Camera Reviews

Minolta Autopak 470

I’m not a huge fan of 110 film and cameras, not since my deep disappointment over the lo-fi images from my once-in-a-lifetime all-summer trip to Germany in the 1980s. I shot a $15 Keystone 110 camera with a plastic lens. It was all I could afford; paying for the trip had tapped us out. And then every image was grainy and soft. Bleagh. So today I won’t look at a 110 camera unless it offers something special.That’s why I shot this Minolta pocket 110 camera, the Autopak 470.

Minolta Autopak 470

The 1977-79 Autopak 470 was Minolta’s top-of-the-line pocket 110 camera. It featured a 26mm f/3.5 Rokkor lens, said to be of Tessar design, with a slide-out plastic close-up adapter. It focuses from 3 feet to infinity across four focus zones, selected with the red slider atop the camera; extend the close-up adapter and choose the 11-foot zone to focus down to 1.6 feet. The manual recommends taking most snapshots with the camera set to the 11-foot zone.

Minolta Autopak 470

Two SR44 batteries power the Autopak 470. To check the batteries, press the red button next to the strap lug. If a red light appears in the viewfinder, the batteries are good. When shooting, that red light means you need to turn on the attached flash. You’ll need a single AA battery to power that.

Minolta Autopak 470

The flash detaches, making the Autopak 470 even easier to pocket. I shot it this way except for one photograph I took just to test the flash.

For a guy who doesn’t like 110 this isn’t the first 110 camera I’ve reviewed. See also the Minolta 110 Zoom SLR (here) and the Rollei A110 (here). 110’s older cousin is 126; see my review of the 126 Imperial Magimatic X15 here. Or just check out all of my camera reviews here.

My hat is off to the Lomography people, who started offering fresh, new 110 films a few years ago. Before these films, when a 110 camera fell into my hands I always bought expired film for them, and then could never be sure whether poor image quality was the camera or the film. Fresh Lomography film lets me remove one variable from the image-quality equation.

I bought a cartridge of Lomography’s ISO 200 Tiger color film and dropped it in. The Autopak 470 automatically adjusts for ISO 100 and 400 film, so I figured every shot would be a misexposed. Nope! Every shot was well exposed. Here’s my favorite shot. The candylike color is startlingly pleasing, and sharpness is pretty good given the graininess you can’t avoid with such tiny negatives.

GMC Truck

I shot a corner of my living room with the flash on. I’m not a big fan of built-in flashes because they tend to bluntly overlight things. But this flash lit evenly with little washout. Not bad. You’ll notice my screw-mount Pentax SLRs and my Yashica TLRs on the shelf.

In my living room

But pretty much every other shot reveals some challenge or limitation with the camera or the film. When I framed this photograph, I had positioned the open door much closer to the frame’s lower right. So clearly the lens sees a larger area than the viewfinder. This is a common challenge with viewfinder cameras, though. The shadow detail isn’t anything to write home about, either. There I go being too hard on old 110.

On Mass Ave

Sadly, a handful of photos had this speckling. The pattern varied from photo to photo. Turns out the Lomography film’s backing paper is known to have pinholes in it.

Galaxie

It’s too bad, because the speckling spoiled some otherwise delightful photos. I love the vintage feel of the colors on this photo. They remind me of a 1950s color slide.

Chevrolet

The Autopak 470 struggled mightily with the setting sun reflecting off this pale building. The original scan was heavily washed out. I darkened it as much as I dared in Photoshop, but so much detail is still lost. In real life, it’s very easy to read “Sears, Roebuck and Company” above the doors.

Sears

My biggest challenge with this camera, however, was focusing. I usually plain forgot to adjust focus for my subject, despite the in-viewfinder focus display. I guess I just want my point-and-shoot cameras not to make me think too much. In this photo, notice how soft “Stout’s” is, but how sharp “Oldest” is at the bottom of the image. But my lab (props to Old School Photo Lab!) sent me a few gratis prints, including one of this image. The prints show a tiny bit of softness, but it’s not terrible. The prints were fine, really. There I go, expecting too much of this format again.

Stout's

On another outing with more Lomography Color Tiger I taped over the back window so any pinholes wouldn’t spoil my shots. That didn’t save me from forgetting to focus, however. Good lord, this camera should just have been fixed focus.

Out of focus

When I remembered to focus, things still usually turned out a little soft. This is the Tyson United Methodist Church in Versailles, IN.

Tyson UMC

This vintage motel is in Versailles, too, right on the Michigan Road.

Moon-Lite Motel

I made this photo in Madison, IN, on the Ohio River. I wore some cargo shorts this day and the Autopak 470 slipped right into the big side pocket with no fuss.

