Whatever it is. An APS negative is 56% the area of a 35mm negative IF those players in the photographic business are selling the films and the retail labs charge the processing fees 44% cheaper than what we are paying for the 35mm services now, that will be convincing enough. But the fact is - it is NOT 44% cheaper but it can be 44% higher ! (look at what those labs are charging our 120 formats, they'll tell you the format is bigger, thus it is more expensive!) * Click here for a brief workout on the break down cost per print versus the conventional 35mm.

I still cannot pick anything wrong with 35mm now except it is made too bulky lately with AF (Strange, a fine, rugged professional model like the Pentax LX in the eighties can be made so compact in size, even though it is a half mechanical camera. But I thought playing around with IC chips and circuitry can made things more compact..Err.. I think all the camera manufacturers should recruit some industrial designers from Sony or Aiwa to give them a lesson of how to make things more compact without sacrificing, features, ruggedness and reliability). But those film manufacturers kept on "Bermati-mati" ("die hard" in English) selling & introducing new medium to the retail labs (to buy their hardware especially) and the consumers (entry users, especially) to broaden their respective income base.

Many of those seasoned users may notice, for example Kodak express provides service like converting your negative or print into digital format. Do you know how much they spent in buying those hardware ? A hundred and fifty thousand or so with a scanner, a 15" monitor and a processor. (That looked very much the same with things around my working desktop). I am working on my RM6,500 Macintosh, a RM1,100-00 Umax flatbed scanner and a RM1,500-00 slide/negative scanner with 2700 pixels output. Oh, I have a CD toaster and a blank 650MB Kodak CD costs RM18-00, Errr....

We notice most retail outlets lack the appropriate product info & knowledge where APS is concerned. The few shops that I came across just trying to push the cameras without giving the customers clear indication - NOT all labs and photo finishers in town have the capabilities to process APS based films. To them, the selling point is the "ADVANCE" wording ahead of APS, next is - the camera is really cute is small and the third is "you can mount different lenses on it", lastly they will show the panoramic sample shot and say, this feature is built in, not know they are shots or pictures cropped again from the already reduced APS size from 35mm at the top and bottom and present you a panoramic picture!

I thought Kodak can be more innovative in presenting a better way to convince me.

We have seen these happened before, Kodak tried it in the 1970s with 110 cartridges. Image quality sucked so consumers rejected it and Kodak tried it. Remember the disc camera by Kodak and Fuji in the 1980s ? Their second brave attempts.

This time around, they know without the helping hands from the respective camera manufacturers, chances of failure could be high again, thus, by ganging up with the rest, they come in "BIG BANG" (as Minolta's Vertis line called it).

First of all : WHY ?

Films makers:

Firstly, film makers has long been dominating the market since the silver halide based film products have been accepting by the market as a standard medium in photography for almost a century. The emergence of the digital photography is a big BIG threat to them - digital means you don't need films anymore (not even a scanner)! And when the you go digital, theoretically, you can store your data with, apart from visual images but with video clips storage too (In short - multimedia cameras! ). The traditional market giants like the Kodak, Fuji, Agfa & the rest, though has been quite active in the earlier development of digital photography, but NONE to date, has the dominating role, particularly in area like storage devices. Most digital cameras now utilize PCM cards (like those you'd use for your notebook computer). Let's say, in term of storage medium in the IT industry, how many people of notebook users are using Kodak or Fuji branded PCM cards ? They have never been the industry leader in this field.

The worst part is, digital photography might have no barrier for entries - so it might get in unnecessary competitors from nowhere, apart from the current well known photographic names, some smaller, relatively unknown players could crop up from somewhere - just like the "promised land" in the Internet business. Neither anyone of them wants to see that happen now. Even if there is a possible "threat" from an outsider, for common survival, they will combine and announcing not supporting the new medium.

Thus, I conclude until they (esp. the US based Kodak and the Japan based Fuji) have the solution to bring out an proprietary storage medium that can give them absolute leading edge, digital medium still have a long way to go...which means, we have two choices now, settle for the low resolution entry P&S digital cameras (around 115,000 pixels) or the out of the range (price) high end models (could go to 6 million pixels and cost you RM50,000-00 per model)! (The Star, signed up with Canon marketing for RM650,000-00 (US1=RM2.50, now RM3.7 after the financial turmoil) for the supply of 10 units of full featured EOS based digital SLR cameras few months back.

