Nikon Pronea 600i APS SLR Camera (1996)
The Nikon Pronea 600i is an APS (Advanced Photo System) SLR camera. The APS film format was introduced by Canon, Kodak, Nikon, Fujifilm and Minolta (and others) in 1996 as an advancement over 135 (35mm) film. The film cartridge automatically winds and rewinds, and in some cameras, such as the Pronea 600i, mid-film exchange is possible – something that would be difficult with 35mm film. Another improvement was data imprinting on the film – date, time, captions and exposure information could be recorded on a magnetic layer on the film and then printed on the back of photos during processing. Not all APS camera took advantage of this feature, but the Pronea 600i has this capability.
The APS format was more popular for point and shoot cameras and never caught on with professionals or advanced hobbyists. The film size is 24mm, which was considered too small for high quality printing. Interestingly, the Nikon DX digital sensor is about the same size as the APS film, and in fact Kodak used it for some of their digital cameras – the DCS series in 1998. The APS-C digital sensor, used by Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Sony for their entry to mid-level DSLR cameras is based on the APS format size.
The film was more expensive to get developed than 135, and specialized equipment was needed – most smaller labs did not want to invest in it. There were also very limited types of APS film available compared to 135. In 2010, APS film is still available but tends to more expensive than 135, and some labs cannot process it. For an interesting history lesson on APS and the reasons that it was introduced and did not get widely accepted, check out this article. When digital cameras hit the market, the APS cameras became obsolete.
The Pronea 600i has specifications similar to the Nikon F70. It is an excellent full-featured SLR that originally retailed for over $800. Now, you can pick them up for about $50! One of the cool things about this camera is its compatibility with Nikon lenses. It works with the 35 mm and DSLR lenses as well as specially developed lighter weight IX-Nikkor lenses (however the IX-lenses only work on the APS cameras).
This is an interesting camera from a photographic history perspective, and is also a a great camera. The APS format is its major drawback as a practical camera for anyone who wants to shoot film. The film is getting harder to find and may eventually be discontinued, unlike 135 film, which will probably be around for a long time.