Understanding APS film

Understanding APS film

APS (love it or hate it) is a film type that's no longer in production but still frequently ends up coming to us at the lab. Understandably for something discontinued over a decade ago, a lot of people aren't sure what it is or what they should be ordering when they send it to us. We've created this guide to APS film so that you know what to look out for and what to ask for when you send it to the Lab.


What is APS film?

 APS was a cartridge film type developed in the 90s. It was believed that it's compact size and ease of use would make it perfect for beginners and casual film photographers. However, with the rise of digital photography and the higher costs involved with getting APS developed, it was eventually discontinued in 2011. 

It's different from standard 35mm film as it is completely encased by the cartridge at all times (including after it has been developed and scanned).  Due to a magnetic coating on the film, information (such as camera settings) are also able to be recorded, as well as the image itself. The film is also smaller than 35mm and so it's not able to pick up as much detail.


What do the numbers mean on the bottom of APS film?

If you turn a roll of APS upside down you will see the numbers 1 to 4. But what do they mean?

 1. Full circle - If you see a white dot next to number one this means that the roll hasn't been used yet.

2. Half circle - If the number two is white, this means that the roll has been partially used. One of the selling points of APS film was that you didn't have to use the full roll all at once. It allowed you to take your film out, reload it at a later date and start shooting from where you left off.

3. Cross - If this is highlighted by the white dot, this means that the roll has been used and needs developing.

4. Rectangle - This means that the film has been developed and the film inside the cartridge is ready to be scanned. 

Can APS still be developed?

We're able to develop APS film for you however, to develop this type of film we have to take it out of the cartridge. This means that when you receive your film back, it will be sent to you as negative and won't be stored inside the cartridge.

Can you scan APS film?

Yes! We scan APS most weeks. They're sometimes the most interesting rolls to scan, as they are often full of forgotten memories from the early 90s. If you find a used roll, we would always say it's worth getting scanned to see what's on it!

What should I order when I send APS to the Lab?

This depends on which number your roll is on. If your roll is on number 2 or 3, you will need to choose our develop and scan option. You will see an  APS option on the film type drop down.  If it is on number 4, then you can choose from our 'Scans from negatives' option.

Can I still buy APS film?

The production of APS film was completely discontinued in 2011.Many people believe that the film type was a casualty of the digital photography era. With digital cameras becoming less expensive and able to produce higher quality images, it opened them up to the masses and made APS film seem like a much less appealing option.

Although you can no longer get your hands on a new roll of APS, we frequently see rolls of  APS being sent in to the lab. Old stock can be bought via sites like Ebay or often people get their hands on forgotten rolls that have been found laying around in a cupboard.