The cost of shooting film.

So you want to shoot film too? Hooray! Good choice but it feels like a lot to buy. You are wondering how much shooting film will cost compared to digital? You are not sure what to take into consideration, the real price of bits and pieces etc ? Well this post's for you.

You can now get this baby for $300.

Well I've been spending plenty of my money on it so I now have a clear idea of how much shooting film costs (donation gratefully accepted). I will compare it to a digital SLR type of budget. Here it is:
  1. The camera body: 
    • DSLR, from $800 to $30 000 for the best (D7000 is at $1200, Nikon D3X& Leica M9 at $7000 for the best 35mm digital camera, and $30k for medium format digital). 
    • A great film 35mm will go from $100 (Nikon FE) to $300 (Nikon F5 = a film D3X) used, and up to $1000 for a used Leica M6. A top of the range, digital killer medium format film camera like a Pentax 67II, a Mamiya 7 or RZ, will cost you from $500 to $1000 used (you can still spend $5K on those babies brand new if you have too much money)
    • YOU SAVE FROM $700 TO $29 000
  2. The lenses:
    • If you have a DSLR from a brand that used to do cameras, no extra cost, find a good film camera from the same brand. I hope for you it's a Nikon DSLR...lot of cheap and great film cameras out there ! (check Adorama, B&H)
    • If you start from scratch, you will look at normal DSLR prices for 35mm lenses, high prices for rangefinder lenses (Contax G2 and Leica are your 2 best choices, lenses can cost from $500 to $2000), and here comes the great stuff: ridiculously LOW prices for medium format cameras. Ok it sounds too nice to be true but a 110mm 2.8 for a mamiya RZ costs $300 used....I mean this beast outperforms any fancy Nikon, Canon, Leica 35mm lenses. Get it with a medium format camera, and you have the best performing system possible for $1000 all included, minus of course the convenience of digital.
  3. Buying film:
    • From $3 to $8 a roll (depending on color, ISO, format: check this link for details on formats)
  4. Developing film:
    • Negatives only will cost you about the same price as the film, it's a bit cheaper in medium format since you got less pictures (about $5 in average per roll)
    • Getting prints to will be more expensive, 36 5x7' images can cost you $12. But if you shoot film, you want to scan negatives instead, not get it printed, so you need...
  5. ...a film scanner:
    • You have dedicated film scanner (machines meant to scan negatives only, not flatbed scanning, the normal ones). There use to be great ones at prohibitive prices, but with no ones buying them they are not produced anymore, so most actual ones are used or 35mm only. Prices vary a lot, a couple of hundreds is quite a maximum price. 
    • You can use a flatbed scanner built for photography. Most people use the Epson ones, or Canons. I would recommend the Epson V700: it performs great, as good as the V750. It's a bit pricey ($450) but you can compensate with the low cost of the photographic gear.
I'll be totally honest: I don't develop myself, I have no time and room for that. But the equipement to do it all, dev. + paper etc is about just as much as the camera + the scanner... get it done. 
The loss of control from not developing yourself, you can get it back when scanning the negs so to be honest, you can do without it for a start.

So let's summarize: 

A DSLR + lens + memory cards= from $1500 to $3000 

A great film camera + lens + scanner = from $350 to $1500 (from great 35mm to top level medium format)

You save from $1150 to $1500, which allows you to buy and develop... about 150 rolls of film :)

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