Blunders of the Photographic Industry

Seeing the mistakes of the disc camera, plans were made to introduce a new format. The original idea was to combine the convenience of cartridge loading and the quality of 35mm. This time, the entire photographic industry was involved in creating the standard. Perhaps this is where it went wrong. A case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Great new features were promised. The choice of multiple formats in one camera and being able to switch a roll of film mid-roll for another film with a different speed and then return, sounded like a dream come true. These are things a true enthusiast would have use for.

While the original plan sounded like they were planning for 35mm size negative, and in fact, APS is the same width as 35mm, the final formats chosen were closer to 110 in negative size. Had the APS formats decided on, been larger and been able to match 35mm in quality, I think things would have been much different. As it was, APS, like the disc camera before, was competing with the 110 camera. With an image size nearly the same as the 110 no advanced amateur to be satisfied with the quality. While APS allowed a slightly smaller camera, APS cameras were still nearly as large as a 35mm point-and-shoot. All the great features we had been promised, were the type of things and advanced amateur would have use for. Cameras with those features were comparable in price to quality 35mm cameras, which had a better image quality. Also the difficulty in working with the APS cartridge required film labs to install special equipment to handle it. Many labs decided that it wasn’t worth the cost. That meant people who bought APS cameras had a hard time getting their film processed.

First of all, there’s no such thing as self adjusting film. There was a groan from the audience at the trade show I was at, when the Kodak representative introduced this film as self adjusting. This 800 ISO film, like other high-speed films, has a wide latitude. This means that it can withstand under and over exposure better than many slower films. This is a trait that many high-speed films have. However, the film does not self adjust to low light levels or bright light levels. That is something handled by the camera. Perhaps it was Kodak’s attempt to counter Polaroid’s One Film.

Well under some circumstances an 800 ISO film does have some advantages, under others it is a terrible choice. 800 ISO film will expand the flash range, and it will increase shutter speed enabling sharper pictures. This will also allow for smaller apertures and more depth of field which will mean more of the picture will be in focus. But under bright conditions many cameras simply cannot adjust to keep the picture within exposure range. Pictures taken in bright snow or at the beach simply overexpose leading to extremely dark negatives. This goes beyond the latitude of the film and makes negatives that are difficult if not impossible to get a good print from. Also, high-speed films, including this 800 ISO film are also far grainier than low-speed films. I can’t think of a worse film to use for taking close-up picture of a newborn baby. Yet, it has been the unfortunate choice of many a proud father.

Not that digital photography is a blunder. There is no doubt that digital photography is the future of photography. In fact, I feel that you are unwise to purchase a film camera at this point for almost any purpose. The blunder came in claiming digital cameras had film quality long before they really did.

The first digital cameras were of extremely low resolution, and still the manufacturers claimed they were photo-quality. Unfortunately, what looks nice on a computer screen sometimes looks terrible in a print. Early consumer digital point-and-shoot cameras took pictures that were really no better than the disc camera. Even now, many digital cameras available have no better resolution than the APS camera. Also, early digital cameras had a sluggish response, which frustrated those who bought them. Many people who spent large amounts of money on early digital cameras were so dissatisfied, that they have yet to replace those digital cameras with newer, higher quality than models, and it kept using their film cameras.