Minolta 110 Zoom SLR
Kodak has led the photographic industry in hardware and media for most of the past century. At times, they offered new formats matched with new camera types, where all were closely followed by other manufacturers, sometimes with improved models. The early full-size formats gave way to smaller, 120 and 127, that still lent themselves to contact printing. With photography made available to all walks of life, photoshops with enlarging equipment appeared at every street corner, like cannabis stores in today’s Toronto.
Cameras shrunk, as did the films. The 135 held forth since its inception in the early 1930s. But, loading was still challenging; so Kodak recycled the 126 format name, introducing a foolproof cartridge together with the highly popular Instamatic camera line. Cameras were smaller than traditional 35mm format cameras and much lighter, but still not true pocket cameras. The German and Japanese makers went the micro cameras way, with 16mm format on spools, but it was still not a simple drop-in loading. So Kodak introduced the #110 cartridge, the same 16mm/ but dead simple to load. Images were not great but were not meant to be. The cameras were about the size of two cell phones stacked together; well fit in a jeans pocket. This camera line, of most brands, was just plain viewfinders, nary a feature.
Then, striving to outdo the west, a couple of Japanese camera makers took the #110 format and built an SLR around it. In 1976 Minolta introduced the Zoom 110 and three years later Pentax followed with the Auto 110. The road taken here was not prevalent henced not populated with any further competition.
The Minolta 110 Zoom is an oddity. Petri had a contender with the Fotochrome, where I believe the designer was immediately sacked. The 110 Zoom SLR looks like a hybrid of the Enterprize and a white bread sandwich. The nameplate on top looks as if made to correspond with Star Wars opening captions. At the rear, it looks like a plain 110 pocket camera, which is understood, but the top and front are unique. The 2nd model and the Pentax cousins look like a diminutive SLR of the time. However, here Minolta did away with the large hump of the classic SLR, replacing the pentaprism with a set of mirrors. The mirror hinged sideways rather than upwards, so the result is a smaller hump, almost as streamlined as the Pen F or the Focafdlex.
But, this ugly duckling packs a lot of punch. It stood at the front line with flagship SLR models of the era, with a vast advantage – dead simple to operate.
Loading the camera takes pushing a slider located at the left of the finder, opening the hinged back, and dropping in a cartridge. No leader to pull or position on cogs, no QL module. Then, cocking with the winder lever, large and easy to grasp, bottom mounted, as at some early Retina models.
The camera is fully automatic, aperture priority mode. The only settings to worry about are the primary mode control and the F stop. The mode is set via a dial on top, and cannot be missed. Three options: ‘A’ for Auto, ‘X’ for flash sync via the hot shoe, and ‘B’. Being battery operated, the ‘A’ will work with live power, whereas the ‘B’ and the ‘X’ without power. ‘X’ is set to 150, suitable for shooting on a nice day with depleted batteries. To turn the dial, press the protruding release latch on its left. On the body, at the right of the hump, a red battery check button will light a red triangle in the viewer. Further right is the trigger button with a lock slider by it. The lock prevents accidental click and cuts the current to preserve battery power. The battery compartment is at the side, by the lock. Note that battery markings are confusing. There are + and – marks in the bay, and the battery pole to match is directed towards the mark. See image. (Reason for note – I have three units, two are clearly marked as to direction, and one is not.)
To adjust the F turn the dial at the left of the lens. The dial contains six drop-size lenses, but only one is active; the rest are for show. A disk, punctured with different hole sizes matching the F stop, turns with the dial, and the holes are positioned behind the leftmost lens. A window behind the dial shows the selected F stop.
To compensate for correct exposure or to simulate a film speed other than ASA 100 / DIN 21, there is a small lever behind the aperture dial. Pull it forward and set it right or left. It compensates for + / – 2 stops.
Checking if exposure is within the auto settings, press the shutter release halfway. In the viewer, a red triangle indicates over and a yellow triangle under. Compensate accordingly. Shutter speed is on a need-to-know only, nowhere indicated.
Finally, a zoom lens, 25 – 50 with a macro option, is set in front. While Pentax offered a set of three lenses for their 110 SLR, Minolta made a more straightforward choice. For focusing, the silver lens barrel is marked metric and imperial. The rear part is black as the body, for the zoom setting. The macro setting takes pushing the dial inwards and turning towards the orange mark. No DOF markings.
The camera had a rubber hood. I have seen none, probably did not last. Diopter correction lenses optional extra.
Further reading, see a comprehensive post about this camera at dcview. It is in traditional Chinese, but Google does a sterling translation job.
For the collector – an interesting camera, not a must-have, more as a curiosity. Freely available, cheap, and unlikely to explode in value.
|110 Zoom SLR
|460 gr, Body with lens
|Class average weight
|460 gr, Body with lens
|B, X, 10- /1000, stepless