Pentax Auto 110
After Minolta married the #110 format with an SLR body to conceive the 110 Zoom SLR, the idea resonated with Pentax. So, when Minolta introduced the Mark II, Pentax presented a similar concept but a different uptake with a smaller and more versatile model. A kit, or a ‘system’ as they named it.
The Pentax model was smaller than either of the Minolta pair. Further, they offered interchangeable lenses rather than having a fixed zoom lens, perhaps to keep the total package smaller.
Other than the makers mentioned above, with two variations each, no other #110 SLRs were made. The Narciss was a 16mm SLR but not a drop-in cartridge. Guess it was a futile idea, matching a high-end SLR with a low-end film format. All that when 35mm cameras, SLR or otherwise, constantly shrunk. The only justification I can think of is my memory of 1983, spending a sweaty week in August at Disney World with three kids in tow. My gear then was an AE-1P with a massive zoom and a JVC VHSc, a small (at that time) video camera the size of a shoe box and weighing as if it was filled with sand. I wish I knew about this lightweight option.
The Pentax Auto 110 is a minute affair, almost a Barbie camera. It has no settings to fiddle with other than focusing, nearly a true point-and-shoot. As mentioned above, Pentax offered it as a kit, an impressive collection:
- Three lenses, 18, 24, and 40mm
- A slew of filters and close up add on lenses
- Hoods and adapter.
Sold as a package in a neat presentation box.
The 2nd model, the Pentax Auto 110 Super added more lenses and accessories, all backward compatible.
The camera is lightweight, plastic, and cute. Its design is as outstanding as the Kodak Bantam special or the Pen F. It is a pleasure to hold and naturally fits into your palm. No settings to worry about. It is automatic, with shutter speeds between 1″ and 1/750″. The shutter doubles as an aperture, where it only opens to the desired stop. It has two leaves; think about scissors blades that open and close, only here the blades are opposing L shape.
On top is a traditional winding lever that takes two strokes to cock and wind a frame. Next to it is the trigger. On the other side is an odd-looking socket that looks as if something there is missing. A cover for that socket is found at the side of the flashgun; peel it and stick on it. The body is so tiny that Pentax had to skip the ordinary shoe design and instead use this port for the flash gun. Nearby it is a pin, described as the flash contact. Not sure, as a similar contact is within the flash mount.
At the front, a catch to release the lens is the only dressing. Back opening latch at the side and winder mount and contact complete the scant options to tinker with.
Inside is the cartridge bay and the back of the mirror, set in the middle. A removable battery holder carries two batteries. Guess it is done this way to conserve space. Battery check – a trigger half press will light green in the viewer. Deep inside, a pin reads the film speed off the cartridge. From what I read, the camera only reacts to two film speed settings, high and low, translating into 80 and 400 ASA, with nothing in between. I think that only 400 ASA is available now, if at all.
The lenses are minuscule, the smallest about the size of a glass marble. As mentioned above, the shutter also simulates the aperture, so the lens has no moving parts, save for the focusing dial. There is a lot of online discussion about fitting these lenses onto micro 4/3 digital bodies. See the links below. eBay offers quite a few adapters. I may try and use it this way; will elaborate later if successful. Mark II added more lenses, including a variable zoom and a teleconverter.
The winder is where Pentax had dropped the ball. First, it is a winder, not a continuous shooter. It means that you need to press the trigger for each exposure. All it does is wind the film for the next frame. It is about the same size as the camera, even a tad taller. I wonder, other than giving a better grip of the cameras, winding the tiny lever twice is not a big deal. Lastly, most of the advertised cameras mentioned a broken winder battery door. I have two sets: one winder is sound, and the other has a broken catch. To open the battery door, pull the latch backwaters and swing the door away in a curved motion, where the bottom, against the latch, stays in place. A different design would have saved users’ frustration. Other than that, at most 20 exposures are on a cassette, so having a winder thrown in the kit is kind of redundant.
The flashgun is made to fit this model only, with its proprietary mount. I believe there are two models. The flashgun is the only part of this set sized on par with standard equipment.
Filters and close-up lenses are galore. There are UV and sunlight, as well as two different close-up, a set of four for each lens, a total of twelve in the kit. I am sure no user of such a camera will ever bother with close-up or the difference between UV and sunlight filters.
Miniature rubber hoods match each lens.
A threaded adapter; not sure for what.
Shooting is a no-brainer. Decide on what lens to use, and aim. If the exposure is within the camera’s perimeters, a green light will shine in the viewfinder. Else an orange light will flash to warn you. The TTL measuring system does the thinking, what speed and F stop to select. No exposure compensation, so you make do with what you get. With amounted flashgun, the camera will choose when to fire.
Note that the camera is bricked with no battery power.
For the collector, this model is a popular addition to the miniatures shelf. They are easy to come by, as singles or complete sets. All are moderately priced. A clear body and a maroon models are rare and fetch higher prices.
There are a few articles for further reading:
DSLR video shooter – on lens conversion
Same, a thread on DPrevue
Camera grand Cardinal Rick Olsen
An archived site about the Pentax 110
It is said the Pentax Auto 110 is based on the Sugaya Minimax 110. More at Vintage photo.
A Pentax auto 110 brochoure
|Model||Auto 110 Full Outfit|
|Weight||160 gr, Body only|
|Class average weight||430 gr, Body only|
|Kit lens||2.8 / 18mm, equal to 35mm
2.8 / 24mm equal to 50mm
2.8 / 50mm equal to 100mm
|Light meter||CdS, TTL|
|Winder||Lever, two strokes|
|Speeds||1″ – /750″|
|Battery voltage||3 V|