4.01.2018

Small Format Size, Big Format Results: One Ten Camera Guide to 110 Cameras!

...or maybe 11 or more, depending on how you count.  


Could one of this band of misfits be coming to a pocket near you soon? 

It's that one day of the year when our collective cynicism abounds more than any other, particularly online, as websites and blogs get into the spirit of April Fools Day, unleashing a wide array of spoof or parody articles, done tongue-in-cheek, in the hopes of generating some chuckles, while ultimately managing to confound and bewilder the unsuspecting reader who has yet to check the date, or whose morning coffee has yet to really kick in.

I flirted with the idea of doing such a post in the spirit of April Fools Day (as I once did a bit of a fantasy piece one Halloween), either lavishing enormous praise upon a pretty terrible camera, or going through the effort to write a review that  might "trash" a very capable camera.  I could have tried spurring speculation about the re-release of a once beloved film like Kodachrome, but felt that would be a bit cliche.  I even thought of doing a sappy parody of an opinion post in which I go to great lengths to opine that every self-respecting person should carry a 3A box camera in the primary interest of making a statement to others.

But instead of doing a post that ultimately isn't to be believed, I thought I'd instead post about something that something that I myself find difficult to believe, specifically that one can use the terms "110 camera" and "shallow depth of field" in the same sentence.  Heresy you say?  Read on! 

Typically, 110 cameras tend to elicit anything from a disinterested yawn to comments of haughty derision among many film camera collectors and shooters, often with good reason.  The film cartridges provide a small negative size of 13x17mm without a secure film plane.  Add to this, that in most cases, a 110 camera found for sale typically fits the mold of a poor shooter, often with little more than a single speed shutter and fixed focus lens in a blocky form factor with the design aesthetic of a 1980 Chevrolet Citation. 

But dig a bit deeper and you may discover some diamonds scattered about a field otherwise strewn with drab grey blocks.  Not only are there rangefinders and SLR models, but also a handful of surprisingly capable viewfinder cameras that offer some excellent specifications in some particularly pocketable form factors.

I've comprised the following list spotlighting 10 such examples of the finest that the 110 film format has to offer.  In selecting these for this article, I chose the following criteria.  First of all, I skipped models using obsolete batteries that are difficult to replace.  In the case of the 110 format, this would typically be the K battery, which was unfortunately used by a number of Kodak models.  I also wanted to spotlight models that allowed for focusing at near distances specifically, to allow compositions with an in-focus foreground subject combined with a surprisingly shallow depth of field for a small 110 negatives  Finally, I limited the field to models that are typically found available for under $50, if for no other reason than the acquisitions costs of this summary are entirely coming from my pockets, and I just don't have the disposable income that others may have.  Fortunately, only a select few cameras out there in 110 format don't make this list based upon price. 

Without further adieu, I present the following round up, arranged alphabetically.  The alternation in text color between models is nothing more than an attempt to make a very long feature more easily separated out into segments...

Canon 110ED
Little did Canon know in the mid 1970's when releasing the 110ED that it's name could be the subjects of jokes pertaining to the failure of its shutter to fire. 


Canon is not typically the first brand that comes to mind when one thinks of 110 film cameras, as they never furnished a wide complement of models using the small film format. Their small contribution to the world of 110 cameras was impressive however, offering an evolving trifecta lineup built upon the same platform, the most common of which is the middle sibling, marketed as the Canon 110ED.

This portable powerhouse is a 110 format rangefinder complete with an f/2 lens.  Add to this the ability to select aperture combined with automatic exposure, and you've got a pretty competent little camera.  The 110ED focuses nicely down to just 2 feet, providing some good chances to separate foreground and background details on the small 110 negative size.  And this camera is a comparative cinch to most other 110 cameras in that it readily will shoot and advance reloads of unperforated film if a notch is cut out from the side flange of the cartridge.

By specification, there is little at issue with the Canon 110ED.  It focuses close (though you'll have to be careful to avoid parallax error), it lets you select the aperture, and it takes care of the rest. The aperture selection is a bit indistinct, but hardly problematic.  The 1/500 top shutter speed will make it tricky to use "normal speed" film at wide open apertures in bright light, but there are filters that can help with that.  My main issue with the Canon 110ED was specific to my example, and involved a shutter that would stay open as long as the release button was depressed, and an aperture that wouldn't open up wider than about f/4 with close subjects, which is set using a diamond shaped aperture that can leave some funky bokeh.  I managed to improvise using a tripod, filters, and really slow mediums, but I do look forward to trying the 110ED in a way far closer to how it was intended.     

Still, my methods to pull images from a hobbled specimen of this camera were generally successful.  It certainly helped that I used slow speed microfilms that are of very fine grain to reduce the "small negative look" often synonymous with 110 images, but the camera's close focusing and excellent lens really were crucial in making some surprisingly rich images.  And even with the aperture not opening further than about f/4, backgrounds were still nicely muted, even if awash in a cross hatching pattern from the shape of the aperture opening.  This only further prodded me to get a fully functional example of this camera, which allowed me to use hand held speeds and open up to f/2. 

And since I little excuse, I finally did. The Canon 110ED and its successor, the Canon 110ED 20, are regularly spotted on eBay, at prices typically ranging between $15 and $30 in usable condition, though as I found in my original example, "usable" and "working shutter" involved a bit of innovation on my part to yield images.  Both models feature a date back, and with a little innovation, you can find a very 70's evocative scene and try to "suggest" it was taken in 1977 as a little bit of fun - something that this camera certainly offers. 


