Costs of Digital Photography vs. Film Photography

One of the biggest benefits claimed to digital photography vs film is that it is cheaper than film photography. True, there is no film to purchase and process and develop, but there are many high costs associated with digital photography. With the technology of the digital world constantly evolving, the high end model from last year is now inferior and upgrades are required. These upgrades don’t just apply to your camera but also your film scanner, computer, software, memory cards, photo printers, inks, paper, and so forth.

Yet, it is not uncommon to see photographers using film cameras and equipment that was made decades ago. In fact, some film photographers even use dated processes and equipment that was designed in the late 1800s. It is impossible to believe that in 100 years, or even 10 years, digital photographers will be using the same equipment they use today.

Guide to Photography Film Costs

The initial cost of basic photography will depend on the equipment you purchase. However, it is safe to say that if you keep your equipment clean and well-maintained, it will last for years. Of course you will need a film camera and a camera lens to match with plenty of black and white film or color film to use. A new 35mm film camera with a standard lens will cost somewhere between $300 to $500. Any “professional” digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera will have you paying more than $1,000 without a lens. Because of the long-lasting nature of film cameras, you can purchase quality used equipment for much less. For 35mm or medium format film it will cost anywhere from about three to ten dollars a roll depending on the quality of film.

Film Processing Costs

Developing the photo film at your local camera shop is relatively inexpensive and will cost three to five dollars per roll for development only. It would benefit you greatly to have camera shops simply develop the film and not make prints so that whoever develops the film does not take poor care of it. The less someone else handles your film, the less likely it is to get scratched or damaged. To process film in your own home and build a darkroom, it will cost upwards of $100 for black and white film processing kits and $150 for color film processing kits. For printing and processing film, you are likely looking at more than $500 for equipment. Of course, you will have to buy the chemicals that process films and develop the photographs.

Total Film Photography Costs vs Digital Photography

If we add up these approximate costs, you will find that a 35mm film camera and all proper darkroom supplies will cost about the same as one quality digital SLR camera. Of course, the ongoing price of film, printing paper, and proper chemicals will add to our total. But again, consider the hefty prices of computer upgrades, software, photo printers, printing paper, and ink. It leaves one to wonder if those who advocate that digital photography is less expensive are correct.