Economics Breakdown

A few rules to live by:
-Slow down
-Think more
-Practice your craft
-When in doubt, overexpose (color negative)

Do you want to see how cheap film can be?
-First of all, get a camera.  Buy one at a used camera store if you want to, but I’ve come across great cameras at garage sales, thrift stores, and more recently, friends!  Ask your relatives, one of them is bound to have a camera stowed away somewhere, just begging to be used.
Buy color negative film.  It’s readily available at local grocery stores/Wal-Mart, and is easily processed.  I prefer giving my business to a professional camera store, but just about any corner retail pharmacy chain should still offer 1-hour film processing and negative scanning.

The most I’ve ever paid for a camera:
Well…that’s gone up a bit.  I paid $150 for my Canon 7 body.  However, for the most part, it’s all in the range of:
$25.00 – Minolta Hi-matic 9, Pentax K-1000, Pentax A-3000, Pentax ESII.  All came with lenses, most at thrift stores, one online.

The most I’ve ever paid for a lens:
$350 – Ernst Leitz 3.5cm Summaront f/3.5 LTM from a reputable local camera dealer, and it came with a 6-month warranty.

The least I’ve ever paid for a camera:
Free, but if that doesn’t count…
$2.50 – Fujipet EE garage sale
$5.00 – Pentax Spotmatic SPII with 1.8/55 SMC Takumar lens garage sale

The least I’ve ever paid for a lens:
Free, but again, if that doesn’t count…
$2.00 – Minolta MD 50mm f/1.7 garage sale
$5.00 – SMC Pentax-A 50mm f/1.7 thrift store
$5.00 – SMC Pentax (K) 55mm f/1.8 thrift store again

Really people, the deals are out there if you take the time to look…

Read these posts:
-The Cost of Shooting Film
-A New Edition to the Family, and DIY Repairs

(Off-site)
-The League of the $5.00 Film Cameras
-Film Photography Has Never Been Less Expensive
-Five Reasons to Shoot Medium Format Film
-Are Digital Images Really Free?
-The “Film Cost Is High” Argument vs. Reality
-Shopping around for Film (UK)

And that’s it for now.  More to come.

1 thought on “Economics Breakdown

  1. A notepad analysis based on my own usage: Does not include the intangibles such as valuation for permanence of output, re-use of already-built hardware, enjoyment of the process, beneficial effects on mental status by slowing down, etc…

    DIGITAL: cost of a Canon G1x Mk III (assuming this is the minimum standard – DSLRs and mirrorless goes only up from here and add to the cost): $1000 (Adorama). Lifespan of camera: ca. 5 years estimated.
    1. SD cards $20 each, estimated 2 per year.
    2. Exposures per year: estimated 4000
    3. Usable, retained photographs per year: 150
    4. Time spent at a computer selecting photos to archive (at ~5 seconds per exposure): 6 hours
    Estimated Annual Cost for digital photography to get 150 useable images: $240 + 6 hours of time annually, minimum estimate.
    No retained hardware value.
    Cost of battery failure: terminal and incalculable

    FILM (B/W):
    Upfront costs:
    1. Cost of a servicible SLR and zoom lens ca. 35-105mm $150, subtract $75 if you are happy with a 50mm f/2 prime. Will last for decades (with maintenance).
    2. bulk loader, tank, cassettes, bottles, clips $120. Will last for decades (personal experience).
    Disposables:
    1. CLA: $20 / yr (based on $100 every 5 years)
    2. 100’ B/W bulk film $100 (TriX – – – cheaper alternatives are available). Typically 18 36 exp roles so estimate 650 exposures per roll. Two rolls per year = $200 /yr for 1300 exposures.
    3. Scanner (refurb Epson V600 from Amazon) $200, lifespan estimate 5 years
    4. Chemicals $60 / yr
    5. Developing time @ 30 minutes/36 exposures: 18 hours
    6. Scanning time: dedicated time required about 5 minutes / 36 exposures (multitask while you wait for the scanner to do its thing): 3 hours / yr (200’ of bulk film used)
    7. Usable, retained photographs per year: 150
    8. Time spent at a computer selecting photos to archive (at ~5 seconds / exposure): 2 hours
    Estimated Annual Cost for b/w film photography to get 150 useable images: $300 + 18 hours.
    Retained Hardware value in camera/lens, developing supplies
    Cost of battery failure: potentially none (pre-electronic shutter)

    FILM (Color):
    Upfront costs: Cost of a servicible SLR and zoom lens ca. 35-105mm $150, subtract $75 if you are happy with a 50mm f/2 prime. Will last for decades (with maintenance).
    Disposables:
    1. CLA: $20 / yr (based on $100 every 5 years).
    2. Film (Ektar as mid-range cost for estimates) $9 / 36 exposures. Estimating 1300 exposures / yr: $325
    3. Processing/scanning $12/roll (The Darkroom): $435
    4. Usable retained photographs / year: 150
    5. Time spent at a computer selecting photos to archive (at ~5 seconds / exposure): 2 hours

    Estimated annual costs for color film photograph to get 150 usable images: $780 + 2 hours
    retained hardware value.
    Cost of battery failure: potentially none (pre-electronic shutter)

    Summary:

    B/W film vs. digital costs $80 for the entertainment value of 12 hours / yr dedicated to the process ($5/hr). Is there a less expensive form of meaningful entertainment?

    Color film photograph vs. digital: $550/yr minus your value of 4 hours of your time, for the pleasure of having non-degrading hardcopy that your great-grandkids can look at.

    These estimates assume 150 nice images out of 4000 exposures digital/1300 exposures film. Considering the ease and low unit cost per exposure, I suspect the ratio is actually much lower for many photographers. Considering the film process, i suspect the ratio is actually higher for many photographers. If these are true statements, the costs of film vs. digital goes down without improving the output.

    * * *

    Some useful Comparisons:

    Cost of a daily Starbucks (5 / wk, $2.75 each, average cost in US): $715 (vs. $83 if you made your own Starbucks brand coffee at home: money “wasted” = $630)

    Average gas cost for commute (average 20 miles round trip, 25 mpg, $2/gallon): minimum $400 (would have been zero if you rode your bike….: money “wasted” = $400)

    Time spent at the toilet (3 minutes/#1, 10 minutes/#2): 152 hours

    Time spent watching a television screen (average consumption): 250 hours

    Time spent on social media (average consumption): 73 hours

    * * *

Please discuss!

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