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Monday, 20 November 2017

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film is less expensive per picture, but more on equipment for me. i have spent more on equipment on the last two years than on a decade of film shooting. i think though that was because i had the money, i could as well spend nothing and shoot digital with what i already had three years ago. you should be happy as a purchase enabler together with the rest of the net. now i think i have reached a satisfaction plateau and should shop no more for the foreseeable time(several years). that plateau might as well prove to be a lot smaller as the grass is always greener at the next mountain top but i prefer not to think about it.

Digital is cheaper than film with one caveat: that you don't endlessly buy a sequence of new and improved bits of kit which will, in fact, make no difference to your photography at all.

If the new kit actually will make a difference to what you do then you necessarily are doing something which could not be done with film at all and so the comparison is not useful.

In my case: I belong to a darkroom which is a financially insane decision, although I can make prints there I could not easily make at home even if I built a darkroom (20x24 or larger, and from 10x8 negs if need be), and I like supporting the existence of it. I don't want to say how much it costs, but I could have bought a Leica Monochrom, new, with what I've spent on it since I joined.

Even if I had not done that, to do what I want to be able to do, which is to make beautiful prints from film, I would be paying for film & chemistry for it (say 50 rolls a year, say £10/roll all in so £500/year) and a fairly large room in my house which I can't use for anything else, which is, perhaps, 10% of the value of my house: perhaps this room costs me £30,000 over 25 years, or £1200/year. Paper seems to be £150 for 50 sheets of 9.5x12, and I probably use at least two boxes a year (this might be conservative, and I'm ignoring contact paper), so £300/year for paper. Darkroom chemistry is cheap, enlargers &c are free (but bulbs die: not sure what that costs).

So, adding that all up: to make prints, from film, in a darkroom in your house (in the UK but not in London) probably costs somewhat over £2000/year. Well, I could probably buy a 2nd-hand Leica Monochrom and a decent lens for it every two years for that.

Digital has a higher initial cost, but is cheaper at scale.

That is to say that for digital to work, you need a more expensive camera/camera body, you need a computer for post-processing, you may need a printer (but can outsource that bit if you like).

Even buying second hand, to get something decent you're probably looking at a four figure outlay for the camera/computer combination.

By contrast, the minimum outlay for film is a roll of film and a film camera body. You can do that for under a hundred bucks. We're talking two orders of magnitude cheaper.

However, film doesn't scale well. Each frame used has a fixed cost associated with it, and then there's storage. That one roll of film is easy to store. Ten rolls is fine. One hundred rolls? Less fine. A lifetime of film? Owch. At some point, you have to start buying furniture just for storing film, and we're not even talking about the opportunity cost of losing that space to the film & any prints.

By contrast, digital scales well. Yes, you might need a lot of storage - but storage is cheap. A 1Tb hard disk can store one heck of a lot of photos - the equivalent physical space and furniture required for film doesn't bear thinking about!

Digital is also inherently more flexible. Which, of course, means costs. Specifically, you may end up paying for processing software, additional storage, and perhaps cloud backup services. Now, it's true that these are expenses, but they're optional. The default state of both film and digital is that there are no backups, and that processing is minimal. If you choose to go beyond that default state, you're accepting the costs that come along with it.

Oh, and many people already have a computer. I included that in my original costs, but for most it's actually a sunk cost that they won't even consider.

There is one more important thing to add - the addictive convenience of digital.
I suspect that in a practical sense, most people will end up paying a lot more for their digital photography than they ever would for film, simply because it allows them to create the photos they always wanted with a lot less hassle. The fixed costs, delays for development and so forth mean that people used their film cameras less - digital makes "spray and pray" a perfectly viable tactic for the less dedicated photographer.
That convenience, for reasons which mystify me, tends to put people onto the "body upgrade treadmill" and then suddenly it all becomes a lot more expensive than film ever was... ;-)

I have been an avid photographer for as long as I can remember and I'm 63 now.

When I used film, it was for family shots and a few larger prints. I don't recall the cost getting in the way. But the drawbacks... I never got round to archiving my photographs and I never printed many larger prints. It was just too much hassle.

I fully embraced digital and have printed quite a few larger prints. I have also been able to find most of my stuff and print as much as I wanted.

I was fortunate enough to make a living from it taking wedding photographs. Not sure I would have been confident enough with film but digital always gave that instant feedback.

B&W 4X5 great tonal range very hard to find a darkroom - always was a problem- unless you build out your own. Chemicals a hassle to work with.

Digital much easier to work with and you have a range of options like focus stacking, blending multiple images, HDR, Pixel Shift. I left Film and have not looked back.

Ironically for landscapes, the best practice for is the same: Big tripod, cable release, low ISO, show up at dawn and pray for no wind.

Film is definitely more expensive for me. Each film I shoot costs about $7 for film and chemicals. But I then scan the film by re-photographing it with... a digital camera. My other half keeps suggesting that I should just ditch the film part to save money (although we would probably end up spending more on food with all the fridge space that would be reclaimed :-)

More seriously, the cost of film and chemicals is not such a big deal compared to the cost of many camera and lens systems. The main "cost" of film is the time needed for processing and scanning. I usually process films in batches of four, and it takes between two and three hours to develop, scan and do a first-pass conversion of the RAW negatives in Capture One.

For me, as a pro far. far more expensive alas. I used Bronica's SQA and SQAM for over 20 years, the eldest still being used and earning. Now I have a D@X in a box which is virtually unsellable. I used a Durst lab enlarger and it's still in fine fettle (I just will not get rid of it) but monies into ever more complicated and ever-changing software just grow and grow. Yes the benefits of modern kit are wonderful and I can shoot situations that were so very difficult if not impossible. But the costs are high and customers will not accept an increase in costs.

It depends, if you upgrade every 4-5 years or change systems then I would assume film is less expensive. My reasoning is that with film you tend to hold on to equipment longer and no technology improvement with film cameras makes you want to upgrade. I know we have read and heard this many times but you are more selective with your image count with film, you just do not take those stupid, worthless shots of your feet, shoes, hands, furniture, a pebble, weeds, you get my point. It reminds me of the comment of 80,000 exposures on the readers digital camera. I shot film for 10 years and yes made many prints, I never came close to that amount with film. I can't imagine 80,000 images and what to do with them. Film has got to be cheaper in the long term not just based upon a year of shooting.

