What (and how much) do you need to start shooting film.

If you are already convinced you want to go analog, you can skip the first part.

Funny days. Along with the digital boom in photography as a hobby, we are seeing a limited number of individuals realizing that film is in many aspects the way to go. However they don't take the step because it simply feels like too much to learn, too complicated. Now remember that quote:

Luke: "Vader… Is the dark side stronger?"
Yoda: "No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive."

My spiritual Master.

Indeed, sticking to digital only because it's convenient and easy only proves you are not as dedicated to your hobby as you think you are :p (mwaahahaha !). Now I'm not saying film is better than digital. I'm saying that for some things, film remains better, and for some other things, digital is the way to go. To be more specific:
- film is superior to digital for B&W because of a much wider tone range
- film is superior to digital for dynamic range
- film is superior to digital for the rendering of grain.
- film is superior for very large prints.

 - digital is superior in low light (for large modern sensors, such as on a D7000, Fuji X100 and others)
- digital is more convenient
- running costs are fixed

And finally, the most important: there is no available digital equipment in true medium and large format sensor size. There are some close to medium format digital, but since they cost the same as a nicely equipped BMW, so we'll consider that there is none to most of us. This is very relevant because MF and LF are essentially the way to shoot portrait and landscape.

DSLRs perform better at documentary, action and color in general is you like post processing. The debate on digital color VS film is never ending, film dynamic range is greater, but scanning or developing is very hard. Digital is more flexible, but colder in a way.


 Now that you are convinced you want to go analog, here is what you need, and how much it costs on Ebay, B&H or Adorama:

- a film camera (duh !): if you get a film camera in addition to your digital gear, you are an idiot if you don't go medium format. That's the all point, get that mega amazing new level of image quality, warmth, definition, bokeh, that you just can't have with 35mm sensors. I also recommend you go for proper MF, 6x6 or 6x7 size. 645 is nice, but it's a job half way done. A complete system (body + a great lens the like you could never dream of on your SLR + metering) will go from 300$ for a Mamiya 645 or Contax equivalent, to 900$ for a Mamiya RZ67 and up to 1200 for a Pentax 67II. The 300$ 645 will already outperform your DSLR.
Now if you want a great 35mm full frame with metering starts at 100$ (a nikon FE or FE 2). For the same with AF, you should not pay more than 300$ (for a top of the range Nikon F4 / F5, or even a very good F100)

 - If you went MF, a lens that destroys a Leica M lense, used in great condition, costs from 200$ to 400$. If you went 35mm, lenses are the same as the one you have on your Nikon...oh wait you might not have a Nikon, too bad. For film 35mm, go Nikon and buy a 50mm f1.8 lens for 100$.

- Film. Depending on sensitivity or color, a roll will cost from 2.5$ to 8$. MF format rolls (8 to 15 shots) cost about the same as a 36 frame 35mm roll. You will shoot a lot less, and a lot better. So don't compare the cost of 2000 digital shots to how much it'd cost with film. You'd shot 200 frame max if you know you have to pay more attention.

- Development: you are getting started? Don't do it yourself. Development cost about the same as the roll. So let's say a roll will cost from 6$ to 12$ all included. This is the price for DEV ONLY, not printing.

- A film scanner: that is rather necessary is you want to post your images. Since you'll get your pics developed only, not printing, you'll be able to scan them and edit contrast and other basic things like you would do in a dark room. A good film scanner like the Epson's (V700, V750 and maybe newer models since then) cost about 450$.

Epson V700

Let's sum it up: you got yourself a 6x7 medium format set, a scanner, an 100 rolls of films (enough to shoot for a long time), it will cost you about 2000$. 

That is cheaper than a Nikon D700, a Canon 5D MKII with no lens. It won't age. You'll never need to upgrade it. It's been the same for ever.


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