Despite a small negative size, some very fine grained film and a good lens can combine in a camera like the Canon 110ED to create a surprisingly deep image.  This is Kodak Direct Positive 2468 Microfilm, an orthochromatic film which rates at ISO 0.7 and develops to a positive image in normal black and white developing. 


Using slow speed microfilm and a green filter, I snapped the following shot on a drizzly day.  The background elements are still detectable but very indistinct.  With the diamond shaped aperture opening, shots like these taken at about f/4 will give off diamond shaped bokeh.


Once I finally replaced my hobbled version of the 110ED with a fully functional one, I was blown away to see the results possible. Taken on an overcast day with ACS Data Link microfilm, aperture set to f/2. 

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Fujica Pocket 350 Zoom
The Fujica Zoom 350 likes to hang out - of your pocket that is.  The less than symmetrical camera has a few nice tricks up its sleeve though! 

The Fujica Pocket 350 Zoom, for being so readily overlooked today, is actually pretty noteworthy as far as cameras go, being the first 110 camera to feature a zoom lens, and according to some accounts is the first compact camera of any format to have a built-in zoom lens.  If true, a lot of cameras made since 1977 share a lineage that leads to this camera.  Regardless, it's evident in holding a Fujica Pocket 350 that this is a camera that is leaps and bounds over your typical 110 format brick, with features such as a tripod mount and cable release socket.  It's somewhat lopsided form factor makes it among the least pocketable of the cameras featured here, and its design leaves the front element of the lens vulnerable, but it is still more pocketable than some of the mini-SLR models.


I did mention that I wasn't going to list any cameras that used obsolete battery types in this feature, and the Fujica certainly qualifies, as it does not take ANY battery.  It is quite possibly the most recent camera with upgraded capabilities to not use any batteries.  The shutter is a fixed mechanical type serving up snaps of 1/125 of a second at three selectable apertures.   An external accessory flash can be added for indoor shooting.  This camera also excels in that it can be readily "tricked" into shooting non-perforated film stock reloaded into 110 cartridges, simply by cutting a squared notch in the lower side rail of the cartridge so as not to trip a cartridge sensor that will only let the shutter trip upon detecting the registration perforation used in 110 film.  This allows the cheap and easy reloading of slit 120 film as well as 16mm microfilm stocks, enabling shooting for well under $1 a roll! 


Shooting the 350 requires that you are good with distance estimation, as this camera is guess focus with no aides at all.  The rather bulky lens assembly only opens up to f/5.6 and its minimum focusing distance is a pretty disappointing 5 feet at all focal lengths, counting this camera out for anything resembling true macro work. My particular copy tends to experience some lens wobble that may be indicative of the design and age of the camera.


Shots taken "close up" on the 350 with the telephoto lens extended can be a bit challenging to compose with its limitations, but do tend to eschew the stereotypical tendencies of the average 110 camera, showing a nice blurring of distant details.  In most cases, film grain is the only real telltale sign that a photo taken with the 350 was shot on a format smaller than 35mm. I do notice a general degree of softness on photos taken through the lens of this camera, but such rendering is actually pretty typical of most early zoom lenses, regardless of format. 


The Fujica Pocket 350 Zoom is reasonably common, and pretty readily found at online auctions at the sub $20 range.  Just beware that a 300 model, as well as a Bell and Howell rebadge exist that seem to lack the ability to focus.  As for the 350, it's neither the fastest, most compact, nor most versatile camera in this listing, but its lack of flash and batteries make this mechanical marvel a refreshing entry in the field that does make for a pretty fun shooter. 



My biggest challenge in shooting the Fujica 350 Zoom in such a way that capitalized on its ability to create muted backgrounds was in creating compositions that worked at the 42mm end, but still had subjects at the 5 foot minimum focusing distance.  Here is one example that worked from a roll of Fuji Superia 200 film.


The Fujica needs no perforations to work properly, so it was comparatively easy to reload some Delta 100 slit to 16mm width for a replacement roll.  With a flat overcast, I snapped this image that truly shows the capabilities of this small camera. 


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Fujica Pocket Flash 450
While it looks like a standard 35mm camera in form, the size of the 450 flash actually does comply with the word "Pocket" in its title. 

While the Fujica 350 Zoom mentioned above broke molds with its zoom lens design in a 110 camera, its sibling, the Pocket Flash 450, breaks entirely with the typical look of 110 cameras of the era, bearing more resemblance to a small 35mm compact model than the long bar design common among 110 cameras. The camera shares this form factor with other Fujica models in the lineup such as the 250 and the 350 (non zoom), as well as some rebadges from Hanimex and Sears, but the 450 is the only one that I know of that allows the user to set the focus.  

Though the 450 doesn't share the trait of its 350 sibling in lacking a battery compartment, the shutter remains completely mechanical with a 1/160 speed, leaving the pair of AA cells to power the built-in pop up flash unit, the presence of which is pretty impressive given the small size of this unit.  And while the lens on the 450 offers only a single focal length, it makes a refreshing break from its sibling above in being able to focus as close as 24 inches through it's f/4 lens that is slightly on the wide side at a 20mm focal length.  Despite a fixed shutter speed, a few apertures can be selected using the weather symbols.


As with the Fujica 350 Zoom, the focusing of this unit is strictly a guessing game, with an added extra complexity for an American like myself given that the focusing distances are metric, but the distance estimation doesn't take too long to conquer.  The main sore spots for the 450 Flash compared to the 350 Zoom are a decrease in build quality (mine has a bad door latch and needs to be taped shut to use) and the abandonment of the easily tricked cartridge detector located in the flangeway for a rocker arm sensor in the film takeup side.  This arm can be bent back and forth until it snaps to readily allow the use of non-perforated refill stocks, but doing this precludes the easy use of true 110 cartridges with the pre-printed frames on the film stock.  Choose wisely.


