1 Feb 2008

Canon G9 and Olympus XA

My criticism of the Canon G9’s poor optical viewfinder prompted happy recollections of one of my old cameras from the late 1970s. I still have it – a tiny Olympus XA. What a joy that little camera was to use. Without its detachable A11 flash, it fits beautifully into the palm of my hand – and it’s viewfinder, well… bright, wide and clear. This Olympus was revolutionary in its time. It has Aperture Priority only, with the shutter speed the camera selected displayed in the viewfinder by a lovely big analogue pointer.

Of course, unlike the modern digital compacts, you are able to stop the f2.8 lens right down to f22 if you wish. However, the fastest shutter speed was 1/500sec.

None of your fancy auto focus, either. Split-image focusing is by a silken-smooth sliding tab or knurled ring beneath the lens. Long before ‘ergonomics’ was a selling point, the focusing lever fell perfectly to hand. The slide-to-close casing was all but bullet-proof and the optics were wonderfully sharp. Oh, and the shutter was fired by a feather-light touch.

That little camera travelled countless thousands of miles in my pocket and it produced thousands of pictures that were published in newspapers and magazines all over the world. But one of my favourites was taken much closer to home. In Blackpool, Lancashire here in UK. This shot appeared in my first book way back in 1986. The original negative has had a pretty hard time over the years and the scan needs a lot of cleaning up now – so don’t look too closely - it is, though, needle sharp.

Know I know I’m getting all nostagic, but I reckon if Canon really want to produce a compact camera that is useable for street photography – they should take a very close look at that old Olympus XA – in particlular they should put their eyes – and I don’t mean the blind ones – to that wonderful optical viewfinder.

There is a fascinating original review of the Olympus XA here… Canon people please take a look.


Pictures show the Olympus XA with and without its detachable A11 flash gun

And in case you are wondering, no, I do not want to go back to the days of film - I love digital and all it can do... but I would like a small compact digital camera that I can put to my eye and see through properly. I want to be able to see what's going on through there, compose a photograph and time the action perfectly. Is that a lot to ask?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Still to be found now for sale on Ebay if anyone would like one...
Alwyn - South West Scotland