Worried About the Rising Cost of Film Photography? Here Are Some Ways to Cope

Worried About the Rising Cost of Film Photography? Here Are Some Ways to Cope

2000 1125 James Tocchio

Throughout 2020 and 2021, Ilford and Kodak increased the prices of their film across the board, in some cases implementing price hikes as high as 20% per roll. As we near the end of 2021, it seems this trend isn’t ending or reversing anytime soon, as news just broke that Kodak will once again raise prices in the coming year. Let’s put this in real terms – when I started Casual Photophile in 2014, a roll of Kodak Portra 400 cost $6.99 and today that same roll costs $12.49. Equally frustrating, film is often sold out due to (I guess?) raw materials shortages exacerbated by (I guess?) the pandemic.

This high cost and sparse availability of film heading into the new year leads me to predict (and it’s not much of a stretch) that 2022 will be the most expensive year ever for film photographers.

In my never-ending quest to add value to your hobby, I’ve sweated the details and come up with five simple and effective ways of lessening the burden of cost for those of us who shoot film. Here they are; some easily-implemented cost-cutting measures to keep the film dream alive in spite of the recent and upcoming price hikes.


1) Bulk Load Your Own Film

Bulk loading is a “trick” that frugal photographers have been using for decades, but for those who aren’t familiar with the terminology or what it means, here’s a crash course. Instead of buying the usual individual 24 or 36 exposure rolls of 35mm film, we buy one massive 100ft roll of the same film and load it into special reusable film cartridges ourselves. By doing so, we’re able to effectively cut the cost of each roll of film dramatically (in some cases by as much as 45%). Many black and white films are available to buy in 100ft rolls, including the omni-popular Ilford HP5 Plus and Kodak Tri-X, and cheaper alternatives as well.

To bulk load your own film you’ll need to buy some special (albeit inexpensive) equipment. Here’s what you’ll need to start bulk loading your film. I’ve used these products myself, and they’re recommended.

The process of bulk loading is easy. I won’t fully tutorialize the process here. There are entire articles and YouTube videos on the process elsewhere. But briefly – you load your bulk roll of film into your Daylight Bulk Film Loader in total darkness. Next, scotch tape the end of the film from the Daylight Loader onto a spool from one of your reusable canisters. Insert the canister into the Bulk Loader, attach the crank, and crank it the appropriate number of times in order to spool the desired length of film into the canister. Remove the canister, snip the film, load it into your camera… profit!

Drawbacks of bulk loading film? Sure, there are a few! We’re sacrificing our time for money. It doesn’t take long to spool some film into a canister, but it does take some small measure of time. You must determine if the trade-off is worth it (maybe prep your film canisters during other time-wasting activities, such as watching YouTube?). Another drawback – the bulk loading cassettes do not feature DX coding, so they should only be used in cameras which have the capability to manually select ISO [If you don’t know what ISO is, here you go!]. Lastly, until you become a master of bulk loading it’s likely that you’ll get a few light leaks or ruined rolls due to user error when loading your film into your canisters. These errors will disappear over time.


2) Be More Mindful While Shooting

Of the five suggestions made in this article, this one may be the most contentious. But it’s valid. To save money shooting film, maybe shoot less film?

What I mean by that is slow down, take your time, think about your photo. When you’ve got the camera raised to your eye and your finger’s hovering delicately over that shutter release button, take a second to look at what you’re seeing in the viewfinder and imagine it as a final print. Is there anything there? Anything within that frame worth burning onto film? Would you take what you’re seeing in that viewfinder and frame and hang it on a wall?

Many of you already do this, I’m sure. But some of you probably don’t (I get it – you’ve got a Nikon F5 and simply can’t resist that 8 FPS burst mode). But this technique of studious, real-time, pre-fire photo critique is how I’ve gotten my hit rate, that’s the number of “worthwhile images” per roll of film, to increase over the past few years from somewhere around three “keepers” per roll to (maybe) twelve or fifteen. By being overly critical of my photography, by questioning my impulse to shoot, and by only shooting when I see an interesting shot in the viewfinder, my photography has improved and (though this was never the intention) I’ve wasted less film and spent a lot less money.


3) Develop and Scan Your Own Film

This is another somewhat obvious solution for those of us who have been shooting film for longer than the last few years, but it has always been cheaper to develop and scan your own film than to send it out and have it developed and scanned by a lab.

There will be film newcomers reading this suggestion who have already said “I can’t do that.” Let me assuage your worries. You can do it. It’s easy. If you can read numbers, use your hands to hold things, and pour liquids, you can do it. You can develop and scan your own film.

I’ve written an article about all of the gear that you’ll need to develop your own film at home, and you can read that article here. I also wrote an article outlining (and made a video tutorial showing) how to develop your own film step by step. Those should get you well on your way to developing your own film.

Scanning is another thing, but it’s equally easy. You’ll simply need a scanner and a computer. If you’re a newcomer buying a dedicated film scanner, buy this one. Don’t read the impossible to fathom suggestions on Reddit and Facebook in response to the countless “What scanner should I buy?” threads that exist on those platforms. They will only confuse you. Just spend the money and buy this scanner. Trust me. I have used them all and this one is the perfect balance of cost, usability, speed, and performance for anyone looking to scan 35mm rolls of film.

There are obvious drawbacks to developing and scanning at home. You’ll need to buy and store development chemicals. You’ll need to buy the developing equipment and scanner up front, and you won’t realize savings until you’ve developed more than a dozen rolls of film. And finally, you’ll need to trade your time for money. Developing and scanning can take considerable time. Most of us dedicate half a day to the process once we’ve got a handful of rolls ready to go. It’s kind of a pain, illustrated aptly when one of my writers snapped and wrote a full-on rant about scanning. And lastly, if we all developed and scanned our own film, many small businesses (photo labs) would go out of business (which would be sad, because the labs which exist today do amazing work).

