The AA Autolite Telewide Drive

Okay, this was the beginning of an attempt to get back into 110 photography – something I remember fondly from the dim and distant days of my youth. Way back in the days when everything was brown or a burnt orange (the real early 80’s, not the music video version) I had many 110 cameras – including the key ring versions. Let’s be honest, all kids did. They were cheap.

Cheap is also applicable to the AA Autolite Telewide Drive, which I got for less than the price of a decent lunch. Obviously some sort of promotional item for the Automobile Association, it is really a Halifax as far as I can tell. That should have set off warning bells for a start.

It’s a 110 camera with a motor drive to wind the film on, hence ‘Drive’. It also has options for ‘Wide’ and ‘Telephoto’ lenses that are selected by a sliding switch, hence ‘Telewide’. I am going to assume that the ‘Autolite’ bit refers to the irritatingly always on flash. Here it is, pictured with its stylishly brown case and fake alligator skin trim.

To test it out I treated myself to some LomoChrome Purple and LomoChrome Metropolis, mostly just to see what they were like. Taking it out around Islington, Kilburn and Watford I happily snapped away – enjoying the noisy whir of the motor drive and the repeatedly unnecessary blinding flash. A couple of, appropriately, AA batteries powered it through both films with no problems.

As well as being annoying, the flash extends the length of the camera a little. It doesn’t make it huge, just a little longer than you would like it to be. Anyway, here are the results.

In early morning light the camera performs … well, not too well to be honest. The lifebelt holder on a pole was taken early in the day, with the flash as always, but still looks like I took it at midnight. The shots in the street were taken in daylight, maybe not the brightest, sunniest day ever but normal daylight – though you wouldn’t guess it from the photos.

The lens is … okay, it’s not great either. There’s some sharpness in the centre, if you are lucky. It’s fixed focus lens seems to focus from maybe 3 feet away to around 12-15 feet away, getting softer the further you get from that. There’s some vignetting on a few shots but nothing on charming.

The composition of the images is my own fault but, if I am honest, the camera’s lens is bad, even for a 110 camera. to struggle even in decent light with film rated up to ISO 400 makes it pretty much useless. I will not be using this again.

As for the films – Metropolis didn’t impress me very much but I do like the colours from the LomoChrome Purple, perhaps I will try that again in 35mm.

As part of my 110 experiment I also picked up an Agfa camera, hopefully it produces something better than this did, or I won’t use 110 again.

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