Why Film? (Part I): The Cost Argument

, Tormaid

Nikon F100 with Film

I've received many questions (and weird looks) from friends and fellow photographers over my use of film, so I thought I'd kick off my new blog by addressing the question here: why use film in 2015?

Since this topic has been covered many times before, I will attempt to put my own spin on it and address the question in purely-technical terms.

The cost argument:

Before I get into the technical pros and cons of film, I need to address the elephant in the room... or perhaps more accurately, in your wallet. Why? Because it's the one non-technical aspect of shooting film that I can't seem to completely get away from when I talk about using it, and there seems to be a real disconnect between the lay public and photographers on the subject. The first thing many of my friends and family want to know when they've realized I shoot film is: "...but, isn't film expensive?", whereas most photographers who find themselves in my shoes—justifying their use of film to others—have the opposite perception: "Not at all. It's actually cheaper than digital!"

So, why the disconnect? I think that most people don't realize how cheap film cameras have become: a professional-quality camera with all the modern bells and whistles you could ever need (autofocus, metering, and program modes) can be had for ~$150. Film is also quite inexpensive, even to have developed. Many places will do mail-in developing and high-res scanning for $7-12, roughly as much again as a 36-exposure roll of good film. You can also develop and scan it yourself, as I do, and save even more. However, many film enthusiasts do not acknowledge the significant advances in digital over the past few years, which has resulted in a market where the lest-expensive, entry-level cameras can go toe-to-toe in image quality with the most expensive DSLRs, sacrificing only their build quality and features like dedicated buttons for this and that. One of these will run you less than $400—significantly less if you're willing to look at the used market.

Kodak Portra Canister

Therefore, I like to answer the question of cost, "film is usually cheaper, BUT..." I hope that instead of getting caught up in this argument, though, you can use the technical information I will be providing to make up your mind about the merits of film as a viable photographic medium in 2015.

Update: added pictures, minor formatting adjustments.

Next in series:

Why Film? (Part II): Some Good Reasons For Shooting Film (Coming Soon!)