Lomo LC-A+ vs. Olympus XA - A Lomographic Perspective


I compare and contrast these two famed cameras from a Lomographic perspective. Thinking about which camera is best for following the Ten Golden Rules helps us see things in a different way.


I wanted to write a review about the Olympus XA. However, this camera has been thoroughly reviewed on the Lomography.com site (four reviews) and elsewhere. However, the question comes up often about whether or not a particular camera is a good substitute for the LOMO LC-A+, so I decided it might be more interesting to do a sort of double review comparing and contrasting these two cameras specifically from a “lomographic” perspective. A much better comparison would be the original LOMO LC-A and the Olympus XA2, but I only had access to an LC-A+ and an XA, so that’s what I used.

Why this isn’t a Good Comparison

  1. The XA has an aperture priority auto-exposure system. The LC-A+ has a programmed fully-auto exposure system.
  2. The XA has an excellent six element lens. The LC-A+ has a “quirky” three element lens.
  3. The XA was designed as a high-end precision camera. The LC-A+ was designed as an affordable camera for the masses.
  4. The XA2 is a better choice for comparing to the LC-A+.

Why this is a Good Comparison

  1. These cameras came out at about the same time.
  2. These cameras are ultra compact 35mm cameras designed to be used in about the same way.
  3. These cameras have nearly the same focal length – 35mm for the XA and 32mm for the LC-A+.
  4. These cameras both have a maximum shutter speed of 1/500".
  5. These cameras both have an aperture range of f/2.8 to f/22.
  6. Both of these cameras were the top of the line compact 35mm cameras for the company at the time that they came out. Of course, Olympus went on to make more sophisticated compact 35mm cameras, but LOMO didn’t. The LC-A+ is pretty much the magnum opus for LOMO in terms of compact 35s.
  7. These cameras are nearly the same size and shape.
  8. Lots of people try to convince prospective LC-A+ buyers that they should buy an XA (or XA2) instead because it’s a “better” camera.
  9. I had access to an XA and not an XA2.

What is Lomography?

Before I can talk about the XA from a “lomographic” perspective, I have to define exactly what I mean by that. This is actually a difficult task. Some people think that lomography is defined by the type of camera you use. Certainly, this portmanteau coined by the good folks at The Lomographic Society, implies the use of LOMO branded cameras, but lomography has grown well beyond it’s seminal boundaries to embrace everything from one dollar (U.S.) cameras to multi-thousand dollar digital (shock!) cameras. The idea that you can only do lomography with a particular brand of camera whether it’s the LOMO brand or a Holga is too restrictive. It would imply that it’s impossible to do lomography with any other brand and that is clearly wrong.

Some people think that lomography is defined by the results you get – regardless of the equipment or techniques you use to achieve those results. They believe that lomography is defined by vignetting, soft edges, “selective” focus, over-saturated or strange colors, informal composition, etc. I think this is the most popular definition of lomography and I will consider these elements in the reviews.

I think there is another, perhaps more important, definition of lomography – one given to us by the folks who invented the term. You would think that they have some say in the matter. The Lomographic Society defines lomography as a style of photography exemplified by adherence to the Ten Golden Rules of Lomography. Let’s take a quick look at the Ten Golden Rules:

  1. Take your camera everywhere you go
  2. Use it any time – day and night
  3. Lomography is not an interference in your life, but part of it
  4. Try the shot from the hip
  5. Approach the objects of your lomographic desire as close as possible
  6. Don’t think (william firebrace)
  7. Be fast
  8. You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film
  9. Afterwards either
  10. Don’t worry about any rules

You may wonder how on Earth the Ten Golden Rules would allow us to review a camera or compare it with another camera from a lomographic perspective. After all, it’s easy to see if one camera produces more vignetting than another or has uneven focus across the picture, but the Ten Golden Rules? Those have to do with how you use the camera. You’ll notice that the Ten Golden Rules don’t mention anything about what kind or brand of camera you should use. They don’t say anything about vignetting, or saturated colors, or the quality of the results. But you can look at each of the rules and ask whether or not a particular camera is well suited for helping you apply that rule. I will be considering these rules while I compare and contrast these cameras as well.

