Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Jun 4, 2013.
Surely the ultimate "bridge" camera, ultimately a bridge too far. The Kodak Advantix Preview.
In 2000, Popular Science Magazine awarded the Advantix Preview it's "Best of What's New 2000" in the photographic category, and the reviewers in general heralded the concept as a great step forward. The camera had all the bells and whistles of a typical high-end Advanced Photo System camera, such as the ability to permit mid-roll film changes (MRC), date/time imprinting (along with a range of snazzy pre-loaded captions such as "Congratulations", "I Love You", etc... ) , a choice of three print formats, magnetic information exchange between film and printer transferring exposure data and the quantity of prints required, (PQix), AF, AE and a flip-up flash. What it added to the list of features was a LCD screen on the rear of the camera which displayed the photograph that had just been taken. Only this one image could be displayed, and there was no ability to "save" the image in a digital format, but it gave the user the opportunity of deleting the frame from the "print" list and taking another if it was deemed unsatisfactory, and of ordering print quantities or captioning. "Preview" suggests that the user could somehow see the image before committing it to film, but I guess the term related to this ability to see the image before committing it to print.
I guess it seemed a great idea in a time when no-one foresaw the rapid invasion of digital technology. A one reviewer observed, it provided an alternative to "the fancy, expensive and complicated digital cameras", many of which didn't stay that way for long. A few short years later APS and the Kodak Advantix Preview were pretty much history.
The camera itself is nicely constructed and finished, with a 2.6x zoom lens. I came across this copy rather by accident and bought it out of curiosity; I seem to recall our Andy Collins had one though I couldn't remember it being featured on this Forum. I'd not see one before and was only vaguely aware of the concepts involved. The Advantix Preview performs adequately, though the lens is not in the same class as the little Fujifilm Fotonex I recently featured in a post. The preview screen has a light/dark brightness adjustment and is not very viewable in bright light, but I guess it's enough to give a user with good eyesight some indication of what happened when the shutter was fired, though I think I'd have difficulty in picking out small details like a subject in a group with his eyes closed. There is the usual set of set of three "distance" icons, one of which lights up to show the user just where the camera chose to focus, but I don't see this as a very helpful feature...
I put a Fuji Nexia through the camera, but I was never really at home with the rather lumpy configuration, and nothing of great artist merit resulted from the experiment, especially since the viewfinder is hard to fathom with a variety of format-masks in various shades of grey. I post a few samples. However, the Advantix Preview is certainly a landmark camera that, despite it's short life, deserves a place in history.
Thanks, Rick. What an odd camera - so near yet so far! I have seen that pre-recorded message feature on another APS
camera, but I can't remember the model. Did you try it out? That VW would have been fun with "I love you" stamped on it.
However, I'd be surprised if the feature is supported anymore by photo processors.
I suspect that the printing of titles, like the magnetic instructions, was never implemented by most processors, who simply ran the film through tanks like everything else. Aside from instant loading and the ability to remove film partway through and substitute a different one, which people rarely did and for which options were severely limited, APS offered nothing much except for reduced negative size on more expensive film.
I have, and briefly used, a Canon Elph APS camera, a 360, I think it was. Beautifully made. nicely put together, fine to use, an elegant way to get mediocre snapshots that few could develop.
Kodak always reminds be a bit of GM in about 1960, when engineers designed really interesting groundbreaking cars that the bean counters turned into unreliable deathtraps.
Good write-up, Rick. Like most of the APS breed, I'd never heard of this one. Any idea of how that 'Preview' feature worked? Sounds to me like they had a tiny digital sensor behind the mirror, recording the scene just prior to the mirror raising.
When I worked in the camera department of a store these were often being put on special displays during busy weekends. Perhaps the nature of the store I worked in made the buyers a little less than the prosumer. They used to sell well. I think your images prove just how capable they were or still are if film can be found.
