The Best Camera I Never Knew Part II: The Rollei A110

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The Rollei A110. One of the Best Cameras I Never Knew 🙂

I will have more from this year’s PhotoPlus Expo I promise you, but today I’m going back to the core of this site, which is classic, collectible, and interesting cameras.

The first in this series was a camera from Rollei called the Rolleimatic. It was a camera designed by Rollei camera design legend, Heinz Waaske.

Today’s “best camera I never knew” is also…a Rollei! And also designed by Mr. Waaske and his design team 🙂

It is called the A110 and it is a super cool looking miniature, pocket camera that takes 110 film. I know a lot of people who think 110 film is extinct, but you can still readily get it through Lomography or Amazon.

Lomography will also do the developing if you send the film to them or drop it off in one of their stores.

THE CAMERA

The Rollei A110 was introduced by Rollei in 1975.

The camera is a funky little thing. The camera relies on scale focusing and has a focus range of about 3.2 ft to infinity. There is an orange focusing slide below the 23mm f/2.8 Tessar lens. In the viewfinder are symbols to give you an idea of what you should choose to focus on depending on how far away your subject is. The symbols include one person, a group of people, and a mountain (infinity).

Pulling the camera “apart” and closing it advances the film and cocks the shutter. This is definitely a Waaske design trademark!

The camera is auto exposure only and originally took a 5.6v PX27 battery. The modern day replacement for the battery is a S27PX silver battery that is 6 volts. This small difference could effect the exposure, but with the wide dynamic range of most films you should still, in theory, get a usable shot.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME?

Why? Why you ask? I got two of them from eBay. Both didn’t work! 🙂

The sellers swear they were working, but I suspect both sellers did not know much about the camera. Many are probably found in their parents or grandparents camera collection and being auctioned off by people who have no idea what they are selling.

Fortunately, I got both of them cheap. First one for ten dollars, second one fifteen. If seeking an A110, they usually run from $10-50, with an average of around $30. They usually come with a presentation case and a cool chain. If you’re lucky, you can get the whole shebang with presentation case, leather case, chain, and flash.




WHY BOTHER?

With the exception of hardcore film lovers, and I do count myself as one, this camera doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It takes 110 film which is not widely available and of which development is only available in select speciality stores.

The image quality will not exceed what you can get with 35mm film or even today’s higher end cell phones.

So why did I want one? First, I am a camera hunter and I love old, classic cameras, and even more so if I can find them cheap. The A110 fits that bill. The very first camera I ever used was my Mom’s Kodak 110 camera from the 70s, so there’s a bit of nostalgia in it too.

Secondly, I’m a fan of Tessar lenses, so again, the A110 fits that bill. And lastly, even if the image quality would be less than 35mm, the A110 could possibly give me a unique film look, which is something I’m always after.

So guess what? I’m on my third A110, which I got for $30 and this one IS working! Got film in it now, but it is unfinished. Then when the film is done, I still have to send it out for developing and that might take a while.

So until that day when I can see the results from the quirky, eccentric, classic camera, the Rollei A110 will remain…The Best Camera I Never Knew 🙂

Note: If you want to see a great review of a WORKING sample of this camera, please check out this review at DOWN THE ROAD a great blog by Jim Grey who also reviews classic cameras with excellent photo samples, as well as elegantly and honestly sharing his personal life experiences. It’s a great blog worth checking out!

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The Pentax Auto 110

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Pentax Auto 110 and Pentax 18mm f/2.8 for the Pentax System 10.

The Pentax Auto 110, introduced in 1978, is a truly iconic “little” camera. Part of the Pentax 10 system, including the Pentax Auto 110 Super, they were among the smallest interchangeable lens SLR’s ever made.

I still have memories of my Mom’s first camera which was a long, odd looking Kodak 110 camera.

Believe it or not, you can still get 110 film these days from companies like Lomography. Developing the film however, is another story! You’ll probably have to send it out to various online vendors who can develop the film for you.

As a young boy, I was fascinated by the ads I saw for the Auto 110 in the old photography magazines. When I finally saw it in real life, I could not believe it was a real camera!

There were 5 prime lenses, the 18mm f/2.8, the 24mm f/2.8, the 50mm f/2.8, the 18mm “Pan Focus,” the 70mm f/2.8 telephoto and one zoom, the 20-40mm f/2.8. Just like today’s micro 4/3’s or other small sensor interchangeable lens cameras, you have to convert the lenses to their 35mm counterparts to get the true focal length. For example, the 18mm lens would actually be a 35mm in focal length if it were a full-frame 35mm slr.

Because 110 film is pretty much dead or at best, a novelty today, you can get the Pentax Auto 110 and a few lenses pretty cheaply. Some of the lenses though, such as the 70mm f/2.8 or the 20-40mm zoom can be hard to find.

The Pentax 10 film series is no doubt the inspiration for the Pentax Q system of today and they remain a marvel of the amazing camera engineering of days gone by.

Note: Shot this a few years ago using a Speed Graphic 4×5 large format camera on Tri-X film.

Now why would anyone want to do this when you could just use your phone or digital point and shoot? I don’t know, I like to make life hard I guess 🙂

No, actually I want an easy life, as easy as possible! However, the Speed Graphic 4×5, or any large format camera requires a lot of practice to master and I was practicing the craft, so to speak.