I think one of the reasons I enjoy shooting the 126 format is because I like shooting squares. Rectangular shots are so ubiquitous that the square format on its own is something novel and different. I don’t know if I like it only for its difference, or if it’s truly aesthetically better to my eyes.
Either way, I’m still enjoying the 126 format, and to help enjoy it even more, I recently acquired another camera in this format. Unlike all my other 126 kits, this one allows full manual control of exposure, and even has a perfect focus aid – a coupled rangefinder.
The Minolta Autopak 700 looks more like Minolta’s Hi-Matic line than it does other 126 cameras. It’s larger and heavier than my other 126 cameras, being made entirely of metal and designed like a ‘real’ camera.
Unfortunately, the camera had some problems when I received it: the front element of the lens was loose and wobbly, the rangefinder was completely non-functional, and the mechanism to wind the film & cock the shutter siezed up after a single crank.
Fortunately these problems proved to be easy to fix. Partial disassembly of the lens housing revealed a group of very loose screws; tightening them secured the front element and seemed to fix the rangefinder. The siezed mechanism in the body turned out to be due to a tiny spring that had slipped off its holder. With the problems addressed, it was time to run some film through!
Except… with one of the repairs involving the lens and the rangefinder, I was concerned that it might have focus issues. The rangefinder ‘appeared’ to work but the only way to know was to take pictures and see if they were in focus. With 126 film being so rare and hard to find, I didn’t want to risk wasting one of my precious cartridges only to discover that the camera was ruined. So I reloaded a used 126 cartridge with some 35mm ISO 100 colour negative film – this would produce results, except there would be sprocket holes along one edge of the images.
I also wanted to test the shutter and aperture so I took a few shots indoors with a flash and then a few outdoors in bright sunlight. Didn’t go out of my way to find anything special to shoot, this was mainly about running some film through to see how the camera performed.
Respooling 35mm film into a 126 cartridge can also cause feeding problems, as evidenced in two of the shots above – the multiple sprocket holes confuses the camera’s mechanism and sometimes the film doesn’t advance all the way before the camera stops it – so you get two frames partially overlapping.
Aside from the overlap, the camera appears to be working great! Shutter and aperture are working right, giving sane exposures. And the rangefinder appears to be working perfectly, giving sharp accurate focus!
Now that the camera has proven itself, I’ll have to try taking some non-banal shots with it — and maybe use some real 126 film in there, too!