Monday, December 31, 2012

Don't Spend Too Much on Film!

My Grandson Silas, Dec. 29, 2012

Everybody loves a portrait of a great looking kid - and I thought I'd include this real eye-catcher on this last day of 2012. Did I use film or digital? I'm not tellin'!

Anyway, New Years Eve has become a day of a few new traditions for me. It's the day when I take  the time to set up next years' photo file system, and create it's mirrored backup. To have it all pre-established makes managing my photo files so much easier than trying to do it on the fly, or worse still, using some ape-shit photo-album software to do it for me.

But that's off-topic. I'm always gushing about how little I spend on film cameras - typically never more than $40. But what does film photography really cost? In 2012, I took almost 2200 photo's in RAW format, and in 2011, it was a little over 2200. This is fairly representative of how many pictures I actually took, because I have RAW switched on most of the time, and unload all RAW files from my camera to my computer without exception. I delete all "non-keepers" from the camera itself before unloading. Let's just round it up to say that my total shooting of all digital plus film is around 2400 shots per year.  Now let's see what that would've cost me if I did it all with film. I find that for 35mm film with 24 shots per roll, it typically costs $12.00 per roll, tax included - that's about $6 to buy the film and $6 to have it processed at Walmart - with no prints and no Photo-CD. All I get is the uncut film negative, which I cut and scan myself. If I were shooting nothing but film, that comes out to 2400 / 24 = 100 rolls of film, at $12 per roll; that's $1200.00 per year! The cost of Medium Format (120 film) is more than double that - it comes to more like $16 for film and processing and there's only 12 shots per roll - if I did all Medium Format, it would be close to $3200 per year. Either way, for that same money I could buy one or two brand new high end digital cameras every year. I'm not including my printing costs here, because that's the same for film as it is for digital.

Well, you might argue, with digital, you waste most of your shots don't you, compared to film where every shot must count? The answer is - with me, I'm not a "see and spray" photographer. I have the same mentality with digital as I do film, with roughly the same ratio of keepers versus losers either way. I learned with a film camera, and so I inherited and use the same habits when shooting digital.


If the decision were purely economic, I certainly wouldn't be using film at all. Obviously, it makes no sense whatsoever. If I were to establish a "budget" for my photography hobby, based on what I would be spending on film in the absence of digital, I could easily justify buying the very best camera available, and maybe more than one, per year. But that's not what I do. Film is but a small part of my creative expression. If I want the film look, because I think film has a beauty of it's own which I can't get with digital, I have a choice of four (soon to be five) film cameras at my disposal. It depends on what I set out to do. If I were to shoot a roll every two weeks, which is more typical of what I'm doing now, that would still be 26 rolls per year, which comes out to just over $300 per year for 35mm, and just over $400 for 120. There's nothing in that price range for digital equipment that I'm interested in owning - I'd rather spend it on the film part of my hobby - make sense?

Now if one of the camera makers came out with a truly great camera for less than $3000 which would somehow satisfy all of my requirements, I would certainly abandon film altogether and buy that camera instead. But that hasn't happened - not quite yet. I'm expecting such a camera to hit the market within the next coming year - it's almost here now, I think.

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