Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

By Tony Warren

Reading several excellent articles, here and elsewhere, introduced me to an area of photography I had only considered as snap-shooter territory, the 110 Pocket Instamatics. This film size flourished from 1972 to the late 1990s before being eclipsed by digital.

Some of the sample images weren’t all that bad so modern emulsions could have lifted the game for these little cameras. Lomography must take most of the credit for the film side of things today, producing a selection of them. I also discovered that the cameras were far from being restricted to “focus free, plastic fantastics” with a whole range to choose from. They were easy to load and use like the 126 Instamatics but pocketable, like the mobile phone today. A camera to keep with you all the time but perhaps not a ‘serious’ format. Kodak’s own advertising talks about 3 1/4” x 4 1/4” prints as being the intended output, meaning album size prints. Transparencies for projection were also mentioned with a dedicated version of the Carousel projector on offer.

I began to wonder what could be wrung out of these tiny negatives with a modern emulsion and digital post. At roughly one quarter the area of 35mm it is about the size of a Micro 4/3 sensor.

Prompted by an auction listing for a Minolta Autopak 460 Tx at a very reasonable NZ$16, around £7.50, I thought I would give it a try.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx with film showing loading.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx with film showing loading.

This model was at the top end of Minolta’s 110 range when it was new, with focussing standard and telephoto lenses and a built in flash. Exposure was monitored by the camera and warnings given in the finder of over or under exposure or the need for flash. The lenses are Rokkors of 4 element f3.5 26mm and 3 element f4.7 43mm construction respectively.

My Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx.

Though described as fully working the last time it was used, clearly there was a problem with the power delivery. The flash refused to work, the warning lights didn’t warn and the illuminated distance scale wasn’t. In addition, there was a noticeable smudge inside the standard lens cover glass which wasn’t going to do the, probably, marginal definition any favours and resisted all my attempts to remove it.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx stanfard lens cover glass showing smudge.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx standard lens cover glass showing smudge.

So why bother?

Well, having reached an age myself when not everything works as it should any more, I have an affinity with the less than perfect. I have two other cameras that have failings but that I use on and off, neither justifying the cost of repair. As far as results go, however, and the photographers skill apart, the lens is what really matters with any camera and all of these three can produce good negs for their size. None justify the outlay of a full repair yet are still functional and are the only representatives of their respective formats that I own, so I persevere. There is also a certain satisfaction about working round a problem as well as learning a lot about how things work in the process.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx composite.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx composite.

The camera follows the form factor common to the general concept of a ’spy’ camera if a little chunkier. 16mm cine film has been used for some time previously in the familiar, Minox-style cameras, as used for espionage everywhere. The 110 format uses only one perforation per frame, like later 16mm stock, rather than the earlier cine film’s perforations along both edges thus allowing a slightly larger image size of 17mm x 13mm.

The camera is a nice size and weight with good ergonomics making it easy to hold and operate. Some metal is used in its construction giving it the convincing feel of a serious piece of equipment. Everything falls conveniently to finger or thumb, the reflected frame viewfinder is clear and bright, and easy to use for someone like me who wears glasses. It came in a neat, well-fitting leather pouch and with a cord loop fixed to a swivel at one end of the camera. Altogether a neat design.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx composite showing exposure and focus, and carry pouch.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx composite showing exposure and focus, and carry pouch.

There are three exposure settings marked Flash/Cloudy/Sunny, these extend the flash and change the aperture between f3.5 and f8 for the standard lens, half to one stop or so less for the telephoto. With the flash selected the aperture is linked to the focus which alters it within the ranges shown in the table on the underside of the camera. “Sunny” sets the minimum aperture for either lens and “Cloudy”, the intermediate one. Maximum aperture is only available when the flash is selected.

Focus is also variable by scale between 3.3ft and ∞.

The shutter is a fixed 1/200th second in order to avoid camera shake according to the manual.

I discovered that film speed is set automatically by a tab on the cartridge but is either ISO 80 or 200. ISO 400 film became available later so might be a problem in some cases. The Lomography Tiger ISO 200 C41 colour film I planned to use is compatible and should give good exposure if the exposure meter was working.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx flash unit in extended position.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx flash unit in extended position.

Problems and solutions.

Investigating the power problem proved fruitless, electronics being quite an impenetrable mystery to me at the best of times let alone in a tiny camera like this one. The camera works without power anyway, with no flash of course, but by selecting the flash unit, which then pops out of the end of the body, would vary the stop depending on the focus distance set even though it wouldn’t fire. As mentioned, at the closest setting the aperture will be closed down to the smallest and opened up fully for longer distances within the flash range shown by the table on the underside of the camera. Exposure at closest focus will be 1/200 at f8 for the normal lens or f11-16 for the telephoto. Maximum aperture will be reached at 10-13 feet and beyond, all this adding to the exposure permutations available.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx composite showing standard (left) and telephoto lenses in position.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx composite showing standard (left) and telephoto lenses in position.

