Never had any film format been so popular so quickly, only to fall out of favour so quickly.
Kodak introduced 110 film in 1972, amid much advertising hoopla for this new, smaller, more convenient consumer format. The original Kodak 110 line-up consisted of the Kodak Pocket Instamatic 20, 30, 40, 50 and the top of the line 60 with rangefinder focusing . A big selling point was the Pocket Instamatic's long thin design to allow easy carrying in shirt pockets or purses. Those clever folks at Kodak always love great ad slogans. As popularity soared, many photography magazines carried articles wondering if the success of 110 would mean the demise of 35mm (like the APS articles of the late 1990s).
Over 100 million 110's were produced (and are still being produced) in hundreds if not thousands of different designs. No one really seems to be sure what ALL the different models are. No "110 Book" of ALL models with production figures has ever been published. Most of course, were inexpensive low end snapshot cameras. Today 110 cameras offer the collector a virtually untapped area, with hundreds of different, often inexpensive, cameras to fill out their collection. United States, European and Japanese designs which weren't exported add to the collector's possibilities.
Of the hundreds of different 110 cameras marketed only a few really stand out.
Pentax Auto 110 and Super: the smallest SLRs and by far the largest 110 system -- and the most popular 110 camera today.
Rollei A110 and E110: among the smallest and most elegant 110 cameras, a beautiful design. Programmed operation in the A110, aperture priority in the much harder to find E110. scale focusing.
Minox 110S: the best Range Finder (RF) 110, with aperture priority, wonderful VF/RF for a 110.
Canon ED and ED20: the fastest range finders with f2 lenses, well made with lots of features, including date stamp, but rather large and heavy for a 110.
Minolta 110 SLR's: Mark 1 and II. Both had fixed zooms and are inordinately large for 110's. Surprisingly popular.
Kodak 60 and 48: the Best Kodak RF 110's, very low cost today relative to their new cost.
Kodak 708: a neat design with two lenses built in, a normal and tele, hard to find.
Kodak Ektramax: probably the first production camera with a fixed Aspherical lens, a 25/1.9 in 1978. Strangely it had no meter, and was intended for manual exposure with a limited set of f/stops and shutter speeds. Despite its very interesting features, it had the disadvantage of being very large for a 110.
Of the millions of 110 cameras, probably less than 10% of them, maybe less than 5%, had built in metering. Most were very simple fixed aperture cameras with a very limited list of photographic choices. Since 110's were designed for the rank beginner amateur market, it's not hard to figure out why local film processors had so much trouble with 110 film. The exposures were all over the place on a small negative. Underexposure gave dim dark prints. Overexposure increased grain and decreased sharpness.
Besides the exposure problem, there were always suspicions that 110 cartridges failed to hold the film flat, though I have never seen any official reports to that effect.
Faced with mediocre results from low cost cameras and processing, 110 popularity noticeably started to decline as soon as 1976. By 1977, despite all the predictions of amazing new cameras, new designs started to dwindle to a trickle. The American photo publication Petersen's Photographic started a 110 column in March of 1975. In January 1978, the column was discontinued because it was obvious from declining sales and lack of new models that 110 was going nowhere. Pentax System 10 was not introduced until 1978, when 110 was already on the decline.
At one time 110 film variety rivalled 35mm, including fast and slow B/W emulsions, Kodachrome, Ektachrome, fast and high speeds colour negative films. In the later 1990s and early 2000s only 200 or 400 ASA colour films could be found.
Today 110 information is relatively hard to find. The only 110 book is, amazingly titled. "110 Format Photography," in soft cover published by Petersen's Photographic in 1976 by Kalton Lahue.
Modern Photography published some resolution data on the Pentax and Minolta 110 cameras.
PENTAX 110, Pentax 24mm/2.8 lens
MINOLTA 110 25-67/3.5 ZOOM AT 25MM
MINOLTA 110 25-67/3.5 ZOOM AT 40MM
MINOLTA 110 25-67/3.5 ZOOM AT 67MM
Some 35mm format wide angle lens has very
high resolution for instance Konica Hexanon 21mm/f2.8 lens for has a resolution
figure of 96 lines/mm at F4. And that was a lens covering an area ten time
bigger than 8x11 frame.