The film cost is high argument vs reality

image courtesy of
image courtesy of

Leica M3 was in production from 1954-1966. Thats a whopping 12 years of production. While this looks like a digressing point from the caption, its not, its in fact the heart of the point i am trying to make.

My thoughts here are solely as a hobbyist and those passionate about photography without client’s pressure. Perhaps you are a professional and have tight budget clients and rapid wedding bookings, that my friend, is where Digital photography shines.

If you are new to photography, i would also suggest that you stick with Digital photography first, until you are familiar with aperture, shutter speed and iso control, then film would be a great area to venture to.
Anyway, just read on for leisure sake, lets see some how some mad logic that passes thru my mind sounds like.

The cost of developing film cost me RM 12 (usd 4) for 36 images in a local shop. In some dedicated shops it might goes up to RM 18 (USD 6). Better service, better pay, acceptable notion in business.

Assuming : 1 Roll every week

Thats 52 rolls a year. And assuming the cost of “Scanning” those cost RM26 (USD 9) , in total we have spent : (26+12) * 52 = RM 1976 (USD 658) a year for development.

Lets assume i use Fuji Superia 200, RM 12 per roll (USD 4), 52 weeks, a year would be : RM 624 (USD 208).

Yearly cost : RM 1976 + 624 = RM 2600 (USD 866).
You would have shot : 1,872 images.

If you buy your own scanner, say, Canoscan 9000f : RM 1000 (usd 300), you could eliminate scanning, that brings down the yearly cost to :
RM 1248 (USD 416). . Imho the scanner’s 9600 dpi is good enough for almost anything except wall size and billboard prints and exceeds almost any regular labs in town.

If you plan to buy ANY flatbed scanner that is not dedicated, scrap it. Read here why

Today’s FullFrame Digital camera cost around RM 6000 (USD 2000) for the cheapest lot. Lets be honest with ourselves, how many digital cameras did we buy in the last 4 years? If you are not into photography, maybe nothing much, but if you are an avid shooter and constantly improving yourself and your gears, i would say 2 is a conservative figure.

In 4 years, Assuming that i use the Leica M6 film camera,
1. My cost would be USD 416 * 4 = USD 1664 and my 2 LR44 batteries will last around 8 years, so no changes there.
2. The Digital upgrade will cost you easily USD 4000 if you upgraded twice. This is not inclusive of your upgrade required in your computer to handle ur ever growing raw files and resolution, extra batteries, memory cards format and softwares.

At this point you might be wondering, what if i trade in my gears! surely my cost would be lower. Have you considered what your digital camera is worth after 2 years time? As manufacturers religiously churns out new version before any major exhibition, whats new today gets old very fast and it shows in the price drop. Options abounds even if your camera model happens to be the “hot items”.


Now, check out the prices on M3, M6,M7 or say Nikon Titan F2 film camera. Don’t be surprised that the price remains holds very well and some like the Nikon Titan F2…actually is better than buying the best stocks.

Leica M3 was produced from 1954-1966. 12 years.

Film does not offer higher quality or cleaner images. Digital is the new king. But, if you enjoy shooting and thinking more about your shots, taking your skills to the next level and get the hell out of editing photos 90% of the time, there is nothing like shooting film for a break.

Take the blue pill and forget whatever i wrote here, resume reading your gear reviews, zoom out of that pixel peeping mode and go back to the digital circle. Take the red pill, and your race ends here, just grab a few rolls of Kodak Porta 160.

** Maybe one day we might have a digital camera with no LCD back and a preconfigured limit setter of say 36,72,108 maximum shots and a 50mm 0.95 lens. Sounds silly and stupid but that is one camera i will surely buy.

6 thoughts on “The film cost is high argument vs reality

  1. Here in the US, I develop at at $11 a pop + $4 for enhanced scans ($15 total). I shot just under 3000 frames on my Sony A7 since I got it at the end of May, so 3 months. 3000/36 = about 83 rolls of film. Film costs between $4-18 for a 36 exposure roll. Let’s just say we stick with cheaper film at $5/roll. $5 for film plus the $15 each roll for develop and scanning, that’s about $1660 for the three months. I prefer prosumer film and they cost about $10 a pop usually. That would bring the cost up to $2,075 for the three months. In a year, assuming I shot 12,000 frames (pretty avg for me on digital), shooting film would cost $8,350. There are really budget film development labs that charge $6 for a roll of film too here but their results are atrocious. Then there is the whole workflow issue.

    I really admire old school photographers that has to learn and shoot on film. It’s kind of like the old F1 drivers that didn’t have all those fancy technologies to help them go fast. True pros. But I still much prefer the digital democratization of photography. It makes photography more accessible and less elitist. And honestly, photography had gotten a lot better because of it. Now, we still have the best of both worlds. We can shoot digital as our daily driver and pull out the film to, as you say, take a break. 🙂


    1. If u shoot film no way will u shoot as much so taking the figure from digital to convert to film is way too much ha ha , yes digital has open up photography in ways we never seen bef


      1. That’s also true. From a regular 3hr photo shoot, I usually get about 3-400 frames on digital. But out of them, I only really like between 1-5% (3-20 photos, usually on the lower end). If I shot film, I might be extra diligent in getting the shot, so I may up my success rate a bit (or I may do the opposite by being too careful). Either way, if I don’t shoot as much film as I do digital (say I shot 5 rolls), my productivity will likely drop. I love the feeling of getting back a roll of film, but I don’t so much like it when I get a roll of duds. The freedom that comes with unrestrained shooting is the final nail in film’s long buried coffin.

        That being said, my article on shooting film with the Yashica T4/5 is coming up soon haha.


      2. Ha ha . I have the a7r and bef that d4 , so machine gun is what I do with digital and I know what u meant . But I have come to the conclusion that the only way to limit oneself is to create the scene where one have no choice but to work within those limit. It’s not the film development that I fancy, not at all .


  2. “but if you are an avid shooter and constantly improving yourself and your gears, i would say 2 is a conservative figure.”
    Actually I don’t see why to improve the gear. I use mostly a Sony R1 from 2005 I think (a bit more than 250 dollars if I’m not wrong) and one hundred dollars for photo ninja as raw converter to have the advantages of current technology. I used a Fujifilm X-E1 with the XF 35mm 1.4 lens and I’m using a Canon EF (FD mount) film camera. My favourite is the Sony (you can close the top mounted screen so you have no screen or use it as a medium format waist level viewfinder) and it makes me think before to shoot, usually I don’t take more than fifty or sixty photographs in a beautiful place and no more than seven in a week.
    With that I say that I don’t see why I would to “improve” the gear when digital has a nice output since years ago, it’s even not needed full frame I think. Although I try to improve my composition and that’s almost question of practice and not of gear. Of course a professional photographer instead needs the best lenses or the best camera to justify the services with the customer.
    But my film camera although given to me by my father still eats money in repairs (light seals, stuck shutters) exotic batteries, rolls, labs, and everything is imported… I shoot it just because I like it, not because it’s cheaper (outside US and EU definitively not) nor better (it’s just different)


    1. Wifi,Obsoleteness of cards and a host of other enhancements will try to move the shooter to upgrade . Sigma Dp series at 4.7 mp used to keep folks happy , now with the 15(46) mp dpm series , there ain’t much who won’t jump . An example. As for film I m pretty much just looking at MF now


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