A one-of-a-kind find in the used gear department

Something you’ll notice when you’re hanging around any group of photography enthusiasts—whether it’s at a club meeting, near a particularly photogenic location, or even visiting a real camera store—is that it’s a passionate community. It’s not something you can passively experience at a sports bar, it’s something that must be fueled by desire. Even among professionals, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who just fell into it and thinks of it as any other job.

A fortunate by-product of the passion of the community is a similar tendency among those who manufacture the gear. From extreme-niche pro gear like astrophotography-specific cameras and lovingly-crafted “weird” lenses (tilt-shift, anyone?) to folk-friendly releases like hand-exposed specialty film and mega-retro art bodies, when we think “I wish someone made this…” there’s a pretty good chance that someone will (or already has).

One such product recently came into our used inventory, and I thought it was cool enough to share. Check out this complete, original Asahi Pentax Auto 110 kit!

110 film features 13x17mm frames on a strip of film contained entirely (when used correctly) within a plastic cartridge. Introduced in 1972 as a solution for casual consumers frustrated by loading and unloading roll film, the majority of cameras developed to use the format were simple, fun-oriented, and lacked any user control beyond the shutter button.

Pentax, however, did not think that taking advantage of the size advantage provided by a tiny film stock should necessarily mean a sacrifice of all control. Is 110 inherently limited in resolution and sensitivity? Yes. Can you print detailed enlargements from 110 frames? No way. Can you have a great time shooting with a camera the size of your palm and still get some decent images? Absolutely! Thus, in 1978 they bestowed upon the world the Auto 110, the smallest SLR in the world and one of the few 110 cameras manufactured to professional-grade standards.

As such, all original lenses for the Auto 110 are nice and bright, with a maximum f/2.8 aperture. The way this was achieved is worth pointing out for its novelty, though… the aperture is built into the camera body itself, not the lenses. The square shape is also noteworthy, but unlikely to have any practical effect on images made on such a small piece of film.

The original kit included three lenses with hoods, a battery-powered winder nearly as large as the camera itself, a similarly-sized flash unit, filters, and close-up lens adapters for macro photography.

A complete system, all in one box! The SLR features true TTL exposure, which is automatic but ranges from 1/750 at f/13.5 to 1” at f/2.8 (unlike the single-exposure units more commonly available). The Auto 110 also actually uses the tabs on 110 cartridges meant to tell the camera whether it was low or high ISO (again, unlike the much more common “toy” 110 cameras).

So, here’s a thank you to all of the manufacturers out there that have thought “someone out there will love this.” And if you happen to love this particular blast from the past, you can bid on it over here. (Yes, 110 film is still available, and yes, we still develop it!) If you end up the lucky new owner, just be careful with the winder—the battery door is notoriously fragile.

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