Whilst it was dismantled I removed the cover glass protecting the standard lens to give it the best chance. When closed with a sliding panel the opening is covered and so is protected but sits behind the shutter anyway. This sliding panel locks the shutter and, originally, switched everything off. It may form part of the lens design as is sometimes the case but removing it seemed the lesser of two evils. Results later suggested it made no difference.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx images of bronze at Dunedin's Lookout Point taken with telephoto lens.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx images of bronze at Dunedin’s Signal Hill Lookout taken with telephoto lens.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx images of bronze at Dunedin's Lookout Point taken with telephoto lens.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx images of bronze at Dunedin’s Signal Hill Lookout taken with telephoto lens.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx images of bronze at Dunedin’s Signal Hill  Lookout taken with telephoto lens.

Out and about

Taking a meter and rangefinder with me to help with exposure and focus (which I completely forgot about for the first three exposures), I visited a couple of my regular spots for some comparison shots and to make use of the close focussing capabilities.

Using the camera is a very pleasant experience indeed. As mentioned, the ergonomics are excellent and the finder clear with no cut-off when wearing glasses.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx image of Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House taken with standard lens.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx image of Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House taken with standard lens.

Results.

Unfortunately results were a bit of a mixed bag, though only one frame was a complete bust and down to me anyway. As expected, definition from the tiny negatives seems to be just that bit lacking to varying degrees in some shots. In fairness, some of the softness may be induced by the tiny depth of field offered by the high magnifications needed with my copier set-up when digitising. I used a reversed Micro Nikkor on extension tubes to get a full 20mp file so focus was very demanding indeed, not helped by the near non-existent grain of the film.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx close up of cactus in Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx close up of cactus in Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx close up of cactus in Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx close up of cactus in Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx close up of foliage in Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx close up of foliage in Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House.

In the long shot of the Tropical House, the left hand end of the building is a little over exposed compared to the right and spread of the highlights of the gazing bars makes them look a little soft. Too generous exposure causing halation may be having an effect on definition with such small negatives.

All in all however, given the small size of the negatives, results are better than I would have expected, in some cases far more so, but in others not so much and one or two quite un-useable. The apparently well known problem of less than precise film registration the little cassettes can suffer from seems to be a factor here. And, ideally, subject matter has to be bold and well defined I think.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx images of Peter Pan themed statuary in Dunedin Botanic Gardens contrasting subject matter.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx images of Peter Pan themed statuary in Dunedin Botanic Gardens contrasting subject matter.

The contribution of digital post must be acknowledged. When viewing the negatives through a loupe, they look nowhere near as crisp as some of them look after processing.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx detail of fountain in Dunedin Botanic Gardens taken with telephoto lens showing flare.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx detail of fountain in Dunedin Botanic Gardens taken with telephoto lens showing flare.

Optically, the Rokkor lenses acquit themselves well, especially the telephoto, but with the caveat that accurate focus is key, as with any lens. The telephoto lens is quite exposed when selected and produced some interesting flare when shooting into the sun.

The Lomography Tiger colour neg film is extremely fine grained, as mentioned, with vibrant colour so no complaints there. I taped over the film window to avoid the ‘golden orb’ problem but that didn’t exclude a lot of dust and scratches that needed a great deal of spotting out. Processing and subsequent handling by me and others are the most likely culprits. As mentioned above, exposure of bright highlights in fine detail may need to be controlled for best definition.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx detail of fountain in Dunedin Botanic Gardens taken with standard lens showing cropping by overprinting on film.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx detail of fountain in Dunedin Botanic Gardens taken with standard lens showing cropping by overprinting on film.

The processed film showed up a strange aspect of 110 films. The film is pre-exposed with lettering and frame numbers as usual. Each frame’s print area is also pre-exposed to a size which crops it to a noticeable extent, wasting some of the lens’ coverage. I have included an example to show this. The overprinting may be linked to the machine printing stage I imagine.

Minolta Autopak 460 Tx detail of ironwork etc in Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House.
Minolta Autopak 460 Tx detail of ironwork etc in Dunedin Botanic Gardens Tropical House.

And finally.

Given the Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx is around 25 years old or so and cost me just half the price of a film and processing, I was less disappointed than I expected to be. I must say that I am not won over to the format for my own purposes despite having enjoyed using the camera. One of the best handling instruments I have used in fact. For me, however, the limitations on subject choice, the unpredictability of results and the digitising process I employ being so challenging, means I will mostly consign the little Minolta to the display shelf. I might be tempted back into the water if a Canon 110 ED or ED20 appears on the scene. Its coupled rangefinder and automatic exposure would eliminate some of the limitations.

