The Advanced Photo System

The Advanced Photo System

You've seen the ads on television and read the articles in photographic magazines. Perhaps you already own an Advanced Photo SystemTM camera. You may wonder what the "truth" is about the Advanced Photo System and what we, as a top-quality laboratory, think of it.

If you currently own an Advanced Photo System're going to be very pleasantly surprised!

The key to really high quality Advanced Photo System photographs is in the processing. With our processing and printing, the Advanced Photo System will give you the vibrant photographs you see advertised on TV. You'll also be able to take advantage of a pricing schedule that may save you a lot of money. While most stores and photo labs take an a la carte approach (where you pay so much for film processing and an index print plus so much more for each of the three print formats), we have a single price for each roll size (15, 25 or 40 frames). So, you can shoot whichever of the three APS print formats you want and not get "sticker shock"...and a huge bill...when you receive your prints and find that you'd taken too many pictures on the very expensive panoramic (P) setting!

Are you planning to purchase a new camera and debating between a 35mm and an Advanced Photo System camera?

Many of our customers are asking which camera system we'd recommend. The answer is "It depends on your individual needs and priorities."

Perhaps a little history of the Advanced Photo System and a comparison of its features to 35mm will help you in your decision.

Why was the Advanced Photo System developed?

The Advanced Photo System was designed by a consortium of the major film and camera manufacturers to provide a simpler way for amateur photographers to take pictures. The manufacturers' market research indicated that many people were having difficulty using and loading even relatively simple 35mm cameras. While loading problems rarely affected advanced amateurs or professionals, some "non-photographs" were losing pictures due to their inability to load even the most "automatic" 35mm cameras. As a result, some people were not taking pictures.

The largest film manufacturers (Kodak and Fuji) reacted by joining with the leading camera makers (Canon, Minolta and Nikon) to create a new film/camera format that would appeal to the mass market and, hopefully, generate renewed interest in picture taking. They told their engineers that the new format had to 1) be simple to use, with drop-in loading like the old 110 format, 2) have a lot of convenience features that would stimulate camera sales and 3) be small enough to be carried and used by anyone.

Where did the name "Advanced Photo System" come from?

Darned if we know! But consider this. The research and development, plant expansions, and advertising required to launch the film format cost the "majors" hundreds of millions of dollars. New film emulsions and packaging had to be designed as well as whole new camera lines. If you were the person in charge of marketing would you like to go to the presidents of the various companies involved and say that you'd be calling the film "240" (its correct technical name)? Not if you wanted to keep your job!

In an age of hype, the job of a marketing department is not just to sell...but to oversell. And, considering the vast effort and tremendous costs that went into designing the Advanced Photo System, we certainly wouldn't fault the marketing gurus for doing their jobs.

Is the "Advanced Photo System" better...or more advanced...than 35mm?

Not really. It does have a few more "bells and whistles" (i.e. varying print formats, drop-in loading). Properly processed and printed APS negatives will give you proofs and small enlargements (up to 8"x12") that are comparable to ones from 35mm negs. But, we certainly wouldn't suggest you throw out a perfectly good 35mm camera to buy an Advanced Photo System model. Contrary to the impression you might be getting from overzealous (and somewhat irresponsible) TV ads, 35mm is far from dead or obsolete. If you're planning to purchase a new camera and trying to decide between the two systems, we'd suggest you look at the following comparison.

Pros and Cons of the "Advanced Photo System" compared to 35mm:

The "Pros" of the Advanced Photo System are:
  1. Easy, drop-in loading; making APS great for children, seniors or "simplifiers" for whom loading a 35mm camera is too complicated.
  2. APS cameras are very compact and usually lighter than comparable 35s. The size and weight difference may not be very great for a point-and-shoot camera. But the weight difference can be considerable with SLRs (single lens reflexes). Our laboratory owns a Nikon N90 with a 35mm-70mm zoom lens. It weighs 3 lbs. and 8 oz. We also have the new Canon IX APS camera. It's equipped with a 24-85mm zoom, giving it slightly better zooming performance than the N90. The Canon IX weighs just 1 lb. and 15 oz.; a difference of about 1-1/2 pounds. Not a big deal? Imagine yourself on vacation with the temperature hovering somewhere above 90 degrees. Which camera would you rather have hanging around your neck?
  3. Multiple formats. Advanced Photo System cameras allow you to select and change the dimensions of your print format while you shoot. Use classic (C) 4"x6" for most of your pictures (this traditional-sized format is generally the most pleasing), 4"x7" (H) for "wider" group shots or 4"x11.5" (P) for panoramic pictures. In the lab, we'll automatically print the format you've chosen in your camera. (Some 35mm camera models also offer mixed panoramic and normal shooting as an option.)
  4. A 4"x6" index print showing all the pictures on the roll is included in the price of processing. (We offer index prints as a $1 option with 35mm.)
  5. You can remove an Advanced Photo System roll from the camera when it's partially exposed (in some cameras) and replace it later to shoot the rest of the roll. This is great when you want to change ISO speeds when moving from bright outdoor lighting where a 100 ISO film works to low light indoors where you might want a 400 speed film.
  6. A magnetic coating on the film can be used by the higher-priced APS cameras to record date and other information. This information will be printed on the back of your proofs and exposure information derived from the magnetic coating can theoretically improve the quality of pictures taken with flash. (Our printing equipment actually knows...and compensates for...flash pictures on 35mm without the need for camera-provided magnetic information.) On "top end" APS cameras this magnetic IX (Information Exchange) can also instruct the lab equipment when not to make a correction for exposure; a useful device when you've purposely bracketed your exposures for some creative effects.

The "Cons" of the Advanced Photo System are:

  1. The Advanced Photo SystemAn Advanced Photo System camera may not be your best choice if you want big enlargements. That's because the images on APS negatives are 59% of the size of a 35mm frame. So, APS negatives may not enlarge with the same level of quality as 35mm pictures taken on the same grade of film. (New 35mm films being introduced by Kodak and Fuji have the same grain and dye structure as the "advanced" film emulsions used for Advanced Photo System films.)
    The Advanced Photo System
  2. Of the 59% of 35mm size, even more image area is lost if you choose either the (C) Classic 4"x6" or (P) Panoramic size. Only the (H) format utilizes the full image area of the APS negative. The result is that a significantly greater degree of blow-up is required to enlarge an Advanced Photo System negative than one shot on 35mm. An 8"x12" enlargement from an APS negative has about the same degree of enlargement as an 11"x14" print from 35mm. So, while you can easily get enlargements up to 20"x30" from 35mm, you are limited to smaller enlargements with Advanced Photo System. (We only offer up to 8"x14" enlargements.)
  3. Currently, we do not provide digital transfers of Advanced Photo System films to either our Picture CDs or to Kodak Photo CDs. Nor can we provide the option of getting both prints and slides from the same roll of Advanced Photo System film as we do from 35mm.
  4. The price of Advanced Photo System film and processing is approximately 15% more than comparable 35mm film.
  5. Feature for feature, 35mm cameras often sell for less than comparable Advanced Photo System cameras. If you're purchasing a camera you should do a side by side comparison of cameras with similar features. Remember that profit margins on Advanced Photo System cameras may be somewhat larger than on 35s, giving the store's salesperson a "vested interest" in pushing the Advanced Photo System camera.

The "Final Word" on which camera system you should purchase

This is a situation where any decision you make will be a good one. Both 35mm and Advanced Photo System cameras and film will produce excellent quality prints. On standard proofing sizes you'll find it difficult to tell the difference between pictures taken with Advanced Photo System cameras and 35mm models of the same quality level (SLR vs. SLR or point-and-shoot vs. point-and-shoot). So, if you don't need big enlargements...or want to use our slide & print, Picture CD or Photo CD services...there is no reason not to purchase an Advanced Photo System camera. Your decision should be based on your needs and how you view the advantages...and value...of each system.

As we see it, the major criteria for deciding which camera to buy are:

  • Who will be using the camera? The Advanced Photo System is a good choice if the camera is going to be used by a child or a person who's "all thumbs" with anything technical. It's also great for anyone who wants totally "hassle-free" loading.
  • How important is size and weight? This is a tough area because there are many very compact point-and-shoot 35s on the market. But Advanced Photo System cameras are generally smaller.
  • Is panoramic shooting important to you? With our price-fixed processing, the Advanced Photo System can be a real value. But, keep in mind that if you purchase a 35mm camera that has the option of standard or panoramic modes, the cost of mixed panoramic printing is just $4 per 24 or $5 per 36 exposures...and you still get a larger negative.
  • Are you willing to pay a slightly higher price for the simplicity and convenience that the Advanced Photo System offers?

Whichever camera you choose, you can trust Dale Laboratories to give you the best possible pictures! We hope that this comparison has been useful.

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