For me, film (and the camera) was only half the equation. The darkroom was the other half.

Based on the above, film was much more expensive.

From a cost standpoint, it all depends. For example, I recently bought a Sony RX100M3 for $750 and have pretty much used this as my only camera since then. To date, I have shot about 1500 photos with it. So far, that comes out to 50 cents per photo.

Forget the cost to buy a film camera which varies so widely depending on what you use (you could have anything from a used $25 Minolta to a Leica which could cost several thousand dollars). Buying a roll of color film costs about $6 (depending on what you shoot, could be lower or higher) plus about $5 per roll to have it developed and scanned at Costco or Walmart. So the cost for a 36 exposure roll is about .30 cents per photo.

Using my Sony camera example above, my cost is almost double the cost of shooting film (based on the cost of the camera itself). The more I shoot with the same camera, the lower the cost per photo becomes. When I reach 3000 shots with the camera (which I will easily do), my cost per shot will be about .25 cents each (cheaper than the cost of film which won't fluctuate much).

My conclusion is the the cost per photo eventually comes down to how much we shoot with a given digital camera vs. film but of course, there are other considerations aside from cost as any devoted digital and/or film camera photographer will tell you.

Like most of the "big questions" that are endlessly debated on the hobby forums there is no single context-free answer here.

The cost of digital is mostly tied up in the cost to acquire the camera system and related hardware, but then you can amortize that cost over every exposure you make with a particular set of hardware. The pitfalls are:

1. Maybe you are chasing the "image quality" or "system quality" dragon and keep turning over your hardware. Then you will lose.

2. There are actually auxiliary post-exposure costs for storing, backing up, and processing all of those "free" digital frames. If you are not the sort of person who would have been buying the computers and storage for other things, then this cost might not be insignificant. Although even here you can amortize most computer costs over a few years.

The cost of film is in a combination of the hardware (which maybe you won't chase too much anymore) and the pre- and post-exposure costs of film and film processing. On the face of it this seems overwhelming (film + exposure is getting close to around $1 per frame, but even in the good old days it might not have been that much less ... let's compromise and say it's $.50 per frame). If you do your own it might be a little cheaper, but you make up for it in the time you spend sitting in the dark.

For amateurs this is pretty expensive, but for professionals the trade-off might be less clear.

Back in the day you could shoot your film and drop it off at the lab and then essentially forget about it until the proofs come back. Maybe if you worked with one lab a lot they might even maintain your archives for you and whatnot. I have no idea.

Now after you shoot that wedding you have to go home and load it all into Lightroom or whatever and go over every frame on by one ... the time and cost of setting up these workflows and then executing them every day for every project is not insignificant and should be factored into the "cost". But what does time cost? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I'm kind of surprised that there are no large scale digital "lab" services that would do this for people the way the pro labs used to with film.

Of course, for amateurs time is "free".

For me personally I think digital has been an overall cost savings. I have spent about the same amount per year on digital hardware as I did on film cameras, and I have more income now than I did. I have the computers around anyway because that's what I do for work. I might miss the *idea* of the darkroom (romantic artistic notions, no computers) but I know I don't miss the *reality* of the darkroom (smelly chemicals and skin rashes).

As a bonus, I have every select I ever shot for the last 20 years in my phone or iPad ready to show anyone. And the quality of the picture is a lot better than a 4x6 overnight lab print.

Depends on how much you shoot and how much you are prepared to pay for a camera, I guess. The ocassional film shooter on 35mm can buy cheap second hand cameras and can save money when compared with the cost of an 'equivalent' digicam. Move up to film Hasselblads, top end film Leicas etc, and the savings can dwindle fast. For those who want to shoot hundreds of shots in a short space of time, digital makes sense, at least financially. More important, perhaps, is whether the user enjoys the film equipment and process more than digital - or vice versa.

Films are more expansive than memory cards, but this doesn’t tell the whole story.
A digital slr will cost you more than a used film camera, to start with.
Modern AF lenses will cost you more than manual old lenses, and frequently they are not superior.
And I still have to find a digital user not willing to upgrade the camera to the new sensor or trick.
Film development costs, but doing it at home adds something to the pleasure of producing a photo. And the same apply to scanning.

In my opinion the final answer depends on what kind of photography you are in (professional or hobby or Art?), how many pictures you take, how much control you want on the final image (with digital you really need to master the photoshops out there), and how much pleasure you take in the process, not only on end result.

Hmmm....well, in capital investment digital has been far more expensive. One reason for that has been upgrading, from 3.2 mp to 5 to 8 to 10.1 to 24 to 36 and then 50. In between also adding in several cameras for specific functions, and now one as a backup. And then ther's all the lenses. So, that's been a lot of money since 2001, even though over half of the cameras were bought as refurbs or at the end of the production cycle, so at deep discounts. But that's also a bit of an anomaly of the age. People coming into it now don't have to do that as most of us have had to this past almost 2 decades. I have no need to upgrade at this point, have mostly all that I need to do anything I need to.

But then there's the processing. I had for all intents and purposes stopped photographing once I lost access to a darkroom I wanted to use; the commercial lab costs were killing me. Just impossible. So, on the processing side the low cost of digital has enabled me, not just to take more photos, but in so doing to hone my craft and become 10 times the photographic image maker I was pre-digital. It has also allowed me to begin doing professional work, which is something I will be able to continue to do as long as I can see and think---unlike my current job in a museum exhibits department, where we are talking about sometimes heavy physical labor. My clocks ticking on that louder each day.

So, all in? Far cheaper. And the additional costs have been excellent capital investments for me and my work.

My thought is digital may not be more expensive than film but it's not free like people think. They say film is so unaffordable to shoot but I think that they miss the fact the digital shooters have to pay for not just cameras and lenses and upgrades, but also for storage, cloud services, back up/redundant storage, software licenses for LightRoom and Photoshop, and I think that those are not taken into account.

Then there is the time cost of "I shot 1000 photos at this gathering and now I have 1000 photos to edit". I think that the quantity of photographs supposedly for free with digital is both a blessing and a curse, because I don't think it encourages the highest quality of decision-making while shooting, but rather spray and pray, and that doesn't mean there aren't some who photograph judiciously but more frames means a lot of computer lab work.

