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!

The Best Camera I Never Knew Part I: The Rollei Rolleimatic

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We can’t always have winners…

In the first post of this series, I take a look at cameras that I have come across, which may or may not be Camera Legends, but somehow they didn’t work out for me.

I’m sure there are cameras that many of you have used, that you heard a lot (or a little) about, you wanted them, and eventually got them, but for some reason or another they didn’t live up to your expectations.

First up is…

THE ROLLEI ROLLEIMATIC

The Rolleimatic is a uniquely designed camera introduced by Rollei around 1980, I believe. It was designed by the famous camera designer Heinz Waaske.

The camera features a 38mm f/2.8 Tessar type lens lens and relies on scale focusing.

The camera’s claim to fame is a rather odd design where the “flap” that covers the lens also doubles as a film advance mechanism.

The camera looked very cool to me, certainly stands out among point and shoot cameras of its era. I love anything retro, so at under a hundred bucks, I had to give it a try. With the legendary Rollei name, you would think this would be an instant winner. However, for me, it wasn’t.

WHY IT DIDN’T JIVE WITH ME

Information on the Rolleimatic is scarce on the web. One great review I read was from a cool guy named Mike Elek, also a classic camera aficionado, and he stated that the camera is a little fidgety to load film.

Well, he was right and then some! I couldn’t get one roll of film to load in this camera! 🙂

Ok, so I thought…maybe there’s something I’m doing wrong. So I found the online manual, I tried and retried, and retried…couldn’t get a damn roll to stick in this camera.

Sometimes, I would get close and it would latch on for like two winds, then the film came loose and I’d have to start over again.

The problem is there is no “slit” in the film take-up like other cameras. Instead there is a “film like thingy” in there that you’re supposed to hook the film up to. I should’ve taken a picture of it, but the best way I could describe it is that the part looks like a piece of 35mm film, but stronger, and is removable. It has “teeth” that is wrapped around the film advance roller and you’re supposed to get your film under the “teeth.” Well, that I did, but it still didn’t work!

Being that he was the only person who seemed to know anything about this camera, I emailed Mike and he was kind enough to write me back. He even made a YouTube video to show how to load the film, what a good guy!

Anyway, despite all his help, I couldn’t do it. Maybe something was wrong with my particular camera.

The camera looked awesome cool, but all it gave me was a headache 🙂

BOTTOM LINE

The camera was sent back for a refund. I’ve been using film for more than thirty years, this was the first camera that I couldn’t load. I’m convinced that it was the ‘funkiness’ of the design 🙂

Mr. Waaske, God Rest His Soul, was a brilliant and creative camera designer. A Legend. I have nothing, but respect for his creations. However, sometimes being too creative might not be such a good thing.

If hunting for one of these, and I’m not sure that’s a good idea, prices are trending at $50-160. So they are not expensive, but they do seem scarce.

The Rolleimatic is one of the Best Cameras I Never Knew. But it is not alone. There will be more to come 🙂