The single wider focal length and close focus distances possible with the Fujica 450 not only result in a pretty fun shooting experience of near objects, but also culminates in some especially nice results through the lens.  I like using this camera with microfilm and shooting close subjects wide open, and this combination results in some remarkably fine grained photos with excellent blurring of background elements.  Contrast in the microfilm is able to be tamed using color filters and dilute developers, and the lens of the 450 shows some impressive sharpness even on the corners.


The Fujica Pocket 450 Flash, while not outright rare, is one of the less commonly seen models seen for sale, which can make the "snap decision" of modifying it to use non perforated film something to weigh carefully.  Like it's zoom sibling above, some downgrade variants often show up such as the AW that do not offer the ability to focus.  Still, with patience, this specific model does surface for sale periodically, and does not carry an excessive premium despite being fairly scarce.  The small size and simple mechanical operation make this a great camera to easily tote along for some fun shooting.



Shooting under bright light but with "cloudy" settings (for 100 speed film) and a cartridge refilled with ACS Datalink microfilm produces great chances to open up the Fujica 450 flash up to f/4 on a sunny day and have some shallow focus fun.  I also held an 80B filter over the lens to control contrast, resulting in a nice tonality overall.  


With the backdrop reaching out far into the distance, the widest aperture settings of the Fujica 450 Flash worked well to mute the background, with the intermediate elements rendering nicely to the point where a smoother backdrop was portrayed. ACS Datalink microfilm.  


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Kodak Ektramax
Little Camera on the Prairie! If advertising is any indication, this was Michael Landon's favorite camera model.  Given the anachronisms in his show at the time, it wouldn't surprise me if it appeared in an episode! 

It would certainly seem to be a snub if a Kodak model were not among the options listed here, given that Kodak introduced the 110 film format in 1972.  However, finding a Kodak model that is neither overly simple in operation and specs, or one that doesn't require the long-discontinued K battery is something of a task.  Fortunately, there is ONE Kodak model that makes the cut, offering a blazing fast f/1.9 lens and abandoning the electronic shutter for a mechanically operated one - the flagship Ektramax! 


The Kodak Ektramax is the only American made camera in this list, debuting in 1978.  Its lumenized 25mm f/1.9 lens contains an aspheric element unheard of for a 110 camera. Curiously, this highly regarded lens does NOT carry the "Ektar" branding that other high end Kodak 110's such as the K-powered Pocket Instamatic 60 and Trimlite 48 models do. However, among the few people aware of this camera, its fast lens is very highly regarded. As a nice plus, the shutter on the camera is entirely mechanical, and varies with each of the 4 different settings.  As a nice plus, the camera shoots wide open at f/1.9 on both the "XL" (Existing Light) and Flash settings, with the speeds differing between 1/30 and 1/100.  The camera will readily shoot using the flash setting even if batteries are not inserted into it, which allows some extra versatility for those of us who like to shoot wide open.


When shooting the Ektramax, make sure your distance estimation skills are on par, or carry something with you to help estimate distances, the Ektramax has no rangefinder, offering only a neat sliding scale of varying portrait type icons in the viewfinder to assist in distance estimation. Even with those skills, the Ektramax doesn't get in as close as most of the other models in this list, with a pretty meager 4 foot minimum focusing distance. And despite the impressive specs listed above, the Ektramax still carries all the "clunky charm" of a typical 110 camera of the era, with the "long box" form factor.


The rather ordinary physical appearance of the Ektramax only seems to make its results all more the more stunning however.  Combine this camera with some slow speed microfilm and you've got yourself one amazing photo taker, complete with sharp details that blend wonderfully into nicely muted backdrops.  This camera may well be one of the very first ones made that can embody the term "Plastic Fantastic."  A roll of excellent results taken with the Ektramax will certainly kick start the desire to shoot more images with this surprising little shooter.


Most searches for a chance to buy the Ektramax online will simply result in Michael Landon staring back at you from the advertisements of the era for this model.  It is an interesting situation to have advertising for a camera model be far more readily available today than the actual camera itself.  With some patience, however, these cameras do surface periodically, and at prices around the same as those of much lesser grade Kodak 110 cameras.  It seems that the demand for these models is almost as scarce as sellers who are aware of the significance of this model, which allows the savvy pocket shooter a chance to pick this camera up for a fraction of what it sold for 40 years ago.



I knew not what to make of how the Ektramax and its aspheric lens might render, but from initial indications, this is one sharp shooter.  The lettering in the foreground is definitely well rendered, while the distant backdrop details are definitely muted in comparison.  This was taken on ACS Datalink microfilm, at the f/1.9 at 1/30 setting.


Another shot taken on the ACS Microfilm shows more of the same tendency to render in-focus details with exceptional sharpness while nicely muting the background.  This is definitely not your typical Kodak 110 camera, despite its initial appearance.

I feel compelled to include the 110 border printing to try to prove that this image really is 110.  Using Agfa made color film, I overexposed this view in the Ektramax to get some phenomenal colors as a result! 

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Minolta 110 Zoom SLR



Two particularly different cameras bearing the same name!  Choosing between these two can be a bit of a challenge! 




Imagine the confusion that would arise if a well known SLR camera model (let's just pick a Pentax K1000) could be found with two completely distinct form factors while bearing the same name.  Well this is just the case with Minolta's "110 Zoom SLR" model, which comes in Mk 1 and Mk 2 variants.  While certainly not as well known as the K1000, both of these models are among the most distinctive 110 film offerings, and may well have as many differences as common traits. 