But if cost is your primary concern, developing and scanning at home is certainly the most cost-effective way to shoot film.


4) Change Your Camera Part 1 – Shoot a More Modern Camera

A few years ago, I wrote an article headlined How to Cheat at Film Photography. In that article I outlined some tips and techniques that I’d learned over the years which helped me avoid beginner mistakes and improve the overall quality of my film photography. One of the tips was to use a more modern film camera, and I’m repeating that advice here as a way to mitigate cost.

Old film cameras look great. The Pentax K1000, the Minolta SRT series, even Leica M3s and M2s and M4s – they’re great looking cameras and people love them (and I know this, because the people who love them won’t stop telling us). But for all their old-world charm and classic functionality, these cameras are hard to use and need expert hands. They lack light meters or auto-exposure or auto-focus, or they lack all of that and more. They don’t help the photographer in any way, and in the hands of an amateur or a person who’s not constantly focused on photography (let’s say we’re at the zoo with our kids in tough light on a windy day) the resulting roll of film shot through any of these “legendary” cameras will be full of missed focus, bad exposures, and wasted shots.

Compare these cameras to any basic 35mm SLR camera from the late 1990s or early 2000s and there’s no competition. The $50 Minolta Maxxum 5 or Canon Eos Rebel will make better photos than a Leica M3 in the average users’ hands, and will ask less of the photographer while doing it. The result of making more better photos? We make less bad photos, and we waste less film.

This suggestion is certainly the hardest to prove as a cost-cutting measure, but anecdotally it tracks. Get yourself a nice SLR with auto-everything from the 1990s and save money by not wasting film.


5) Change Your Camera Part 2 – Shoot a Half Frame Camera

This is my favorite solution to the problem of rising film prices. It’s the one that makes the most sense, has the greatest impact on the bottom line, and demands the fewest compromises of the photographer. By shooting a half-frame camera we can effectively double the number of photos that we can make with every roll of film. That means that our dollar is going twice as far. Or, if you want to look at it inversely, it means that every roll of film we buy is half-price!

If you’re new to film cameras, you may not know what half-frame means. Half frame cameras use normal 35mm film, but they squeeze two images onto a single frame. This means you’ll get 72 exposures on a normal 36 exposure roll of film. Many companies made half-frame cameras over the decades, and in all sorts of form factors. The Yashica Samurai is a ridiculous camcorder-like machine that will be enjoyed by people who wear fanny packs in 2021 and beyond. The Canon Multi-Tele is a point and shoot in the traditional style with a versatile and switchable half-frame/full-frame functionality. The Agat 18K will be perfect for those who like things that are plastic, and from Belarus.

And then there’s the greatest 35mm half-frame camera of all time. The half-frame camera that feels as solid as a Leica. The half-frame camera that works as beautifully as a mechanical watch and is as compact as a point and shoot. It’s the Olympus Pen F.

I will hold myself back here. I won’t write ten more paragraphs on why the Olympus Pen F (or Pen FT) is one of the finest cameras I’ve ever held. I won’t tell you about how well-made it is, about the series of impossibly small lenses that mount to it, about the ingenious sideways mirror assembly and the even more genius rotating titanium foil shutter curtain, and I won’t mention the feeling of weightiness that I get when holding it (not from its actual weight, which is perfect, but from knowing that it was designed by one of the most important and influential camera designers in history). I won’t tell you any of that. Instead, I’ll tell you to click this link and read Josh’s (much more than a) review, and then head to eBay and buy your own Pen. You’ll love the camera, you’ll love the photos it makes, and you’ll spend half as much on film in 2022.


That’s all I’ve got. If you have any further advice for our readers on how to save money on film in these tough times, share them with us in the comments below.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
61 comments
  • Always great advice!

  • Great point, searching for an Olympus Pen F now 👌

    • Boris Samacovlieff November 2, 2021 at 3:32 pm

      Olympus Pen F is certainly a good choice but look also at the Konica Auto-Reflex Full & Half Frame Film SLR . You can shoot full frame or half frame with only one camera. And the Hexanon lenses are awesome.

  • Thank You one more time James for your great review. Unlikely we can not find them in some “news”… because very good website like your, is not in the network of this news marketees, …. but no problem, we are many to read here again and again. Maybe if you are not in the list of the websites that some daily news reviews like google proposed every day, it is more because you are very good, 😉
    Of course film is going more expensive, good things are more expensive, this is the price of quality. Many pro continues to use film, only one example : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-10-31/photography-wet-plate-collodion-steve-lovegrove/100494986
    It is costly because this is a slow physical process when we are in a speedy marketing digital illusion world, with one clear result: one earth which can collapse at any time, big leaders with big mouths are not here when it comes to save the world, they do not care, some propose to try to du something to 2070, oh yesss. People buy, buy, buy, buy, replace, replace, replace, pushing by all the business world, … and for what.
    Film is the opposite, so of course to continue to be clever in front of this dementia it is costly.
    But, when we see our results, can the Nikon Z9 provides these results without processing long time? NO!
    Film camera are also one way to save the world, by using all these cameras which are not used and stopping buying these plastic cameras which need an expensive computer and expensive softwares. Oh, I get the point ! With all the pixels, all the memory, all the effects, which needs expensive cameras, expensive computer, expensive softwares, is film more expensive than digital ????? I don’t think so now! What about the carbon print ?
    I tell you, film make you slow down. At the end it is cheaper than digital 😉
    You don’t need a Leica, you don’t need a Rolleiflex, I have a rare M3 black, but it does the same things than other M3, and I don’t need a M3, a Canonet does the same job, I can replace my Rollei by a Yashica, are these cameras expensive ? No! Are they good ? They are wonderful.
    This is one more time an excellent topic.
    I tell you, make a survey, serious study and you will find that film is cheaper !
    But prices increase, “unlikely” like “WHO” uses to say, unlikely the price coming from the production labs are increasing because several reason now: demand has been stopped by Covid, Covid has broken supply chain, Covid and his maker have broken the minerals ressources, … so this time is not the best for film industry. Thank one moere time for this engineering virus made to kill the maximum of people for several years, one day some people will speak and we will know the truth. Film lover have also to pay the damage to film industry !!!
    Prices will not go down, unlikely !!! But I will not stop, I will not buy any Z9, Mark V or new digital gear, I will invest for film for my pleasure, for the results and to save the earth, ion we can, because with the proposals of all our leaders … The lead themselves to stay on power!

