Small Minolta, Big Post.

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, May 4, 2010.

  1. Now this is something completely different, the smallest Single Lens Reflex camera in my collection. And it's just provided me with one of the biggest surprises in my photographic experience.
  2. This unique camera was produced by Minolta of Japan between 1976 and 1979, to utilise the then-popular sub-miniature 110 format film. For those of you not familiar with this format, 110 film came enclosed in plastic cassettes very much like the much larger 126 film, with the film winding across a gate where the exposure was enabled. It suffered two major drawbacks, the first being it's very diminutive image size of 13mm x 17mm, and the second being that the design of the cassette created problems with flatness of the film, a problem shared by the 126 format. The Minolta designers apparently decided to ignore these rather grave limitations, and proceeded to design an exquisite little 110 camera, in all respects a complete departure from contemporary 110 camera design.

    The camera is a true SLR, with a very high quality Rokkor lens, a 25mm-50mm f/4.5 zoom, the equivalent of about 35-100 on 35mm format. The lens has 10 elements in 10 groups plus a swing-in element to allow macro focusing down to 11 inches, so it's a fairly sophisticated little unit. It's just a shame that a wider aperture couldn't have been achieved, but apparently there were issues confronting an increase beyond f4.5. The lens stops down to f/16, the camera working on an aperture-priority metering system. The shutter is a stepless electronic, horizontal metal focal-plane, giving speeds of 10 secs to 1/1000th plus B, with a mechanical 1/125th setting for flash synch. Metering is via a CDs sensor mounted beside the lens, with adjustment for 2 stops + / - exposure compensation, and with housing for the aperture selection dial, while the viewfinder construction involves a Porro-mirror with a microprism focusing circle in a matt field. Needless to say, it's all very small and somewhat dim in there, and good eyesight is essential, though there were eyepiece correction lenses available. Diodes supply all the usual information about battery condition, manual flash setting, exposure out of range, exposure shake and successful exposure. It's a masterpiece of miniature engineering, considering that all the working components of a 35mm SLR of the era were condensed down into a very small body. Film advance and cocking is by a very short-throw lever recessed into the base of the camera. Power is supplied by a couple of 1.5 volt button cells, S-76 or equivalent.

    Being basically a medium-format man I've always disliked the tiny 110 negatives, almost as much as the short-lived and disastrous Kodak Disc, so I didn't expect much from the Minolta 110. For a start, the camera is designed to "read" the ISO of the film inserted, not electronically but by a system of notches moulded into the film cartridges. Apparently the original choice was of two ISO settings, 100 or 400. Somewhere along the line the manufacturers gave away this notching procedure, and consequently the camera reads all film as being 100 ISO. I had found a couple of long-forgotten 110 Fuji Superia 200 ISO films in the bottom of a film storage fridge, a happening which set this whole insane post in motion. The solution was to set the metering on the camera to -1 stop exposure compensation, and this appeared to work well. To my great surprise, the negatives were as near perfectly-exposed as one could wish. I'd carted the camera off to our local Vintage Aviation and Military Show, and shot off the film before the active part of the afternoon got under way. The conditions were trying, to say the least, with a low strong sun and backlighting on many subjects, and a constant danger of lens-flare. I sent the film to my son for processing in the lab, he grizzled about the labour content of scanning 110 negatives but assures me that he made no manual intervention and that the scans are standard mid-range Fuji Frontier. And I was astounded ! The lens performs far beyond the resolving ability of the film, and at it's best the camera produces results better than I've known from half-frame 35mm. If I could find the finer-grained 100 ISO film I'd like to repeat the exercise, but they're now fairly few and far between. I've printed literally thousands of 110 films on a variety of machinery, but these would be by far the best results I've seen.

    Minolta went on to produce the Mark II 110 SLR, a more conventionally-styled camera with TTL metering and f3.5 lens. Pentax produced their highly-collectable little 110 SLR with interchangeable lenses, a true gem of a camera. And all for a film which was basically flawed... Anyway, it was a fascinating exercise, and I hope you enjoy the results. I may be posting too many, but it's tougher than usual, choosing the best.....

