DPReview TV: A look back at APS film

This stuff is so forgotten even the hipsters don’t know about it. APS film we’re looking at it today. Welcome back DPReviewTV viewers, Chris Nichols here from DPReview pardon the noise you can probably see the giant machinery diggin up there in the background but today we have a very interesting history lesson for you because we’re looking at APS film. Now what the hell is APS? Well it’s the Advanced Photo System and you’d be forgiven for not knowing what it is because it honestly came and went so quickly. It’s got an interesting history and I want you to join me today as we go through it. I swore I would never do unboxing videos and here I am about to unbox these cameras but I think it makes sense for the context of this video. These are our weapons of choice today now first off in this lovely oak humidor I’ve got a Canon ELPH limited edition gold-plated little IXUS camera here. Check that out We were thinking like okay a point shoots great but I really want something more capability an SLR so we went out and we actually bought this Nikon Pronea 600i and I’ve got a triple pack of Fuji Advanced two hundred film here APS expired two thousand four, Free Big Mac I am definitely cashing that in.

So let’s unbox this camera and get out here and shoot worth the price of admission right there look at that sexy blue strap so these batteries expired nine years ago here’s hoping let’s see what we get. Look at this: dual dials quite nice and what’s under this tiny plastic easily lost thing? [BEEP] Threaded cable release! [Jordan] How’s the focus there, Chris? Actually pretty damned quick. Now not that 35 millimeter film was hard to load but this whole APS format was really you know marketed as a foolproof way of loading, everything automatic, no way to screw it up does that look cool or what Jordan? [Jordan] Or what! All right so this is the situation today I’m hitting with my Pronea 600i that’s my ‘professional’ option I’ve got my Canon IXUS pocket camera here as well and I think I can handle any situation as long as I don’t need telephoto, ultra wide fast apertures or anything over ISO 200 so yeah really gonna be quite limited today but it should be fun.

You know it’s interesting I mean if you think about it how many of you have heard about the Nikon Pronea SLR system or the Minolta Vectis or the Canon IX but I bet a lot of you out there are familiar with this shape and this name the Canon ELPH or in Europe the Canon IXUS I mean these were super popular and even after film disappeared Canon continued to use this name and shape and design of camera in their digital formats you know the compact manufacturers are really the ones responsible for keeping APS alive as long as they did and Canon was by far the biggest player in that, and you can see that heritage transferring over into the digital world Hey everyone it’s Jordan jumping in here quickly to let you know we’re about to start looking at some images here and I got to tell you we got back the images from the ELPH expired in 2004 turned out pretty nice little low contrast on it but not bad at all however all the stuff Chris shot on the Pronea as you can see here it says “Too expired, color went off” and that is certainly the case.

[Chris] Okay so this photo I’m gonna call ‘a study of greens’. [Jordan] we debated converting these to black and white but you know what we’re just going to show you the yellow and magenta versions of them just so you know what’s about to happen enjoy. [Music] We had a loyal fan who… you know they weren’t going to use it, they’re like: ‘Hey why don’t you guys have fun with this?” so we really appreciate that. But this camera, well, we went out and we paid our hard-earned money on this.

We went to a local camera store which is renowned for having a lot of brand new gear still sitting in boxes and lo and behold they have this is one of five Pronea six hundreds they have so if you want to get your own we can tell you where to go buy one. And the sticker on the box is $599 for the kit but you know we got it for a tenth of that price. I think because you know by this point what are you gonna do with these things Hey so I just took a shot of these signs knocked over and it really it’s interesting shooting now in this HD format a 16 by 9 aspect ratio and that’s actually the native format for APS film but one of the unique features was that you could set three different ratios you could do APS-H which is your high def 16 by 9 ratio you could do APS-C which is a classic ratio and you could also do APS-P which was a panorama now the C and P modes do crop the sides or top and bottom now one thing I’m also noticing on this SLR what it basically gives you is just grid lines with red arrows to try to remind you ‘hey stay within these grids’ but it’s easy to forget that now in the Canon IXUS when I change the format it actually crops the viewfinder and that keeps you from messing up a lot of shots now here’s something that you might kind of think about ok APS that stands for Advanced Photo System is the film we’re talking about but don’t they also use that in sensors I mean APS-C sensors for example APS-H sensors for example, and they absolutely do and in fact they pretty much just borrowed the name they kept the Advanced Photo System moniker APS film’s classic format is about twenty five and a half by sixteen point seven now you go to somebody like Nikon or Sony their sensors are 24 millimeters by 16 millimeters then you go to can and then it’s like 22 and a half by 15 millimeters I mean they’re just all over the place.

