Operation Thin the Herd: Minolta Autopak 470


I find it hard to love 110 film and cameras. That tiny frame and the craptacular plastic lenses most of the cameras used never led to great results. But the Minolta Autopak 470 is one whale of a 110 camera, with a 26mm f/3.5 Rokkor lens of Tessar design, and exposure controlled by a CdS cell with shutter speeds from 2 sec. to 1/1000 sec.

Minolta Autopak 470

I got this camera from my friend Alice’s father. He sent me all of his cameras from a lifetime of photography, great gear including a Certo Super Sport Dolly, a Yashica-D, and an Olympus OM-1. This Minolta was by far the least of his cameras, but I liked it when I shot it last time. Check out the candylike color I got on Lomography Color Tiger film on that outing. That roll yielded the sharpest 110-film images I’ve ever seen.

GMC Truck

Today the only source of fresh 110 film is Lomography, so I bought more Color Tiger. That film’s backing paper is infuriatingly flecked with pinholes, so I protected against light leaks by sticking a square of electrical tape over the frame counter. I then dropped the cartridge and two LR44 batteries into the Autopak and carried it in my cargo-shorts pocket, sans flash attachment, on a fun long weekend with my wife. It’s so light I barely knew it was there.

Downtown Indy

There’s not much to using this camera: focus and fire. Except I frequently forgot to focus, as I usually do with zone-focus cameras. I don’t know what my mental block is. On several shots nothing was in focus.

Out of focus

I think the Autopak assumes that when you focus close, you want a blurred background. I deliberately focused on the sign in this shot, and everything behind it is out of focus. It’s a pleasant enough look, but I really wanted Margaret to be in focus.

On the bridge

When I did remember to focus I was always fazed by the scale, which places closest focus on the right and farthest on the left. That’s backwards to the way I think of focus. Some of its zone symbols are unusual, too, and I never got the hang of them. I kept having to check the focus guide on the camera’s bottom to know what to do.

Tyson UMC

Even when I focused correctly, many photos were very soft. I don’t know what went wrong, given how impressed I was with sharpness the last time I used this camera.

Moon-Lite Motel

I was also not impressed with the quality of the scans. I didn’t say anything about it when I reviewed my Rollei A110 recently, but I was disappointed in those scans so much that I used a different (and more expensive) lab this time. I was more disappointed with these scans. Several frames entered the scanner crooked and required straightening in Photoshop. I also had to crop some of the frame mask out of every image. Perhaps poor scanning contributes some to the images’ softness.

Broadway Hotel

But this is a camera review, not a lab review, and so back to the camera. The Autopak handled well in my hands, at least; my only complaint is that the winder was stiff.

To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta Autopak 470 gallery.

I don’t need any 110 cameras in my collection, especially given how expensive it is to process and scan 110 film for such meager results. The lab charged me a whopping $23! But I want to honor my friend and her father by keeping his lovely cameras. Fortunately this little Autopak 470 doesn’t take up much space.

Verdict: Keep


7 responses to “Operation Thin the Herd: Minolta Autopak 470”

  1. Alan D Avatar
    Alan D

    Getting a good 110 lab process is a bit of a challenge Jim. From bitter experience I’ve ended up using a small local lab for colour (digital photo express in Carlisle). They hand scan which makes a massive difference and although it costs a few quid more than their standard 35mm service, it’s still cheaper than many another quasi pro labs 35mm service.

    B&W stuff is a pain. Few labs do 110 & few do B&W. I’ve tried a few labs but use a postal pro lab but pay through the nose (they only do one option of D&P with scan and prints).

    Keen to see your 470 results as you know I have its baby brothers a 430 & 460. Think the size is a big plus with removable flash

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have one more 110 camera to shoot, one I’ve never shot before. I think next time I’ll have prints made and just scan the prints at home.

      This 470 remains the best 110 camera I’ve ever used!

  2. Heide Avatar

    I bet that if you posted these on Instagram people would ask you what filter you’d used. :) You’ve proven that even “crappy” cameras can take compelling images, in the right hands.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You like these images better than I do then!! :-)

  3. […] Autopak-ing it in ? Regular commentor her Jim Grey muses on if hsi Minolta Pocket Autopak 470 should stay or go. Read his decision on his Down the Road blog which gives a health insight into the joys and pains  of 110 photography. […]

  4. Sam Avatar

    The camera looks like a toss out but I saw the excellent pics and I said “keep” and I was right! 😊

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s pretty solid for a 110 camera.

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