  • I sold my Dynax-7 because it wasted film: the camera always stopped at the 36th frame and rewinded automatically. On my other manual-focus-cameras I had always 38-39 frames, even 40 sometimes…

  • Want to reduce the cost of film photography? Go digital. And as Eric has pointed out, just as with film cameras you don’t need the latest all singing, all dancing marvel. They’ve been brainwashed into believing that they need one.
    Go digital and save on film and processing costs, and that scanner and the time spent scanning negs in. And no chemicals to dispose of if you DIY. And if you DIY C41 you run the risk of completely messing up.

    A wasted shot on digital is just that, but apart from the opportunity missed hasn’t cost you anything. Each wasted shot with film = 1/36th of the cost of the film and processing, even more if you think you are economising using 20 or 24 exposure lengths. As an extreme example for someone requiring lab prints, I’ve just checked out the site of a well-respected lab in the UK for costs. I concocted a dummy order for Fuji 400HR as all Kodak C41 films are showing out of stock. as is Fuji 160. The film alone is a few pence shy of £15 ($18). The film services I selected inc. 36 6×4 prints, negatave storage sheet, hi-res 8bit jpeg scan, total £22. Prints only, £10.50. No prints just scans, £16. Shipping £5.

    So the most expensive option for those requiring a lab service, including a film, will cost £37+ shipping = £42. For our American cousins this equates to approximately $57. Film + scan + shipping still comes to a whopping £32 ($44).

    Admittedly, going for 8bit jpeg scans, and sourcing a different film, cost savings will be made, but even with this lab the basic cost of developing, scans and shipping will still cost £15 ($18). And, by the way, the cheapest Kodak C41 film they list isn’t even in stock.

    What this example demonstrates is that each duff shot on film can be costly. And how many get a 100% success rate?

    P.S. Although I am 100% digital nowadays, I still very much like “playing” with my film cameras. As objects they give me more feedback than any of my digital cameras and which anyway won’t work without a charged battery!

    • I was very close to making one of the suggestions “Shoot Digital” but I figured that the readers would castigate me for sidestepping the problem when I said that I’d suggest solutions to keep us shooting film. But you’re right! The easiest way to lessen the burden of shooting film is to… not shoot film. To shoot digital and then get good at editing in Lightroom or Photoshop so that you can achieve whatever it is about the look of film that you like, in your digital photos.

      However, that will never replicate the joy of using a film camera. For all their prowess and capability, digital cameras still just do not feel as pleasant to use as a film camera (for those of us who like mechanical things and haptic feedback).

      For me, personally, there will always be a place for film (as long as Kodak and Ilford and Ferrania and others keep making it).

      • Regarding film cameras v. digital cameras (as opposed to film v. digital capture) I entirely agree with you, James. The tactile feel and the mechanical operation of everything from loading film, winding on, setting aperture and speeds, manual focusing (and zoom. available in only in a very small number of cases for digital viz. Sony R1 or early Panasonic FZ models, the 50, for example) or auto if one is that way inclined, the sound of the shutters, to the classic black leatherette/chrome (my favourite) to all black bodies.

        I’ve not put a film through any of my film cameras from late 2002, and in some ways it is a loss. But we can’t wind back the clock to a pre-digital age, but my film camera collection keeps expanding!!! Is there a recognised illness I suffer from that I can’t do without my fill of cameras?

        • I’m with you! More anecdotal evidence of film cameras being special – my six-year-old daughter saw the Olympus Pen F (the one from this article) on my desk yesterday. She immediately grabbed for it with a big smile and said “Is this yours? Are you selling this? Can you keep it and I can use it? I love this one! I’ve never seen one so pretty with a lens on the side like that!”

          Even a six-year-old can see that film cameras are just special!

          • Nice one, James. I was amused by her asking if you would keep it so she could use it, rather than can I have it, which may have put you in a bit of a quandary.

      • I bought an X Pro 1 a couple months ago and I have not shot a roll of film since then. It is not as special (although, the sensor array does do cool things with colors and luminosity) feeling as any of my 35mm bodies but the convenience factor is absolutely there.

    • I’ve flirted with the idea of going digital a few times already, but even entry level cameras are pretty expensive in Brazil, while most used models are beat to death, while my film cameras are all in top shape, and the most I’ve paid for one was 80 bucks, and that’s CHEAP for brazilian standards.

      Plus, as my wife said when I was considering the option, why not just use my phone and avoid spending money altogether then? Couldn’t counter that argument.

    • Ditto.

  • For 120 color shooters, the situation is not pretty good: Fuji Pro 400h is already discontinued, Portra and Ektachrome are not really cheap, either. But of course, if you take the “go slow, be more mindful” path, the situation isn’t that bad. In the last 3 days, I never spend more than $30/month for films: roughly 2 or 3 rolls.