Digital does allow you to be more experimental certainly and also to shoot in much lower light, so it has that advantage. But it doesn't give you a negative to store, and just like that Ansel Adams Department of Interior job last year wanted photographs made on 4 x 5 film, there is an ability to archive physical film in a way that's a lot simpler than computer files.

They're both completely viable options for different kinds of work. I certainly need digital for commercial work. When watercolor paints were invented no one suggested getting rid of oils, so one isn't better than the other. But some people say film is harder to shoot so why bother and I always answer why does art have to be easy?

My last thought is we've become a digital society and easy is better, quality is lower but good enough in a lot of areas, and grandma gets an email for her birthday now, instead of a card. MP3s are not as good as the record or CDs but they're convenient so it's good enough.

We seem lazier now. And to me that doesn't seem like the best reason to use digital over film. And the cost doesn't seem to be as low as people think.

Plus you can get your hands on some vintage film gear cameras that were the sirens song of cameras back in the day and are pieces of mechanical art that are a delight to work with.

For me film costs more in time and materials, but less in quality used equipment.

Digital is mostly free to shoot, roughly the same to make a quality small to medium sized black and white print, and much more expensive to amortize hardware. It's also much faster to get proof prints and curate the images.

But digital image storage is not free. Cloud backups are great as far as image security goes, but you need a local copy and ideally local backups. This has monthly costs and could cost more than shooting and processing film over a lifetime. But the film in a binder as at risk of damage and is not easily backed up. Digital wins for security if you know what you are doing and take the time to transfer to new technology as it emerges. That has a cost in time. These hidden costs are a large part of my digital expenses. But I wish I could backup my film this securely and cheaply.

Slightly OT, but Daniel Milnor has some interesting thoughts about digital vs. film lifestyles, thoughts which are costs of a different type:
http://shifter.media/creative-the-fuji-file-three/

Is a car more expensive than a horse? Well, yeah, but I can't make the 50 mile trip to work, much of it on the PA turnpike, in about an hour or so on a horse. They're just not comparable, even though both can be categorized as "transportation."

I shot film for almost 60 years, with two successive cameras. Pursuing increased image quality and greater capability, since 2001 I have owned about a dozen digital cameras. Expensive! But look! No darkroom. No waiting for processing. ISO can vary from shot to shot, as can color temperature. No need to carry a notebook to record how shot. My smartphone can control the camera, and upload images to the Web. And, when I returned from a trip to Paris in 2000 with 7 rolls of film to develop, today I can return to the hotel room and review as many images from a single day.

If digital can be argued to cost more, it can also be argued to do a whole lot more, and better.

Now, please excuse me, but I have a roll of Ferrania P30 in my OM10 that I need to check out.

Pictures are expressive. Photographers express. Neither film nor digital has the edge here. From a film guy...

I use the same software for both, so it comes down to processing expense vs. gear expense. Theoretically I could get by with very cheap film bodies and cheap manual lenses. Now that I have the K1 and all three limited lenses for it, I find that I love using those lenses as well on a Pentax LX and an autofocus model, the ZX-5. Commercial processing comes to around $20-26 per roll with high quality scans uploaded to the web, not cheap at all, plus $5 for the film. I have the materials needed to develop black and white myself, just need to watch a youtube video a couple more times and dive in... but that plus scanning sounds like a pain. If I were doing some kind of real project, I'd use digital and shoot a lot more to allow for good editing. But to answer your question, I don't really know because there are many variables. You can get by with fairly low costs in both mediums if you try, and you can spend yourself broke too.

I used to shoot 35mm slide film and then scan and was digital from there. Since moving to digital cameras my workflow and other practices are otherwise unchanged so I'm saving £30 to £50 per week on film and processing costs with all other costs unchanged. Film cameras were cheaper, on average, than equivalent digital cameras but I've saved about £6000 on film and processing in the last ten years and I've only spent £1500 on new digital cameras in that time so I'm well up.
Inkjet ink and paper are very expensive but at least I only have to print shots that are definite winners.
Anthony

I am shooting more film so I suppose it is starting to cost more than digital. Not only in money but developing and scanning time. I've never spent over £1,000 on a digital camera and there is no way I would shell out for a > £3k uberkamera. I just don't need it. My camera purchases now are cheap 2nd-hand film cameras.

But it's a hobby for me and I enjoy it. It's better than going out and getting drunk every Friday night!

What I want to spend more on now is large prints and frames so that I can actually enjoy my hobby more fully.

Digital has been a lot more expensive for me than film, although I came to my senses four years ago. I just didn't have the time to learn a new camera system every other year.I haven't spent a dime on photo equipment since, apart from my Adobe Lightroom subscription. My M4/3 cameras do what I need to do, and my trusty Sony RX100 Mk I is still producing excellent holiday snaps. I still haven't warmed up to smartphone cameras, but I only buy the dirt cheap models. My current money pit is music - I'm one of the few still buying records, but that's another story. Ironically though, my interest in music is purely analog... :)

Someone said once:

"Photography is an expensive hobby and less than a thin way to make a living"

I forgot who said it, unfortunately.

Mike,
In the long run digital is way more expensive than film. The film SLR I bought as a used item in mid 1986 is still with me in good usable condition. I never bought another serious film camera after that; I did not need one with that good camera in hand. Since I shot and processed mostly black and white, the cost of pictures was minimal.
Digital cameras are far more expensive even initially to buy and they have relatively very short life cycles; they go belly up in less than five years with no hope of getting them fixed. Worse, they do not give the same level of satisfaction the film cameras gave me. I guess it is mostly because of design changes. What happened to all those aperture rings and shutter speed dials?
Computers, which need regular upgradation and maintenance, add to the cost of digital photography. We did not need computers for film photography. Ultimately what we get are pictures. The other side of the coin is the ease of use, instant gratification and the possibility of sending copies to our friends and relatives with little effort. Digital or film, it is a certainty they will ask for copies. That way I am better off now.
But will I go back to film?
Oh, no way. Ranjit Grover

Hell yes digital is more expensive-unless you build a darkroom. Nuff said.

My experience with film was mostly slides, shot with a Nikkormat and several lenses. My digital experience is with an Olympus kit, now an OMD E-M5ii and a few more lenses than I had with my Nikkormat. Very little printing in either case.