Both models are fixed lens, true SLR type cameras with a built in Zoom with macro function.  Both offer aperture-priority auto-exposure and exposure compensation as well as Flash sync and Bulb settings.  Both have film advance levers on the bottom of the camera. 


The differences between the two models range from radical to more nuanced, starting with their appearance.  Calling these two cameras by the same model name is akin to calling Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger "Twins."  The Mk. 1 version seems to have migrated into an SLR from a standard 110 camera with a standalone meter, while the Mk. 2 version seems to have migrated into a 110 camera from a standard SLR with TTL metering. The viewfinder in the Mk. 1 uses LED arrows to denote exposure issues, while the Mk. 2 has LEDs aside shutter speed settings.  The Mk.2 zooms further, has a faster lens, and focuses closer than its predecessor.  


Both models are quite enjoyable to use, and the lack of a need for parallax correction in using an SLR form is a huge help in composing images compared to a viewfinder camera. The close focusing macro modes of both models are an amazing extra feature, particularly given the small size of these cameras, and opens up a lot of creative possibilities beyond the usual compositions. And while both sort of push the realm of being "pocketable," either will manage to fit into a coat pocket - though you'll be pretty well aware they are there.

Both models are challenged by some unique build issues to me.  I have two of the Mk. 1 version, and both have had the need to be disassembled to reset the shutters, and one of them has an aperture that won't stop down.  My Mk. 2 has a particularly wobbly lens that doesn't inspire a huge degree of confidence.  These items aside, the main pain points in these cameras consist of zones between the macro and normal lens settings for which focus can't be achieved, limiting creativity to some degree.  In addition, the Mk. 2 version doesn't readily take unperforated film, while its older brother will, provided the cartridge has the helpful notch.   


Results from these cameras however can be nothing short of stunning.  I was particularly amazed at how well the Mk. 1 version handled an improvised roll of Microfilm.  A handful of shots hurriedly taken on the commute home actually came out looking far more planned and executed, and definitely elevating at least one of these cameras as a fun and easy go-to when I want to take some dramatic scenes on a mild day coming up.  If anything, I actually lament not pushing the Mk. 2 version more to its limits prior to publishing this article, but I certainly have faith that it would at least equal the Mk.1 in performance. 


Either of these cameras can be readily found online, though the Mk.1 version is probably at least 10 times more common than its sibling, and as a result, tends to be the more affordable of the pair, often being sold for under $10.  The Mk. 2 is still pretty easily found, but also tends to be the more coveted of the pair, so it may require some steady searching and patience to find a good working example at a reasonable price.  I managed to scoop up both of these in a cheap sale listing, and while my specimens are hardly mint, they certainly do the job when it comes to getting good images.  



Focused close, and opened up all the way to f/3.5. the Minolta 110 Zoom SLR can do some wonderful things with softening backdrops.  I snapped this under mixed light, using the "X" sync setting and simply loved the dramatic tonality that resulted on the ACS Datalink microfilm.


Another shot on the Mark I using the same methods and settings as above offers a broader look at how this Minolta handles itself.  Foreground elements are nicely sharp while the backdrop is pleasingly muted.  Again, I find the tonality especially dramatic. 

The Mark II version is equally impressive for its ability to isolate subjects on a small negative.  A shot on Lomography Orca BW 100 shows the potential of this camera. 


Another image on Lomo 100 shows the focus at its sharpest on the tractor nameplate, and then gradually softening as the distance from the camera increases.  


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Minolta Pocket Autopak 460TX
Emulating the silver and black tones common on SLR cameras of the day, the Minolta 460TX tries at least to some degree to keep the TX from being short for "tacky."

As with most genres in film photography, the world of the 110 film format is no exception.  Even if you don't seek to find it, it may ultimately find you.  Such was the case when I pulled the trigger on a cheap bulk camera lot as I took interest in a Minolta-16 camera model, only to have a handful of 110 cameras come along as part of the deal.  Though hardly elated at first at entering this format, I was impressed enough with one of the cameras to give it a try, leading to a surprising liking for the small cartridge format.  As such, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the camera that first gave me an appreciation of what was possible in 110 format: the Minolta Pocket Autopak 460TX. 


The 460TX can manage to create its shallow depth of field imagery through the use of a telephoto lens.  Combine this forced perspective with a nice 3 foot minimum focusing distance and the pairing is one that can lend itself to sharp foreground details combined with pleasantly muted backdrops.  Another user controlled switch allows you to open the aperture up fully in combination with the fixed shutter speed to try to maximize the separation of field between foreground and backdrop.


You'll need these tricks however, as the 460TX only opens up to f/5.6 on the long end, while the Telephoto setting is handled by a simple switch rather than a zoom, and drops additional elements in place to change the focal length.  Though the Minolta styling of the camera is among the better of the type, the form factor of the camera is still that of the ubiquitous box, leaving a rather awkward camera to pocket from place to place.  And while the 460's preference for perforated film won't discourage most, an added extra challenge comes in that the 460TX is a "guess focus" camera with no focusing aids.


Play it right though, and the 460TX will reward you nicely.  The telephoto setting combined with the wide open setting offer just enough to provide some especially nice results that don't look like photos taken on a 110 camera at first glance.  While backgrounds are still distinguishable, they are usually nicely softened creating a wonderful look on a black and white or color 110 film stock.


The 460TX is essentially the cheapest and most readily available camera on this list, with working examples readily found for as little as $10 shipped.  As such, it really does make a great introduction into the 110 film format for a minimal investment.  Consider seeking one out in a multi-camera lot with a more limited 110 camera model to really appreciate the surprising versatility that this model offers.   