    Guess for the sake of fun, I’ll keep shooting with film until Fuji/Kodak/Ilford/etc officially stop manufacturing them.

    • Seems like you may need to embrace B&W for your 120 needs. There are still many options out there in 120 B&W at a variety of price points too.

  • Being mindful of synergy helps my photography, I found a way that Digital and Film can live together. I use my DSLR to explore compositions when I am out and about with my cameras. When I find the one that interests me the most I take a shot with my film camera. I am doing the Frugal Film Project in 2021, the object being to shoot cheap film in a camera that cost no more than $50. I want my contribution to the project to be the best I can do and I have been picking my shots more carefuly than before, especially using my DSLR first but I could just as easily use my Phone Camera. This method does induce chimping, but It’s a tool, use it and your Film Photography will improve.

  • In my obscure (in film terms) corner of the world consumer film is getting pretty close to the price professional film online, so I think it would make sense to shoot the latter but still purchase the consumer one to send a signal that there is still interest in film. Newton made his theory of universal gravitation in very dire circumstances, hopefully some inventive lover of the medium will get some advancement, in development and scanning devices. Where I live the labs are more experienced in digital, and well, I do the scanning with my digital cameras, which somehow turns film into a middle man between the digital camera and the photographed place.

  • Big hurray for bulk loaded film. Once you get used to the particularities of Kodak Vision, you never want to go back to regular boxed film. You wouldn’t think that film photography would be on the rise here in Brazil, where everything is expensive and film is on a level all by itself, and yet, here we are. Kodak Gold 200 for 90 bucks and Fuji Superia 400 for 70 bucks are commonplace, assuming you can even find them to begin with, but the Vision and Double X lines are singlehandedly keeping the analog scene alive and growing thanks to most labs figuring they could cut the middle man and the prices by purchasing bulk stock straight from Kodak and hand rolling the film into discarded canisters. Nowadays, pretty much every place that works with film sells their own brand of Vision/Double X for about half of what you’d pay for a roll of Gold, and what started out as a niche experimental segment within an already niche market has gone on to become the dominant force. You can even get custom metallic stickers to cheat the Dx code readers of automatic cameras and make them read the accurate ISO and exposure number, just peel, apply to the side of the canister, and you’re good to go.

    Far as I can tell, bulk loaded cinematic film is the current best option to keep on shooting film, and since Hollywood has been using more and more of the stuff, it’s likely Kodak will keep making it into the foreseeable future.

  • Hi James,

    You know, I thought about at least two of these options from time to time, only to realize that setting up a home development / scanning department would cost so much money (hello Epson!) that it wouldn’t make any sense at my film consumption level. And when it comes to bulk loading, the only 30,5m rolls I could get would be from Foma, Rollei or Adox, shipped from Germany. Plus the bag and the loader. Again, just no gain.

    I guess I’ll just use up my existing stock, and buy more Superpan 200 once done. Kodak went too far with its pricing, Fuji is on the way out, so the future will rely on the smaller players like upcoming Orwo-Filmotec, Adox, Foma, and of course Ilford at a slightly higher price level.

  • The suggestion to “go digital” in the face of escalating film costs has at least one big problem for me. Almost everything digital (everything) is designed to be throw-away-tech. The simple fact that you can effectively use a Barnack Leica in the 21st century and (with care) the results can technically be the same as those made with say . . . a Nikon F4 or F5, says something about modern digital design philosophy. Not many enthusiasts are still shooting 10 megapixel cameras, and how many new cameras did they purchase to get their current 40+ megapixel SOTA beast? I guess its clear I’m getting really tired of buying new digital tech every 18 months because it can’t be upgraded or repaired (affordably). Ever wonder where all those iphone 13s are going to go when they introduce the 14?

    I’m not going to stop shooting digital, and frankly if I was still working professionally I wouldn’t dream of using film, but right now shooting and processing my own film is worth the cost and it would be tragic if it went away because no one used it, I’m encouraged that so many kids are trying it.

    • Most of the photographers I hang with have digital gear that is almost a decade old. Gear acquisition syndrome had Ben around since the the advent of 35mm film photography. How else would you find mint or near mint condition vintage film gear to purchase?

  • It’s counter-intuitive. You’d think that with all the hipsters “discovering” film that the supply would go up and price go down because the film manufacturers would increase production to satisfy demand. Unfortunately, the opposite is true – not just for film itself, but for the old out-of-production film cameras and lenses that you used to be able to purchase for a song but now cost an arm and a leg.

    I think we just have to accept that it’s going to cost some more money to still keep shooting film. If that’s cost-prohibitive for someone, then they should just shoot digital and apply film effects to their photos in post (of course while complaining about the cost of the film presets and digital camera equipment).

    Me, I have a freezer full of film in ziplock bags and always have a few cameras loaded up to augment my digital photography. Every 2 months or so I send 6-8 rolls to thedarkroom.com for developing and enhanced scans ($15). Costs about $100-120, depending on how many rolls and if I shot slide film ($3 extra).

    I enjoy it, so it’s worth it to me.