I'd say digital is more expensive because of the rapidly evolving nature of the technology and the constant pressure to acquire something better, especially camera bodies.

That Nikkormat kit served me well for a good 20 years and I never felt a need to upgrade. Until I switched to digital. But I'm on my fifth Olympus body in the last eight years, not to mention a handful of various point and shoot digital cameras along the way.

I could buy a lot of slide film and develop it for the cost of any one of those Olympus bodies.

But is the cost of digital worth it? Absolutely. I enjoy digital photography much more, and get better results. I wouldn't go back. I'm really still shooting slides since my photographs are mostly displayed on a computer, but the ability to edit those is a huger improvement.

My answer after reading dozens of posts and hundreds of (at least) comments: It depends.

I think digital is significantly less expensive, due to the elimination of the costs of film and processing alone. I used to be in the camera store two or three times a week dropping off slide film and picking up processed slides, in addition to buying cameras, lenses, accessories, printing materials, etc, that I still buy on a regular basis.

Now I have a stash of increasingly less expensive SD cards (thereby eliminating the considerable cost of buying and processing film), so my only expenses are for printing inks and papers - roughly comparable to the costs of running a Cibachrome darkroom - plus the cost that I've always had for my various cameras and accessories.

In addition...

• No more breathing printing chemicals (and for Cibachrome they were quite toxic);
• No more disposal problems with exhausted or outdated chemicals;
• No more refrigerating papers to keep them viable;
• No more printing in the dark;
• No more buying several different kinds of film (B&W or color; faster or slower ASA; tungsten or daylight, etc);
• No more changing film in the middle of a roll if I need to change from one type to another;
• And finally, much finer tools for digital processing and printing than there ever were in the darkroom.

Granted, as at the beginning of any new technology, rapid improvements provide an excuse (if not an actual need) to upgrade camera bodies regularly, but for most photographers that's half the fun. However, all of my digital cameras are now 3 to 5 years old, and still provide very usable files.

Well, for professionals, I don't think cost has much to do with it, it's more about immediacy, and they would surely pay extra for that. But I'm not a professional, and immediacy doesn't matter that much to me. Be interesting to see what the professionals reply.

For me, it makes little sense to say that I took x tens of thousands of pictures last year on digital, but if that had been film I would have needed a second mortgage to pay for it, so digital is cheaper, because of course I would not have done that.

As an amateur, I allocate the money (without actually doing any number crunching) that I feel that I can afford to be without, and then do what I can do in the way of photography. So that way at least, film and digital are the same in cost, but with different outcomes: More computer files for digital, more prints for film. However, digital ends up costing more (i.e. I wind up allocating more of my hard won cash to it), because of the churn in camera bodies, computers, and software, as the technology keeps changing (and I love technology!).

So if in some alternate universe, digital sensors had turned out to be an engineering impossibility and thus no digital picture files could be economically made, I would be happily doing photography the old way and with a somewhat higher bank balance. However, as I happen to live in this universe, I use both film and digital, and so manage to get the worst of both methods.

Let's take a point of completion for both formats to the point of the image is downloaded on the computer. Then the film shooter has film and processing to memory stick costs. Conversely the Digital shooter would have no consumables, only depreciation on obsolescence of equipment. If you were using one roll of film a week on a film Leica camera, the Film format would be the least expensive. If you were shooting Digital with a new quality digital camera and shooting a lot of more shots than 36 per week, the digital would be less expensive. OK, maybe with a new big Leica stuff. With those, there is not less expensive anything in the formula.

Since this is mostly a hobby for me, I don't keep very accurate tabs on how much I spend. However, if I had to guess, I'd say that digital is the more expensive option for me.

While it's been awhile since I updated my digital camera body and I haven't really added any new lenses of late, there are a lot of ancillary costs that go along with digital. I don't know the amount invested in computers, monitors, external drives, storage media, etc. over the years, but it has to be substantial. And with nearly 75,000 shutter actuations on my D600, it's time to start thinking about the update there.

With film, my individual shot costs are much, much higher ($15-$30 per shot when shooting 8x10 depending on if I'm shooting B&W or color, for example) but I'm also much, much more careful about what I shoot with it. I wouldn't say that I gratuitously "spray and pray" with my D600 but there's also a different mindset than when I shoot with film and I take more chances on photos with my digital gear. Sometimes I'm rewarded for my efforts but much of the time I'm not. Since most of the investment in the digital environment has already occurred, the actual shot cost is probably fractions of a penny.

What I'd be curious to see is what my approach would be like if digital was not part of my workflow. How much would I be spending on film photography? I'm sure it would be more but would it be as much as I spend total on digital? I kind of doubt it. I think the idea that every exposure has a greater defined cost that comes with it would inspire me to be a more frugal photographer.

I think what I find most interesting about the cost is the relationship to the end results. My film keeper rate is much higher but I also know that there are many shots that I never would have even tried with film. In the end, I think the cost per portfolio grade image probably works out the same because of that.

Digital can be cheaper if:

1. You are a collector and must have every film camera in every format.
2. You spray & pray film like digital.
3. You shoot 4x5 or larger.
4. You pay others to process and scan your film.

"—For you, would you say digital is more expensive than film…"

In terms of time and effort, digital is far less expensive. But my end-result in digital is on the screen, not paper.

In hardware, I am amazed and appalled at the prices for digital cameras and lenses now. My 35mm Summicron cost $180 (new) around 1961 and now is $3,400.

In darkroom/software terms, the monthly charge of $10 from Adobe (on my 2011 Mac) is really nothing. [Internet broadband connectivity is a whole 'nuther matter.]

And trying to access, sort through, and find things in hard-copy prints is way more difficult than digital searches.

I am far happier where I am now.

T.

Sorry that this isn't precisely on topic, but I wouldn't be surprised if film-based photography outlives digital photography - as far as "serious" photography is concerned. The "achilles heel" of serious digital photography is that it requires a desktop computer with dedicated software, an environment that might not be readily available in a couple of years:

* Dedicated computers give way to smartphones and tablets - anecdotal evidence: Apple apparently not caring much about desktop computers any more;
* Software-as-a-service is constantly threatening to pull the rug from below one's feet - see Adobe's lastest moves

In contrast, a darkroom built in the 70s will still work today, and also in ten or more years.