About the Cameras

First, let’s have a quick look at the features of the Olympus XA and the LOMO LC-A+ side by side.

Feature Olympus XA LOMO LC-A+
Lens Focal Length 35mm 32mm
Max. Aperture f/2.8 f/2.8
Min. Focusing .9m .8m
Focusing Style Coupled Rangefinder Zone
Max. Shutter Speed 10 – 1/500" Infinity – 1/500" + “B”
Exposure Aperture-Priority Fully Automatic
Film Speed 25 – 800 ASA 100 – 1600 ASA
Tripod Threads Yes Yes
Shutter Release Threads No Yes
Self Timer Yes No

Now, let’s compare the types of results you might expect from the cameras side by side.

Result Olympus XA LOMO LC-A+
Vignetting Occasional Occasional
Rectilinear Distortion No Yes
Unnatural Colors No Occasional

Now, let’s see how these different features affect the application of the 10 Golden Rules of Lomography.

#1 Take your camera everywhere you go

Both the XA and the LC-A+ are extremely compact and much lighter than contemporary compact 35s such as the Canon G-III 17. The LC-A+ is lighter than the XA because more parts are made out of plastic. Some people consider this a fault. I consider it a benefit because it makes it easier to take with me everywhere. Both cameras have a separate flash which makes them more compact and convenient to use during the day when you don’t need the flash. Both cameras have a built-in lens protector. Both of these cameras are great for following this golden run, but I give the edge (ever so slight) to the LC-A+ because it’s lighter than the XA.

#2 Use it any time – day and night

To follow this rule, a camera needs at least one of two things – support for a flash, and/or excellent low-light performance. Both the XA and the LC-A+ have support for a flash. The XA uses a proprietary flash. The most commonly found model, the A11, is a bit underpowered. The LC-A+ provides a standard hot shoe which means you can use any standard hot shoe flash. The XA supports a maximum film speed of 800 ASA, supports a maximum exposure time of 10 seconds, and includes threads for a tripod. It doesn’t include threads for a shutter release cable, but it does have an automatic timer. The LC-A+ supports film up to 1600 ASA, supports a maximum exposure time of “very long”, includes threads for a tripod and threads for a shutter release cable. The LC-A+ is, in fact, a long exposure monster. Focusing at night can be tricky with the XA because it’s difficult to see the images in a rangefinder and it’s difficult to see the numbers on the focusing ring. Focusing at night is easy with the LC-A+ because of the zone focusing detentes. Because of the standard hot-shoe flash which can support syncing with very powerful flashes and easy strobist techniques, and because of the LC-A+’s support for fast film and very long exposures, and because the LC-A+ is easier to focus at night, I think the LC-A+ is the clear winner with respect to rule #2.

#3 Lomography is not an interference in your life, but part of it

Both cameras work well with this rule.

#4 Try the shot from the hip

Wide angel lenses make it easier to compose without looking through the viewfinder. The wider the lens, the easier it is to include the subject in the frame when you point the camera in it’s general direction. Wider-angle lenses also give you a greater depth of field which makes focusing easier. The LC-A+ has a slightly wider-angle lens, so I give it a slight edge over the XA with respect to this rule.

#5 Approach the objects of your lomographic desire as close as possible

The LC-A+ has a closer focusing distance and a wider-angle lens than the XA which makes it easier to get closer to the objects of your lomographic desire. The edge goes to the LC-A+.

#6 Don’t think (william firebrace)

The LC-A+ has fully automatic exposure. The XA has aperture-priority exposure which means you have to pay attention to an exposure needle in the rangefinder to get the right exposure. You also have to work harder at focusing. You definitely have to think less with the LC-A+.

#7 Be fast

The fully automatic exposure and fast zone focusing make the LC-A+ a faster camera. I found myself fidgeting a lot with the XA. The LC-A+ is faster. Support for faster film makes it literally faster.

#8 You don’t have to know beforehand what you captured on film

Both camera work well here.

#9 Afterwards either

Both cameras work well with this rule too.

#10 Don’t worry about any rules

Both cameras work equally well with this rule too.