  • Comments are interesting:
    Be film and digital: Middle Way 😉 no excess 😉
    But, if there are some person ready to count the real cost we can discuss forward.
    Now, I only follow the 2 best excellent websites for Film Photography : casualphotophile and japancamerahunter. I have stopped to read the others, I do not go anymore.
    I give one reference for the talk:
    https://www.japancamerahunter.com/2015/12/are-digital-images-really-free/
    We make an green artistic solution, we shoot BW, for example TriX with Cafenol, I can tell costs go down with Cafenol and results are very very good, you have just to buy film, to have a few tanks, a scan, … now for the people who uses this process can they give one idea of the average cost after 50 rolls, included tanks and so on, we consider that instant coffee (which is not good) you can drink a little, and VitaminC you can take too, and baking soda has many used, so it’s nearly free 😉
    So from a cup of eyes, and the costs upstair, you can cut them by 3 times, …
    Now you consider reading the article of JapanCameraHunter and watch his last videos, the cost of digital according a good camera now costs nearly 2000 box without lens, without SD card, without the computer, without the softwares, … …
    Because when it comes to compare we must be serious, … film is not died, the topic is excellent, but arguments are poor, because people are sticked on digital trend with the social medias, …
    We are talking about photography, not about showing off on social medias, …
    For me film wins, it is cheaper.
    Terry B “Want to reduce the cost of film photography? Go digital. And as Eric has pointed out, just as with film cameras you don’t need the latest all singing, all dancing marvel. They’ve been brainwashed into believing that they need one.” You have a great sense of humour.
    By the way, your proposal is like, if you have pain to your legs, just cut them off, and you will not have pain anymore. This is the principal of Covid spreading, spreading Covid all around the world and spreader will be the winner.
    Digital is costly, grain is, sorry, noise is ugly, if you don’t want noise, you need these expensive cameras, which are more more costly than film, and if you choose a cheap digital camera which will not last so long like all the things of this world, it is also costly. For example, take a Fuji XE-3, it is good because compact and works well with nearly all the lens, Nikon, Canon, LTM, Leica, and so on, the others made in dictature I don’t ever look at them, … but with all the digital process, it is not free, not free for you, not free for the green, it is very costly for the earth, but because we wrongly think it is free, which is one illusion, we continue to be attached to one thing which is only a trend which only profits the markets.
    I tell you, film is cheaper if you count and think wisely. Now in this world, nobody is wise !!!

    • I read your comment but found most of it unintelligible.

      • Do you ever have a kind word for anyone here? You must be a real joy to work with on a shoot. SMDH…

        • What are you on about.

          • What am I “on about?”

            “I read your comment but found most of it unintelligible.”

            Eric is obviously not a native English speaker, but here he is, trying to communicate in English with us. And here you are, ridiculing him and calling him “unintelligible.” I understood what Eric wrote just fine, and so did you. You just enjoy being a bully.

            You attacked me last week in the Nikon Z9 comment threat in response to me stating that I prefer shooting film over digital, accusing me of being a person who only thinks my own preference is the only “valid” one, when I never said such a thing.

            You’re an arrogant and insecure guy, Kurt. Lose the h and the umlaut, as well as the attitude, dude.

          • I answer to Chris 😉
            Thank you Chris. I am not an English speaker, I am better when I talk, but my writing is low.
            By the way I mainly only watch news, articles not English like here.
            Thank you so much to defend me.
            By the way I have also noticed this concern for you last time.
            I don’t pay attention, I don’t care, some do not comment here, but see, analyse, appreciate every thing, like Josh, Danielle, Sroyon, Dan, and many many great here, many people like me enjoy your comments and want them, and I am not touched by this kind of comment.
            The most important thing is to have a great website like this one with 99,99999% of great participants. I love this website because James is an expert, and he respects the freedom of ideas, sometimes in a very nice way, with very very polite and intelligent way he is capable to fix the thing to create more harmony, you know why, because he is intelligent. Unlikely, this is not the quality which is the most shared in this world. Sorry for my English, I am a reader of Classic English Theatre like “Measure for Measure” when I write here, I do not use google or translator, I just type, because I prefer reading. But sometimes I feel I have to invest more to keep the website working despite my low English level.
            I really like your comments, and many here. And by the way, for all of us, for me and especially for the great work of James, I am very very happy that this review gets so many comments.
            Thank you so much Chris.

          • You see “By the way I mainly only watch news, articles not English like here.”
            By the way I mainly read news, articles in English like here
            😉
            I type too fast

  • I’d like to add my comment to the shoot digital argument and that is to adapt to mirrorless. Buy a 7 year old Sony a6000 and put any Takumar lens on it, feel the silky smoothness of the focus movement and the cool feeling of metal between your fingers and your 50% there. Or buy a Fuji or Nikon Z fc with dedicated iso and shutter dials and your 70% of the way there.

    The other big cost of shooting film is the higher cost of a camera these days. But buy an in demand camera (hello K1000 or AE1), look after it and you’ll likely be able to sell it for more than you purchased it for. This is something that would never happen with a mirrorless camera.

    Final point regards your excellent suggestion of shooting half frame. I’ve got a Konica Auto-reflex. My problem is I just want the film finished so I get to about 64 shots then just shoot without thought through the last few frames to finish the roll. It defeats the purpose of shooting half frame in the first place.

    • I think this is excellent advice. I bought a Fuji X-T3 and have adopted Pentax and Minolta lenses. In the process I started shooting 35mm film again and enjoying both digital and film.

      The cost of 35mm film has gone over the price point I’m willing to pay. I have switched to cheaper films. I bought a scanner and so will no longer pay for scans.

    • Peter Bidel Schwambach November 5, 2021 at 8:55 am

      Down here in Brazil, you can still get a lot of great film cameras for little money because film photography is still very niche. The Nikon FM2 I started out with was my dad’s, my Canonet QL17 I got in a swap meet for a Tokina 200mm f3.5 lens and a Metz CL45 handle flash, then traded the Canonet for an Olympus OM2 with a 50mm 1.7 Zuiko. Later on, I got another Canonet, this time a G3, for 80 bucks and had it CLA’d for 140.