Best, Thomas

PS: Somebody around who still buys music CDs? The digital crowd went the mp3 download route - but vinyl LPs and turntables are still sold new ...

A gas expands to fill the volume and shape of its container. The cost of photography expands to meet (or slightly exceed) the budget and needs of the photographer. This applies equally to film and digital.

More in a bit when I’m at a proper keyboard.

For me, I would say that film is more expensive than digital, but I have no ink jet printer. Most of my photos go on-line via scanned negatives.

For those who print their digital photos, the cost may be higher.

I like film, I've been shooting it for sixty plus years. However film is too spendy—color negative is $30.00 a roll to purchase, develop and scan. Chromes up-the-ante to $37.00 a roll. If I alternated between negative and positive weekly the cost is $1,742 for a year. A years worth of film costs would buy me an iPhone X plus a Canon SL2 body 8-) What's not to like?

I still have a handful of 35mm cameras, plus a 4x5, so I'll continue to shoot some film. But the iPhone X will definitely replace the Yashica T4 as my pocket camera.

As much as I'd like to pair an iPhone with a X1D, for the foreseeable future it will be a Canon Elan 7n instead of a MFD.

I expect this mostly comes down to how voracious a consumer of digital cameras you are and how many frames you are likely to shoot if you shoot film.

For me the scales are very much tipped in favor of digital. I've purchased three DSLRs in the last 11.5 years totaling around $1750. Even if you round up to $2000 to account for batteries and SD cards that leaves less than $175 per year for film and processing. I would easily surpass $600 per year when shooting film exclusively and it would be exponentially more if I shot the same volume of film as I do in digital.

Oh my goodness! To me, that's a 'no-brainier!'
Most decidingly, digital is cheaper for me.
But then, I don't print, and if I do, I'll send it to a outside service. My computer is seven years old, an iMac, that cost at the time around $1,300. I'll get another five or six years out of it. I don't spend on software.
I did have a darkroom in my late teens, and I remember it cost me, even though my enlarger was not one of the 'top of the line' machines of the day. Paper and chemicals were not cheap, even film, 20 or 36 pictures a roll, unless you could afford and justify having a bulk loader.
But then, as far as my digital picture taking is concerned, I'm content with just a few lenses for my EM5. And I have a around town, easy to tote, GR II, which is enough for me.
Of course if I win the lottery, I'd probably go nuts, and go on a binge!

Sure, I could build a reasonably useful 8x10 or 20x24 portrait or landscape camera with stuff from the dollar store for 5 bucks and spend another 20 to get a print (I think but I’d have to check on the price of paper)

For prosaic take a bunch of photos with a handheld camera and show them to someone photography I can’t think of a scenario where film would cost less than digital. Maybe in those convert a bread truck into a pinhole camera situations, or when you hand out disposable cameras to wedding guests chemical photography is less expensive, but film doesn’t scale well. Even if all the equipment is free, and I have more film cameras than I can remember from half frame to 4x5 the cost of film and processing is way up there.

Photographers don’t enjoy the benefits of having their picks of the tasty leftovers from industrial and consumer products. Now art photographers have to bear the cost of their materials. As the history of art shows, artists will adopt cheap industrial media, then the medium becomes commercially obsolete, and really expensive or simply extinct.

On the other hand, the cost of reproducing the anomalies of chemical photography , some of which most photographers spent a century trying to eradicate, that will cost you in digital.

Maybe I should do the $5 8x10 camera thing. Make it a twin lens reflex for $10 !
It would be sort of fun...

For me, it’s about the same. I shoot the equivalent of six rolls a month. I would pay to develop and scan film at a cost of $30/roll including the film. That total will buy a nice digital camera every three years. But as it is I do both - shoot digital color and a roll or two of b&w per month. Film cameras are long ago paid for and I recently bought an used M-D that I’ll keep a long while.

So about the same, I’d say. Won’t mention the iPhone 7 Plus ;0)

I use both digital and film. Digital cameras are expensive, film cameras not so much.

But film, if you're not using a traditional darkroom, requires an expensive scanner, or expensive scans from the laboratory. Plus film and processing expenses.

I have a Nikon LS 8000 scanner. On ebay today it's around $1000. And it's very time consuming to scan film.

So my feeling is that film is more expensive than digital, yet I still use it. I do pick my shots carefully when a 6x9 frame costs about $3 every time I press the shutter. 35mm less so of course.

If you've got an itchy trigger finger, digital will be much less expensive :)

About 5 years ago I ran the number in a spread sheet. This was for a hybrid process (scans and inkjet prints).

Full frame 35mm color:
lenses and computers are a wash. Film is cheaper just starting out. 5000 vs 500 for a body. Over a 10 year period, the costs were about equal for a number of frames, I think it was 7,000 a year. Below that film was cheaper. Above that, digital got cheaper them more you shot.

If you shot slides, self developed (E6 kit), and only projected - this was the cheapest by far. No scanner ($700) or computer.

The frames per year for BW were around 10,000 before the costs equaled out.

For submini films (16mm, 110, small digital sensor) the digital was WAY cheaper.

For medium format, film was way cheaper. A digital body alone would by a life time of film and a freezer to keep it in.

My answer, which I won't shout from the bully pulpit, is that digital is more expensive for me. I've spent far more money on it than I ever did on film—and I was a pretty committed film photographer too, doing all my own processing and printing.

Partly that's just the phenomenon Steve Greenwood states when he says "a gas expands to fill the volume and shape of its container. The cost of photography expands to meet (or slightly exceed) the budget and needs of the photographer." True dat. I was anywhere from very poor (student years) to poorish (teaching school for $17-19k/yr. for instance) when I shot film, so I learned to economize in many ways, trading labor for dollar expense--I even bulk-rolled my own film for a long time. I once calculated it exactly, and had gotten costs down to about $2.xx (don't recall exactly) per roll up to the contact-sheet stage. A significant part of that was the PrintFile sheet to hold the negatives, and I could have cut that out too if I really wanted to.

Counterbalancing that, when I began making some money I was also on my own for loaner equipment to write about, so I had more, spent more. That's part of why digital has been expensive for me.

If I had been well off while shooting film but poorish while shooting digital I might have a different take on it.

