No doubt about it: Instant-load cameras are here to stay. For a while. They're solidly built and dependable. Sort of. For the money, there's no better buy in the photo marketplace. Maybe.
Sound like doubletalk? Well it is . . . and it isn't.
Actually, any discussion of instant-load cameras (both the old 126 and the newer, smaller 110 cartridge cameras) has to bounce back and forth a bit. Here's why.
Instant-load cameras are here to stay. The 110s fit neatly into even the smallest shirt pocket or purse. That makes them extremely attractive to many weekend photographers. When it's time for that quick shot, whip - you've got it!
The older 126s, though larger than the 110s, broke ground for the cartridge camera and proved to be among Kodak's best sellers. They were a suitable heir to the old Brownie lineup, easy to load and simple to operate. Though the 126 has largely disappeared from the photo scene (only half a dozen models or so are still in production), the 110 - introduced just a few years ago - is going strong. It varies in style from a basic, non-adjustable automatic camera to a sophisticated piece of technology with semi-automatic features and even built-in electronic flash.
Some 110s have normal/telephoto lens-switching capabilities, and one (the Minolta 110 Zoom SLR) has a 25-50mm zoom lens that focuses down to 11.5 inches. If that weren't enough, it's a true SLR (single-lens reflex, like the most popular 35mm cameras). That means you can easily add filters and other lens attachments to the camera, something that's not possible with non-SLR cartridge cameras.
Prices for 110 instant-load cameras range from a modest $12.95 (The GAF Personal 2) to just under $300 (the Minolta Zoom). At least 15 manufacturers are currently cranking out these little demons. Among them are several companies normally associated with 35mm cameras: Canon, Fujica, Ricoh, Minolta and Rollei. Not surprisingly, Kodak has the largest share of the cartridge camera market. That alone should insure the camera's continued popularity for years to come.
The drawbacks? All the cartridge cameras are made of plastic and just are not as durable as metal ones. And strip film is cheaper. And finally, instant-load cameras just can't produce the crystal-clear photos that a quality 35mm camera can. We'll go into the details in another column.