One of my first results to make me realize that the 110 film format isn't so crappy after all.  Shot on Lomo Orca 100 using the Telephoto setting, closest focusing distance of 3 feet, and with the aperture wide open ("cloudy") to maximize the effect. 


Using the cloudy setting when it really was cloudy yields an image with less contrast, but still one that offers a good separation between near and far elements.  This rainy day shot was snapped on Lomo Orca 100.


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Minolta Pocket Autopak 470
Hooray!  The flash is gone, resulting in one really nicely sized little camera that offers some nice specs in one of the most portable packages around! 

One thing that becomes readily apparent in looking at 110 camera offerings is that Minolta was a major player in the market, offering everything from basic 110 snappers to the pair of 110 SLR models featured above.  Given the myriad of models, it can be tough to distinguish the distinctions between them, and overlook a gem in the process.  One such camera that certainly should not be overlooked in the massive Minolta lineup is the diminutive Pocket Autopak 470.   


By lacking a built in flash, the 470 definitely embodies the "Pocket" aspect of its moniker, carrying an appearance that is more reminiscent of the its Minolta-16 format predecessors than its contemporary 110 format models.  And of all the non-SLR type models in this list, the 470 focuses the closest, thanks to a built in close-up lens which combines with one of the preset focusing distances to create an 20" stated closest focusing point, that actually creeps closer to 15" if a closer focus setting is used in combination with the lens. All exposure is handled automatically, with shutter speeds ranging from 2 seconds to 1/1000th.  


As with most of the compact cameras in this list, "guess focusing" skills are important to have in using this camera, though it is no coincidence that the carry strap for the 470 happens to be 20" long to assist in focusing using the close-up lens.  The fully automatic exposure means there is no ability to adjust aperture, and I noticed that my attempts to trick the sensor into longer exposures so as to use slow speed microfilm on my specimen resulted in underexposures.  As such, I elected to stick with film speeds of 100-200 on this model.


When I've stayed within normal film speeds, my results from the Pocket Autopak 470 have been excellent on both and near and distant subjects.  I have, however noticed that the bokeh on close focus shots is far nicer using the nearest focus setting and positioning the subject 13" from the film plane, rather than using the suggested setting where the subject is 20" from the film plane, which seems to result in too much background definition and a more harsh rendering of the backdrop.  With some care to measuring, foregrounds can render with excellent sharpness on this tiny camera. 


As the Minolta Pocket Autopak 470 came along during a decline in the 110 film format, their numbers are not nearly as abundant as the cameras of the same type which came before this model: namely the Autopak 70 and 270 models.  However, the 470 holds the advantage of using common button cells for power rather than the now obsolete K-battery that the earlier models relied upon for power.  Examples of the 470 as of this writing can be found for under $25, not quite the dirt cheap price of many 110 cameras, but given its ease of use and small size, a decent deal still.  This may be a model that is more cheaply found on a Goodwill listing instead.   




Using the handy carry strap to measure out the 20 inch focusing distance using the close up lens, it's pretty easy to get some impressive closeups such as this. taken on Konica Centuria 200.  Background details, while muted nicely, still retain a good deal of their original shape. 


Despite the stated minimum focus of 20 inches using the close up lens combined with the 10 foot focusing distance, I found that about a 15 inch minimum was possible using the 3 foot setting plus the close up lens.  This actually created a significantly more muted backdrop as as seen here on this shot taken on Ilford Delta 100, and makes depth of field very narrow.

Another try to ease the minimum focusing distance inward worked quite well here, offering some especially amazing results and great highlights in the distant out-of-focus areas. Film is Walgreens (Agfa) 200 110 film. 


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Minolta 16-QT
If there is any "April Fools Day" tomfoolery at play here, its simply that this really isn't a 110 camera, or that all the flowers I'd hoped to shoot for this article were stymied by a late Spring. 

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things doesn't belong.  So, granted, the Minolta 16-QT is NOT a 110 format camera, and if you do as I tried to do back in the Fall and adapt true 110 film stock to it, you're likely to be disappointed.  But if you are perusing this list and contemplating the 110 cameras listed here for your next small size image maker, the Minolta 16-QT does merit your consideration, even if it doesn't technically count in the tally. 


However, the 12x17mm negative size that the 16-QT produces is literally a hair smaller than the standard 110 image size, and it checks off all of the other boxes above.  It is focusable, its mechanical shutter doesn't rely on a battery, and while the meter uses a pair of the long-abandoned PX-825 cells, improvising power using a 2024 and spacer coins is a cinch. It also offers the greatest degree of manual control of ANY of the cameras listed here, which makes the use of slow speed mediums such as microfilm an easy and affordable option.  


Regrettably, the somewhat rudimentary focusing control only goes as close as 3.5 feet, while the Rokkor lens only opens up to f/3.5, putting forth some creative limitations that hamper this model more than some of the others in the list. The use of Minolta-16 film cassettes, which most users tend to reload themselves may also deter those who simply want to buy film, drop it in, and shoot, but may also be a plus for others.  And as with many of the cameras on this list, focusing of the 16-QT comes with nothing in the way of confirmation of focus, but merely icon guides. One other minor quibble is that while the QT will easily shoot microfilm with its manual control, it only meters down to ISO 50, a stop or two above the typical rating of microfilm used in pictorial applications, requiring a bit of manual compensation. 

The results from the 16-QT were really pretty impressive to me - not the best of the batch, but certainly among the better half, which is especially good given the limitations in aperture and minimum focusing distance.  The Rokkor triplet rendered subjects sharply, while softening backgrounds to where they were discernible but still pleasantly softened rather than distracting. While the fate of the Minolta-16 format wouldn't have been saved with a higher-spec version of this model, the use and results of the 16-QT does tend to make one long for the existence of a QT-S variant, which could have offered an f/2.8 lens, closer focusing, and a couple more shutter speeds to really make a pocket rocket! 


