Review: The Short Life Of the APS Film Format

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As many of us do on weekends, we were wandering through a flea market recently, where you can always find some analogue cameras laying around. During one of these hunting sessions we were surprised to stumble upon an old film format.

APS, which stands for Advanced Photo System, is a film format introduced in 1996. The seller gifted us the pack of film, most likely thinking there was no use for it. The film expired in 2003, and we had no way to know how it was stored, but we were ready to be surprised by its results.

Photos by Elisa Parrino

Interestingly, camera and film companies such as Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Kodak, and Fuji collectively decided to launch this format in the '90s. The APS had a short life and never got to be suited for professional photographers due to the 58% reduced film area; while amateur photographers, soon after, preferred digital compact cameras as they were even easier to manage, condemning the format to its end, and advancing the arrival of digital photography that revolutionized the world of image making.

The advantages of APS were meant to simplify the way we took pictures. One feature was the possibility to extract the film halfway and re-spool it, with the camera automatically jumping to the correct frame count. Having a completely automated loading and re-spooling system, with no risks for light exposure, the film automatically winds back into his cassette. There are four statuses: unexposed, partially exposed, fully exposed, and developed.

Photos by Elisa Parrino

If your film has been exposed, the camera reads the code at the bottom of the film and automatically recognizes pre-exposed film. It will not spool it again, therefore double exposures are avoided. The film can be read only with the appropriate camera, and most of them were classic point-and-shoots.

A nice bonus from this format is that it can come with up to 40 exposures instead of 36. With a 24 mm wide film it can record up to three formats, high definition, panoramic and classic. The film can be developed with C-41 chemistry, which is the standard color process, still in use today.

One idea that was introduced with this format, and that carried out to the digital world, was to record shooting data. In the APS format, information about date, shutter, and aperture, was archived on the film to then be read by labs and calibrate a correct print.

Photos by Elisa Parrino

The camera we used to shoot this film had an automatic flash which was filling the shadows during the day and was quite strong at night. Due to the lack of control over the settings, we could not adjust the exposure therefore the images turned out to be quite underexposed frames, while still retaining some alluring shades.

If we can summarize this film format in one word, it would be simplicity. This film grants a carefree approach to image making, as the camera and the film format is making sure that your result will be perfectly polished. The downside of such settings is the lack of creative control.

APS feels to be suited for the average shooter without much photographic knowledge, but the decision to let your tools perform without any mistake (or what was considered a mistake) consequently has the shortcoming of enthusiasm for photography.


Have you ever come across an APS camera and or film format? Share your experience in the comments below.

written by eparrino on 2023-04-23 #gear #culture #review #nikon #minolta #canon #fuji #kodak #aps #film-format #analogue-film-format

27 Comments

  1. klawe
    klawe ·

    My Agfa APS Star 200 cartridges stored at room temperature for 20 years are waiting for me to persuade my Minolta Vectis Weathermatic Camera to expose this film with 80-100 ASA ;-)

  2. leisuresuit
    leisuresuit ·

    I have several APS cameras and I would like to use them again. You can find the film on ebay

  3. leisuresuit
    leisuresuit ·

    You can develop the film in a Yankee tank and take the negatives and scan them with a film holder for aps from ebay

  4. klawe
    klawe ·

    @leisuresuit I think, the wheel of Yankee Clipper II is good for dev 110 and 23mm APS too.
    My attempt to apply the APS film to an already developed 35mm film failed. The chemistry flowed down from the sprocket holes and the result was a lot of stripes ;-)

  5. roaringtree
    roaringtree ·

    I have a Minolta Vectis SLR allowing me to set ISO to compensate for age of film, I had some good photos from it and have a B&W roll to use too... once the rolls I have have are gone it becomes a paperweight :-)

  6. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    It's cool to see that there is still some interest on this format :)

  7. klawe
    klawe ·

    @roaringtree Good idea, the Minolta Vectis S-1 with lens is very cheap today (~ 20 US$)! Thanks for the tip :-)

  8. roaringtree
    roaringtree ·

    @klawe You are welcome, I found that manually adjusting the ISO for expired films gave near perfect results on Fuji films, not so good on others but we never know what storage was like :-)

  9. klawe
    klawe ·

    @roaringtree I'm curious, when the new camera works, I'll expose the Fuji Nexia A200 (exp. 2011) with 100 ASA and the Agfa star 200 (exp. 2007) with 80 ASA.
    With our friend Aline, the Fuji even worked at 200 ASA:
    www.lomography.com/homes/alinerunge/photos/23154093