Overall, an interesting and informative exercise which has taught me a great deal about the format. If nothing else, it has made me appreciate all the more what has been achieved with M4/3 equipment.

Photos of the camera and digitised copies of negatives are produced with a Sony A3000 with 55mm Ai’d Micro Nikkor and adapters, processed in Affinity Photo.

If you want to have a go at shooting 110 film yourself, have a read of this article for some advice and tips: 110 Film in 2021 – A Guide to Shooting, Developing and Scanning by Bob Janes

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About The Author

By Tony Warren
In my 60 or so years of serious involvement in photography I have seen the demise of the viewfinder, the rise of the SLR and the eclipse of them all with the meteoric development of the digital camera. Through it all, however, and above all else, the image is what it is all about so I now use film alongside digital. Whatever is the most appropriate or practical. My contributions will hopefully be useful for anyone interested in using film and also how a died-in-the-wool antique like me is continuing his life-long addiction in the digital age, using both platforms. The major benefit of an extended retirement is that I can spend most of my time nowadays with photography and writing about it.
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Comments

Alasdair J Mackintosh on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 19/08/2023

Fascinating article, thanks. And some really nice images. Of course, it is possible to get decent results from small film. Smaller budget features used to be shot on 16mm, and so have some more recent ones. ("Hurt Locker", I think, plus part of the Steve Jobs biopic.) I'm almost tempted to try it myself ;-)
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 19/08/2023

Thank you for your kind words Alasdair. I quite agree (now) that these small negs are quite viable. In the end it is always horses for courses as they say. For example, I doubt that "The Blair Witch Project" would have had as much impact shot in Imax 70mm for example. It would have needed a team of strong men for the hand-holding too, plus an excavator to get into the locations! As to trying 110, these little cameras are so pleasant to use and the challenge to produce results has proved very engaging so I can only recommend it. Regards.

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James on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 08/08/2023

Good stuff, Tony. Thanks. I just picked up a Hanimex 110TF as part of a $20.00 yard sale bundle that also included a Canon AE-1 and a Minolta Hi-Matic F. All three are working, functioning, yet unwanted cameras. One person's junk is another person's joy, hey?! Your piece here has further inspired me to get some Lomography 110 rolls, to see what I can get out of the old Hanimex. Very much looking forward to the experience. I'll be shooting in both colour, and b/w. (When will Lomgraphy recreate the 620 spool, so we don't have to doctor, or re-roll 120 onto a 620 spool?! There's certainly a market for such a launch - I'd imagine just as much as there's a market for 110 being brought back from the dead. Dare I wish for some 126 and 127 from Lomgraphy, as well?! So many obsolete cameras could be brought back to life. Seems a worthy endeavour, to this thrift store junkie!)
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 08/08/2023

Thank you James. Since writing this post, and like you, I have acquired an auction job lot including a further example of the Minolta, a fully working one once I had freed up the shutter. In the same bundle was a Hanimex 110 MTF, the motor driven version of your TF, but that seems to be totally dead. The motor winds for a while but that seems to be it. Haven't dared trying a film in it. My job lot also included a working Richomatic 35, again like your bundle, a nice bonus. Agree about 620, here are some really nice cameras out there but not too sure about 126. It must have had registration problems relying on film tension and stiffness like 110 but the size of 110 reduces this. I have been using old film cameras for some time, satisfying the things digital can never reach. It is progress I know and useful in so may ways but the ritual of operating a film camera and undertaking the subsequent stages of the process has a satisfaction all its own. Don't kick the habit.

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James replied:

Comment posted: 08/08/2023

I won't! And, Amen! ;)

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Jeremy on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 07/08/2023

I had very similar results with the exact same camera. Mine has exactly the same electrical issue. It now sits on a shelf next to other "retired" non-working examples. I scanned via a ~4300 dpi scanner, and also I camera scanned, and in both cases I was rewarded with ~4.5 megapixels of real resolution (based on a USAF test chart). That was actually higher than I expected, and the fact both the camera and scanner came back with approximately the same resolution gave me a pretty good idea of the max the lens could resolve. This was with Orca 110. Later, I tried a Pentax Auto 110, snagged relatively cheaply because it only had the 70mm lens with it. That recorded ~5.2 megapixels, which is probably close to the max for the format. I ended up abandoning the format after that. I have a half frame that I can shoot if I'm itching for smaller formats:)
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 07/08/2023

That's good to know I am not alone with the power loss Jeremy. Some very useful data also, thank you. Don't you find that grain is also a limiting factor where resolution is concerned with these small negs? I have bought another Minolta since writing the article which eventually unstuck its shutter after multiple applications of naptha. The rest of it works fine so the original example is sidelined. Just running some Orca through the second one so will see how the results compare. I am making a film splitter at the moment so if it works I may continue with the format using split down 120 film, the camera is such a pleasure to work with. Thanks for the comment.