Mike

My hunch is this, based on my personal experience. Neither film nor digital is more expensive than the other. With film, purchasing the film and processing it is a large expense. If the photographer switches to digital, he (or she) will purchase more lenses and other accessories with the money saved on purchasing and processing film.

That conclusion probably applies to amateurs and professionals alike. Both have to live with budgets.

So much "It depends" all over here. How much shot? How much would have been shot on film? How much do you do this for pay vs. hobby? How much equipment do you need beyond the body? (Computer, etc.) For me (hobbies, occasional semi-pro): much more spent, SO MUCH more accomplished.

Film cost me less for the simple reason that I had no money and what little came in went for additional (used) gear, all of which could be carried on one motorcycle. I went thru 100 - 200 feet of Tri-X per year, plus chemicals and paper, and did all processing myself. The tax savings I was able to claim when all the darkroom equipment went to the SF Parks department many years later probably paid for it all.

Digital shooting is being done by a different person, myself 30 years later. His urges are less under control.

Arrgh! Digital cameras are not “obsolete” after a few years! By that measure axes, handsaws, sailboats, canoes, bicycles, artists’ paintbrushes, and musical instruments are all obsolete.

On what basis? - Cost to get in? Cost to stay in? Cost per print? Cost per photo (not printed)? Colour? B&W?

I just made the move back to large format and medium format film and I'd have to say that digital is far less expensive for me. Chasing down all the analog equipment and factoring my time to get the final print is proving to be quite an investment. Having said that, chasing down the analog equipment and spending all that time for relatively few photos is exactly where I want to be right now.

To make this comparison you have to look at the entire workflow. For film, that's the camera and cost of film + processing, plus construction and equipping of a darkroom. For digital, it's camera plus computer/software and a photo quality printer.
And those "obsolete" cameras are still working just as well as when you were thrilled with them 5 years ago. For most of us, the rest is just marketing lust or GAS.

As a fairly low level Amateur I could never afford to take enough pictures on film to become much good at it. The lure of digital was partly about suddenly being able to take lots of pictures without much added cost. The snag was that I ended up spending far more on trying to find the 'right' camera, and on software of course -I'd have had a computer anyway, so won't factor that in- than when a camera could, and did, last me forty years.

btw Grigoris' comment should begin 'Digital', shouldn't it? Or have I not woken up yet?

Well, for the vast majority of people digital photography is orders of magnitude cheaper. The most used cameras in the world -smart phone cameras are included with the phone as are the software and display device so it's essentially free, and most folks never print.
For enthusiasts and professional , the more acquisitive of the latest cameras lenses you are and the more you print on expensive paper and ink(at 10x the cost of Dom Perignon) the closer one gets to equalling or surpassing the cost of film.
If you are buying $43,000 digital backs every couple of years, film looks like a bargain.
But really, what difference does it make? We buy and use what suits us. The economic analysis seems to me to be an irrelevant question.
People who shoot film do so for aesthetic reasons, not economic ones. The same is mostly true of people who shoot digital with the addition of convenience and increased control and immediate sharable results.
Personally I'm probably spending more on Digital than I did with film, but I am also producing 10x more pictures, and using photography in many more ways.
I occasionally shoot film, and have great respect and affection for photography done in that way, but I would never want to go back, no matter what the economic analysis showed.

IIRC, the late Patrick Lichfield reckoned that going digital saved him £75,000 a year. But that was probably including film, equipment, insurance, staff costs etc.

According to this newspaper item, it was even more than I remember...

"Lord Lichfield, the royal photographer who took the official portraits of Prince Charles's wedding to Diana believes film cameras are disappearing so fast that the art of taking pictures and developing them in a darkroom will soon be regarded as a museum craft. He, though, has become a cheerleader for the digital age. "Terry O'Neill is a dinosaur. I love him dearly and he's a mate, but he's a dinosaur," he said. "I haven't shot a roll of film for five years. I'm saving £80-90,000 a year."

And that was in 2004.

Plus one for Ben, as a professional photographer, film and processing is NOT my cost and passed on to the client. The cameras are no where near as erudite as film cameras were in the day, and clients are always demanding the highest pixel count that just came out! Your better off buying amateur stuff and just letting it die because you'll have to upgrade.

The biggest difference? I didn't get into photography to spend the majority of my time sitting in front of the computer (hell, there weren't any home or business computers when I got into photography). Learn how to light, learn how to expose, spend your time nailing the picture for the client, drop the transparencies off at the lab, look them over when they come back, messenger them to the client, done! Even if I was making prints, I still have my original darkroom stuff, it all cost less than half a computer, and you can use it forever...

It is not a simple comparison because the different costs of post-processing and the need to include the costs of one's time. For most of us shooting color film--especially chrome film, processing was done by others. BW film undoubtedly had a far greater percentage of home post-processing, but I suspect most of us still sent it out. In the digital world, unless one accepts camera jpgs post-processing can easily eat significant amounts of time that needs to be included in any estimate of costs. And those costs depend upon the price one's time. But free time is not free.

Per shot - I don't know, but I think it would be close. Back in the day I never shot anything like as much as I do now. Using colour film had to be carefully planned, colour transparency film especially, because of the processing cost. And when you'd got your slides there was then the cost of getting enlargements (remember them?) done.

Shooting monochrome was cheaper, of course, although sometimes I wondered quite what I was doing when I was busy loading cassettes with FP4 or HP5. Later I switched to XP1 and later XP2, and those films had to be professionally developed. Then there was the cost of printing paper and processing chemicals. All in all, while the total amount was probably lower than today, I reckon the cost per image was about the same.

And cameras could be expensive back in the day. In 1988 I bought an EOS 650 plus 35-70 lens and the outfit cost me not far off £500 - call it £475. A 'UK Inflation Calculator' website tell me that £475 in 1988 would be the equivalent of £1200 today. Just for comparison, my local camera shop (Harrisons Cameras) is selling an 80D + 18-55 kit - probably a close equivalent - for £1,029. Go for a cheaper body and it would be much less - they're selling a 200D (SL2) plus 18-55 STM for £539, and that's the same sensor and lens as that 80D kit.

Paper costs a bit and ink is very expensive but the main thing for me isn't to do with costs and is more to do with control. With digital I can have a print in my hand within an hour of getting home and if the quality isn't there it's my fault.

