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Before I get to the actually camera in this case, I shall briefly describe the APS (Advanced Photo System) because it is quite different to the “normal” 35mm film that we’re all familiar with.
The film itself comes in a self-contained cartridge which enables quick reloading (if necessary). In order to load (or reload) the camera, you simply drop the cartridge into the slot, and close the cover. The APS films come in 3 sizes: 25 frames or 40 frames.
The film enables three different size of pictures to be taken (classic, wide-angle or panorama), and no matter what film size you have in, you are able to take this amount of pictures (i.e. even though panorama is the largest, you can take 25 panorama shots on a 25 frame film) and it is possible to mix ‘n’ match pictures sizes on one film.
When your film is developed, your actual film cartridge comes back to you (no more negatives!), and on the sleeve of your picture folder, are thumbnails (i.e. small pictures) of all the pictures you took on that film. The folder also has a reference number which matches up to the film cartridge, meaning that if your film and folder ever get separated, you still know which belongs to which. Each picture also has the reference number printed on the back of it for easy identification.
The film cartridge also comes with an easy visual indicator to show whether the film is exposed, processed, partially exposed etc. One bad thing about APS is that, currently, the processing fees are more expensive than 35mm film. This should be taken into account when purchasing your camera – obviously if you plan on taking lots of photographs, you should consider a 35mm camera which will save you money in the long run, but for ease of use for the casual user, APS is a good investment.
On to the camera. First impressions are that it’s quite small – in fact it’s barely larger than a credit card - 85 by 55 by 35 millimetres to be exact. Setting it up for first use was a breeze thanks to the enclosed instruction manual.
The instruction manual comes in 6 languages, which makes it a lot thicker than necessary. To be fair though, the English instructions (which take up about 47 pages) are clear and concise, even to those who have never used a camera before.
So, with the date and time set, and the film and battery installed, I ventured forth with camera in one hand, instruction manual in the other, eager to try out my new toy.
With a price that brings it close to the beginners’ end of the camera market, I found the camera to be excellent. As I said above, the instruction manual explains everything clearly, even some of the more advanced aspects.
The features that the camera has are the standard ones you might expect from a normal camera these days – auto focus, red eye reduction, motorized wind and rewind (which is the norm for APS cameras). There is also time stamping (unlike 35mm cameras, APS time stamping is done on the back of the photograph), and a feature I haven’t seen on any other camera is imprinting of “titles” onto the photo. You can then name these for future reference, although you are restricted to the five default ones on the camera: “I love you”, “Thank You”, “Seasons Greetings”, “Happy Birthday” and “Congratulations”.
The flash has a number of different modes – auto, auto with red eye reduction (RER), always on and slow-synchro with RER. This last one, while quite useful, will probably not be used a lot. It’s for nighttime outdoor shots where you would want a flash for the foreground, but a slow shutter speed for the background.
All the information you need is displayed to you via an LCD on top of the camera, and this displays date, time, flash mode, current film frame number as well as battery and film status.
It’s very light – much lighter than my last 35mm camera, which admittedly is about 5 years old now, and much bigger. But if this were in your pocket, you’d hardly notice it was there. The manual says that it’s only 115g (that’s 4.1 oz) without the battery installed. The battery is a small CR2 battery and so doesn’t add that much to the carrying weight.
The camera (I bought the “photo-kit”) comes complete with a 25-frame film, battery and carrying case. In fact, everything you need to get it up and taking photos immediately.
Another thing – having just taken possession of my first set of pictures, I have to say that I don’t think the image quality is as good as 35mm cameras. Now, that’s not to say that it’s poor because it isn’t (I was perhaps over critical when studying the photos and comparing them to older shots I had taken, and this was my first time using this camera), but I feel that my old 35mm Kodak compact (RIP) would have taken slightly better pictures, although it had nowhere near the amount of features that the Canon has.
Speaking to a few photographer friends of mine, they assure me that this is to do with the APS film rather than the camera itself, and I have to say that as a casual user of cameras, the picture quality is good enough for my purposes.
One final point – the build quality of the camera. I’ve already said that the camera is small, and light. This might make you think that it’s quite fragile, but it’s not (or at least, it doesn’t feel fragile – I haven’t dropped it yet!). The few moving parts on it seem to be fairly well in place, and apart of the removability (not a real word, I know) of the battery cover (I would have preferred one with “hinges” instead of a removable trap door) everything should stay where it’s meant to stay.
All in all, a good quality camera at a price that can be afforded by all. Thoroughly recommended.