  3. rdm


    you know if you carefully open the cartridges yourself and save them and the backing paper. you can slit your own film and reload the cartage. there are many sites online that explain how to do it.
  4. Thanks for sharing! Those are lovely samples of the camera's capability.
  5. Truly amazing, Rick, you did a really good job.
  6. A very nice selection - thanks for sharing. It looks like a fine little camera.
  7. Great photos! Last year I went through a 110 phase with kodak, cannon and the Pentax 110 SLR. The lenses are sharp, the film...not so much. Here're my photos of how I repack the cartridges
    I got a film slitter from the Sub Club site (actually from Joe McGloin himself, just up the road in a suburb of Denver, CO)
    Technically fun, I suppose if I were more of an artist I could get the grain to work for me.
  8. I would not have believed it if you hadn't shown it to be true. I would have thought that this would be one of those "singing dog" stories (no one ever asks if the dog sings well), but the images themselves are technically very nice, quite aside from the nice composition, etc.
  9. I am amazed! I gave the rang finder version of this away after 2 rolls of film my was total junk. Mostly I thought the film was not very good quality as well. I was shooting mostly 35mm Kodachrome at the time perhaps I did not give it a fair chance.
    The pix are very nice.
  10. ok guys you have convinced me to stick with 35mm ( I read the 2009 posts also.
    and get rid of the aps and 126 cameras.
    the sub-mins I may try to sell.
    I still have some love for 127.
  11. Outstanding!! Bravo! Love this! I wish 110 film was still offered in the US!
  12. Rick, excellent job with the Minolta! My results with mine weren't nearly this good, although the camera is pretty cool. Incidentally the filter for this camera also fits the Minolta AL-S, so something good came out of my experience with it. I have a couple of 110 cameras that have film in them, most notably the Canon 110ED 20, and this has really inspired me to see what I can do with the rest of the roll. Thanks for another great post!
    Patrick, you can occasionally find 110 at Walgreens. I used to be able to buy it at Walmart until about a year and a half ago.
  13. I DO miss Minolta (especially since Sony won't service my 5400 II film scanner). They definitely came up with many of the most innovative ideas. But I still prefer my Pentax 110 to the little Minolta 110.
  14. I remember when you could buy the Pentax 110 3 lens SLR outfit with a case for about $120. when they were closing them out. Almost all the camera stores on 33rd street in NYC were giving them away. Soon after they became collectables.
  15. Beautiful shots, Rick. Inspiring.
  16. Great shots. We used to sell these at the family camera shop. We also had the later Mark II model which had a bit more
    range. Thanks for sharing.
  17. Outstanding post. When I was first bitten by the photo bug, the only camera available was my mom's 110, and the subject also was vintage aeroplanes. I have never shot 110 since that first outing. Your gear and skills take that format about as far as it will go. The colors remind me very much of photos in magazines like Air Classics in the 1960s and 70s. I see these cameras on the bay often but am never tempted, even though I know they're great. Not just because of film availability and support issues but because the limitations of the neg size just seem too confining. You can do a great painting with finger paints but why? Then again, I have it on good authority that digital resolution and quality left 135 and even 120 film behind years ago, so maybe the same question could be posed to any of us.
  18. Impressive results and fascinating subjects. I have a soft spot for 16mm format as that's what I learned photography on-albeit a Bell & Howell 70 Cine camera. I used to blow up my Cine frames to 11x14 routinely and get good results.
    Wow, such an amazing collection of "Great War" gear! Where the heck is this? New Zealand? Are there WWI re-enactors there? I've never seen that many flying WWI aircraft. And a MkI Male tank no less! The first armored combat vehicle. The aircraft you titled "Bristol Scout" is actually the famous Sopwith Camel. Not sure what the powerplant is on that restored version, but the original had a rotary engine which was lubricated by-of all things-Castor Oil! I remember reading how pilots hated being sprayed by that stuff...and the inevitable results.
    Excellent shots of the 2 seat scouts as well. Not as famous but they were actually the backbone of Great War Aviation.
  19. Looks like a real rotary on the Camel to me, maybe a Clerget. They are marvelous machines all right. I'm jealous, I've never been able to shoot a B.E.2 in the open like that. Are they all flyable or are some of them museum pieces just dragged out for shooting?
  20. August that sure does look like an authentic rotary on the Camel. Word was the torque from that thing spinning was so great it was faster to turn right to turn left! That FE2 Pusher is an incredible rarity...and if it actually! Sure would be great to see more pics....(Hint).
  21. Many thanks for your responses; this was a time-consuming post to put together so I appreciate your comments. Specifically: thanks for the 110 information, Robert and dan Mar, but I don't know if I'm keen enough to get into sub-minature formats. Nice to know the information's out there, though. Rick and Bill, I only wish I'd picked up a Pentax 110 outfits when they were so cheap, they're such a superb little camera. I'd be interested to see some pics from yours, Bill.

    Thanks Andy, as usual, for your encouragement, and Capital, Staffan, Yann, Howard, Joe, JDM, Patrick, Walter and Mike for your comments.

    August and Russ, my apologies for the mis-labelling of the Camel, but I'm no expert on these vintage aircraft, WWII planes being more my forte. I can tell you that it is a radial engine in the Camel, a very good commentary that ran through the afternoon made the point about the pilots receiving a coating of oil. Unbelievable, really...And yes, all these planes fly. Some are re-constructed, some are replicas, but New Zealand seems to have a very strong aviation history and following. After all, there is a case to suggest that our Richard Pearce flew before the Wright Brothers.. .We have a Warbirds show each Easter which attracts international attention. The FE2 Pusher is a flying replica which has created quite an stir in world aviation circles, in that it was built right here on the little aerodrome which features in the pictures, using original plans and specifications, even for the motor. If you're interested, visit , it's a fascinating site.

    I post a couple of my favourite pics from the day, definitely not from the 110...I hope the captions are correct!
  22. Superb photos Rick, i have quite a few 110 cameras, inlcuding two of these Minoltas. They are an incredible machine in a tight package as you say. I have had reasonable success scanning 110 in my Epson flatbed, but scan from Fuji Frontiere have much more resolving power. It is unfortunate our local drug store does not carry the negative carrier for the frontiere they run. I had them done at Walmart once, and the results were pretty darn good. All the best.
  23. Very nice photos. I am reminded of a time when I watched a BBC produced documentary on the Battle of Britain. As most of you know, the RAF in 1940 was a virtual League of Nations and had many pilots from countries that had fallen to Hitler. One Dutch pilot described an encounter by saying, "I shot down this Fokker, and went after another one", and the BBC moderator said, "I should point out that the Fokker was a high performance fighter employed by Germany". Whereupon the Dutch pilot said, "Maybe so, but this Fokker was flying a Messerschmidt."

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