|loading a Minolta Vectis 30|
1. press button
2. open film chamber door
3. put in film capsule
and close door
The Advanced Photo System (or APS) was introduced in 1996 as an alternative to or even as modern replacement for the 110 format. The "IX240" film cartridges are optimized for fully automatic film load, enclosing the 24mm wide film completely when not in use. The film is even put back into its cartridge and returned to the user after it has been developed.
Most cameras support 3 exposure formats:
- C for "classic" (25.1 x 16.7 mm; aspect ratio 3:2; 4x6" print or 10x15 cm print)
- H for "HDTV" (30.2 x 16.7 mm; aspect ratio 16:9; 4x7" print or 10x18 cm print)
- P for "panoramic" (30.2 x 9.5 mm; aspect ratio 3:1; 4x12" print or 10x24 cm print)
The C and P formats are formed by cropping, each format can be selected via the camera (with the exception of some disposable cameras) at any time for use with the format. The H format is the original format. Every single image on the developed film has this format, the print format is just information written by the camera onto magnetic storage on the film - which is used by the printing equipment to crop the picture appropriately.
The magnetic data storage on the film is made possible by a transparent magnetic coating of the film's back. Data for certain purposes is stored there on several tracks. This offers a unique set of advantages:
- PQI print quality improvement by storage of film type, film length, film speed, film ID,
- and for each image the print format, the preselected number of prints, the title, and the exposure data.
Some APS-film-viewers offer the possibility of changing the information on this magnetic storage, for example to switch the print format, or to add information for a slideshow on that viewing device.
The exposure data is useful for corrections of underexposure or matters like that by the photo laboratory. It's also used for removing a film from a camera for putting it back into it later. Thus a photographer can switch from the color film he actually uses to a black and white film for some exposures, and vice versa, until both films are full. The additional mechanical marker in the film cartridge shows when a film is full. This marker shows whether the film is empty, in use, full, or developed.
The exposure numbers are stored twice, once as magnetic data, and another time enlighted on the film which has just one perforation with two holes per image. The film's basic material is refined polyethylene naphthalate (A-PEN) foil, and its film emulsion is improved compared to pre-1996 35mm film emulsions.
examples of APS cameras
|cameras made by film makers||cameras made by other camera makers||single-use cams|
Despite the new film's features, its size hindered its adoption by professional photographers, having only 80% of the frame size (diagonal) of 35mm film and 56% of the area (at best, with HDTV format; panorama format has only 30% area). It was planned to give this sort of film a higher resolution to give APS users a clear advantage. But soon, 35mm films were sold with the same resolution. Most cameras for APS film were very compact, but some 35mm cameras were nearly as compact (for example some of the Olympus µ or Rollei prego cameras) so even this advantage of APS was nearly neutralized. So the system was accepted mainly by those who liked the three print formats. Nevertheless the cute cameras had a lot of fans. Each of the big three camera makers produced a unique camera series for the APS films, the Nikon Nuvis, Canon IXUS (Canon Elph) and Minolta Vectis series. Fujifilm offered two series of APS cameras, the Fotonex and the nexia cameras. Olympus made the i-zoom and the newpic series. The APS fan could even choose between several APS SLR cameras and camera bodies made by these companies. Minolta and Nikon made them new AF-lenses, Minolta even a new lens mount.
APS film was much better suited for use in compact 'point and shoot' cameras for the general public than for professional use, and while it fulfilled this need well, less than 5 years after its release digital technology became affordable and convenient - pushing APS format into a very small market share. A widespread complaint was high processing cost, up to one and a half times as much to develop. Only film speeds 100, 200 and 400 ASA were generally available, with 100 being least common.
The last APS film was manufactured by Fujifilm until July of 2011 and remaining stock was sold over the following ten months before being officially discontinued in May of 2012. Processing is still possible, and cold-stored film can be found from various sources.
predecessors of digital compacts
The digital cameras which offer features like compactness and 3 print formats are still expensive, like the Leica D-LUX 2, or have no viewfinder, like the Panasonic Lumix DMC LS3. So the APS system will stay popular for a while among its fans. But the characteristic conception of fully automatic compacts with zoom lens and optical zoom finder has already been taken over as one of the most popular digital camera layouts of today. But most of the recent digital compact camera models have no more viewfinder since their big bright LCD screens leave no space on camera backs for an ocular and replace the finder, and camera makers try to save costs by omitting the viewfinder. Thus the early digital compacts with viewfinder are already a classic type of camera, derived from the APS compacts.
Konica Revio APS camera
Konica Revio KD-3300 digicam
Canon IXUS APS model
|Top: APS adaptor for film scanner, film slot of compact camera |
Middle: an APS film cartridge, another in sales capsule
Bottom: four films in different states, the left one in the film slot of a SLR
The film cartridges of the APS system differ from that of any other cartridged film rolls. That's because APS films are loaded fully automatically after closing a film load slot that's filled with a cartridge. On top of a cartridge a white symbol appears beside one of the numbers 1 to 4.
APS film states: symbol beside number
- full moon near 1: film is empty
- half moon near 2: film is not full
- the cross near 3: film is full
- rectangle near 4: film is developed
Better cameras like most APS SLRs allow unloading and reloading. That's interesting for those who want to switch between a 100 ASA film and a 400 ASA film as often as necessary until both films are full. Film cartridges were available with capacities of 15, 25 or 40 exposures.
|left: opened APS film cartridge, right: 35mm film cartridge|
image by Espressobuzz (Image rights)
See also: Category:APS for more APS cameras.
- Kodak redbook: APS at www.kodak.com 
- Flickr photo group of APS amateurs and professionals at Flickr 
- part of a camera collection at www.kitamura.co.jp 
- submin.com's APS pages at www.submin.com 
- how to open an APS cartridge at www.camerahacker.com 
- Michael Simon, "Neue Wege der Fotografie mit Fujifilm", Gilching 1996, ISBN 3-88955-090-8 (German language!)
- Heiner Henniges, "Die Neue Dimension der Fotografie", Augsburg 1996, ISBN 3-8043-5082-8 (German language!)