Olympus Centurion - an APS film SLR

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by howardstanbury, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. Last year I wrote a short piece about the Olympus iS-3000 (http://www.photo.net/modern-film-cameras-forum/00ZfhK) and indeed others have spoken of their experiences with the iS series of 35mm cameras with their distinctive styling, impeccable handling, and great photographic results.
    In 1996, a few years after the launch of the iS series, Olympus introduced the Centurion, a diminutive addition to the iS family that used the ill-fated APS film format. (Olympus also manufactured a similar camera for Fuji, the Fotonex 4000ix SL.) The best source of information on the camera and its 35mm cousins is R Wesson's page at http://www.star.ucl.ac.uk/~rwesson/esif/om-sif/is-series/is-series.htm.

    The Centurion alongside the iS-3000

    The Centurion with an APS film cartridge for scale
    The Centurion maintains the smooth looks of its iS cousins, but does not offer the sophistication of control found in other APS SLR cameras, such as the Vectis S-1 from Minolta. The top plate dial offers an on/off control together with a flash release and the back panel has a simple user interface to configure some otherwise automated settings.

    Centurion back plate
    A simple LCD display shows setting and the camera's clock is still good 17 years later - shown here set to February 5th this year. The circular dial has four settings - full auto in the centre and from the 12 o'clock position clockwise, landscape, portrait, sports, and night programs. The display here is showing that the portrait program has been selected.
    The blue button sets the camera's flash and cycles through red-eye reduction, fill, and off. The middle black button sets the shutter delay timer (12 sec), which can also be operated by an optional remote control. The bottom black button introduces a backlit subject exposure compensation.
    At the bottom of the rear, along the edge of the panel, are the date set and display buttons. If the date or time is displayed here it will be printed on the rear of photos (if they are processed to APS specification).
    Mode is used to change the date or time display format, Set/Light will illuminate the LCD. To set the camera's internal clock hold down the Mode button until the year number flashes, use Set to adjust, Mode to confirm and move on to the next item. (I mention all this as I am yet to find a manual online and I have had to work these out with reference to other APS camera manuals. If anyone reading this does have a Centurion manual I'd be grateful for a PDF copy.)
    To the left of the eyepiece is a dioptre adjustment wheel, and to the right is the selector for print format - C (3:2), H (16:9), and P (3:1). All APS negatives are recorded in H format and C or P are achieved by cropping and (for P) enlarging. On the right of the body there is a rocker switch that controls the Wide to Telephoto zoom of the lens, from 25mm to 100mm.
    The camera uses Aperture priority exposure programs and uses a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000s. There is no indication of shutter speed or aperture in the viewfinder. The lens's maximum aperture is f/4.5-5.6. There is no override of ISO setting, which is determined automatically from the inserted film cartridge.
    Mid-roll change is not supported in this model, though it was in the later Centurion-S camera. Film rewind is achieved by pressing a recessed button on the base plate of the camera.
    Here are some sample photos taken with the camera, using outdated Kodak Advantix Ultra 200 film:
    Broad Street, Oxford
    Street entertainer, slack-rope walking, Oxford
    New Chemistry building detail, Oxford
    1938, Oxford
    Spires and stuff, Oxford
    Brasenose Lane, Oxford
    Monckton Cottage, Oxford
    I was already a big fan of the iS-3000 which I felt was a top-class performer. Despite its limitations, this little camera is an easy-to-carry and attractive alternative that delivers great results in this little-loved film format. Non-UK readers may not be aware that one of Britain's battle tanks of the post-War era was called the Centurion, a 50-ton beast of a machine. A rather ironic name then for Brits to contemplate, but one worthy of the camera's performance.
  2. Excellent photos, thank you for sharing!
    Like 110 (and yes I know there are new films being marketed) I wish APS was a format I could invest in and shoot. Nikon's Pronea S is an awesome little camera and when I had it I really liked the results, but NOT the APS storage system (canister VS negatives) and the fact that it cost way more to process.
  3. It looks like a Jetsons camera, but sure takes great photos. Nice lens. The camera needs a little antenna on it. Love that Oxford/pigeon shot, as it's nice and sharp, and not an easy composition to keep balanced.