      Lenses aren’t expensive either, I started out with just a series E 50mm 1.8 for my Nikon and built a nice AI-S set for less than 2 grand, scoring two free bodies and a few speedlights along the way. I got a free Nikon EM with a 50mm 1.4, which the seller thought was dead but only needed new batteries, and a free Nikon FG with a 24mm 2.8. The EM I gave away to a friend and the FG to my wife. I also built a pretty complete Zuiko system around that OM2, with 4 primes and 2 zooms, plus spare hot shoes, speedlights, all the stops, and eventually traded it all in for a brand new in box FM3A body on yet another swap meet, which will probably stand as the craziest camera I’ve ever gotten for basically free.

      Film is crazy expensive, but bulk loaded rolls aren’t prohibitively so, and you can dev and scan a roll for as low as 20 bucks, that’s very reasonable for Brazilian standards.

      You could say Brazil is still at that stage where it’s rediscovering film photography, it’s all very fresh and cool, and there’s a lot of old cameras and film to be found and put to use again. You see young folks carrying P&S cameras around looking for golden hour, celebs brandish their Mjus and Contaxes on live TV and people have found ways to keep selling film, even with price increases and shortages all around.

      Meanwhile an entry level digital camera will cost you 5 grand with lens, a full frame DSLR costs around 10-15 thousand, an XT3 bundled with a lens will set you back 22 thousand, while a ZFC will have to be bought offshore and will cost you around 30 grand. That’s crazy expensive.

  • The price of film really hasn’t changed if you adjust for inflation. That roll of 35mm film that cost $3.00 in 1975 is equivalent to about $15.00 in 2021.

    • Ed, I don’t think it is so much raw materials costs either. The Film Photography Project also did a piece on the same thing. The final sentence of their article summed it up by saying many of the steeply rising costs are being attributed to retailers charging a premium and taking advantage of demand for film.

      From what I read somewhere (an Ilford news release maybe??), silver costs have risen 10-15 percent since the start of 2021. Yet from the two biggest NYC retailers, the cost of a roll of Ilford PanF went from 6.99 to over 12 dollars a roll today! Yet a 100 pack of the 8×10 paper I use, Ilford cool tone multi grade RC, only went from 90 dollars to 100 dollars. So I seriously doubt they can say that silver halide costs have skyrocketed that much or else the paper would have risen by a similar percentage.

      All my usual black and white films have seen near doubling of costs so it’s not isolated to PanF. But other retailers have indeed only raised their prices in line with the 10-15 percent increase in wholesale costs.

    • I have validated film prices for up to 1972 here in the UK. 36 exposure FP4 58p, 120 30p. Applying Bank of England inflation factor to 2020, the latest available, the FP4 would cost £7.83 and in 120, £4. My reference store price is £5.83 for 35mm cassette and £4.08 for the 120. So the reality is that 36 exposure cassette of the current FP4 is significantly less expensive than in 1972, whilst the 120 roll is virtually the same.

      For colour neg film, Kodacolor-X was 89p and 48p respectively. Today, with inflation, the price would be £12 and £6.48. The actual price of a reference film today is £10.71 (Portra 160) and £9.44. (both as 5-pack prices.) £9.92 and £8.94 (Ektar), ColorPlus £4.24 (35mm only)

      I would argue that the true descendant of Kodacolor X is ColorPlus, not the more elaborate emulsions there are today. So in real terms, a film that cost the equivalent of £12 now costs only £4.24.

      But the real “killer” in this exercise is the cost of D&P of a 36 exposure film + prints. Wallace Heaton, from whose publication I extracted the 1972 film prices, provided a mail order service and charged 40p to develop the film + 10p per print, so £4 all-in. Today, with inflation, it would be the equivalent of £54, and the print size was just 5 x 3 1/2 inches. The previous company examples I gave, one can have a 36 exposure film developed and printed to 6×4 inches for £10.49.

      @James. I’d never really thought about the costs of film photogtaphy today, but going from my examples here, it is no more expensive than in the past, and overall, probably it’s less costly. In the mid-1970’s, here in the UK, High Street labs were fighting for business and we could get a film and 36 6×4 prints for £2.99, equivalent to £22 today. Even adding the price of a ColorPlus to the above quoted price of £10.49, it still comes out less costly today than in the mid-1970’s. The additional cost is that scanner to get ones films into the digital domain.

      Film photography’s woes today are more related to a diminishing variety of film types, and to the exaggerated prices being asked for many film cameras which are simply not worth the money.

  • Film vs digital. Digital (camera) is expensive. It has a limited life (actuations). Formats become obsolete (planned obsolescence). And there’s that hamster wheel: upgrades. Use a cell. In some respects cells are better: hdr, small size, reasonable resolution (12np).

    Both are badly designed (cameras: menu/feature bloat and ugly; cellphones awkward to use (dropping cracked screen) But the cell has a distinct advantage: it’s the camera you have with you.

    Don’t abandon film. It’ll only drive up the cost of film/processing/printing

    Do the math. There isn’t a clear winner. Personal choice.

    There’s room for all three:

  • By the way the 5 advices of James, one more time are excellent 😉
    When I shoot film my images have a real add-value, they have something special that only film gives to them.
    I have thought a lot from this review and read many articles again from Casualphotophile and Japancamerahunter, and the point is: with film ww slow down, we make less shooting, we analyse more what we want to do and if this is interesting, … this way we have better images by doing less images, digital is like buffet restaurants, we take many things and full the plates, at the end, this is only big food, not really good taste, the same with fast food, … when you have a very good apple pie with good butter, fresh farm apples, homemade vanilla ice cream you eat slowly despite this is a little piece, but you enjoy every spoon.
    Film is the same, it is for artist, like the Zeiss Biogon-C 21mm/4.5 (read the review from KenRockwell), this is the reason this lens does not work on digital cameras, it is made for RF film camera, but with this kit, it is fantastic, this is art.
    One more time, what I like here, this is it helps us to think why we use film? Why we like photography? How we can improve?
    Others website they just push on the way of the market or their own markets.
    Film is not so expensive, it is cheaper than digital when we use it like film: slow down.