Broadway Hotel

See more photos from this camera in my Minolta Autopak 470 gallery.

I had fun shooting the Autopak 470. And I loved the color the Lomography Tiger film gave me. But next time, I’d just leave this camera at its 11.5-foot focus setting and avoid close shots so I never whiff focusing again. That’s what 110 cameras were made for anyway.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.

Standard

40 thoughts on “Minolta Autopak 470

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    Poor 110, the first step for Kodak gradually seeing how fuzzy, foggy, and grainy they could make someones 3.5 X 5 print, before the consumer cried “uncle”! I think it’s a conspiracy, just like the Kennedy assassination! A lab full of scientists saying: “…ha, they’re buying it! Next stop, disc film…”

    You’ve gotten amazing quality here, tho! I always wondered about the image quality of those ‘high-end’ 110 cameras (Kodak and others actually had cameras this size with a rangefinders, you didn’t have to go all the way to the Pentax 110 SLR); BUT, as any large format guy will tell you, back in the photo/optical days, you can quadruple quality issues every format size you go down! Most of these ‘cartridge’ loading cameras, from 126 on down, had the same problem: variable film flatness due to cartridge construction. It would seem the smaller you got, the worse this got, but it didn’t stop Kodak from trying!

    My mother had a high-end 126 camera for years, and I always thought more development could have been done to improve that, there were already some high-end SLR 126 cameras that took great photos, and the smallest of these could be easily pocketed. Kodak kept answering a question no one was asking! Well, that’s marketing for you…

    I think the move to 110, and then disc, finally made the consumer bolt, with the introduction of 35mm auto-load point-and-shoots with DX film speed setting, people could physically see the difference in a small print. I know disc film was developed as sort of a ‘system’, that would eventually included a tv top ‘player’ you would put the disc in, and watch like a slide show, but the film was just too small for quality! My mom eventually tried 110, and thought the results looked crappy, and immediately switched to a 35mm point and shoot, she never bought into disc.

    • I find it funny how Kodak kept trying easy-load systems when it was the 35mm cartridge that was destined to win the consumer film camera war in the end. Loading a 35mm cartridge into a point-and-shoot camera just isn’t all that hard after all!

      My mom had a decent-quality 126 camera, too. It had a giant built-in flash, which was a rarity in the 1970s. It was the whole reason she got that camera. I think she got it with S&H green stamps!

  2. Bob Dungan says:

    Jim,
    Nice review. If it makes you feel any better I get the speckling on some 110 shots too from a Minolta 110 Zoom SLR. The lens had some sub marks on it so that is what I blamed the speckling on.
    Bob

    • I should take a look at the lens, then. But because the speckling happened on only a handful of photos, and the pattern varied, I blamed the film or the processing.

      • Bob Dungan says:

        I only had it on some of pictures too. At first I thought the sun was hitting the lens, but, after looking at the pictures I realized some were in the shade where the sun wouldn’t have been hitting the lens.

        • I tried to look at the lens. It’s behind the shutter, and there’s no Time or Bulb setting, so it’s very difficult to inspect. So I just can’t tell if there are any blemishes there.

  3. A film format I have never tried…and most likely never will. I can remember everyone running to buy 110 cameras when they were introduced. I remember them just as quickly being tossed into the junk drawer. You, of course, always seem to coax some decent images out of even the silliest of cameras.

    • I’m not terribly interested in 110 either. I bought the Rollei A110 because it is a marvel of miniaturization, and the Minolta 110 Zoom SLR because holy cow you mean someone actually built an SLR for this crappy film format?! From here on out, I will shoot 110 only if a camera lands in my hands and has something interesting about it. A glass Tessar-design lens on a 110 camera makes it interesting. Not necessarily good, but interesting.

  4. Christopher Smith says:

    Nice write up and photos Jim. Minolta had cornered the market in miniature film before Kodak produced their 110 format with there Minolta 16 range which uses 16mm film the film cartridges can be re-used and spooled with 16mm movie film a 30m/100ft spool will give you 60 refills of 20 shots each so quiet more economical than buying 110 cartridges.I Have a Minolta 16 P. I have a developing tank that can take 16mm film that I can develop B&W film in.
    The only 110 film camera I have is the Pentax Auto 110 SLR.

    • I had a Minolta 16 in my original camera collection! (The one I ended up having to sell during my divorce.) A neighbor gave it to me when I was a teenager. He learned I collected cameras and gave me all of the cameras he had. It was a very cool little sub. Wish I still had it.

  5. Jim I really like the timeless look and feel of these photographs, especially the ones of vintage cars. I think it’s much more appealing to use cameras that give these results directly, rather than shooting digital then using filters and presets to try to make them look like vintage film photos.