Whoo! But does it end there? not remotely because then you’ve got companies like Canon and making their APS-H sensor that they stuck in their Canon 1D cameras well that had a crop factor way bigger than any of the film stuff we’re talking about here it gets so confusing so let’s just do it this way: after APS film died the manufacturers did whatever the hell they wanted using the aps name so APS is basically maybe I don’t know anything smaller than full-frame but bigger than Micro Four Thirds now let’s go with that we’ll keep shooting. Now it’s funny but Jordan and I both worked in photo developing labs but I was based in London the UK in Europe and Jordan was based here in Canada and North America and it’s funny because APS as a system actually kind of took off in Europe it was well-received known in London, it was interesting because I would say we got about 50 percent 35 mil and 15 percent APS it was really quite popular, I think because the cameras could be so compact and small but he also represented some convenience for the customer they could actually stop on a lot of cameras mid-roll and then resume at the right frame when they wanted to keep shooting and after you got the film developed it would just come out of the cartridge go through the machines it would actually go back into the APS cartridge after that, so you had something to keep your negatives nice and safe, overall it was a very interesting development it just never took off, especially in North America.

When I look at the back of camera like I expect to see something there you know it’s funny I’m actually really enjoying shooting this sixteen by nine format for photography it’s refreshing actually and it’s almost in a way kind of regretable that 16 by 9 never really took off as a picture format I think it was a conspiracy from all the frame makers who are saying “yeah TVs are going but we’ve got all these 4×6 frames in the warehouse what are we gonna do about those?” Conspiracy! No Digital rotating screen makes old men grumpy now.

Ouch! I’m doing a puddle photo because people are complaining about Chris’s lack of puddle photos I don’t like this photo Let’s finish the roll. So I’ve just finished my first roll here and it’s got this handy little numbering system I want to tell you about so number one indicator means it’s a brand new roll film number two means it’s partially exposed and you can resume later number three, the little X shows that it’s fully exposed but not processed yet and then number four will actually show when the film’s totally processed and now you’ve got developed negatives inside oh and see this little tab here you could poke this in so that your camera doesn’t accidentally try to shoot an already processed roll of film very much like a VHS tape.

Do I have to explain VHS tapes now to everybody or… we’re good? So as you can see the rains really starting to come down now but I do have a couple rolls ready to go so we’re gonna head into our local place here downtown luckily the lab manager remembers APS film so you know how to develop it but even he commented that some of his staff have no idea what’s going on I’ve never seen it before let’s get in there. [Music] APS was designed to be a very modern system and a system that all the manufactures got behind to build what happened to why did it decline so quickly well really the answer is digital. Canon’s EOS D30 came out relatively shortly after that sort of the first mainstream widely used APS-C sensor digital SLR ever and you know cameras like that and the subsequent compact digital that came out really just destroy APS but I hope what you got from this whole thing today was that APS never really went away and we got to think about a lot of the innovations that were developed for this system that that carried on to make digital possible we’ve already talked about how these small compact cameras paved the way for the new digital compacts that we enjoyed and you know it wasn’t just about design and naming it wasn’t just about putting a tiny digital sensor into these cameras it was also the fact that most compact cameras up to this point were made for 35 millimeter film and when this format came out the manufacturers got a lot of practice in developing smaller high quality lens assemblies that would then lend themselves very nicely to smaller digital sensors and even the APS SLR is which were so unsuccessful and for that very reason this might even be the first time you’ve ever seen or heard of one in our video they still had their place because it’s all that research and development that went into it and we consider things like the Canon IX SLR the Nikon Pronea SLR they both use Canon and Nikon full-frame SLR lineup both manufacturers even started making lenses specifically for the smaller APS format which would then be morph into our current DX and EF-S lenses all of that research and development is what we take for granted now in our digital SLRs today and so maybe after this you know a little history lesson you’ve gotten to see that APS, as forgotten a film format as it was, really was instrumental in opening up our markets to the digital photography era and so hopefully enjoyed this let us know in the comments below let us know if you ever had one of these yourself maybe rocked one of these in your earlier days don’t forget to check us on an Instagram, Tweet to us let us know your comments below and please subscribe we’re so close to 100,000 we just need that final push.

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