Oh my this camera is super cool.
The Pentax Auto 110 Super was the second of the two Pentax SLR cameras for the super small 110 film cartridge. The Super is a minor upgrade including a self timer, and the winder now requires only one winding per film advance – the original requires two.
This thing is absolutely TINY, yet quite usable. For its ridiculously tiny size it just feels right in the hands. As the name suggests, this is an autoexposure camera. There is no ability to set anything – except the focus which is manually set. The automatic flash screws into the top with a unique mount. The flash, powered by two AA batteries, has no controls other than and “on/off” slider. Likewise the Auto Winder II is also powered by two AA batteries.
This is of course a true SLR, with some interesting innovations necessary due to the small camera size. Notably, the mirror and shutter are the same thing. The aperture is set in the body of the camera (which is why all of the lenses are f/2.8). The aperture appears to be square in shape – not sure how this affects images. I’m guessing with such a small image size there wont be any noticeable difference in bokeh.
I definitely want to run a roll of film through this camera at some point, however it seems to cost about $15 including shipping for film (typically 12 frames), plus another $15 to get it developed at The Darkroom. Or $40-$50 to buy a used film tank reel so I can develop it at home using my other darkroom gear. Even if I develop it myself I need to figure out how to scan it – since my scanner (like most) did not come with a 110 film adapter.
What’s So Special?
The 110 film format was generally considered a consumer format more geared around making cameras as small as possible – at the expense of quality. Since the actual negative size was absolutely tiny, there was not much ability to enlarge beyond fairly small prints. The Pentax Auto 110 Super was one of the very few cameras which attempted to get good quality out of this film format.
With 110 film being rather expensive to purchase and develop, the usefulness of the camera in 2017 is somewhat limited, except perhaps in the lomography crowd.
However the lenses present an interesting opportunity. Due to the camera design they are all a fairly fast f/2.8, and adapters exist to mount these lenses on Micro 4/3rds, Sony, and Canon EOS-M. From what I’ve read the lenses image a large enough area for a crop APS sensor on a mirrorless sensor just fine. Obviously they are manual focus lenses. There are two notable downsides: since aperture control was in the body of the Auto 110 cameras, there is no way to stop down aperture except to create some form of waterstop aperture disks. The other: for whatever reason the adapters, which involve no optics or moving parts, are quite a bit more expensive than other simple lens adapters for mirrorless cameras. It is worth noting that some people have managed to place adjustable apertures in the adapters, however end up with significant vignetting.
How I got it
Purchased locally from a family which hadn’t used it since the 80’s. Mine has no box, but comes with a set of all of the primes, as well as the Winder II, and the kit flash. All of the lens caps were included, as well as the eyepiece cap for the camera. I am missing the screw cap for the flash connection, which I suspect will be impossible to find on its own. Everything works except the winder – nothing I do seems to make it wake up. But realistically the winder isn’t something I would ever use as it adds so much size to the camera.
My copy of this camera came in fairly excellent physical condition. There was sticker residue on the camera boy which required some IPA to remove, but otherwise I only needed to do some general cleaning. Unfortunately someone seems to have dropped the telephoto lens – it has a small dent on the front of the lens mount. This obviously doesn’t affect image quality.
- Pro SLR quality in an absolutely tiny camera
- The lenses are still useful on modern mirrorless SLR cameras
- This is one of the very few 110 cameras which uses notches in the film cartridge to detect film speed. Some modern 110 manufacturers don’t do the notches correctly; as a result some manual cartridge modifications may be necessary.
- Built in ISO speeds are 80 and 400. Modern 100 speed film is close enough to 80; using 200 speed film is not ideal as will always under/over expose (depends on notching).
- Manufacturer: Pentax
- Country of Origin: Japan
- Made in:
- Introduced: 1982
- Camera Type: SLR
- Lens Mount: Pentax A
- Format: 110 cartridge
- How to access film: release along left side of camera
- Battery: 2xLR44
- How to access battery: must open film door; small cassette which holds both batteries is on the right
- Dimensions (cm):
- Serial: 2548394
- Strap: came with a small hand strap
- Extended Grip: bundles include Auto Winder or, in my case Auto Winder II
- Suggested Flashes: there are only two flashes available
- Pentax Auto 110 Super manual on Butkus
- Pentax Auto 110 Super manual on Photo-Manuals
- Pentax Auto 110 Super manuals on Submin – includes repair manuals
- Pentax Auto 110 Super manuals on Pentax110
- A website dedicated to all things related to Pentax Auto 110 cameras
- Wikipedia entry showing the notch which must be cut for proper exposure of high speed 110 film
- Flickr group for Pentax Auto 110
- Rick Oleson on the Auto 110, complete with take apart diagrams. Rick goes into the tech of the camera in detail.
- Film Shooter Collective review on the Auto 110
- Wikipedia article on the Auto 110 and Auto 11 super