  • Sorry, do we have some news of our great Sroyon and Dan Castelli?

    • Hi Eric, I was just scrolling through these comments and spotted my name which made me laugh. Not sure if you’ll see my comment, but if you do: I’m working on a couple of articles for James but they are rather detailed (a camera review and a film review) so it’s taking some time. I am kind of a slow writer in general… sorry! But if all goes well I should be able to submit new articles this month 🤞 Thanks for checking in!

      • Yeah !
        Whaouuuu !
        Great!
        Thank for the news.
        I will have pleasure to read. Take your time. Change nothing.
        Waiting, like waiting for processing the film is a part of the joy 😉

  • And thank You all for all the comments?
    I hope more will say how they budget film.
    This is very interesting comments.

  • I started sto shot with Silbersatz35 film with included cine-scans, €15 a roll of 135-36 film, 4 speeds avaiable. I love it Wonderfull colors and high-bit scans in about 20Mpix. https://silbersalz35.com

  • Hello!

    Great article like always.

    Any one knows where to buy colour 100ft in Europe?

    Thanks for your time and help.

  • Good article ! Unfortunately for me, I already apply all these advices 😔.

    Few other advices :
    – Buy more film at once to benefit from volume (volume discount and lower delivery costs)
    – Regroup your film purchase with analog friends to cut the delivery costs and also benefit from volume discount

    And finally try double exposure (alone or film swap)…not really a true saving when you make it alone but you double the enjoyment 😉.

  • 1. I think a lot of cheap films are better than many people give them credit for. For example one of my better colour photos (in my opinion) was taken on ColorPlus. And for B&W, HP5 is remarkably cheap but imho a truly excellent film. When I’m feeling fancy, I do sometimes buy Portra, Ektar, Velvia, Acros, etc. But I can’t say with conviction that these films which are 2-4 times more expensive are necessarily 2-4 times better.

    2. For people who scan their own film, the cost of software (Lightroom, NLP, etc.) can add up. I use GIMP which is free and open source.

    3. A corollary to the “be mindful while shooting” point – at least something which I personally found helpful in terms of improving my hit rate – is something I try do not at the time of taking the picture, but at leisure: going over my old photos to see what works and what doesn’t, and also looking at the work of other photographs whom I admire.

    These are the three things I could think of!

    • Yes!
      More expensive, the quality is not belong the price, when it is 2 times more expensive it is not 2 times better, like many things.
      One more time : very good advices.

      One from me: slow down and think your pictures with a mechanical camera.

      For example when I use my M3 or the Canonet without meter I have really to slow down and it’s increased the % of good images at the same time I shoot less 😉

  • This piece is timely because I’ve been having the same debate inside my head. (I don’t get out enough these days, but that’s a separate problem.)

    I’ll see James’s Mindfulness and raise him Sense of Occasion. That, I’m beginning to think, is what film is about for me. I’m fortunate to have disposable income to spend on such unnecessary items as 40-year-old cameras, but I’m not (I tell myself) a collector, so these things have to offer some kind of value for money through being used. And, for me, that comes not from taking cheaper options in hardware or film, but from trying to make every roll – every frame might be an ambition too far – count.

    So yes, I will quietly congratulate myself (again, too much time alone) when I lower the camera from my eye without pressing the button, because I’ve decided there wasn’t enough there to be worth the expense. But I’m also selective about the days when I take a film camera at all, rather than a digital or even just a phone. Because those are the days, I think, when I’m going to be glad I had it, when I could really enjoy its physical sensations. When opening an envelope a few weeks later and unfolding that sheet of glowing transparencies is going to bring the day back to life in my head all over again. “Wow, look at these – and I made them!”

    And that’s my final point: don’t use cheap film or an auto-everything camera (unless that’s what you especially enjoy.) Use the really good stuff, and for me that’s slide film. Yes, it’s nearly a pound a click, once you’ve counted processing and scanning. And that’s why I wait for an occasion I’m really going to enjoy. But each time I’ve come close to thinking film photography is too much trouble, or not worth the cost, opening a new set of transparencies has me right back to planning another day out. So that’s my Sense of Occasion; you just need to find yours.

  • I shoot both film and digital. I enjoy both. Digital mostly Nikon Df. Film mostly Nikon F6 and sometimes my Nikon FE and Nikon FM3a. Almost always manual focus lenses for both film and digital. What’s nice about this setup is that I can use the same MF F Mount lenses on all these bodies.

    As far as saving money when using film, one way is to perform trial and error with a digital body (if you have one), learn what works and then apply that knowledge to your film camera without wasting a lot of film.

    I use manual focus lenses and manual exposure most of the time (film or digital). This forces you to slow down and take less shots. That saves money on film. Take your time. Learn the craft. Growing up in the film era made this a necessity for me. You younger guys and gals may have to unlearn the spray and pray method but it will be worth it!

    I mentioned the Nikon bodies above but I am so addicted to film cameras so much that I shoot a Leica M3 and Contax G2 as well. Completely different animals the M3 and G2 are, but they both are mechanical wonders which are a joy to shoot. And both feature great optics.

    Also there is something so satisfying about having a real world object like a mounted slide in your possession rather than just a bunch of 1s and 0s (although I get the slides digitized as well when i send the slide film to a lab to get developed). Slides are beautiful. And then there’s the slide projector experience!

    My advice to anyone trying to shoot film and keeps costs low would be to buy something like a Nikon FE and and one or two used manual focus Nikon lens (doesn’t have to be Nikon equipment of course – that’s just what I grew up with), some cheap black and white film and experiment. That ‘s maybe a $200 or so initial investment? And now you are on your way.

