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Is Film Photography Expensive? Everything You Need To Know



Film photography has experienced a huge cyclical resurgence in the last few years, loved by experienced photographers and those who are just learning about the process.


However, one of the frequently asked questions by those new to this medium is, "Is film photography expensive?".


Of course, the simple answer is, yes, it's expensive in comparison to digital photography which is free once you have the handset or camera.


But, if you're considering taking film photography up as a new hobby, we share all the costs associated with film photography to provide a clearer understanding of what one might expect to spend.


Is Film Photography Expensive? Everything You Need To Know


Initial Investment: Cameras and Equipment


The first step in delving into film photography is acquiring a camera. Vintage film cameras can be surprisingly affordable, especially when compared to high-end digital cameras.


Charity shops, online marketplaces, and specialised camera shops offer a plethora of options ranging from basic point-and-shoot to several hundred pounds for a well-preserved SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera or a coveted rangefinder. Additionally, film cameras often don't require batteries (except for light metres in some models), reducing the need for ongoing expenses on power.


Disposable cameras generally offer the cheapest way to acquire a film camera (starting at around £16), but of course, they can only be used once so not something that will be worthwhile in the long term. But if you're just curious about film photography and want to dip your toes into the world, this is the most cost effective way to do it.





The Ongoing Cost: Film and Development


The most consistent costs you'll encounter in film photography are buying film rolls and getting them developed.


The price of film varies widely depending on the type (e.g., 35mm, 120 medium format), brand, and the number of exposures.


On average, a roll of 35mm film can cost between £9.50 to £20. Medium format film tends to be pricier, reflecting in the overall cost.


Developing film is another cost that adds up over time. Local labs, mail-in services, or even at-home development kits are available options.


Developing colour film (C-41 process) with Film Processing starts at £4 a roll, not including scans to digital or prints. Digital scans cost an extra £4 for medium quality, increasing to £8 for a high quality dropbox link.


Black and white film is slightly more expensive to develop, starting at £7, not including digital files or prints. However, of course it can be cheaper, especially if you choose to do it yourself, which also requires an initial investment in chemicals and equipment and it's a specialist skill to nail!


A Real World Example


But you might be wanting to know what one single run of film and images will set you back, so we've done the math!


We're going to invest in an entry level film camera that we can just point and shoot, use a standard 35mm film and choose just to get digital files back, as we just love to share our shots on social!


Kodak M38 35mm Reusable Film Camera - £32.00

Kodak Gold 200 24exp 35mm Film - £9.50

Postage to send the film back - From £3.19 (could be more or less depending on service you choose)

Colour (C41) Processing - £5.00 (up to 39 exposure (shots)

Medium quality dropbox files - £6.00


Total = £55.69


Then, if you were to develop the same film again now you've initially invested in the camera, you would be looking at £23.69 as a minimum for your next film roll, and getting it developed.


This is a hypothetical situation, but could cost less or more depending on the type of film you choose and the processing deliverables.



DIY Development: Cutting Costs


For enthusiasts looking to cut down on the cost of film development, DIY development is a possible option.


The startup cost for the necessary equipment and chemicals needed to develop film at home can range in costs, depending on the sophistication of the equipment.


However, this can be a cost-effective solution in the long run, especially for those who shoot frequently. The process of developing film at home is not only rewarding but also allows for greater control over the final image. This is a skill that is mastered over time though!


While film photography can be expensive, with careful planning and some upfront investment, the costs can be manageable, especially for those who shoot occasionally.


The decision to pursue film photography should also consider the intangible benefits it offers: the hands-on experience, the excitement of waiting for developed photos, and the unique aesthetic of film. For many, these aspects justify the expenses, making film photography not just a hobby but a passion worth every penny.

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