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David Leeds on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 06/08/2023

Nice article! You might be surprised at how good the results are from some 110 cameras: the Pentax 110 SLR, Minolta 110 SLR, Minox 110, Kodak Pocket 60, and Canon 110 ED20 all produce very nice images, especially with newer emulsions. I have a Canon that always surprised me with sharp and contrasty results.
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 06/08/2023

Thanks David. Yes, I saw many impressive examples from the cameras you mention whilst researching the format. Wish I could have afforded one of the SLR types or could have found one of the Canon models locqlly. Down here in New Zealand, buying anything moderately expensive from abroad often involves prohibitive shipping and import costs unfortunately. Very happy with the Minolta though.

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Brian Nicholls on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 03/08/2023

Great nostalgic article Tony. Thanks! The instamatic era (126/110) has given me some of the most valuable pictures in my collection. Getting married, buying a house, picking up on a career after a few years in the music biz and, the begatting of two children - all we could afford was Instamatics! Your images are 16" x 9" on my desktop and are all acceptably sharp and great colour. The all singing, all dancing bells and whistles cameras came to me later, but were they as much fun ?...Hmmm. More please Tony.......Well done!
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 03/08/2023

Thanks Brian, very kind of you. These simple cameras weren't meant for serious photography of course and provided exactly what you have to hand to remind you now.

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Peter Sime on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 03/08/2023

Great to see my home town feature here (although small correction - that's Signal Hill lookout, Lookout Point is on the other side of town). I have a Minolta 450E in my collection, which I should dig out and attempt to replicate your shots - at least, when the weather has improved.
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 03/08/2023

Oops. Very sorry Peter - what a gaff when I only live a little way up the road from the fire station at Lookout Point! Worth the effort - they are a very nice camera to use and film and processing if needed is available from one or two NZ sources.

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Paul Quellin on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

A really interesting article again Tony. This idea of trying every format really appeals to me, so I found this very informative. The images were quite a surprise, especially those of the bronze. Back in the day we would have turned our noses up at a camera like this, but it seems that was wrong. Another format I'll be on the look out for now. Thank you.
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

Thanks Paul. Well worth giving it a try. Very satisfying when something worthwhile comes out of the effort.

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Julian Tanase on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

Nice results from a 110 film and camera. True, subminiature photography isn't for any subject or lighting, but generally speaking, a good 110 does the job quite neatly. You would like the results of reloading your cartridges with some good bw film. It will provide some perhaps better images, but as you said, it all depends on various factors. It's worth a try nonetheless. One more thing: the Minox negative is 8x11 (at a 9.2mm width), not 16mm.
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

Thank you Julian and for putting me right on the Minox width, sorry about that. I believe the early sub-miniatures, and 110 later, used cine gauges to facilitate processing. I have just done a piece on the cartridge and re-use of same which is leading me towards a film slitting device, now in construction. Looking at Rollei's Infrared and Superpan 200 films, their grain is very fine and should give good results with these tiny negs and the right subject. Also their speed ratings are consistent with the camera's presets.

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christian hogue on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

very witty article!
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

Thank you Christian, much appreciated.

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Anthony Conroy on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

My memories of the 110 format go back to the early 80s when i first married my wife she had this model or similar and i was using a Contax 139 and i suggested she should give it to the cat to play with May have been a bit hasty there especially seeing your images very impressive from such tiny Negs (tick)
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

Thanks Anthony. I felt much the same way initially but modern materials and digital processing play a large part in lifting results well above what was originally possible.

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John Axe replied:

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

I was tickled to see a 110 camera again!!! I had one in my youth that my parents got me. This was prior to discovery of the joys of 35mm, especially black and white and getting a 35mm Minolta X-700 for my 15th birthday in 1983...which I still have 40 years later.

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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

Good for you John. Minolta made some very good cameras and lenses, Sony's legacy of course.

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Bob Janes on Minolta Pocket Autopak 460 Tx 110 – A Shooting Experience

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

The overprinting is interesting - supposedly if you loaded standard 16mm film in a 110 cassette you might get a bigger that 110 result? Good to see some sub-minature articles!
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Tony Warren replied:

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

Thanks Bob. May I also thank you for the help your articles on 110 have been. The perforations would be a factor with cine film, the later, single perforation version less so than the original double perf. type. I am tending towards film slitting as the best approach to maximise image area.

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Bob Janes replied:

Comment posted: 02/08/2023

You are very kind.

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