Cameras, Photography

Minolta Autopak 470

I admit I’m not a huge fan of 110 film and cameras. I haven’t been in 30 years, since my deep disappointment over the lo-fi images from my once-in-a-lifetime all-summer trip to Germany. 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’ve shot a 110 camera from Rollei and a 110 SLR from Minolta. And that’s why I shot this Minolta pocket 110 camera, the Autopak 470. I guess I want the format to prove its worthiness!

Minolta Autopak 470

The 1977-79 Autopak 470 was Minolta’s top-of-the-line pocket 110 camera. Only the 110 Zoom SLR sat higher in Minolta’s 110 hierarchy, but it wasn’t pocketable. The 470 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.

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

I framed this photo with a lot less street before the building, and a lot less dead space left of it. I remember being careful to frame this so I didn’t cut the top of the building off, either. It drives me crazy when a camera’s viewfinder isn’t reasonably true to what the lens sees.

Mass Ave

Sadly, a handful of photos had this speckling. The pattern varied from photo to photo. Was it a fault on the film? In the processing?

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

In 110’s heyday, who made enlargements anyway? This format was aggressively about easy snapshots. So let this Jeep be a little soft, too. It would look good enough on a print. I would be happy to get such cheerful colors in my prints.

Fuzzy Rubicon

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; I’d shoot it again (and hope for no more speckling). But next time, I’d just leave this camera at its 11.5-foot focus setting and avoid close shots. That’s what 110 cameras were made for anyway.


Do you like old cameras? Then check out all my vintage gear reviews!

 

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20 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.

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    • 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!

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  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

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      • 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.

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        • 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.

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  3. bodegabayf2 says:

    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.

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    • 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.

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  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.

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    • 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.

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  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.

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  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.

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