    As long as my film bodies hold up (and they will as these bodies were made extremely well) and Fuji, Kodak, Ilford, etc still keep making 35mm film (my freezer is stocked with it) I’ll still shoot it!

  • Michael S. Goldfarb November 8, 2021 at 8:38 am

    First of all, I’ve been shooting my Olympus Pen F half-frame for the last year and a half, and it’s awesome. All b/w film, which I’m developing in my kitchen and scanning the negs, so no photofinishing costs.

    And I have never been a film burner. Because my parents were pros – and I was too in my teens – I was trained to GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME. So I have always had a VERY high good-shot-to-number-of-exposures ratio. These days, I only shoot six or eight 24-exposure rolls a year. (About half in the half-frame, the rest in my OM-2 and Nikon F2.) I don’t use motor drives or zoom lenses, I walk around with a couple of primes… which also keeps me from shooting too much. Using 24-exp rolls vs. 36 also keeps me focused on not wasting frames (and anyway, I still I get 50+ exposures with the Pen F).

    I carried a Minox III-s daily from 1995 to around 2017 as my everyday camera. Because these older Minox models always advanced the film when you closed them whether you made an exposure or not, I became very good at previsualizing: I wouldn’t even open the camera and look through the viewfinder unless I was pretty sure that I wanted to take a picture. This discipline further reinforced my good-shot-to-number-of-exposures ratio.

    Yeah, film and chemistry are a lot more expensive than they used to be… but if you’re shooting carefully and developing yourself, it doesn’t have to be killer.

  • Very interesting.
    An other sharing about the Contax world, very fresh too like here (great fresh true news):
    https://www.japancamerahunter.com/2021/11/in-your-bag-1720-steve-mitchell/#comment-378792
    Thank you

  • First, I have way too many cameras to ever stop shooting film. Second, when inflation is taken into account film isn’t really out of line with what I earn today versus in 1974. That applies to B&W which I have always developed and not color. Funny thing is all color shot between 1974-2009 was Kodachrome and getting that developed by Kodak wasn’t inexpensive. Third, having shot film since the age of 6 when I got my first camera for selling Christmas cards in 1960, and then taking photojournalism in college as electives I learned much on how to approach a shot. My wife doesn’t often ask me to take a picture of her when we are out visiting a site because she often hears me say “the light isn’t right” so she has my son take it on a cell phone. Fourth, and this is an unfair advantage I have, but a decade ago I bought up tons of 35mm and 120 films that were either expired for the most part or soon to be discontinued. Consequently I have enough of many different brands to shoot one roll a week for the next ten years and a different camera for five years before going around again.

    • 😉
      Love your comment 😉
      Probably we are many like that.
      kodachrome 25 I sent it to Lausanne in Switzerland because it was one of the best, until I used Velvia 50. It was like make a choice enter a BMW and Benz or a Benz and a BMW, or a Rolls Royce and a Bentley.
      I have a good stock too.
      The idea of James of loading big roll of 50 or 100 m is very good idea.
      An other idea is to join a Club photo, or to create one. I have loved this time. The man who has helped us to process and print BW was great, it was magic for me, and not expensive. The man had a Nikon F3 and I had a Contax G2, I have learned how processing can make the difference, his images was better despite I thought the G2 was better. By the way Nikon is very very good too

  • On bulk film the frame numbering goes up to 40 or 42, then resets to zero, so it gets out of step with the shooting order. Pre-packed film starts at the beginning. Can be a pain if you like indexing films by frame number and it keeps starting at some random digit.

  • The problem with bulk film loading is the price of bulk film has also shot up. And there is quite a bit wasted at the beginning and end of the film. I recently did the math and it worked out to only being slightly cheaper than buying that same film in 36exp lengths. And that did not include buying the film loader, or any of the other tools needed. Also, with the standard film you know it is good (i.e. not messed up by mistakes), it is DX coded (if that matters) etc.

    I know this may not be possible for some, but the key really is to buy in quantity when you see a deal. I occasionally go to the big sites (not Amazon – mostly awful deals!!) like freestylephoto, B&H, Adorama etc and filter by price. Often when film is close to its ‘expiration date’ it is heavily discounted. I then buy 50-100 rolls. And expired film keeps! I’ve shot stuff years old – just keep it cold/cool. Heat is the enemy.

    Also, don’t get suckered by blog posts/instagrams etc where they say you have to shoot Portra, TriX etc. All film is great. My main colour film is Fuji C200 and honestly it is fantastic. As well as the cheapest one. I have sold countless of large prints shot on C200. What controls the image is you. Also for B&W, Arista and Kentmere give fantastic results. If you didn’t tell anyone, they wouldn’t know what you used. Arista is relabelled Foma, Kentmere is by Ilford.
    Both are under $5 a roll.

    Which leads to the next point – B&W is so easy to develop yourself. And what is even easer is using Cinestill’s DF 96 Monobath solution. With this bottle, the only extra thing you need is water. That is it, and the water is to wash the film. You re-use the DF96 over 16 times before it is exhausted. The bottle is $20, so it works out to be just over $1.25 to develop one roll.

    Which leads to the next point – scanning. James points out the scanner that he likes. I scan with a digital camera which gives fantastic results. There are countless tutorials online. All these people in the comments saying they will shoot digital instead? Well they already have the digital camera that can be used as a scanner!

    I know if you are not a big film shooter it may not seem worthwhile to by film in quantity, or develop it yourself. But then you have to ask yourself the question – if you only shoot a few rolls of film a year, how is this expense a problem? Many people pay hundreds of times more than that over a year for their fancy coffee drinks, drinking at bars, junk food which they really shouldn’t be eating…. you just need to decide where your priorities are!

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

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