First Roll from the Olympus XA

After a searching high and low in Tokyo for this camera, I'm so excited to finally have an Olympus XA, and the first roll of Fuji Superia 400 is back from the lab. If you are confused why I would be so excited about a cheap looking 40 year old point & shoot camera, let me explain. 

Unlike most compact film cameras the Olympus XA is a rangefinder, one of the smallest out there. It has quick f/2.8 lens with aperture priority control, a featherlight shutter button to reduce vibration, and a clamshell cover to keep it safe in my pocket or bag. Best of all, it's film! It's like having a full frame camera, with all the beautiful colors and dynamic range that come along with film. With digital, a point and shot means giving up on some image quality (especially latitude) so with this little film camera, you're getting so much more.

With any small amateur looking camera, it doesn't draw attention to itself. Up until now, we could only shoot film on our Elan 7, which is a full size SLR and can attract unwanted attention from subjects.

Summer has finally arrived in Calgary so we took full advantage of the sunshine and rode our bikes around town, shot some style photos for our friend Amber's upcoming blog (and to post on our Stocksy portfolio),  and spent the night at Calgary's brand new Aloft hotel. Keep an eye on Ania's blog for the awesome underwater shots we took there.

UPDATE: Unfortunately, this was also the last roll I shot on the Olympus. While using it, I noticed the shutter would occasionally lock up and refuse to fire. I hoped it would be just a quirk of shooting with an old camera, but it was more than inconvenient. I couldn't trust that when I pulled the camera out if my bag, I would be able to capture anything at all. 

When Olympus designed this camera back in 1979, they were more focused on creating a great consumer camera. For it's plastic construction to last beyond 2014 may be asking too much of it.  

I will be sending it back to the eBay seller for a refund, and will start a search for my next film point and shoot. This time, something a little more rugged.

Milkshakes at Cliveburger in Calgary

Bright portraits of Amber

Ania on her beautiful Electra bike

Trees blooming by the Calgary Stampede grounds

My bright white bike

Blooming flowers and blue skies mean summer has arrived in Calgary

Trains and skies in Calgary, Alberta

A fun night at the pool of the Aloft Hotel in #YYC


First impressions of the Olympus XA are pretty great. I love the feel of it and it small enough to fit in most pockets. Focusing takes a moment, but works well. I love the way the the lens gently vignettes at the edges, and the colour and contrast are fantastic. I do have two complaints so far, the shutter button occasionally locks up temporarily, and I wish I could override the slow shutter speed when using flash.

Overall, I love it. This is camera is going to come with us everywhere!

Essential Camera Gear for Two Weeks in Asia

This was a big trip to Korea and Japan. We knew it would involve a lot of shooting and a ton of walking, so the goal was to stay as portable and light weight as possible, but still be prepared to shoot street style, stock and cityscape photos. This is the kit I was hauling around most days:

1. Langly card wallet & a lot of cards

Always better to pack more cards than you'll need. For the most part we used the same 64GB cards and would download, back up, and clear them each day. Not pictured here are two external hard drives, plus online backups of the best pics to Google Drive.

2. Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens

We knew we would be shooting a lot of street style on this trip so we almost brought our go to lens, the 70-200mm. With the amount of walking around we did I'm really glad we brought the much smaller and lighter 85mm. Having the 1.8 f-stop also came on very handy when shooting in the streets at night. 

3. Canon 5DmkIII (x2)

One for Ania and one for me. 

4. Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 lens

The range of this lens makes it very verisitile for travel photography. Ultra-wide for cityscapes and a traditional stree photography focal length of 35mm. Very adaptable.

5. Mophie powerstation battery

A dead phone in a foreign city is no fun. I prefer this style of battery that is device agnostic, over that can only charge my iPhone. This way we can charge other things too, like our Egg (see below). 

6. Belkin 3 outlet charger

This is a great bit of travel gear, especially in country with different power outlets than you have at home. Charge all your devices at once!

7. Film

Moslty Kodak Portra, a roll of Ektar, a few Fuji Superia. In two weeks we ended up shooting 6 rolls.

8. Canon Elan 7E

I got this camera in college and still love it. Even next to a new DSLR it feels modern and well designed. Not pictured here is the 50mm 1.8, which was attached to it for most of the trip.

9. Canon 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens

For a lens this small and affordable, it has no busiess being as high quality as it is. Very sharp, fast auto focus and great build quality. 

10. Olleh Egg mobile wifi thingy

In a country where you don't speak the language, the internet is your most powerful resource. This device kept us connected in Korea, without paying outrageous roaming fees.

11. iPhone running GeoTagr

GeoTagr is an app that tracks everywhere you go in a day and saves it as a map. You can then import this map into Lightroom and have it automatically geotag all your photos from the day.

12. Disposable cameras

Because they're fun! 

13. Canon G16

I often prefer a high quality point and shoot to using my cell phone. It has a wider zoom range, shoots raw and has a real flash.  AND it can transmit to my phone over wifi, making for easy Instagraming.

14. Langly Alpha Pro backpack

 I have bought and sold a lot of camera bags over the years. It's hard to find soemthing that is just the right balance for you. This new one from Langly feels like the bag I've been looking for. Comfortable, has all the right compartments, rain proof and very handsome, I love this bag. I should mention though that buttoning up the snaps drives Ania crazy, and I agree they can be a little tough. Maybe not recommended for delicate hands, but everything else about it has been great.

To see what we shot on the trip you can see Tokyo Street Style at Fashion Magazinerainy Korea postmy disposable cameras post, or follow us Instagram @AniaB and @Stalman.