Advanced Photo System film, or APS film for short, was a cartridge based film system introduced in 1996 and just discontinued in 2011. Much like 110 and disc film, APS film was meant to be a simple format, easy for amateurs to use while incorporating a number of new features. APS film is 24mm wide, and interestingly varies in overall image dimensions according to buttons or a switch located on APS film cameras. This allows the user to choose between settings that crop the photo into different sizes including panoramic, classic, and high definition. The small cartridge is compact and perhaps the easiest of any film to load. Also much like 110 and disc film, the small negative of APS film causing increased graininess is one of the most common complaints about the format. APS is also commonly said to have been a ploy by film companies to force developing labs into purchasing expensive new equipment. Despite this, APS still had a number of other unique features incorporated, including an indicator on each roll that showed whether the film was unused, partially used, fully used, or developed. That’s right, developed! Once APS is developed it is re-wound back into the cartridge and returned to the user. This feature along with a spot for notes and ID numbering was supposed to make organization and storage of negatives simpler.
Another feature included in the system was the recording of image data optically or magnetically on the edge of the film. Despite these advantages sales decreased and APS film has been discontinued, though it can still be found (sometimes expired) on some store shelves. It is still processed by most one hour photo labs, at least for now, making developing simple. This leaves film photography enthusiasts who enjoy using unusual formats one last chance to try out APS film rather easily. After having fun with 110 film, I decided to give APS a try as well.
I found myself with loads of cameras to choose from, though the vast majority of them are compact pocket cameras, both Canon and Nikon made APS single lens reflex models. In the SLR category I was able to find a nice used Canon EOS IX that accepts all my Canon EF mount lenses. Despite the highly unusual design and questionable looks of the EOS IX, I found it very nice to use, it has a surprisingly good build quality and a very solid feel with much metal in the body. It has rapid film advance, and though some controls are in different locations it functions much like the rest of the EOS line of Canon Cameras.
For a pocket camera I picked up a Vivitar XM-1K with a fixed 24mm f4.5 lens. It reminds me very much of the cult favorite Vivitar Wide and Slim. Light and very pocketable, it was a joy to use. While limited in modes and settings, I didn’t find myself missing them much, it was great to be able to take along on a walk and just quickly and casually shoot what caught my eye, worrying only about subject and composition. Oddly for such an inexpensive model, it even has a rapid fire shutter mode for fast shooting! . For film I used some rather expired Kodak Advantix 200 ISO, since it is likely what others might find sitting dusty and forgotten in their local stores. The graininess, probably affected slightly by the film’s age, is not too bad. In the end I came away with a couple images I liked, and I had lots of fun with my APS film experiment!