In summary, the business cycle for digital photography won't go in line with the advance development of the IT industry, promoting too aggressively and pushing for digital photography now is a suicide business as far as to the film manufacturers are concerned!

Secondly, I don't think those in house financial analysis may prevail the fact to the board that cost cutting is a better way than product development. That interprets into giving you less while product price stay the same. Since I can save 44% in material cost, why not launch a new medium, repackage the cosmetic, launching a big assault in marketing campaign ? Novice might not realize the fact, while the conventional medium can still hang around to please whoever who complaints. They can generate more revenue by selling you less in physical materials this way. By including some "gimmicks", cornered the consumers, while on the other hand, maintained the current lines of 35mm products and see how does the market reacts with it this time around. They may succeed because for the first time, the camera manufacturers are in the agreement pact too. Now, WHY the camera makers get involve in this game ?

Camera makers:

They need a fresh medium to broaden their income base too !
Please note nowadays, camera manufacturers are making little profit on single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, which appeal to a shrinking market of serious photographers (ask yourself, how many entry photographers swift from their P&S to SLR and how many of them bought their 1st camera with a
F90 or a Canon EOS A2e?).

They are pooling all their research and development effort in the P&S area. A Nikon F5, which took Nikon 8 years to develop, and every year they can bring out with 4 - 5 models of P&S (that's why we called P&S as "Bread & Butter" models). That applies to Canon, Minolta, Pentax and the rest.. Now is the APS era, Minolta may require you to invest into APS from scratch (your SLR lenses is not compatible with the Vertis mount), Nikkor AF lenses can be used on the Pronea 6i, while lenses dedicated for APS can't use on the Nikon's SLRs (slight bonus) the Canon....by now you should figure out - what is APS.

Personally, as for photographers like us, there's nothing we can do about it - those are "upstream" movement and decision. That's why I said earlier APS is a interim camera of compromise. Well, unless they are combining the future model with option to handle digital photography into the APS architecture framework, it will be very hard to convince the current 35mm SLR users. Let's look at the fact, if, assuming they can incorporating those nice little features for the APS, why can't they do it for the 35mm SLR (during the budding stage of SLR autofocus cameras, just take the F3 AF (in 1985 or 1986 ?) or the more innovative Contax now - where it provides an alternative focusing way (by not forcing their users to abundant their investment of manual focusing lenses) from the current mainstream of auto focusing system). Certainly, they can incorporate those features for 35mm SLR and yet we are not seeing their commitment and instead, they brought us the APS.

It is not impossible to think: When the APS takes off with digital camera adopts the format size, we might see a scenario where the advertisement will claimed, XYZ models has boosted the resolution to 40% higher! The PCM card storage will remain the same, only to serve 40% smaller the format compared with 35mm.

When the F5 is announced, though it is a great camera by any current standards, personally I'm disappointed in certain way where Nikon is not providing an option for a digital camera back for digital imaging (In marketing point of view, it could be a perfect marketing opportunity to place it way ahead of their biggest competitor, the Canon EOS-1n). Despite it takes them 8 long years to develop (may be Fuji asked Nikon DON"T do it - and we have the birth of FUJIX line of digital cameras), (Kodak pleased Canon users with its EOS1 based digital model before the Fujix launched) well, well, well, I can never understand the logic behind all these.

Now, after all these, who is the winner in this game ?

Kodak, Fuji, Agfa and others. Since the inception of APS films, there is little development. Also means there is minimal allocation of funding for research and development. I am sure they spent more money on advertisement than product development. Secondly, you fingers in your right hand is that all for the players in the pool, not much competitions, how nice.

Who are the sufferings in this APS game ?

Camera manufacturers and us. They have to fight for survival among them. Their attention is diverted into more P&S and defocus into the 35mm SLR area further - with the already weak attentiveness in R&D. More fragile cameras are produced with plastic molding injection manufacturing process to stay competitive for the company as a whole.

Biggest loser in the game ?

Have you bought one ?

Anyway, it's my personal view of how I feel about APS. None of them will like what I put up here, that I am quite certain of it.

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