The Minolta 16-QT was not a predecessor to the 110 format, but rather the last attempt of Minolta's to compete with the format prior to conceding and putting their apples into the 11o cart.  As the most recent example of the format, it is typically found online for around $25 - which is a bit higher than most other Minolta-16 cameras, but still reasonable. Given that this is the ONLY Minolta-16 model that truly does focus rather than rely on accessory lenses for close focus, it certainly is worth considering if you're open to the idea of the small format, but would rather stick to a single example. 



With a Minolta-16 cassette loaded with ACS Datalink microfilm, I opened the aperture all the way up and shot some images at either the 1/30 or 1/250 settings to see what the Minolta 16-QT could do.  While hamstrung to a large degree by a modest minimum focus distance, the results were still pretty impressive. 


A particularly lucky composition that I stumbled across nicely shows how background details progressively blur as the distance beyond the focusing distance increases.  I'm actually curious to use this easy camera in some more settings to see what it does, particularly on the ACS microfilm.


An f/3.5 aperture doesn't seem like much on a small negative, but the Minolta 16-QT seems to do a great job of stretching it somehow.  Shot wide open on ACS Datalink, the distant road seems to increasingly blur out while the near subject is nice and crisp.


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Pentax Auto 110
It totally looks like a camera key chain, but in this small shell lay one of the most amazing of 110 cameras you may ever pick up! 


"Pocketable" and "SLR Camera" are two terms that tend to run directly counter to each other in the world of photography.  Yet in 1979, Pentax proved that the two terms could be used in the same sentence when the Auto 110 debuted.  Not only had Pentax released the world's smallest SLR cameras with the Auto 110 model, but they also created the only 110 camera with interchangeable lenses, with lens offerings ranging from 18mm on the wide end to 70mm on the long end.  There was even a 20-40mm zoom! 

So yes, this really is an SLR camera in the context of the 98+% of SLR camera models made, whose interchangeable lens permit a versatility that enables the shooter of this 110 camera to create images that look as if they were taken on a 35mm camera, particularly when using the longer focal lengths.  It helps that the Pentax is built with the shutter/aperture in the camera body, and that all lenses for the model open up to f/2.8! Rounding out the upside is the TTL metering system that allows the user to simply focus and shoot.

But even that upside comes with a hiccup. The TTL metering system means there is no practical way to "trick" the Pentax into using slow speed microfilm, which is a bit of letdown, as such a medium would wonderfully squeeze the most out of the small format.  A bit more troubling is that despite being an interchangeable lens SLR, the Pentax is essentially the Canon EOS 750 of the 110 film format, meaning there is only program mode - no Aperture priority, no manual mode, not even a Bulb mode.  It's certainly understandable that its tiny size wouldn't make such extras affordable or even practical, but the result makes for some rather "plain vanilla" shooting.  The follow up model: the Pentax Auto 110 Super offers a few improvements on this, such as an exposure compensation switch, a brighter viewfinder with a microprism collar, and even a self timer. 

In spite of these limitations, as I was shooting the Pentax Auto 110, I wasn't left feeling like I was having to make much in the way of sacrifices.  The lens offerings really did offer a well rounded complement of focal lengths, and given some of the small subjects I was choosing, it was nice not to have to do any compensation for parallax error, as required with the non-SLR models.  The viewfinder was bright, and the split image finder was a huge help in critical focusing.  The results bore out this ease of use, showing crisp and well focused subjects and backdrops that were especially smooth and indistinct.   

The original Pentax Auto 110 is readily available on the used market today at prices averaging about $30, but at times less. I managed to score one with the three original lenses for $20 off an Etsy sale! This camera along with the Mk. 1 Minolta SLR and the Minolta 460TX would be the three models from this list that are the easiest to locate for sale.  Lenses for the lineup are a mix when it comes to availability - the original trio of the 18mm, 24mm, and 50mm are pretty easy to locate, but the 18mm pan-focus, 20-40mm zoom, and 70mm prime that were released in 1980 tend to be fewer and farther between. 


Scenes taken using the 50mm lens offer great potential to separate foreground subjects from the backgrounds, even when not taken at the closest focusing distance, such as here.  There is even a slight bit of swirl in the background bokeh, but nothing too dizzying.


Bring a subject up as close as possible to the lens with the 50mm lens and you'll get a stellar rendition of a sharp subject complemented by a smooth and creamy backdrop.  I used a #11 Green filter on this shot to reduce the light coming in to open up the aperture more and get some richer contrast in the final image.  


The Pentax admittedly seems to be the most versatile of the offerings creatively, between the lens offerings, the ease of image focusing, and precise compositions.  An aperture priority version of this camera would have been astounding.  Lomo Orca BW 100 with #11 Green filter. 

The great separation effects of the Pentax Auto 110 are not simply limited to the use of the 50mm lens.  A shot through the "normal" 24mm prime does a great job as well in pleasantly blurring the backdrop to a nicely indistinct rendering.   


Background details using the 18mm wide-angle tend to be the least obscured, but are hardly well defined.  However, one can easily detect a church and statue among the backdrop elements.  The 18mm lens focuses to under a foot! 

A color image taken through the 50mm lens shows some excellent rendition on Agfa 200.  The background tree in the upper right corner has some fairly distracting bokeh though. 

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Rollei A110
While many 110 camera models seemed to competing in the length department, the miniscule Rollei contentedly put forth a such smaller footprint. 