Summary of Technical Comparison

With respect to the Ten Golden Rules of Lomography, the LC-A+ has the edge in most of them even though the XA is technically a “better” camera. Whether it was a conscious, scientific decision or not, I think that’s why the original Lomographers first settled on this as their weapon of choice. But, the proof is in the pudding, isn’t it?


I loaded an XA and an LC-A+ with the same film – Klick MAX 200, then Fuji Superia X-TRA 400 and shot some pics for side by side comparison. I did as little digital processing as possible on these pictures. The differences in the results are fairly consistent. I started by taking some daylight shots under various lighting conditions. Then, I did some flash and available light shots with the 400 ASA film. I also did one shot to compare the bokeh of the two cameras. I would have really preferred to compare the XA2 to the LC-A+ because it’s closer in capabilities and specs, but alas, I only had an XA to do the comparison. In some ways this is not a fair comparison. The LC-A+ has a fully automatic exposure system. The XA has an aperture priority system. Still, I think the test results are interesting. I hope you do too.

LOMO LC-A+, Film: Klick Max 200

Olympus XA, Aperture: 5.6, Film: Klick Max 200

I started with some shots of my street. You’ll notice that the slightly wider lens of the LC-A+ picks up a bit more stuff as expected. You’ll also notice a difference in the rendering of the colors and the stronger vignetting of the LC-A+. Interestingly, the vignetting on the XA is fairly marked as well. As with all my daytime shots, the LC-A+ chose some unknown aperture and I manually selected an aperture of 5.6 for the XA. The sky was bright and clear and the shadows were well defined.

LOMO LC-A+, Film: Klick Max 200

Olympus XA, Aperture: 5.6, Film: Klick Max 200

Even thought I aimed a little high and cut off the bottom of the poles with the LC-A+, you can see the slightly wider lens of the LC-A+ pulling in a bit more stuff at the sides of the picture. Again, the LC-A+ vignetting is stronger. It’s almost completely black at the very top, but the vignetting on the XA is pretty strong too. Both cameras picked up the writing on the street sign even though it’s very strongly back-lit.

LOMO LC-A+, Klick Max 200

Olympus XA, Aperture 5.6, Klick Max 200

LOMO LC-A+, Film: Klick Max 200

Olympus XA, Aperture 5.6, Film: Klick Max 200

LOMO LC-A+, Film: Klick Max 200

Olympus XA, Aperture 5.6, Film: Klick Max 200

LOMO LC-A+, Film: Klick Max 200

Olympus XA, Aperture 5.6, Film: Klick Max 200

Both cameras handled this tricky lighting situation pretty well, but the LC-A+’s tendency toward curvilinear distortion is very noticeable here compared to the XA whose lines are pin straight. In particular, notice the rail at the very top.

LOMO LC-A+, Film: Klick Max 200

Olympus XA, Aperture 5.6, Film: Klick Max 200

I prefer the LC-A+ picture here. It seems like the XA had a bit of trouble exposing the very middle of the picture.

LOMO LC-A+, Colorsplash Flash, Film: Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

Olympus XA, Aperture 5.6, A11 Flash, Film: Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

I did some flash pictures. I used the Lomography Colorsplash Flash with the LC-A+. I used the A11 flash with the XA. I had the XA set to ƒ/5.6 for all but the bokeh test shot. This is a Christmas tree (obviously) with the lights turned on. The LC-A+ uses second curtain synchronization, so I was expecting it to pick up more ambient light and more of the Christmas lights. The XA uses X-synchronization. As usual, the XA provides a clearer and better exposed picture. The colors are more accurate, but it pics up less ambient light. The shutters are nearly blown out in the LC-A+ picture and the center is overexposed. The LC-A+ picture picked up more ambient light and the flash reaches farther.

LOMO LC-A+, Colorsplash Flash, Film: Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

Olympus XA, Aperture 5.6, A11 Flash, Film: Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

I shot this picture at about .8 meters away. The LC-A+ shot is overexposed. I would have to use a diffuser on the Colorsplash flash.

LOMO LC-A+, Colorsplash Flash, Film: Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

Olympus XA, Aperture 5.6, A11 Flash, Film: Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

The XA got the colors right on here. The LC-A+ picked up so much ambient light from the fluorescent lights that it drastically changed the color of the wall.

