Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Pentax Auto 110: an SLR in the palm of your hand

While browsing an antique shop (bit of a stretch to call it that - more of a junk shop, to be fair) I spotted on the shelf an interesting little thing. It looked like a miniature SLR camera. It had "Pentax" written on the bridge. "Auto 110". I picked it up. Was it a toy? A detailed little model of a 35mm Pentax SLR produced for display purposes?

I looked a little closer. It had a viewfinder. It had a lens that seemed operable. I took the lens cap off. I looked through the viewfinder. And, uh, found out that it was in fact a fully functional SLR camera. Just, one that I could actually close my hand around and weighed almost nothing.

In a rather ornate wooden box (definitely not the original: just a box with a Pentax sticker slapped on) were two additional lenses, a winding motor, a flash, and a couple of neck/wrist straps.

After a slightly more thorough inspection, nothing seemed to be obviously non-functional. So, I paid my money (not much, and certainly less than they trade for on eBay) and took it home.

Fortunately, Lomography actually re-started production of 110 format film in the last year or so, due to demand from users of the "Diana" cameras (cheap, plastic lensed pieces of overpriced junk - sorry to any users..). So, I slapped in a 24 shot colour cartridge and started snapping away, and followed that up with a black and white reel.

My set came with 50mm, 24mm and 18mm lenses, all basically high quality miniatures of standard 35mm size lenses. One difference here is that the aperture iris is actually in the camera body rather than the lens, where space is saved by making the aperture double up as the shutter.

One thing I love about this camera is that it shows how bold and innovative Pentax have been (and do continue to be) in their design philosophy. Okay, they may not get it absolutely right (the Pentax K-01 mirrorless SLR, for example, while an excellent camera and interesting concept does have some serious shortcomings), but Pentax are a brand that I always trust to create very high quality products that don't necessarily follow the herd.

Here is a "family photo" of my normal SLR with the Auto 110 (and a Lego man for size reference):

Perhaps it's a camera that won't be getting a lot of use given that I have a high quality digital Pentax SLR, but for sheer fun and novelty value it's pretty great, and just owning a piece of photographic history (smallest SLR ever made) is quite nice. It's also small enough that I may well take it with me to places I wouldn't normally carry a camera (even though I do have a phone capable of taking very junky shots).

Shots taken with the Auto 110 will follow shortly, when they come back from the developer (how weird is it to say that in this day and age?). Fingers crossed that they exposed correctly and that I get at least one or two shots worth posting.