Put Up Or Shut Up: Olympus XA2

I don’t have a particularly large collection of cameras. In fact, if I’m being pedantic, I don’t really consider I have a collection of cameras at all; they were all bought to be used and not to be put on a shelf. Nevertheless, as I’ve settled in to the five or six I use regularly, on the shelf is exactly where the remainder now spend much of their time. Of course, if it wasn’t for trying all of these cameras I wouldn’t have been able to find the ones I really love to use, but that aside, it’s time for those slackers to put up or shut up. So here’s the plan: I’m going to bung each of these cameras in turn into my bag or pocket, and carry it round with me on a daily basis until I’ve shot a roll or two. I don’t plan to use any of these as my main camera during that time, or to use them solely to capture specific events. Just to be there to shoot some everyday snaps. I also don’t intend to review them as the internet already has enough fantastic camera reviewers that do a better job than I ever could. I’ll just say the things that I like and dislike about each camera; what I love and what drives me nuts. And most importantly, whether it’s a keeper or not.

First up: Olympus XA2.

This tiny 35mm compact came to me about six years ago in a little bundle of cameras from a friend who worked in a charity store. In exchange for a donation, I got this and a couple of 1990s plastic monstrosities. The others I secretly donated to another charity store rather than appear ungrateful, but the XA2 came complete in its box with manual and flash. I don’t think I’ve ever used it. It has fully automatic exposure, a three zone focus selector, and a f/3.5 35mm lens. And that’s it. There’s no exposure lock, but potentially you can gain some control of exposure by altering the ISO setting, which ranges from 25 to 800. But why would you? I don’t think you buy this sort of camera if you are going to faff around. It’s a compact, carry everywhere, point and shoot kind of thing. And I carried it everywhere for a month or so.

OK, so here we go.For the first roll of film I used Kodak Tmax 400…

One word to describe the London skyline these days? Cranes.

That’s the South African flag flapping in the wind, atop South Africa House. I queued for several hours in 2013 with the woman formerly known as my girlfriend to sign the book of condolence for Nelson Mandela. Somewhere our names and words remain inscribed next to each other.

This ornate building is along The Mall, the road that leads up to Buckingham Palace. I’m not sure what goes on here.

These were taken on the pro-Europe march back in September.

As I was crossing over Westminster Bridge there seemed to be some kind of crazy boat race going on. No idea what that was about.

Death, taxes, and the probability of passing someone taking a selfie on Westminster Bridge..

Nope, not the seaside. This is a spot on the South Bank of the Thames, where people regularly make sand sculptures and hope to get some coins thrown in the pot.

I can’t be sure what nationality this woman is, but odds-on she’s Chinese. This is something I’ve seen more and more in London over the last few years. Pre-wedding photo shoots are very popular amongst the Chinese middle classes these days. It’s not only Chinese students who are studying here, but people come to London specifically to have their photos taken in front of famous London landmarks. In this case it was St. Paul’s Cathedral. There’s a big market in London for this now, and companies are springing up that don’t just take the photographs, they also do the hair and makeup, and even provide the wedding clothes.

Having lunch with friends in Paternoster Square. People are not normally as excited as this to see me

This bronze sculpture by Elisabeth Frink has been in the square since 1975.

This ones a temporary installation for Blood Cancer Awareness Month: 104 giant names to represent the 104 people diagnosed with blood cancer each day in the UK.

Eating bananas is serious business

The National Gallery in Trafalgar Square

Lynn perched on the lip of one of the fountains. They were originally installed in Trafalgar Square in the 1840s to counteract the effects of reflected heat and glare from the asphalt. It was also felt that reducing the amount of space for people to gather would lessen the opportunity for ‘riotous assembly’.

The Elizabeth Tower is currently undergoing four years of refurbishment. That also means four years of silence from the bongs of Big Ben in order to protect the hearing of the workers. Cue howls of ‘PC gone mad’ & ‘Nanny State’ from a tabloid press frothing at the mouth.
‘We never worried about these kind of things when I was a lad and it never did me no harm’, claimed Barry Gobshite, a retired construction worker I may have just made up. When asked if he thought that people today were just namby-pamby snowflakes, he responded ‘Can you speak up a bit?’

Foreground building: Since the last five years we’ve been gradually outgrowing our Heathrow office, to the point where we’ve had to rent the ground floor of an adjacent building to fit everyone in. With the lease being up for renewal in 2018, the company spent quite a bit of effort looking round for a suitable building capable of housing everyone.

Background building: In the end it was decided just to build a bigger brand new building next door. As you do. The outside is now pretty much complete and we’re expected to move in Q1 2018.

I had to change the film at this point, and as I knew I’d be travelling to somewhere sunny in the next few days, I dropped in a roll of Tmax 100. The new building looks deceptively small in this shot.

That sunny place is Nice on the French Riviera, where we have a couple of campuses. This was taken after arriving at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport.

When visiting the offices in Nice I normally book one of the usual corporate identikit hotels like the Holiday Inn, but a little bit of googling found the wondeful Villa Azur for not much more money right on the beach. Those are actually chairs on the sun terrace.

The Marina next door…

Just a mile or so along the coast in Antibes is La Grande Roue. It’s not really so grande if you’re used to the London Eye.

And then a couple of miles inland to our Belair offices

These pictures don’t at all do justice to how wonderful the views of the Alps and the sea are from the grounds. I used up the rest of the roll on some of the people I was working with, but thought it might not be appropriate to post them here.

When it comes to compacts, as far as I’m concerned the Olympus Trip is the one that every other camera is going to be compared unfavourably to. That said, the XA2 has a pretty sharp and contrasty lens, and the exposure meter was spot on in every shot. The one thing that did drive me mad was the hair trigger response of the shutter button. You only have to look at it out the corner of your eye and it goes off. I have more than one snap of my feet.

The main point of this exercise is to either find a hidden gem or to reclaim some shelf space. The XA2 doesn’t do anything that my Trip doesn’t do slightly better. It really should go. But its small, by far the smallest camera I own. And it came complete in the box with the and flash and everything. And parting with a decent camera is not as easy as I thought it might be.

Verdict? Keeper. Relectuantly. Damn.