Frugal Photographer
The end has finally come
All our APS film is sold out
That APS camera has a lot of life left!

APS equipment is long out of production, but some APS cameras are highly capable and well worth using. Some, particularly the pro-level Nikon, Canon, and Minolta models, are wonderfully capable.

APS film has not been manufactured since 2011. Films that were frozen soon after being manufactured will give the highest quality image contrast and color fidelity, comparable to fresh film. Films stored cool or at room temperature will undoubtedly show some deterioration, depending on the exact conditions of storage. All of the APS films I have ever seen were packaged in moisture-proof packaging, so deterioration due to moisture should not be a problem.

Photo taken with Kodak APS film

This photograph was taken at the Calgary Stampede many years ago with a Canon ELPH, on the expired Kodak APS 400 film offered here. When the roll came back from the processor (London Drugs, in Calgary) I scanned it and discovered the image had a heavy blue cast due to color deterioration over time. The image you see is the result of simple automatic color restoration using a free photo editor (Paint.Net). More extensive editing with a more capable editor could easily improve the colors.

A bit of history...

APS ("Advanced Photo System") was introduced in 1996 as a way to address a persistent problem that many amateur photographers struggled with, which was how to get film into and out of the camera without ruining it. The Instamatic and Pocket Instamatic cassette designs had accomplished that, but they were bulky and, by 1996, had been in the marketplace for 35 years. APS was meant to drag photography away from its 19th-century origins and embed it in the age of semiconductors and digital printing.

But in 1996, Japanese engineers were already making it easy to load and unload a small, motorized, high-quality, pocket-sized 35mm camera: just lay the 35mm cassette down with the film tongue across the film plane, and close the back. To unload, press a button marked "rewind". The typical amateur photographer had a lot of alternatives to laying out money for a new APS camera, and then paying a premium for processing. Professional photographers had no reason at all to switch to APS. The wonderful new technology failed to take off.

And it was wonderful technology. The film stayed inside its light-tight cartridge until it was inside the camera, and your negatives were delivered to you safely inside that same cartridge, where no fingerprints or dust could ever harm them. To re-order prints, you referred to a digitally-produced index print. Most cameras recorded details about the image and its exposure in the form of data written into the invisible magnetic coating on the back of each negative. And the negatives themselves were on a base of polyethylene naphthalate, far tougher and more resilient than the acetate film base used for 35mm.

APS was developed and commercialized by a consortium of competitors: Kodak, Fuji, and camera manufacturers Nikon, Canon, and Minolta. It was licensed to others, and all the major companies soon had APS films and cameras available. By 2004, not even a decade later, the party was over. Kodak discontinued its APS cameras that year, when it also stopped selling Kodak-branded cameras in the developed world. That was a year after digital cameras overtook film cameras in sales, worldwide. Kodak and Fuji discontinued APS film five years later, in 2011.

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