What About Cost

Now you’re probably asking isn’t it expensive to shoot film? My answer is, it depends.

The cost of shooting depends on several factors, price of the equipment you get, price of film, and price of developing and printing or scanning. It is very possible to get a camera, shoot 52 24 exposure rolls of film in a year (that’s 1248 shots in a year), and develop and scan/print for less than a full frame DSLR, mirrorless or compact digital camera. That of course depends on how much you shoot. if you’re going to fire off a couple of thousand shots in a month then digital is cheaper, but if you’re the casual shooter you could pay less in 2 to 4 years that the equivalent full frame digital camera.

Here’s a quick breakdown for comparison:

Starting with an consumer SLR, a Minolta XG1, with two lenses, vs a professional SLR with a lens, the Canon EOS 1V, vs. a “prosumer” DSLR with 1 lens, a Nikon D610, and two professional DSLRs, a Nikon D810 with a lens, and Canon 5D Mk III with a lens, vs. a mirrorless camera, Sony A7 II with a lens. All prices are in Canadian dollars, Source for the DSLRs and mirrorless cameras was Henrys.com and the film cameras was Ebay.

So first I will start with the price of film and developing (with printing or scanning) based on prices that I pay. First Walmart Canada sells 24 exposure Kodak UltraMax 400 in three packs for $14.95, they also sell Kodak Gold 200 in three packs but for these comparisons I’ll use the UltraMax. I get my film developed at Foto Art in Owen Sound Ontario Canada. Currently they will develop and print or scan a 24 exposures for around $13.00. For ease of math I will base the prices on someone shooting 54 rolls for the year. Film cost for the year is $304.08 and developing is $702.00, making a total of 1006.08 for 1 year. For two years of shooting the film costs run around $2012.16, four years is around $4024.32. These prices include taxes appropriate for Ontario.

Next we have the camera prices, these prices don’t include taxes and the Ebay prices only include shipping, not any extra duties or taxes.

Film Camera Price Digital Camera Price
Minolta XG1+45mm & 28-85mm
Camera+Film costs 1 year
Camera+Film costs 2 years
Camera+Film costs 4 years
$176.29
$1182.37
$2188.45
$4200.61
Nikon D610+50mm f/1.4 $2129.91
Canon EOS 1V+24-105mm
Camera+Film costs 1 year
Camera+Film costs 2 years
Camera+Film costs 4 years
$579.84
$1585.92
$2592.00
$4604.16
Nikon D810+24-120mm $4199.99
Sony A7R II+28-70mm $2099.99

Next, if you want the quality of full frame but in a compact package, you’ll want a compact camera. For this I’ll put the Contax T2 up against the Sony RX19 II as they are similar.

Film Camera Price Digital Camera Price
Contax T2
Camera+Film costs 1 year
Camera+Film costs 2 years
Camera+Film costs 4 years
$458.55
$1464.63
$2470.71
$4482.87
Sony RX19 II $4199.99

In conclusion, while the total cost of camera and film and processing can exceed the cost of a digital camera within 2+ years it must be remembered that that cost is spread out over time where the digital camera has to be paid out in one lump sum. Also remember that with digital the manufacturers keep coming out with newer cameras with better image quality, often every year, while you can be sure with any film camera that the quality will be pretty much consistent depending on which film you use. Digital cameras often don’t have a long life expectancy, especially the entry level DSLRs. The main advantage for getting a film camera is that the cost of ownership is spread out in manageable chunks instead of a single amount.

As well, you can often find excellent film cameras for a lot less than what I quoted above. I had seen a Yashica SLR with 3 lenses at a yard sale for $35.00 but at the time didn’t have the money. The film cost can also be less if you don’t shoot a lot of rolls in a year. You also may be able to find a better price for film or developing. Walmart Canada used to develop and scan or print film for $5.00, they no longer do film.

If you really want the advantages and quality of “full frame” but can’t afford the initial outlay for a full frame camera, you can’t go wrong with a decent film camera.

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