I only went digital because the quality I was getting back from the developer nosedived. I assumed at the time they'd cut costs to compete with digital but whatever the reason I'd just had enough and I haven't looked back.

I don't agree that digital cameras are obsolete within 3-5 years. I had my 20D over 7 years and I've had my Sony A7 since they came out which is 4 years or so.

Film is cheaper for me. Bulk 35mm is pretty cost effective, 120 can get a bit pricey, but I tend to do project work where good planning and shot to shot discipline works for me. I've recently got some old digital gear to do stock (for an agency that actually have human picture editors 😀). And economically that makes sense, but I'm also going to shoot film for that as well. I trained in film, feel comfortable with it, and want to follow my heart to the aesthetic I love.

I can make this decision because I self produce, if I had clients breathing down my neck I don't know if I would be strong enough to resist the commercial norms of digital. There are photographers out there in editorial, fashion and particularly weddings who are building reputations due to a dedication to film so budgets exist.

It's a non-question. Ultimately, which platform gives you the images you want to capture?

I spent a lot of time and money to set up my film equipment, but now each XPan frame cost me just $0.25, medium format for $0.50, 4x5 for $5.00, but I spend far less work on post processing. The cameras work exactly what I want them to do.

The film cost, while relatively speaking, large, dwarfs in comparison to the depreciation of digital equipment.

Film is vastly more expensive if you add it all up. Yes, there's likely less Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) with film than with digital. But as others have noted, you don't have to upgrade your digital equipment as much as people do; a bit of self-control will keep those costs down. There are also many fewer single-use costs with digital. The computer I use to process my digital files is the same computer I use for everything else I do. In contrast, the darkroom I built for processing and printing large format film was used exclusively for those functions. And then there's the "per shot" calculation. It’s orders of magnitude more expensive per shot to shoot film than it is to shoot digital. Finally, there's the value of my time. Now that I've switched entirely to digital, I am making and printing vastly more photographs than I ever could have when I worked with film and printed in my darkroom. I'm taking more chances, making different kinds of images, practicing more, and making better images. It’s also easier to squeeze photography in around everything else I need to do. I used to have to carve out a full day to do any printing in my darkroom. I can work on a photograph in Lightroom in small bits and pieces if need be.

The other resason that digital is more profitable for professionals, in addition to the reasons so accurately cited by Ken Bennet, is that pros no longer have to worry about the lab screwing up their film after they had dropped $5K-10K on a shoot that involved assistants, models, makeup artists, stylists, studio rentals, etc.

I can’t see how digital would be more expensive than film. If you stick with a digital camera until it stops working, you don’t see any 3-5 year obsolescence. It shoots the same quality images (or perhaps better with improved post-processing software) from day one until it dies. If the quality was sufficient for your work on day one, you don’t ever have to upgrade because a newer camera has better IQ or features.

Professionals whose clients demand a certain resolution file may have a different take on this but I imagine even that will change with the amazing quality available in 1” sensors all the way up to medium format.

Buy a generation or two behind the cutting edge and you won’t even spend much to get started with digital.

Being very methodical and orgnized I have mantained a runing cost of my photography hobby since the beginning, some 40 yers ago. Taking into account the price of the body plus film and development, here is a list of my cost per photo (neg/slide/raw) for all the bodies I owned. Number in parenthesis is the appr. number of kept photos and all prices are in euros.
Nikon FM (6000) - 0.33
Nikon F801 (7000) - 0.34
Nikon F100 (3000) - 0.70
Toyo VX-125 (500) - 7.30
Canon EOS 5D (35000) - 0.09
Olympis E-P1 (5000) - 0.19 (running)
Nikon D800E (16000) - 0.17 (running)

For me digital is cheaper. Together with the convenience of the lightroom (that is the computer) with no chemicals and other dark stuff to mess with digital rules.
PM

Just like shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, there are multiple aspects to the film vs. digital discussion, depending on what you're trying to optimize. Want to share your photos instantly? Digital. Want you're images to still be "readable" in 50 years? Film. (Lightroom's new subscription model seemed to be a wake up call for many in this respect). Want low light performance? Digital. The good news is that there are different degrees of totality; neither is mutually exclusive. There is definitely room for everyone to have fun.

Obviously the cost structures are very different, so the real answer depends on how much you shoot. If you choose well, the cameras are free (in the sense you can sell them a few years later for approximately what you paid for them). That's provided you don't slip over and drop your camera on a rock (idiot!) Film is the major unavoidable expense, though process and scan can easily cost more if you don't do it yourself. For me, 52 rolls so far this year, probably £400 of real money on film and processing.

If I were a digital user I could spend much less, even accounting for depreciation (choosing a "good enough" camera and keeping it several years)... but "full frame" users in the digital realm are paying thousands for their cameras, depreciating at maybe 40% per year. And quite a lot of this game is at the vanity end, so they will upgrade to the each next new thing. Those folk are paying WAY more than me!

For snapshots or fine prints? Color or B&W? Using stockpiles or buying new? The answer changes with each project or purpose, and even over time for the same purpose. Tell you one thing: digital options and capabilities have been increasing steadily, while analog options have been disappearing.

I have a 17 year old digital camera that works every bit as well as it did when I was using it to shoot an annual report when it was 4 years old. I think any serious camera from the last 10 years is fine for professional appearing work. Getting it fixed when you drop it is another thing entirely, depending on where you live. In the EU manufacturers have to repair products for 6 years for free and consequently have the parts in stock most other places in the world.

On the other hand my film Hasselblad is"unrepairable" for certain things if it should break.

There is no set, definitive, either/or answer- it really is very much reliant on how, and how often one shoots. Obviously, film just wouldn't make sense economically for most pros. Personally, I think shooting B&W film still makes sense because it just renders a look I find more satisfying (at least in direct sunlight). With film, you have easy access to cheap, durable cameras; and if you develop your own B&W film, one can keep costs down significantly- although you will still need a darkroom (significant paper and chemical costs), or dedicated film scanner (my cheaper preference). Most people tend to leave out all relevant computer/software needs and updates when discussing shooting "free" digital. And I have a feeling a lotta people don't figure in all the relevant costs very accurately when figuring out the cost of either...

