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Clever New Camera, Film to Bring Out the Professional in You

February 1, 1996

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ Clumsy amateur photographers, take heed: Picture-perfect snapshots are close at hand with help from a clever new camera and film.

Kodak, Fuji, Minolta, Nikon and Canon today unveiled a new line of cameras, film and photofinishing services designed to make it easier to take good pictures _ and take better care of them.

And they are banking on the Advanced Photo System, which will be rolled out April 22, to rekindle interest in consumer photography, a business whose growth has leveled off since the late 1980s.

``We believe that this is the system of the 21st century,″ said Bob Lathrop, general manager of Minolta Corp.’s consumer products group.

Herbert Keppler, publishing director for American Photo and Popular Photography magazines, said that while serious amateurs probably would stick with 35 mm models, the new system could one day dominate the point-and-shoot market. It is the biggest chunk of America’s $12 billion amateur photography business.

The cameras will range in price from around $50 to $500, Keppler said, making them about 15 percent more expensive than comparable models.

The five collaborators _ three Japanese camera makers and archrivals Fuji Photo Film Co. of Tokyo and Rochester-based Eastman Kodak Co. _ have licensed out the industry-standard technology to more than 30 photography companies, notably Japan’s Konica and Agfa, a division of Germany’s Bayer AG.

The cameras will be smaller and lighter, and they combine traditional film and digital technology.

``When you get portability and pocketability, you find that people take cameras to more places, are camera-ready when there’s a picture and therefore use more film, which is obviously good for us,″ said William Janawitz, general manager of Kodak’s Advanced Photo System business.

The film, about two-thirds the size of 35 mm but equal in picture quality, has a magnetic coating that captures data about lighting and exposure for each frame, enabling new photofinishing equipment to automatically correct photographer errors.

Several companies also will market electronic film scanners that can transfer pictures into the computer for use in documents or e-mail.

By flipping a switch found on even very basic models, pictures can be taken in three sizes _ 4-by-6 inches, 4-by-7 inches and 4-by-10 1/2 inches _ on the same roll. Some cameras allow for film to be replaced midroll.

The cameras feature a drop-in cartridge. The film, fully spooled up inside, no longer needs to be threaded onto a sprocket, thereby eliminating loading errors.

Negatives are returned in the original canister, along with an index sheet showing mini-versions of the pictures.

``They are totally new products,″ said Bill Lewis of the Photo Marketing Association, a trade association based in Jackson, Mich. ``But they’re also totally forward looking, aiming toward the upcoming digital market.″

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