more than one way …

Ivan the Terrible – click him to see the LIFE 1965 ad for the Agfa Rapid 35mm film system

Toronto. … to skin a cat, as the old saying goes. Film was no different. Kodak touted its 126 film size (35mm sans traditional sprocket holes and paper backed) Kodapak for its instamatic cameras eliminating the “klutzy” confusion of loading and rewinding a seldom used film camera.

A short time later, Agfa came along with their version of auto-loading 35mm film using a battery. The traditional camera film plate was used to flatten the film instead of the less precise Kodapak. Their Rapid system used a simple technique – the film tongue was slightly concave, not the long skinny lop-sided 35mm film leader in use for decades as an homage to the then old screw mount Leicas.

The old Leicas loaded through their base plate and a weird cam inside the base plate opened the brass film cassette Leitz sold so the film was free of any risk of scratches (retail cassettes with spools and a felt light trap could also be used).

The Rapid system eschewed the spool. The unexposed film slipped frame by frame into an empty Rapid cassette making rewinding unnecessary. Sadly, the Rapid system was overwhelmed in the market place by the instamatic Kodapak and disappeared in the early 1970s. Ironically the odd-ball APS system produced by a consortium of camera makers near the end of the days of film attempted to modernize information capture closer to the EXIF data of today and usurp the traditional 35mm system in amateur cameras, but it was just too little, too late.

My thanks to George Dunbar for reminding me of this bit of photographic history. The ad you see, when you click Ivan, originally appeared in the August 27, 1965 issue of LIFE on page 16.

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