LOMO LC-A+, Film: Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

Olympus XA, Aperture 2.8, A11 Flash, Film: Fuji Superia X-TRA 400

I turned off the flash on both of the cameras, set them to the closest focus and put them on a tripod. I set the Olympus to ƒ/2.8. I was relying on the LOMO’s auto-exposure system to choose a large aperture, hopefully ƒ2.8. Then, I took a picture of a Christmas tree about five meters away. I couldn’t test the stopped down LC-A+ bokeh because I can’t control the aperture on the LC-A+. I could if I had an LC-A+, but I don’t so… Stopped down bokeh is more important because that’s where the shape of the blur circles is affected the most by the shape of the shutter blades. The LC-A+ blur circles are more uniformly round as you get close to the edge of the picture. The XA blur circles start to deform oddly because of the shape of the shutter. The LC-A+ blur circles are more evenly bright. The XA blur circles have a bright spot in the middle and bright “hard” edges. People tend to prefer bokeh without hard edges unless they are going for that effect specifically.

Long exposure.
LOMO LC-A+, Film: Fuji Superia X-TRA 400, Exposure: 4 Minutes

This is a four minute exposure. Those are start trails in the sky. I tried to do a very long exposure with both cameras. The XA is supposed to have a shutter with a maximum time of 10 seconds, but I couldn’t get it to stay open for more than two seconds. Either way, this was a four minute exposure on the LC-A+ and it will go until the sensor has soaked up enough light or the batteries run out.

Some people refer to the XA as a substitute for an LC-A+. It’s definitely a better camera in many ways and it does vignette, but the LC-A+ seems to have a distinctive look. The LC-A+ seems to do a pretty good job in most cases although it uses less sophisticated technology. I didn’t get to compare some of the unique features of the cameras that they don’t have in common. For instance, one distinctive look of the LC-A+ is the streaks caused by the rear-curtain synchronization of the flash. The XA doesn’t have that. The LC-A+ can also do extremely long exposures which the XA can’t. The LC-A+ can support higher speed film and any standard hot shoe flash. You can select the aperture on the XA to control the depth of field. You can’t do that with the LC-A+, so I couldn’t really test that.

So, what do you think? Do you prefer one to the other? Do they compliment each other? Is the XA a good LC-A+ replacement for someone who’s really looking for a “LOMO” style camera?

written by gvelasco on 2010-10-16 #gear #review #contrast #olympus-xa #olympus #lomo #lomography #xa #vs #comparison #lomo-lc-a #lc-a


  1. zulupt
    zulupt ·

    Great review! Love both cameras.

  2. yarah
    yarah ·

    Great review! Reading this review, I like LC-A more :)

  3. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    why do you chose an aperture of 5.6 for the XA on such a sunny day and not an f11 or f16 like I'm sure LCA does? f5.6 it was a good choice in the Bridge shoots, in this case the only noticeable difference between the two cameras is in the better "resolution" of the XA. about the long exposure of the XA I've read somewere on the net that there's a trick to keep the shutter open for all the time you need, it should involve the self timer function but I don't remember how this work! however, great review!

  4. gvelasco
    gvelasco ·

    You're right superlighter. I overexposed some of the XA shots. It was just hard for me to read the meter, or I forgot to check since the LC-A+ was full auto. But then, that's one of the "problems" that I had with the XA - especially from a "lomographic" perspective. I wear glasses and it made it difficult to use the viewfinder in the XA for focusing and for setting the exposure.

  5. saintjacques
    saintjacques ·

    great article. i always love how people say the lc-a is a "cheap camera for the masses," except it's $250, which isnt cheap at all compared to other film cameras

  6. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    What a great review!! And I just received an XA2 and already find it perfect as a substitute to my LCA+ (which broke recently... :(
    Something else: How did you get it to put these huge image size in your review?

  7. smbilgin
    smbilgin ·

    I was planning to buy an XA in order to use for more "serious" shooting. But it seems I don't need one. It seems my LC-A+ is good enough for any shooting.
    Thanks for this excellent review.

