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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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