  10. sanichiban
    sanichiban ·

    At Portobello Market Juliano's stall has some APS down at the bottom of his box of random films. All expired and still £15 lol. Some nice cameras on ebay but then I see APS and get sad

  11. klawe
    klawe ·

    @sanichiban ... let's see, maybe I can switch off the magnetic recording on the Minolta Vectis S-1 and fill the cartridges with 23mm film (without perforation). £15 per cartridge is way too expensive )-:

  12. sliepa
    sliepa ·

    I have 3 Kodak APS cameras and 1 Fujifilm Nexia with both Fujifilm and Kodak APS film. The Fujifilm seems to have held up well. They are fun camera to shoot and I would love it if they started making more APS film but, of course, they won't.

  13. stavard
    stavard ·

    I still shoot APS film all the time, stocked up a couple years ago. Fun alternative to 35mm, I wish this format came back instead of 110 honestly.

  14. roaringtree
    roaringtree ·

    @klawe The photos look great, I will post some of my APS photos when I get a chance. The Vectis is a good quality camera although mine is stuck on the 16:9 setting. :-)

  15. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    @stavard I agree, I like it better as well. @sanichiban £15 is Waaayyy too expensive! @klawe I'm curios to see the results!

  16. lry12
    lry12 ·

    I bought an APS camera (Olympus Newpic 600) in 1999 and used it for a few years. I pulled it out three years ago after finding a few expired films. I made an album on my lomohome.:-)

  17. jolom
    jolom ·

    I have a number of APS cameras, including Minolta and Canon SLRs. The Canon SLR will use any EF lenses. I find the film on ebay, or even cheaper at local estate sales. I also use the Yankee tank to develop it, and a 3D printed scan holder I bought from ebay.

    Here's a fun creative tip: you can double expose the film with a simple trick. When completing a roll, after it is rewound back into the camera, you can use a small screwdriver, or even the tip of a pointy knife, to adjust the symbol that shows on the top. Instead of a completed roll, rotate until the unused symbol is selected. Then you can re-shoot the roll again (using the same camera or even a different camera, or as a film swap) for double exposures. A bonus of doing this with APS is that the frames of both exposures will always be aligned because the camera uses perforations to line up each exposure.

  18. jolom
    jolom ·

    One of my shots with the Minolta Vectis S-1
    www.lomography.com/homes/jolom/photos/26462969

  19. jolom
    jolom ·

    @klawe There are a few people trying to refill APS cartridges, but it is really tricky. The cameras are so automated that they are very picky about the perforations and film being exactly right. But let us know if you succeed! Good luck!

  20. ppg
    ppg ·

    I picked up a Nikon Pronea S with the kit 30-60mm IX Nikkor lens recently (£13!!) just out of curiosity. It is a marvellous little camera with all the usual Auto + PAS & scene modes (but no M)
    and a very snappy AF mode (or manual if needed).
    Shutter speed and aperture clearly displayed in the (not bad at all) viewfinder.
    It's plastic but feels great, very rounded. I really wish I could get a new film to try it, sadly no chance.

  21. klawe
    klawe ·

    @ppg A cool-stored APS color film (40 exposures, expired 12 years ago) costs the same as your camera today.

  22. klawe
    klawe ·

    @roaringtree The Minolta Vectis S 1 is great! My first results with Fuji A 200 at 100 ASA
    www.lomography.com/photos/26472449
    @jolom I'm going to try to punch holes in a 24mm filmstrip using a punch pliers from my riveting tool (perforation)...

  23. roaringtree
    roaringtree ·

    @klawe I am happy for you! I'll check out the photos and thanks for letting me know :-)

  24. jolom
    jolom ·

    I just uploaded my APS double exposures to a new album: www.lomography.com/homes/jolom/albums/2428922-aps-double-ex…

  25. klawe
    klawe ·

    @eparrino & @jolom My attempt to fill an APS cartridge with self-perforated Lomochrome Purple (24x300mm) failed. The Minolta Vectis SR-1 cannot be outwitted. Now I'm trying to stick a narrower strip with gum arabic onto an exposed APS film; if that doesn't work either, I'll dissect one of our Minoltas ;-)

  26. jolom
    jolom ·

    @klawe Sorry to hear that. I have heard that it is very difficult to refill APS cartridges. Good luck with your projects!

  27. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    @klawe Oh No! I'm sorry to hear! Your persistence is admirable! Hope you'll win over the machines!

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