  8. gborin
    gborin ·

    this is an excelent review, great work!

    but i still believe these two are very different cameras, a better comparison would be between the LC-A+ and the Olympus XA2, because both are auto-exposure

  9. gborin
    gborin ·

    OMG, reading the article again I just noticed that you wrote that in the first paragraph, my bad ;)

  10. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    @gvelasco I've found these instructions to perform Bulb exposures with the XA, I've trying with my XA-2 without success, let me know if with the XA this really work!
    1. Slide open the lens cover.
    2. Switch the bottom EV1.5/check/selftimer switcher to the
    "check" mode; the check buzzer will keep ringing.
    3. Focus the object as usual, then press the shutter.
    4. The check buzzer will stop during the supposed shutter
    time, for example, if the supposed shutter speed is 6 seconds,
    then the check buzzer will stop for six seconds. After that,
    the buzzer will resume, yet, the shutter will stay open.
    5. Then you can switch off the shutter whenever you like by
    switching the bottom switch to the normal position.

  11. gnarlyleech
    gnarlyleech ·

    Gimel, as always you have really out done yourself. I read this review a few months ago, and I am glad to see it here finally. Thanks for the thorough explanations you give. -later

  12. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Wonderful, very effortful and complete comparison!! I have an original Russian LC-a, and when you select an aperture, the shutter is only 1/60sec for flash sync, no other shutter speed. The shutter and aperture are together, a sort of 2 blade thing, I think from looking at it work, making cat's eyed small apertures, and sort of cat's eyed bokeh in bright light close shots. The auto exposure sets a progressive program, starting at 1/500sec at f/16 and going to 1/30sec at f/2.8 as the light dims, and then from there extends the shutter speed from there until the photo resistor cell loads the capacitor to discharge, closing the shutter. It's open ended, and can take as long as needed. Use 400 and slower film for night shots, because the faster the film, the sooner reciprocity failure sets in. The original LC-a sets ISO's from 50 to 400, better for cross process and redscale exposures.

  13. tiro8
    tiro8 ·

    @gvelasco really liked how you did this review; the time you put into was well worth while. i think comparison reviews like these are sometimes the most relevant when readers are thinking about which tools they want to invest in in the future.

  14. kvboyle
    kvboyle ·

    Fascinating comparison, with so much detail and a really worthwhile read, especially for those of us who love finding out about old cameras. Like Herbert-4, I have on old Russian LC-a - I think you'd have to have a recount on rule no 1, as it's like a little metal tank and weighs a ton.But on the other hand, it's so sturdy and unbreakable, so maybe it would still win...

  15. fash_on
    fash_on ·

    Excellent review, so much info :) some of the XA shots look a bit more exposed than the LCA shots (daytime ones) and specially the bokeh shot where the LCA also shows the bright dot and hard edge but I'm thinking it's not as much because it's underexposed? My personal reason for using the XA or XA2 is for the lower iso range, 25 - 800, similar to the refurb. LCA which is sadly not available here lately. The different colour cast is interesting, but can 2 different lenses cause this? I think it would be interesting to shoot half a roll in one cam then shoot the other half in the other cam, same lighting/subject of course, to rule out the scanning factor.

  16. azzzy
    azzzy ·

    LCA !!!

  17. beni
    beni ·

    WAW, master review!!

  18. paramir
    paramir ·

    Great review! Very informative and interesting to see the differences between these two cameras. I do not have either of them, but I think that based on this review, I would go for the LCA. Thank you very much for the information! Well done.

  19. falsedigital
    falsedigital ·

    My vote is for the Olympus XA. :D I like my shallow depth of field so Aperture Priority is the deal breaker for me.

  20. princewish
    princewish ·

    love em both , but that f. zuiko lens is so nice,,, great article .

  21. droogieboy
    droogieboy ·

    Nice shots, but I see very little between them. I woud also choose the cheap reliable camera available 2nd hand on Ebay for £20 over the new £200 camera that always seems to be breaking down on new customers

  22. droogieboy
    droogieboy ·

    ( by that I mean the XA2 - sometimes refered to as the poor man's LCA - but so much more affordable )

  23. chromo
    chromo ·

    This is a bit off topic, but can anyone tell me what the difference between LC-A+ and the LC-A+RL is? I know the LC-A+ is chinese and the RL is russian, but aside from that is there much difference in how the images look, specs and so on? I'm thinking about buying either:




    the RL is a bit more expensive - any reason for this?


