The Rollei is a small, well-built camera with a lot of heft and nice clean lines. Unlike most 110 cameras, it is mostly metal with a few plastic parts such as the shutter button, focusing lever, and battery holder.
Rollei introduced the Rollei 16 in 1963 and it was considered by many to be the best sub-miniature camera ever made, but when Kodak introduced the Pocket Instamatic and 110 drop-in film cartridge in 1972, Rollei discontinued their 16mm camera in favor of the more popular but much inferior to the 110 cartridge. After 2 years of development, the Rollei A110 was released for production in 1975 and advertised as the worlds smallest pocket camera. It was initially priced at 300 US dollars. In 1978, production was moved from Germany to Singapore where they continued to be made until 1981 when production ceased.
The Rollei is a small, well-built camera with a lot of heft and nice clean lines. Unlike most 110 cameras, it is mostly metal with a few plastic parts such as the shutter button, focusing lever, and battery holder. With 260 parts, this camera was complicated to make and, unlike other Rollei products, was somewhat unreliable. The camera body consists of 2 interlocking shells that pull apart (similar to the Minox sub-miniature cameras) and doing so reveals the lens and viewfinder, cocks the shutter, turns on the meter, AND advances the film. Closed it makes a tight, compact and durable package. The lens is a Carl Zeiss 23mm Tessar with four elements in three groups and with automatic aperture control from f2.8 to f16 coupled with an electronically variable shutter from 4 seconds to 1/400 of a second.
The zone focus is from 1m (3.5 feet) to infinity using a bright orange focusing slider under the lens and a focusing scale visible through the viewfinder. There is a green test button on top of the viewfinder when the body is in the open position that indicates whether the exposure low light or normal. Unfortunately, the only flash for this camera is an adapter for using flash cubes (and good luck finding those). It does have a ¼-20 tripod socket but no accommodation for cable release or self-timer.
All of the major film producers have stopped making 110 film. That means you can pick up 110 cameras at bargain prices. I purchased mine on eBay with leather case, battery, snake chain, flash cube adapter, film and gift box for about $35 US. Film is still available at some photo stores and there are usually dozens of listings on eBay for fresh or expired film. You should expect to pay $4 or more for expired film or $5-6 for fresh.
This is a fun, pocketable, go-anywhere camera and I almost always have it with me. It has a nice reassuring weight in the pocket and I love the snick-snick sound as you open and close the camera to advance the film. Mine is a user’s camera but it would be a fine addition to any collection. Those who act now have a rare opportunity to own a legendary camera at a great price.
This article was written by Community member kdstevens.