110 cameras: the rise and fall of little film format that made photography easy

Kodak spent the best part of a century perfecting the point-and-shoot camera and arguably achieved its goal with the 110 Pocket Instamatic format. It wasn’t such a big hit with enthusiast-level shooters, but these film cameras sold in huge numbers for the best part of two decades.

At the height of its powers, Kodak was the inventor and innovator that shaped several aspects of photography for both amateurs and professionals. The objective was always to make photography more accessible to everybody via simpler processes and smaller, more affordable cameras… which, of course, would generate increased demand for film and printing materials. This was where Kodak made the profits it could plough into what was, at one time, the biggest and most sophisticated R&D facility in the world. 

Beyond its many pioneering products, Kodak was also renowned for its engineering prowess. It all started with the creation of rollfilm – to replace glass plates – by George Eastman’s fledgling company in 1885, a couple of years before he came up with the name “Kodak” (which, by the way, meant nothing; he just liked the way it looked and sounded). This first rollfilm was paper-based and required a complex developing process to produce B&W negatives, so Eastman came up with the clever solution of packaging everything up into one product. 

The 110 film cartridge used 16mm film with a single sprocket hole per frame that, depending on the camera, enabled film advance with auto shutter re-cocking, and also set the shutter speed according to the film speed. (Image credit: Paul Burrows)

In the beginning