Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Nikon's weird offshoot

Although it was intended as a replacement for Disc and 110 film in little point-'n'-shoot cameras, there were some SLRs made for APS. The Pronea 600i (sold in the US as the 6i) was the higher end of the two Nikon offered. While it could use any of the company's F-mount lenses, it shipped with its own APS-specific kit zooms that were not backwards-compatible with other Nikon F-mount bodies.

The dual control wheels for adjusting settings would be familiar to Nikon shooters today, but at the time it was a feature shared only with the top-of-the-line F5. (Another trait shared with the F5 was that both bodies were used by Kodak to build out into early DSLRs.)

The busy display on the back, however, was very similar to the quirky setup on the then-current N70. To use it, one would hold down the "Mode" or "Func(tion)" button while twirling the wheel until the setting you wished to change blinked, then toggle through the available choices in that setting.  In fact, in its feature set, the Pronea 600i could be looked at almost as an APS N70, which was a pretty competent prosumer-tier camera of the time.

The little hatch on the back where you dropped the film cartridge in is simplicity itself. No leader to worry about, just insert the cartridge, click the door shut, and the camera will whir the film out to the first frame...or the first unused frame, if you'd previously used the mid-roll rewind feature.

Pro photographers stayed away in droves and derided the format due to the negatives being smaller than 35mm, but that's like deriding 35mm for not being as big as 120 rollfilm. APS was intended to be more convenient for non-photographers to deal with, like 110 and Disc before it, while being big enough for casual snapshotters to still be able to print reasonably decent 5x7 or 8x10 vacation photos. (Which, actually, was basically 35mm's market position relative to medium format.)