One of the more interesting aspects of the "flavor of the decade" debuts of new film formats during the later part of the 20th century was the arrival of premium spec models made by long-respected makers.  The 1970's certainly spared no exception to this practice, as the 110 film format's introduction in 1972 spawned a flurry of enthusiasm at the 1974 Photokina show, when a tiny and tenacious competitor was announced: the Rollei A110. 

Sporting a 23mm, f/2.8 Tessar lens and an ultra compact size, the Rollei packages a pretty potent starting point in a small size package.  The camera offers fully programmed auto-exposure, and a particularly nice viewfinder given its diminutive size.  Sturdy metal construction of this model round out its impressive feature set, making it seem a slam dunk among the choices here.   

With its functional weaknesses limited to a guess focusing arrangement and still reasonable 3.5 foot minimum focusing distance, one would expect the Rollei reputation for quality would place it as top choice upon this list.  Not so much.  For starters, its use of an all but discontinued 5.6V PX27 battery raises the question of whether it belongs on this list to begin with given the criteria I laid out above, but I elected to cover it since I was able to improvise power to this model using a pair of 357's, an 1130, and a 675 to put out 5.85V, which seems to satisfy the camera.  Beyond this however, the camera's reputation for long-term reliability is poor, and the example which I borrowed for this review was no exception, usually refusing to release the shutter when the button was depressed, despite the battery indicator stating that all was a go.  It seems there was some issue with the linkage between the external release button and the actual internal release, and I eventually got slightly better performance by gently holding down the shutter button as I pulled the camera case open to an instant fire.  Even if this camera were working fine, I did feel it wouldn't be ideal for my usage of 110, since I often reload old cartridges and tape the area around the film door to keep it light tight.  With the design of the Rollei that has the user compressing and extending the camera body to advance film between exposures, this simply isn't possible. 

With shooting the Rollei A110 being such an endeavor to make it work, I think the only time I'd have been happier to see the number "24" would be after waiting at a #24 bus stop for over half an hour on a cold, windy, rainy night.  My first hope was that my trick to snap images on this camera worked, followed by a second hope that they were decent.  The negatives emerged showing promise on both fronts, and I could see upon scanning that sure enough, the Tessar lens delivered plenty of sharpness.  However, it would be my opinion that the backgrounds of photos taken on the Rollei didn't soften nearly as nicely as the other cameras.  Either the lens was a bit too sharp, or I had too much light in the scenes, as it seemed I wasn't getting close enough to f/2.8 on my exposures. Despite it's "cool factor" combined with the Rollei name, I feel this to be the least practical of the cameras featured here.

The A110 is readily available at prices ranging as low as $25, though it seems most examples seen for sale are of the "untested" variety, so given my own trials with this camera, I'd say that "Caveat Emptor" applies.  Ironically, the A110's "budget" sibling, the Rollei E110, also can be readily found online, but usually at a higher price, curious in particular in that the E110 doesn't have programmed auto-exposure, but aperture priority AE, which in my mind is actually a plus over its higher-end counterpart. 


 There is no denying that the Rollei A110 snaps a sharp photo, but I found that my best attempts to diffuse the background fell short.  A shaded scene taken on Delta 100 looks great, but I got more distraction in the distance than I had hoped. 

Under even gloomier light, the A110 still didn't render a nicely muted backdrop using only Ilford Delta 100.  The spots are from my poor choice of reusing the backing paper from a roll of Lomo 110 film and not covering the window, but given the challenges of getting the shutter to fire, I found it necessary to keep an eye on the frame number.  

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Vivitar 742XL
One thing this Vivitar camera is not "on the fence" about is quality.  The 742XL stands out among the pack.  The snippet of negative film taped over the light sensor, while tacky looking, is a great trick to get the camera to shoot slow speed microfilm. 

While 110 cameras in and of themselves are often scorned by film shooters, those sold by Vivitar are particularly admonished for being especially simplistic and devoid of features. While the brand has some standouts such as the Series-1 lens lineup, its camera offerings across all formats have a tendency to eschew robustness in the interest of simplicity and affordability.  So it may come as some surprise to see that one of the most capable cameras in this listing carries none other than the Vivitar name.  This, my friends is the Vivitar 742XL! 


Combine a fast 5-element 24mm f/1.9 lens of similar speed to that on the Kodak with the 2 foot minimum focusing distance of the Fujica and a high-contrast rangefinder that tops that on the Canon and you've got the Vivitar 742XL, which offers electronic auto-exposure with speeds ranging from 1/800th to 5 seconds.    This is definitely a well made camera which feels substantial, and includes provisions for cable releases and tripod mounting.  Shooting the 742XL is certainly impressive for a Vivitar 110 camera.


The few downsides to this camera are the inability to select aperture and the inability to trick the camera into taking non-perforated film.  However, with a bit of prep to replicate perforations, I've fed microfilm through this camera while obscuring the light sensor with a bit of blank color negative film.  The shape of this camera, like the Ektramax, looks very much the part of most common 110 cameras of the era, but this can be beneficial in scooping one up at a good price, as at a glance, it looks much like its more mediocre Vivitar siblings such as the 600 model. 


Photos taken with the Vivitar 742XL are nothing short of wonderful.  When properly focused, the lens is capable of remarkably sharp images even wide open, and the Vivitar lens seems to provide some of the more pleasing bokeh of the batch.  My microfilm shots taken with the 742XL have come out exceptionally, and the fast lens makes it easy to shoot this slower speed medium with color filters and still have well exposed hand-held shots in a variety of settings.  Some fringing can be noted in some color shots, however. 