  6. Ron says:

    I picked up one of these in a lot of old cameras I bought on e-bay. Definitely the coolest 110 I’ve ever had. I didn’t know film was available. Dang! Now I’m going to have to go shoot with it.

  7. The first camera I ever saw was my Mom’s 110 Kodak which had a similar look. I love the grainy gritty shots and your subjects!

  8. Late to the party here, but I can chime in on the spotting – it’s pinholes in the backing paper used by Lomography. I’ve used this film (and reused the components with a different film stock) and gotten the same results.

    The simple if inelegant solution is a piece of electrical tape to obscure the window on the back of the camera.

    The Autopak 470 is a nice camera that bears some resemblance to the older Minolta-16 models. Though the close up filter is idealized to use with the 11 foot setting, it can be used at the closer settings to get good focus at about 13 inches as well!

    • Yeah, since I wrote this I’ve learned just that: it’s the backing paper. Easy enough to put tape over the window.

      I own a few 110 cameras but as I thin out my collection this is the one I’ll keep.

    • I wonder if they’re still selling from the same defective batch. I’m sure they had to have a ton of the film made at once to make it cost effective, and they’re selling it out of their freezers.

      • What I have found odd is that even when a Lomo 110 film is sold out for months, when it is finally restocked and you are able to order more, the backing paper still remains an issue, not a huge issue due to the ability to tape over the window, but an issue nonetheless that they don’t seem to mention in their packaging.

  9. Pingback: Minolta Autopak 470 (Part 2, should be the Photos) – The One Ten Guy

  10. Jim, have you upped your ads? In this post I’m seeing one embedded in the text next to “For a guy who doesn’t like 110…” another at the bottom after the main text but before the “if you like old film cameras” box, then another two ads side by side below that. I know you’re not averse to the odd ad and it does bring income, but four on one page doesn’t look good. IMHO of course.

    • Yes. On my reviews only, I have inserted two more ads. These posts get a lot of search traffic, and 95% of those visitors never come back. I might as well make a penny.

      • Can you track specific ads on specific pages? It would be good to see how they performed.

        Personally I’m glad you say you’ve only done this on your review page and not across the board. :)

        • I can’t track ads. It’s a shame, because it’s effort to add them and I’d like to know if it’s truly worth it.

          I also can’t turn off ads on new posts. If I could, I would. I want to make a little passive income off people who won’t become readers, but give the cleanest experience to people who really want to engage here.

        • Perhaps there’s a WP plug in that can let you track better? I remember some years ago when I used AWeber for email newsletters it tracked every link, how many clicks, where they landed etc. And that was years ago. Or Google Analytics?

        • Oh, which would eat into any revenue of course!

          What about an eBay or Amazon affiliate link in your camera reviews? So at the end saying something like “search for a Minolta Autopak yourself” as a clickable link and you get a little commission from any sales? I’m sure I’ve seen these on other blogs.

          It baffles me how ads work. The two times I’ve visited this page once the ad was about a nurse who quit her job because she made £3k in a day, the second it was about Word Ads. Neither have anything to do with vintage cameras, or photography at all.

          If people are finding camera reviews via a specific Google search, then why would they then click on a random unrelated ad? Surely they’re in a prime position to click on a link that lets them buy exactly the camera they’ve just read about?

          Just thinking out loud about how you might earn more income from specifically targeted ads readers are most likely to be interested in.

        • Of course none of the ads relate to photography. They relate to your search history, and barring that they are random.

          This is the ad platform available to me on this tier of WordPress. It’s the best I can do without having to actually try to sell ads myself. Which I don’t have time for.

          I tried the affiliate link thing to Amazon some time ago. They bounced me out of the program after six months for low sales.

        • Oh ok I see, I didn’t realise they were Google ads, ie linked to Google search history, I thought these were WordPress ads, and figured they’d be related to the content of the blog they were on.

          Yeh I remember now about a decade ago being removed from the Amazon one for the same reasons ha ha. We’re just not big time players!

        • They are ads through WordPress WordAds, but they still use the cookies etc. on your computer to figure out what ads to show you. So it’s probably not 100% accurate to lay it on search history — more accurate to say it’s sites you’ve visited.

        • I think it’s pretty random. Nearly all of my time online is photography related, and I can’t recall searching for alternative career options for nurses! : )

  11. Dan Cluley says:

    I continue to be fascinated by that church in Versailles. A mashup of styles that absolutely shouldn’t work, but does somehow.

  12. Pingback: Pocket Dynamite or Dud ? -Minolta pocket Autopak 470 Review - Canny Cameras

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.