The Pentax Auto 110 was — and maybe still is! — the world's tiniest interchangeable lens SLR. And it's fucking adorable.
It's a fully automatic camera with manual focus. A point & shoot with a bevy of lenses and matching close-up filters.
It shoots 110 film, obviously… effectively 16mm film, giving you an image that's effectively a half-frame 35mm. Yes, the same 16mm that was (is?) used for motion pictures.
110 comes in these cute little cartridges, so there's no fiddling to load, no leader to mess with, no potential loose or bunching.
And, believe it or not, you can still get new 110 film, thanks to Lomography.
The 110 lenses, especially the 70mm, are shockingly good, and of course tiny. Which means they're perfect for adapting to the Pentax Q. That's how I initially got turned onto the system.
While hunting on eBay for the 70mm and close-up filter, I stumbled across a little PENTAX-branded suitcase. And what was inside? A complete set of everything and everything nestled in its little place. Including the camera itself, a flash, a grip, all five lenses, and the much harder-to-find close-up filters.
Did I mention the suitcase says PENTAX PENTAX PENTAX all over it?? Low-rent photo Gucci. How could I resist!
The 70mm looks fabulous on the Pentax Q, both wide open and with a borrowed lensbaby aperture stop shoved into the adapter (approx f/4). I'll do a post on that soon; that's not what I'm here to talk about today.
But it seemed a shame to leave the most adorable camera ever to languish forever, unloved, in its adorable little suitcase. You can sucker me into almost anything if it's cute.
I bought some expired Kodak 110 film on eBay, and took it out on a drive through Saguaro National Park.
It was so much fun.
It gives you no control — none! Not an aperture. Not a shutter speed. Not EV. Just wind the film, focus, and click the button. (The 110 Super adds an expose-more button, +1.5 stops only, a self-timer. I might have to snag one.)
The viewfinder is clear and bright. The lenses feel nice to focus, especially the 70mm. The film advance lever is fun to flip. It makes a precious little shutter noise that fills my cold little heart with delight.
Honestly… I love it.
If you've ever wanted to buy something simply because it was so small, you'll love it too.
The cost to develop 110 is prohibitive — more than 35mm!! Only one or two national labs do it and, to be totally frank, the picture quality isn't going to be anything to write home about. My little gremlin heart finds it hard to embrace the idea of paying more money for much less quality.
But… I want to keep shooting it.
So this little beauty spurred me to figure out what I need to develop color film. It wasn't easy to figure out what reels I needed, and then to track them down. (There was probably never a lot of demand for 110… and motion picture reels are probably huge.).
I ordered a set of 2 Jobo 1502 reels from CATLabs. They're so tiny! They're so expensive!
From B&H, I got everything else.
This counts as self-care, right?
Now I'm just nervous about cracking it open and trying to load it the first time in the dark bag. I should probably sacrifice a roll but it's not like 35mm. A roll of 110 is at least $8-10.
Luckily — very luckily — there's a video:
And… I just read that expired 110 film is unlikely to produce any picture at all, so we shall see. It will be worth it for the attempt, and the experience.
Guess I'll be sticking with Lomo from now on!