  4. This weekend I used my Nikon Pronea S for the first time in a while. The lithium batteries it uses do not last terribly linbg and make using the system even more expensive than it already is. Years ago I missed out on buying the battery holder which took AAs. Late last year I did a little looking online and found a charger and two batteries. This was an eBay purchase from a seller in China so it took a while for the small package to get here. I used a 25 exposure roll (not finished yet) of Fuji Nexia A200 with an expiration date of 06/2013 which I got at Unique Photo. All of the shots were with flash and with the excellent 20-60 ix Nikkor. What I miss most about the APS system is fresh 800 speed film. A friend brought back a batch from Japan a few years ago and that was the last of it. My Nikon APS collection also includes a 6i, 24-70, silver and black 30-60 and 60-180/4-5.6. The ix Nikors are all good, with the 20-60 being my favorite. The lenses are all slow and this is why I liked having the 800 speed film. I have used AI or AI adapted lenses so that's an option. I find the 6i a little complicated to use and it must have a bug somewhere which drains the batteries when it's turned off. At some point I will try it with the rechargeable batteries. My other APS camera is a Minolta Vectis S-1. I have the standard (28-56?) and a 50 macro for it. Manual adjustments with the S-1 are not as easy to make as with the Pronea S. What modern digital compact cameras have which is useful is the ability to adjust ISO, continuing improvements in high ISO quality and image stabilization. The compact digital cameras often have slow lenses too and it's funny to see a small MILC with a large 50/1.4 or 85/1.8. I hope to be able to enjoy using my APS equipment for a while longer as long as I can get film. The equipment cost very little and is quite capable in the right circumstances.
  5. Nice presentation and great shots, ita a long time since I was in Oxford, I must get back there at some point.
    Its incredible how much research and development went into the APS system, resulting in high tech and very capable machines like the Centurion and its contemporaries. I well remember cursing in camera stores in the 1990's, while I waited for the assistant to explain to a customer at great length, why he just couldn't go on living without the wonders of the new system, multiple print formats, picture enhancement, whatever. It's ironic that it was plain old 35mm, with easy to operate automatic point and shoot cameras as well as AF SLR's which defeated APS, as I recall that the new wonder system was in decline well before digital swept all before it. Perhaps people saw through the film company's ruse, which they tried so many times before with 126, 110 and finally disc, of reducing the film size whilst at the same time increasing development and printing charges.
  6. Nice photos, and when i saw the Centurion name, I chuckled, thinking of a scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian.
  7. Very nice photos. There were some very nice APS SLR's - I have a Minolta Vectis S100. Unfortunately nobody seems to be making new film in this format. Although 110 has made a come back, and perhaps 126 will, I doubt if anyone will revive APS, but it would be nice to be wrong!
  8. Thanks, all, for your kind comments and observations.
    Patrick, Les - I think there were a lot of mistakes made with the APS system and the cost of processing was a factor. I can remember when I had a Vectis point-and-shoot that I would try to constrain the number of -H and -P format pictures because of the premium these larger prints would attract in the total processing bill. Today, mail order suppliers do 25 pictures for one price regardless of format and that price is just 50p more than ordering 24 prints from a 35mm film and develop and scan to CD is the same price.
    Jeff - it would be interesting to see a little presentation here on the Pronea. I have the Vectis S-1 and S-100 and plan to do something on at least the S-1 soon.
    John - let me know if you plan to visit Oxford! I do wonder how the costs of APS R&D compared with those of digital ... but there was once a telling remark by a senior manager at Minolta USA, 'It was Vectis that wrecked us!'.
    Mark - wonderful association - here you are - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJMRxbECzow
  9. The APS ILCs from Nikon, Canon and Minolta were capable of extraordinarily nice results. They proved to be a dead end but in some sense opened the door for M4/3s. The stainless-clad Canon EOS IX was a great piece of industrial design.
  10. Also a problem is processing. I haven't shot APS in over 10 years so I don't know how many nearby labs will process. But the above scans indicate quality developing and scanning. I think if this had been available during the peak of APS the format might have lasted a bit longer.
  11. Late to the show, but interesting photos and camera.
  12. Howard, these are phenomenal shots on APS film; I love that Broad Street shot, but the whole set makes for very nice photography. The processing work is beautiful.
    I have a bunch of APS SLRs, as they were practically being given away at the recent camera shows I have been (including lenses), but my go to-s so far have been the Minolta Vectis S-1, Canon EOS IX and the Nikon Pronea. My only issue is that processing is becoming scarce, even in a diverse place like NYC, but I will keep shooting until I can no longer find film or a way to process it.
  13. Riis Beach and Dunes, only 3 weeks later the beach was totally annihilated by Hurricane Sandy. One can no longer get there as it has been closed by authorities.

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