  24. basterda
    basterda ·

    Sent you a PM, @chromo! :)

  25. bayusuputra
    bayusuputra ·

    here's a trick to brighten up the rangefinder patch of the XA so it'll be easier to focus!
    cut out a small patch of black electrical tape (about 2mm X 3mm) and paste it in the center of the viewfinder (the front glass) and it should give you something like a split image focusing..

    @superlighter i can't get that trick to work on my XA sadly.. otherwise it will be my perfect "technical" bring everywhere camera..
    (note the word technical, as in aperture priority!)

  26. spata
    spata ·

    I have just bought an olympus XA-2,but reading this rewiew i think I should have bought an LC-A!!I definitely prefer the LC-A results...but I hope the XA-2 is a bit different than the XA ! :(

  27. sidsel
    sidsel ·

    This is an excellent review, but I agree that it would have been more useful if you could compare the LC-A+ with the XA2. Brilliant piece anyway, now you made me want to buy an LC-A+ -don't feel guilty, I've always wanted one anyway!

  28. feelux
    feelux ·

    Great review! Very detailed. These are actually my choices on what to buy next, so.. thank you :)

  29. nuhdos
    nuhdos ·

    I am happy after seing this article, I was thinking about buying both cameras and... after reading it... I still want the two of them. The LCA+ it's like crazy and gets nice colours, and the accessories are cool ! ! buuuuuuuuuuuut... the olympus xa is so sharp, and it gets real colours but in a lovely way... I love them

  30. brandonkow
    brandonkow ·

    "The LC-A+ was designed as an affordable camera for the masses." ohhh how things change, nice one lomography for monopolising the market. The XA is a much better camera in everyway except its longest exposure being 10 seconds, dont get me wrong the LC-A has it charm but i have had the same results from my elikon 535 (which cost £20 off ebay new in box)

  31. gvelasco
    gvelasco ·

    Yes. My statement is incorrect. The LC-A was designed as an affordable camera for the masses. The LC-A+ is an new upgrade with many important improvements. It was not designed to be affordable. It was designed to produce similar results while providing many desirable usability improvements - tripod threads, shutter release threads, film speed up to 1600, accessory rail, multiple-exposure switch, more reliable shutter, and a two year warranty. If the XA is a much better camera in every way, then why do you care if Lomography.com has monopolized the market?

    You cannot get the same results with an Elikon 535. The Elikon 535 is a fun, interesting camera that will get you some very nice results, but it is not the same. It has a longer, slower lens. It uses a fixed shutter speed to aperture ratio (very clever). It has an X-sync flash rather than a rear-curtain sync flash. It doesn't have shutter release threads. It doesn't have a "B" mode. It doesn't have multiple-exposure capabilities.

  32. brandonkow
    brandonkow ·

    do these upgrade warrant the insane price tag??? I care because i love film photography, and lomography claim to be keeping it alive, when really this is a way of getting customers, they give each camera a unique feature (sprocket rocket-sprocket holes) and then make customers pay through the nose. Dont get me wrong they have created a great community full of people with the same interest, but at the end of the day there a business (not a society) and there main aim is too make as much money out of there customers.

    I always seemed to (before my LC-A broke). yeah always thought the elikon would have been great with bulb mode.

    Sorry if i have offended you in any way, i thought your review was great.

  33. brandonkow
    brandonkow ·

    and i love the XA shot of the christmas tree, the lens has great bokeh.
    but if im totally honest ive found the XA2's lens to be slightly sharper

  34. thejunkman
    thejunkman ·

    Bought a new LC-A+ and it broke after about a month. Bought an untested 30 something year old XA at a thrift store for $3 and I really regret spending $250 on the LC-A+

  35. slobill
    slobill ·

    I don't have a LC-A but I sure like the Olympus XA i inherited from my uncle, it takes great pictures and fits in my pocket.

  36. theblues
    theblues ·

    This is exactly the comparison I needed!!!! Excellent article ! Thanks @gvelasco

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