Advanced Photo System

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small APS camera with film

The Advanced Photo System ( APS ) was introduced on April 22nd, 1996; it was the last major step in the development of analog photography before it began to be replaced by digital photography . Cameras for APS film gradually disappeared from the market after 2001 and further developments were discontinued.

The recording format was about 13 of the 35 mm film , the side perforation was dispensed with , and the resulting significantly smaller cameras also recorded digital information about recording and processing. APS was used by the camera and film manufacturers Canon , Fujifilm , Kodak , Minolta and Nikon presented together.


35mm films have a perforation on both sides. However, this perforation is largely superfluous in the camera; very few cameras use a repositioning option. So come roll films ever made without perforation. Since the perforation enlarges the film cartridge and thus the camera, the discussion about a new type of film without perforation kept coming up as miniaturization progressed. But because 35mm film was available worldwide and a changeover would not have brought any great advantages, the few innovations such as the Kodak Disc could not establish themselves on the market. Only shortly before the introduction of digital technology was a new standard released by an alliance of several large manufacturers, in which the exposure data is also stored on a magnetic strip integrated in the film.


  • A new recording format (30.2 mm × 16.7 mm). The rather small film format made small and light cameras possible: Typical APS compact cameras like the Canon IXUS II weighed only around 170 grams.
  • New film material : The APS films that were newly introduced at the time of the market launch had particularly thin layers and improved film emulsions . This should reduce the quality difference to the larger 35mm format.
  • Different image formats with three defined aspect ratios. The film was always exposed in H format, the corresponding edge areas only faded out in the viewfinder and when making paper prints.
    • APS-H: 30.2 mm × 16.7 mm, aspect ratio approx. 16: 9 (full APS negative size)
    • APS-C: 25.1 mm × 16.7 mm, aspect ratio approx. 03: 2 ("Classic"; like small picture)
    • APS-P: 30.2 mm ×  09.5 mm, aspect ratio approx. 03: 1 ("panorama format")
Indicator on the film cartridge
  • Closed film cartridge : The film no longer had to be threaded in manually; a comfortable film insertion ("drop-in-loading") became possible. It was offered in packs of 15, 25 or 40 receptacles. Except for exposure and development, the film always remained in the cassette and was thus protected. Together with the data track, it was also possible to change and reinsert partially exposed films (MRC, Mid-Roll Change ). The film cartridge also had an indicator on the underside that showed the user what condition the film was in:
  1. Full circle: unexposed
  2. Half circle: Partly exposed
  3. Cross: fully exposed
  4. Rectangle: Developed
  • Optimized laboratory processing: An APS film had optical and magnetic data tracks that made it possible to exchange data between camera , film and processing laboratory (IX, Information Exchange ) as well as to exchange data to achieve constant image quality (PQI, "Print Quality Improvement"). Appropriately equipped photo laboratories were able to evaluate this information and, for example, print the title of a picture on the back of the paper print. The laboratory was also informed of the desired aspect ratio and the desired number of prints via APS. With the modernized laboratory machines for the processing of APS films, the "Index Print" (overview of all photos on one print) was also used for the first time.

APS cameras

The most successful APS cameras were the models of the IXUS series from Canon, the design and features of which were also adopted in the corresponding digital camera series. These cameras offered typical APS functions such as the possibility of changing partially exposed films ("mid-roll change"), as well as numerous PQI data (direction of film, flash use, flash mode, zoom factor , subject brightness, artificial light and lighting conditions).

Only a few APS cameras took advantage of all the possibilities of the Advanced Photo System; One of these exceptions was, for example, the Vectis S1 from Minolta , which with the help of an "FTPM function" prevented changes in color and brightness when developing or printing a film in the photo laboratory. Another “ eccentric ” was the Fotonex 3500 ix Zoom MRC from Fujifilm , which, like the above. IXUS series, partially exposed films could continue to expose.

compact cameras

Most camera manufacturers introduced new brands for their APS compact cameras. These disappeared from the market with the end of the Advanced Photo System - only Canon continues to use the IXUS brand for digital compact cameras.

  • Canon IXUS
  • Kodak Advantix
  • Minolta Vectis
  • Nikon Nuvis
  • Samsung Impax

SLR cameras

Nikon Pronea 600i

A number of SLR cameras with matching interchangeable lenses were also presented for APS . Minolta introduced a new lens connection for this , while Canon and Nikon continued to use their existing one. The first models in 1996 were in the middle class, followed by a simpler model from all three manufacturers and an SLR from Minolta before this camera segment was discontinued due to lack of success.

