Testing the Pentax Auto 110 in Sunny Mansfield [Lomography Color Tiger 200]

Images shot on Lomography Color Tiger 200 in Pentax Auto 110

Let’s not beat around the bush here. 110 format film doesn’t have the best reputation for image quality. The negatives are only about half the size of 35mm ones, typically meaning less detail and sharpness and all those good things.

I think this consensus is exacerbated by a lot of the 110 cameras from the 1980s not being very good either. Cheaply constructed, it’s like they don’t give the film a real chance to shine when actually it kind of needs all the help it can get.

That wasn’t really good enough for me and the perpetual #shootallthefilms project though. I want to include as many 110 films as I can in the film reviews section of this site, and it would have felt unfair to put them through a bad camera and judge them based on that.

So that’s why I picked up a Pentax Auto 110. Because it’s one of the best 110 cameras ever made. And also because I saw one on eBay that seemed worth the punt for a bargain price of £30.

Why I shot a test roll in the Pentax Auto 110 in Mansfield

The eBay listing for this Pentax Auto 110 described it as “optics clear and mechanically sound although untested with film”, which was good enough for me to throw the £30 on it. If it didn’t work, I could sell the 18mm lens that it came with for more than that anyway.

But that’s why I needed to put a test roll through it. Because it was untested with film, so shooting just one roll on images that you don’t care that much about and seeing how they turn out before potentially wasting any more time and film with it is prudent.

As it is when buying any film camera really, no matter how cheap or expensive.

I headed to Mansfield to do this because it’s not far for me to travel and is a small enough town that you can walk around and fire off 24 exposures in no time at all – especially when the objective is to just point it at whatever is well-lit by the sun and not care too much about imperfections in the compositions.

Fortunately, the Pentax 110 camera did indeed work, and below are the first set of images that prove that.

It’s a little batch of brutalism, blue skies, and Burger King.

Sun, shadows and colour in Mansfield’s marketplace and streets

Some of the places I’ve been to or even lived in – like Shanghai, for example – offer more photogenic scenes than you’ll ever be able to shoot.

I don’t feel like Mansfield is like that, though.

In Shanghai’s case, it was a combination of its sheer size and the infinite interesting things that could have been happening around any street corner on any new day. In comparison, Mansfield is tiny. Both in size and in the chances of finding something newly photogenic going on each time you walk around.

Of course there’s some of that psychological thing at play here where the place you’re from is boring and other towns or cities are just more interesting because they’re unfamiliar to you. But let’s not get away from the fact that Mansfield is definitely not Shanghai.

So having already shot a roll of Street Candy ATM 400 around town, taking in as many of the things worth covering as I could think of, finding new scenes to shoot with this Pentax Auto 110 was a bit tricky.

Regardless, so long as we have the sun, some shadows and some nice colour to use, we have a chance of making some passable images. So that’s all I looked for whilst in the marketplace and walking through some of the surrounding streets.

In my opinion, the Color Tiger 110 film didn’t do too badly when put through its paces with the two cafe shots. These were where the light and shadow was the most harsh, and it handled the contrast between them perhaps better than I thought it might.

Another unexpected image here was the double exposure. The Pentax Auto 110 shouldn’t be capable of doing that, so something went wrong there. Maybe the film slipped.

Not to worry, though. Whilst unforeseen, it shouldn’t be too surprising. This is a camera that’s roughly as old as me, and that means it’s not so young anymore.

Some shots from the area around the old bus station

About a five-minute walk from Mansfield’s centrally located marketplace is the area around the old bus station. At the time of writing, it’s definitely a more run down and deserted part of town, but it shouldn’t be for too much longer.

Work is underway to regenerate it, with a hotel and restaurants in the pipeline. The large Rosemary Centre nearby is to be demolished and replaced with something shiny and new too.

As mentioned in that previous piece I wrote on Mansfield, this progress means losing not only some buildings that have been part of the town’s landscape for decades, but also some that are pretty photogenic when the light and shadows are interacting with them.

The area being relatively deserted these days compared to the marketplace is probably caused by the fact that it is being worked on and not much is open there, but conversely not much being open there and it not being very busy is probably why they wanted to revamp it in the first place too.

Either way, for the time being at least, it’s a good spot for some photographs of almost empty streets.

Also, despite all the talk of old and soon-to-be-demolished things in Mansfield, the last image below does feature the new bus station. I just added it here because the mouldy walls matched the colour palette of the other shots.

Finishing the roll with a stroll around Titchfield Park

Do you even call it a roll if it’s 110 film? I keep doing so on here and on my Instagram but I don’t know if that’s technically correct. Nothing I can do but double down on it now though.

So to finish this roll of Lomography Color Tiger 110 film, I headed to Titchfield Park – a place that I have some fond albeit these days quite hazy memories of.

The first one that I can only just remember is being there as a young child with my mother and some other people and fishing for sticklebacks, using one of those nets on a bamboo cane, in the small section of the River Maun that runs through the park.

It’s something I like to think about whenever I’m in or near Titchfield Park these days.

The second one that I can also barely remember is going to some sort of festival – probably the family-friendly annual Mansfield Summer Festival – where my friend’s band was playing on stage and I drank too much vodka and orange.

It’s something I like to forget about whenever I’m in or near Titchfield Park these days.

Anyway, on to these photographs. Nice and colourful, and with a surprising amount of detail on that chain when I thought I’d see how the Pentax 110 lens did with a close-up shot of something.

And also a reminder that 110 film has a large sprocket hole at the beginning and end of the roll and if you’re lucky it’ll ruin your final shot from it.

Wrapping up this test run of the Pentax Auto 110

When I first shot some of this Lomography Color Tiger 110 film with my mother’s old Kodak Ektra 250 a few years ago at the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai, I remember thinking it had the potential to give better results than most people were giving the format credit for.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t entrust that camera with the responsibility of my stash of 110 film. It was just too inconsistent with how it behaved. Some of the results I got from it were decent enough, but some were completely out of focus, and seemingly for no reason whatsoever.

Ever since then, I’d wanted a good 110 camera. And believe it or not, there are a few out there – like the compact Rollei A110 or the Minolta 110 Zoom SLR.

I went for the Pentax Auto 110 though, and I do not regret that decision. The images it gave me from this test run in Mansfield, plus how fun it is to shoot, mean that I’m looking forward to putting all my 110 film through it.

A full review of the camera will follow once I’ve used it some more, but until then, let’s just say this:

My first impressions are that it’s a great little 110 camera, and that if you do get something good to shoot your 110 film with, then maybe this format isn’t as terrible as people like to make out after all. 🙂

If you enjoyed that post testing the Pentax Auto 110 camera around Mansfield, why not have a look at some of these other film photo essays too:

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2 thoughts on “Testing the Pentax Auto 110 in Sunny Mansfield [Lomography Color Tiger 200]”

  1. I got an Auto 110 couple months back. Only put one *roll* through it, but I am pleased with the results. Not an everyday camera but fun to use. It a good fit in my 4 and 8 year old sons.

    Reply
    • Cheers Orrin. Happy you got some results you liked too. 🙂 Definitely a fun one, yes. A good novelty to play with, especially for seeing what the different 110 films Lomography are putting out can do too. 🙂

      Reply

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