cameras in a clam-shell case. The original model, the XA, which features true rangefinder focusing, comes with a 28mm F3.5 lens, and aperture priority metering.

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Angled Front

While everybody seems to know about the excellence of the Olympus XA 35mm rangefinder, the Olympus XA4 Macro, on the other hand, may have not been in the limelight long enough to be recognized and treated as an equal to the XA.

The drawback for the XA4 Macro is its short production run, which lasted only through 1985, and that too was at the end of the XA series’ life cycle.

Production numbers are thus limited, and getting one through sales and auction sites, with its limited posts and displays, is accentuated by a high asking price.

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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/129622644@N04/albums/72157656289545856

Design and Build

The Olympus XA4 Macro is the last in the series of clamshell capsule cameras based on the success of the XA. The camera is fitted with a four-element Zuiko 28mm F3.5 lens, a 7 (seven) zone focusing system, programmed exposure, DX coding, and macro capability.

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Top Front
The programmed exposure mode sets the camera's exposure from 2 seconds at f/3.5 to 1/750th at f/14, and it's macro capability lens focuses down to 0.3 meters (12 inches). The film speed range for the XA4 Macro is from 25 to 1600, self-timer delay is 12 seconds, and the camera is full flash compatible with the A1L, A11, and A16 flash units.

The shutter mechanism is the same electronic membrane switch as available on the XA, XA2, and XA3.

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 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 line 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 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 film chamber, shutter frame, forward sprocket, a multislot take-up spool, and the standard two blank shots to load the film to frame 1.

Wide Angle Lens

One thing you want to be excited about the XA4 Macro is the 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 for 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.

The challenges of a 28mm lens as a street-shooter is also well documented on the Internet, with pros claiming it to be the perfect focal length for street photography. On the digital front, compacts that have 28mm lenses or equivalent includes the Sony RX1R II, Leica Q, Fujifilm X100T, Fujifilm x70, and Ricoh GR II. On my part, though, my thought is how this lens compares to the other one I have in my collection, the E. Zuiko f/3.5 28mm lens which is the standard for the half-frame Olympus Pen EF, which captures images in the vertical format.

Macro Shooting Mode

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Macro Shooting Mode #1

Olympus XA 4 Macro, Macro Shooting Mode #2
Source: www.buktus.org
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.

Exposure Info

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 light up when the shutter speed is at 1/30 second 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.


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

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, the 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.

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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, and 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 www.buktus.org

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35mm Olympus Compact Film Cameras

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