  • Canon EOS IX (1996) and EOS IX 7 (1998) with EF bayonet
  • Minolta Vectis S-1 (1996) and Vectis S-100 (1997) as well as Dimâge RD-3000 (1999) with new V-bayonet
  • Nikon Pronea 600i (1996) and Pronea S (1998) with F-bayonet


In addition to the APS cameras, accessory manufacturers offered a range of additional devices. For example, there were APS players with which the images from an APS cassette could be viewed on the television and the data on the film's magnetic track could be modified. With an APS scanner, images from APS films could be read into the computer and digitally processed.


The drop-in loading simplified the handling for photo amateurs ; on the other hand, however, there were numerous serious disadvantages.

  • The system was incompatible with 35mm film or medium format in almost every respect . Existing system accessories would usually have to be purchased again; processing in our own laboratory was almost impossible. The professional sector was little or not covered in the camera sector, but there were also no cameras in the cheap sector.
  • The commercial photo labs needed new machines to process APS films. These relatively expensive devices did not become widespread until years after the market launch of APS and did not support all information that would actually have been possible through data exchange (IX and PQI), but only the basic information.
  • Because of the smaller surface of the negative, APS films offered a significantly lower image quality than the 35mm format, despite thinner layers and improved emulsions. The latter were also used very quickly for films in 35mm format, so that this initial advantage was lost.
  • Ambitious photographers were confronted with a very limited range of film materials at APS: black and white or slide films as well as highly sensitive films were rarely or not offered. With a few exceptions, camera manufacturers also failed to fully implement the capabilities of APS in their products.
  • The costs for APS film cartridges and their development were mostly higher than those for 35mm film.

In summary, the familiar and well-established 35mm film offered more choice and lower costs with roughly the same performance.

Market importance

The APS format could not establish itself on the market, which was also due to its late appearance. The first digital cameras appeared in 1996, which caused the conversion of analogue photo technology to a more advanced format to stall.

Due to the dwindling market success, most camera manufacturers phased out their APS model series between 2001 and 2002. The Eastman Kodak Company , one of the initiators of APS, also stopped producing APS cameras worldwide in 2004. Towards the end, only the Canon IXUS series were sold in significant numbers, with many customers being more interested in the design of the camera than in the APS system itself.

Some APS properties have been adopted for 35 mm film with advancing camera and laboratory technology, such as the option of conveniently replacing a partially exposed film (see above) and the "index print", the successor to the contact print . Saving the exposure data , for example, was taken over for digital cameras; the Exif file format records this information, analogous to the PQI data for APS film.

At the end of 2011, the last remaining manufacturers Kodak and Fuji announced that they would stop producing this film material. Existing stocks would still be sold off.

APS for digital cameras

Canon initially continued to use two APS format names for digital cameras.


Comparison of common sensor formats

After the advent of digital SLR cameras , Canon initially used the term APS-C to describe an image sensor measuring 22.5 mm × 15.0 mm . Canon thus referred to the APS Classic format with an aspect ratio of 3: 2 and a slightly larger film area of ​​25.1 mm × 16.7 mm. After that, similarly sized sensors from other manufacturers were also given the same name. However, the information is not standardized and the size may vary depending on the manufacturer and camera model. Compared to classic 35mm film , the format factor is around 1.6 (Canon) or 1.5 (other providers). Nikon calls its similarly sized camera sensors (23.2 mm × 15.4 mm) the DX format . The original APS-C had a format factor of 1.43.


Canon digital cameras were marketed under the designation APS-H , which had a slightly larger sensor format than APS-C, with dimensions of approximately 27.9 mm × 18.6 mm. APS-C sensors had an aspect ratio of 3: 2, whereas APS-H was specified in an aspect ratio of 16: 9. Thus there was no reference to the APS film format of the same name. The format factor was around 1.3.

Canon developed a 250 megapixel sensor in APS-H format in August 2015. This measures approx. 29.2 mm × 20.2 mm, has a resolution of 19,580 × 12,600 pixels and is initially only used in industrial applications ( machine vision ) and in measuring and monitoring devices.


APS should not be confused with the abbreviated Active Pixel Sensor , a special technology for CMOS image sensors without reference to their size.

Sources and literature

  • Foto Magazin, issues 8/1997, p. 57; 2/1998, p. 36 ff .; 8/1998, p. 56 f .; 6/1999, pp. 80 f., 178.
  • Photo Hits '98 (Buying Guide).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Canon Camera Museum EOS IX ( Memento from October 19, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  2. KODAK APS Print Film Discontinuance
  3. APS フ ィ ル ム 販 売 終了 の お 知 ら せ ( Memento from January 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  4. Christoph Jehle: 250 megapixel sensor from Canon. In: heise online. Heise Zeitschriften Verlag, September 8, 2015, accessed on January 12, 2017 .
  5. Christoph Jehle: Canon installs 250-megapixel sensor in surveillance camera. In: heise online. Heise Zeitschriften Verlag, January 12, 2017, accessed on January 12, 2017 .