It reminds me of the half frame games. The Olympus Pen was a nice little camera, but it wasn't long before other "full
frame" cameras were available with the same basic size and shape (OM-1 wasn't much bigger). It just wasn't worth the
significantly smaller negative to get a tiny decrease in size. Likewise, the APS cameras weren't that much smaller than
their 35mm equivalents and there were some substantial disadvantages (slides, special equipment to scan, and so on).
This was a TERRIBLE idea from my standpoint. The new Coke of the camera world.
Looks like a very capable shooter. I remember that when this camera hit the market some critics complained that if it had a sensor and could form an image why couldn't it be saved? I'm guessing at that stage of the digital game that the resolution would have been too low to get a high quality image. Great shots, btw.
Excellent article Rick. The lens is a little weak, yes? Strange how the one shot w/ the Bug worked so well. Perhaps that's it's sweet spot in terms of distance.
I remember this camera. In fact, I very briefly considered buying one, but I couldn't talk myself into it: my mother, along with so many other folks, had bought her first digicam, a Sony, a couple of years previously and the handwriting was already on the wall. Thanks for the writeup, Rick...a bridge to nowhere, indeed.
Thanks for the comments! Definitely an oddball, but it was a limb on the tree of photography, even if it never bore much fruit. Fred, I have no idea just how the camera works, as one can't access the internal structure and there's nothing I've discovered on the net to enlighten me. There's no sound of movement from the camera when the shutter is triggered, setting me thinking about semi-translucent mirror systems such as some of the earlier 35mm SLR's used. If someone out there knows, please post a response. Steve, the film was rather inconsistent from frame to frame regarding both exposure and sharpness, so goodness know just what was going on. No, Howard, I didn't like to push my luck with the captions, as I wasn't wanting prints but only scans from the negatives. Thanks, James, email received.
Here's a video of a teardown:
At 29:17, you can see how Kodak used a half-silvered mirror in the viewfinder, which sent the viewfinder image to the adjacent digital sensor, leaving the image path to the film unobstructed. The system of prisms, mirrors and lenses in the viewfinder is quite involved.
Ah, thank you, Donnie. At least I was on the right track with the half-silvered mirror...It explains the size and somewhat dubious optical quality of the viewfinder. Ingenious, for all that.
What a delicious little camera and a treasure. It's the 1954 De Soto of cameras, an awkward beast. There was a De Soto that you could buy in pink with matching luggage and umbrella that the company just knew women would flock to the dealership to buy. Not. The wimmin wanted a good, reliable car and didn't think ya had to put lipstick on a pig. I think you can say this thing is over-engineered for what Kodak thought the public wanted. But I love it and will keep my eye out for one. A film digital or a digital film camera. You made my day with this post.
Great write-up Rick and yes, I do indeed have one! I think it's a very cool idea, a film camera that lets you see what you took. In the early days of mass-market digital, I thought that perhaps more manufacturers would make a 'hybrid' like this, but they were smarter than I am apparently and went the pure digital route. Your pictures look great, especially the shot of "Mr. Martin's Door" and "Clutter"...I really like that shot. I just happened to take my Preview off of the shelf last night but put it back; I don't know if our one film processor in our area can do APS film which is a shame because I'd like to shoot this camera and my little Canon Elph and see what I can with them. Thanks for doing a very nice write-up on this camera and showing what it can do. Superb!
Thanks, Wayne, great response; "lipstick on a pig" sums up the situation very well. Glad you enjoyed the post, Andy, and I don't know how many processing sources still exist for APS film, though I just had the film developed and scanned, without all the tricky printing.
It's obviously a very fine camera, since you get such beautiful pictures with it
I found one of these on eBay for $5 (no other bidders). I put in new batteries and a roll of Fuji 200. It should be interesting to see what I get. I'm sure the Pronea S with the 20-60 ix Nikkor will remain my favorite APS camera but I expect good results from the Kodak too.
Please post a few samples when you've finished the film, Jeff. It will be interesting to see what emerges. I seem to recall I splashed out and spent about the same money...
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