Finding a Vivitar 742XL for sale can be a bit of a challenge however.  Soon after learning of this camera, I took to hunting for one, and managed to find one online in a bulk Vivitar auction at Goodwill.  Since then, I've kept my eyes open for a spare, poring through bulk listings on multiple sites and have come up dry.  This is a model that will test your patience to find, but one that I feel is well worth the wait. 



Under an overcast sky and armed with some Fuji 200, the Vivitar 742XL rendered quite nicely.,  Though my focusing may be a bit off on this try, the rendering of the background lights is especially light and whimsical for a 110 format camera. 

With some blank developed color negative film taped over the sensor, the Vivitar 742XL handles microfilm wonderfully.  Focus on the foreground is dead on while the background rendering truly does not look like something taken on a 110 camera! 


With an orange filter taped over the lens, and an evenly lit setting, the Vivitar 742XL manages to really shine, definitely giving off far more of a "fine art" vibe instead of a "110 film snapshot" feel.  I used ACS Datalink microfilm to get the smoothest grain I could.

One more color shot on Agfa 200 taken after this initially posted offers yet another glance at what this underappreciated gem can put forth!  

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So there you have it...somewhere between 10 and 17 models that are worthy of your consideration for some especially pocketable shooting fun with warm weather approaching. Each offers some surprisingly good specification or two that make it a prime choice for anyone with a little extra space in their pockets that may want a unique and capable little shooter.  Keeping track of all of these models is admittedly a big challenge so I prepared the following chart showing key specs of all the models featured above. You can click on it for a better view.



Given the wide variety of 110 models I've had to use, the obvious question emerges about picking a favorite of the batch, which gets tricky given that each camera has some specific quirk that keeps it from being the hands-down favorite.  I used green and red shading in the blocks of the above table to spotlight good and bad traits of these cameras respectively, and admittedly only the Canon 110ED and Minolta 110 Zoom SLR Mk. 1 lack any negative ticks. Still, the easy manual operation of cameras like the Fujica 450 and Kodak Ektramax, the small size and close focus of the Autopak 470, the easy operation of the Vivitar 742XL, and the wonderful results that come forth from the Pentax 110 Auto make them all serious contenders.  And let's not forget the focusable 110 camera that isn't a la the Minolta 16-QT. 

And While the models above certainly cover as wide a variety of options than one might expect from the 110 format, they are far from being the only capable or versatile 110 format cameras out there in the wild.  Also worth keeping an eye out for are the following models that are certainly more capable than your average pocket snapshooter.

Agfamatic Makro Pocket 5008/6008 - An attractively packaged small compact design and the ability to focus as close as 20 inches make these auto-exposure German models especially attractive, though they are a more common find in Europe than the rest of the world. 

Chinon Pocket 77/ Argus Pocketpak - Another guess-focus model that surfaces only occasionally is this model from Chinon and its Argus rebadge.  The Pocket 77 offers close focus from 2.5 feet through a 24mm f/2.7 lens, adjustable aperture shooting, and a very pocketable form factor. 

Cosina 510 - Electronically controlled autoexposure, with a 26mm f/2.7 lens that focuses down to about 3 feet, this rarely seen Cosina actually uses flashbulbs instead of electronic flash, helping cut down on its size.

Kodak Tele Ektra 2 - Another of the few Kodak models that doesn't use the K battery, the Tele Ektra 2 seems to hover on the periphery of top tear, offering a switchable telephoto lens and a pretty compact form, but opens up only to f/5.6 and focuses only as close as 5 feet. 

Hanimex VXL - Similar in build to a 35mm compact, the VXL looks like a bit like an bulbous Fujica 400 Flash (without the flash) but offers guess focusing down to three feet and selectable apertures down to f/1.9.  This is an example of another scarcely seen model. 

Minimax 110EE - Perhaps the most unusual 110 camera ever produced, the large sized Sugaya Minimax 110EE has a 32mm f/2 lens, and selectable ISO speeds from 64-400.  Few were made, and when they surface, they command a collector premium. 

Minox 110S - For those with deeper, not cheaper pockets comes this offering from the world renowned leader in miniature cameras.  A "Barn door" type enclosure protects a 25mm f/2.8 lens that uses aperture priority AE and a rangefinder to focus down to 20 inches. 

Ricohmatic 110X - Small and scarce, the Ricohmatic 110X is a guess focused camera equipped with a 25mm f/2.8 lens and a +/-1 EV adjustment knob but little else in the way of exposure control.

The "Elephant in the Room" of this entire exercise however may well be one simple question.  With so many affordable and portable film options available in 35mm and 120 readily available, why would someone actually want to shoot 110 (or Minolta-16) film, given its often spotty availability and the overall limitations in the smaller negative size?

The answer to that question personally comes down to an element of fun for me.  I find that many of the challenges in creating good images with these cameras, that can extend all the way from film selection and preparation to modest post-processing, to be involved and rewarding in a way that is lacking in a "mainstream" format like 35mm, where I'd be more inclined to simply choose a slow film and fast lens and camera to create shallow depth of field shots with much less effort.  Finding a handful of 110 cameras that can actually push the boundaries of the small negative size while often using some interesting mediums has turned the format from overlooked to embraced in my eyes.

The format, and some of the means to get the most from it, are admittedly something that may only appeal to a very small fraction of film shooters, but if you are someone who enjoys a challenge, and who likes a pocketable and capable shooter, you'll find some surprisingly wonderful tools in the text above.  You may well be surprised at what the 110 format can offer you should you try one or more of these capable and cute little cameras!  

Have some fun and give it ago, unless of course you still think that the 9000 or so words above are all just an elaborate hoax for April Fools Day!