Rapid film

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Agfa's Rapid film system appeared in 1964 as a rival to Kodak's 126 film. The Rapid system supplied otherwise-standard 35mm film in special metal cassettes, which have no central spindle and are shorter in height than standard 135 cassettes. An identical, empty cassette is used in the camera's take-up compartment.

Compared to standard 35mm film, the Rapid system was easier to load, since the film did not have to be threaded onto a take-up spool. The new full cassette is simply placed in one side of the film chamber with a leader protruding, pre-cut in a bluntly rounded shape. The camera automatically guides this leader into the velvet light-trap of the takeup cassette; and after shooting a blank frame or two the camera is ready to make its first exposure. The film does not need to be rewound. At the end of the roll, the now-empty cassette is moved to the other side and used as the take-up cassette for the next roll.

Whereas the Rapid system used a standard film pressure plate, 126 relied on the close tolerances of its cartridge to hold the film flat, a less reliable system. Nonetheless, the runaway success of Kodak's Instamatic series eventually pushed the Rapid system off the market (even Agfa began selling 126-film cameras).

The Rapid film system was actually not new, but rather a modification of Agfa's Karat film cartridge system of the mid-1930s. The Rapid system had the added capability of setting the camera's exposure-metering mechanism (if any) to the proper film speed automatically, as did the 126 cartridge. A silver metal plate affixed to the side of the Rapid cassette has a central tab, whose length increases with higher film speed. This tab has no function when a finished, empty cassette is swapped over to a camera's take-up compartment (instead, the emulsion type of an exposed roll is indicated by punched markings in the tail of the film). The cartridges were also letter coded for the film speed (A=25, B=25, E = 64, G=100, H=125, J=200, N=400).

A similar system to the Rapid cartridge was made in East Germany, called SL System.


Rapid film cameras

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