APS: revolutionary or white elephant?
FIVE of the world's major film- and camera-makers -- often at odds
with each other -- have teamed up to launch a new type of film that
some say will revolutionise photography.
others fear the new format may prove to be just another costly white
elephant -- like DAT tapes have turned out to be for audio enthusiasts
-- on the road towards a real change in the way people take pictures,
process and store them.
Advanced Photo System (APS), a joint effort by Kodak, Fuji, Nikon,
Canon and Minolta, cost close to $1.4 billion to research, develop
and promote. It will go on sale worldwide in late April.
companies say the format change will make it easier to load film,
and allow more flexibility and efficiency when taking pictures --
even to the extent of switching the framing format within the same
roll of film and switching back and forth between one roll and another
without wasting film.
system is also said to advance the art of photo-processing, and
the storage of film and information about what is on it.
camera-makers are not just tailoring the new format to low-budget
amateurs, either. Kodak says it will be launching a professional
slide film version before the end of the year.
lines of photofinishing machinery will also be launched, including
customised home-use players and scanners, which you can use to see
your pictures on your computer, eliminating the need for dozens
of bulky scrapbooks full of fading prints.
will call its new line Advantix. It will consist of nine new cameras
and three new films -- 100-, 200- and 400-speed, packaged in cassettes
of 15, 25 or 40 exposures.
the other industry giant, will offer three new films under a new
label called Nexia.
the leader in the 35-mm camera market, will be introducing six point-and-shoot
models that use the new film under the name Nuvis, short for new
Kenneth Tan, Nikon's Singapore-based regional marketing manager,
said prices for the new cameras will range from $200 to $500, which
is comparable to current models.
Japanese company will also launch a new series of single lens reflex
cameras that can use the new film, he says, as well as a new range
new film is about 40 per cent smaller than the popular 35-mm format,
and comes in a sealed cassette that frees consumers from having
to handle their film. It will cost you 10-20 per cent more than
current types of film but industry executives argue that the increase
is justified as customers will enjoy more features.
example, a thin layer of invisible magnetic particles that coats
the film's surface enables exchange of information among people,
cameras, film and photofinishing equipment. Information such as
lighting conditions, subject distance, time and date of exposure
(even personal information such as notes and titles) can be recorded
digitally on the film.
as there are different widths for movies, photographers will be
able to choose a different width for different exposures within
the same roll of film: the C type (Classic), or conventional 35
mm print size; H type (HDTV), which is slightly wider; and P type
(Panoramic), almost twice the width of the C type.
most obvious change is the absence of a film leader, as the film
is enclosed within the casing. After the roll is sent for processing,
it will be returned in the original cassette, together with a proof
sheet of the exposures, in thumbnail size. Consumers can order prints
by using the proof sheet.
more advanced models, rolls can be changed midway through and reloaded
if necessary. There is no worry about overlapping or registration
problems as a mini-computer in each camera will advance the film
to where it was before.
does this mean it is time to sell your 35-mm cameras and all your
Dave Biehn, senior vice-president of Eastman Kodak, who went on
the Internet last Thursday to answer questions about APS, said:
"Absolutely not. There are more than 350 million 35-mm cameras in
use to represent consumers that we will continue to serve.
will continue to sell 35-mm cameras and films and bring future improvements
So is this the future?
JUDGING from the tidal wave of publicity about the Advanced Photo
System (APS) that is heading this way, one has the feeling it could
change the way pictures are taken overnight.
there is no doubt APS, like all new products, will run into resistance
from consumers, both amateurs and professionals whose closets are
already filled with lots of expensive 35mm cameras and accessories.
new format will also have a long way to go to catch up to what is
currently available in the 35mm format, which remains sophiscated,
comprehensive, and most importantly, affordable and familiar to
concerns about the APS abound: Will it even be around in years to
come, or will it go the way of the Betamax video tape? For that
matter, why should one switch from something that is already quite
the makers of film and cameras which are not part of the original
team adapt to the new system? Or will they come up with something
different and maybe even better?
exactly how much more money will you have to fork out for this new
type of photography? Certainly, the fact that five major manufacturers
have teamed up in this venture is reassuring. After all, the customers
were the biggest losers in the war between VHS and Betamax in the
home video market.
in an era in which the digital format is rapidly becoming the format
of choice for everything from audio and video equipment to automobile
engines, it is puzzling that the five giants have opted for a format
that is neither here or there. While more and more filmless professional
cameras utilising computer discs are launched, its is strange tha
APS uses conventional film.
digital disc is the real format of the future for professional photography
too, then what is the point of pushing APS?
it is, to enjoy the full range of advantages of APS that are already
factored into the price of the film, you have to buy the equipment
to use it from one of the five companies involved, and even use
their processing outlets.
while common computers can be used for other purposes, such as listening
to a compact disc made by any company, the customised accessories
for APS have few, if any, other uses. Unless you have plenty of
cash to spare, who wants to invest in another attachment for your
computer that can be used only to view APS pictures.
compact disc picture format that allows you to look at CD-ROM many
already own would be much more practical.
my opinion, recent 35mm models are nearing the point where even
a person who is all thumbs will have few problems loading film or
snapping a beautiful picture. Auto-loading, auto-exposure, and auto-everything
features are now available in simple point-and-shoot cameras, as
well as professional models. This has made photography enjoyable
and camera makers should be investing their research money on making
better products for existing 35mm users. While working on that,
make a better, more affordable and simpler system that will truly
revoluntise the way people take pictures.