After the Ricoh GR III came out, I’ve been looking for something with a similar form factor but in analogue format. The original Rich GR1 that uses 35mm film is now way too expensive ($600 and up as of June 2019). All film cameras seem to be jumping up in price, but the one jumping up the least and offering decent lens quality is the Olympus XA.
As you can see from the sample files, it works quite okay for photos where you don’t need 1/1000 of a second or faster. When you need that quick street shot, you often end up with motion blur.
Olympus XA with motion blur
Kodak Tri-X 400 especially when pushed one stop offers a nice bit of contrast with rich blacks, and grain that doesn’t detract or is too noticeable. I’ve used other film stocks like Ilford HP5+, another great film. Since the Olympus XA already has soft lens look wide open, that in combination with a flat film like HP5 makes it a tough combo to use. If you’re going for a dreamy and grey effect though it could be worth a shot. For me, Tri-X is the film to use with the XA.
I stand developed Ilford FP4+ ISO 125 in 500ml of 68F, 1:100 Rodinal for an hour. I was expecting a very fine grain, and high amount of accutance but was slightly disappointed. The highlighting and gradient effect you expect from stand development still blew me away. In the highlights the grain was fine, but the midtones and shadow areas gave medium grain that one would find in pushed film. With all this said, when looking at a magnifier, these were the sharpest negatives I had ever seen. The quirkiness of the results will make me think twice before using it as a film for landscapes, but the detail I got from the close up shots with bokeh make me see the potential for portraits.
Unfortunately, the low-end Epson V600 scanner I had wasn’t able to capture the subtleties in highlights that I could see in the negative. I’m pretty sure that as a print the highlights will be there, and if not, a little dodging should fix that.
Here’s a photo shot with Ilford HP5+ 400 pushed to ISO 1600 stand developed in 500ml of 68F, 1:100 Rodinal for 2 hours. This shot is exceedingly sharp thanks to the lens, and stand development process. However, the grain prevails everywhere. Some like this; others don’t. I am a fan of grain, but also understand the need for fine or undetectable grain for portraits.
Here’s a photo shot with Ilford FP4+ ISO 125 in 500ml of 68F, 1:100 Rodinal stand developed for an hour. You can see the fine detail and sharpness, but the bokeh area has a bit of grain.
Here’s another photo shot with Ilford FP4+ ISO 125 in 500ml of 68F, 1:100 Rodinal stand developed for an hour. This is a photo of a very popular spot for photographers, Sutro Baths in San Francisco. There were at least 2 couple photography sessions happening while I was here.
So I’m really not sold on Ilford FP4+ for landscapes, but close ups and portraiture would seem to be its strength. I was surprised by the amount of grain, too. I am not sure I would buy this film again.