I think most readers of this site are likely to be avid hobbyists or fine artists rather than working photography professionals. I also think many of us who like to shoot film today are using a hybrid workflow, meaning we are scanning the film for digital manipulation later. This means we still have to invest in the same post-processing computer infrastructure as digital shooters plus either pay for scans or pay to acquire a scanner. Most of us own at least one good digital camera too, so we would have invested in the computer and software anyway. Our volume of film is not over the top. So it's really not an either/or question; it's just "what is the extra cost of also shooting film". For me, as a sort of bottom feeder in the film equipment world (e.g. Bronica, not Hasselblad; Graflex, not Linhof), the cameras are basically free. I have sold almost as much film equipment as I have bought used, often at a small profit (and it's fun). Black and white I process myself at very low cost for the chemicals. I scan myself using a used Epson V750 which is adequate for what I want to do and cost me $450 Cdn. So my real cost is just film and colour developing. My peculiar hobby then runs me perhaps $500 Cdn. a year in consumables, which I find is well worth it.

Using a decent lab, my costs for film were about $0.20 a shot just for the small prints. Larger prints were expensive, and I had no control over colour processing. I spent a lot on scanning just to process and print my own negatives.

At around 10K shots a year (which is low by many standards) film cost me around 2K a year.

Even when I factor in the cost of my Adobe CC subscription, and printer ink, digital is cheaper. As for the control and quality it gives me, there is no comparison.

And I plan to keep my Xpro2 for some time. My XE2 is coming up to 5 years and still working perfectly. A 5 year upgrade cycle for 2 cameras would equate to about $400 a year.

Mr. Marks... why will my Olympus OM-D E-M5 MkII and all the associated lenses be obsolete in 3 to 5 years?

There is a common saying in motorsports, "Speed costs, how fast do you want to go?" I think that can somewhat apply here. If ones idea of digital photography is a phone, Snapseed, and Instagram, then clearly digital is cheaper. As you go upward in expectations, so goes cost. But it scales differently depending on use. Ken Bennett gives an excellent example of how volume offsets cost. For the hobbiest with the same expectations as Ken but with much lower output volume, the cost can be staggering. I recall the daunting feeling as I was making the transition from film to digital. Even basic enthusiast level equipment (I started with a Nikon D90 in 2009) was not inexpensive, then a computer, specialized monitor, calibration, editing software, etc. That's a lot of film at a few hundred pics a year. In short, if you are even middle of the road serious about producing good images (prints), the initial cost of a digital workflow is definitely higher than film. Although this depends on whether you had your own darkroom and the associated construction and startup costs. One other variable not often considered, learning curve of film vs digital. If you learned quickly so as not to burn through film that would help offset processing costs. That learning curve in digital in nearly free.

There are many ways to compare the two. For me the real difference comes with producing a final print. I think the cost per piece of paper processed is roughly the same when you compare the costs of paper, ink, chemistry. The real savings in the digital darkroom is the ability to get a finished, fine print for every image after the first or second try once you are familiar with the paper you are using and have everything calibrated. In the wet darkroom it might take me 8 or 9 sheets of experimentation or cutting into test strips to achieve a final print. That was in a dedicated B&W darkroom. I can't compare printing color film to digital because printing color was beyond my wallet and capabilities. With digital, color and B&W are roughly the same cost per print. And of course there is the cost of space. My wet darkroom was just that- an entire room. The bigger the prints the bigger the space required. With my Epson p800 it takes up the same space regardless of the size print- 8x10 up to 16x20. This would be a moot argument if not for the fact that in the last few years digital printing has achieved the quality of the best silver fine prints in an affordable way for non professionals. Time is another cost. While I truly enjoyed my darkroom I often thought about how much time went into setting up to print and then cleaning up afterward along with the disposal of used chemistry. Now I can accomplish in a couple of hours what would have taken several days in the darkroom.

I guess it all comes down to how many pics you shoot in a month. I think most people who love film are probably in the 2-3 rolls a month range. Much more than that and you would really start to feel the pinch.

Whenever I click the shutter on my Koni Omega 6x7, I'm spending about $2.50 a shot after the cost of film, development, and scanning.

It's definitely enough to make you think about it. I only paid $100 for the camera with 90mm/f3.5 lens though. So even if I was looking for a bargain basement $1000 A7 or 5D + 50/1.8 lens to compare against, that's still more than 30 rolls of film. Which is quite a lot of medium format film, for how I shoot...

Digital seems more efficient and more productive compared to film. Initial expense is high, but creating completed output (digital files or prints) seems to be a higher yield process and be more time efficient.
When I shoot film now I curse the scanning and spotting and filing of negatives. I have just sold the last of my film cameras and am unlikely to dabble again.

Ai, man. Of course, it depends on circumstance. I am, or was, a low-volume shooter, very particular of output and incidentally computerless now for about seven years. The nice thing about utterly obsolete gear is that it is cheap and lasts for decades—my only operating costs are film, chemicals, paper, bits and pieces, an occasional paperweight. And this would be great but now I have kids and no leisurely half days to block for printing, so I have dozens of pages of unprinted negatives and a considerably flagging hobby. So it’s either quit any pretension to serious work (young kids, aging parents, old house, headaches—I’m booked for 20-30 years) or drop, for my needs, maybe $2500 mostly up front and again every five years, computer, printer, camera, software, ink and paper. So for me, digital, while utterly changing the nature of my hobby, if not necessarily its product, would allow me to incrementalize my workflow, an apparently necessary adjustment, for a mere 250% of my once-habitual informal photographic allowance. Plus I’d get to have a computer. And color.

I’m thinking about it.

Know when digital becomes expensive and you wished you had continued with film?
It's when your stored images get lost in a hard drive crash, or slowly but surely gets incompatible with the passing of time during which you got tardy and ignored the hassle of reorganizing your files.
That's when the nightmare begins, and decades of work gets knocked out.

Although I save money on film, and maybe enough to amortize the cost of the camera bodies, it is more than made up by how expensive and slow it is to print. At least for images that I make more than a couple dozen prints

Color photo paper was very inexpensive, and exposure and developing of it is way faster than my 24" wide Epson. In fact I remember a couple years ago deciding to a print run in the darkroom because I could make 90 55" long prints in a single afternoon in the darkroom and it would take 16 hours with the Epson. Never mind that the Epson also cost maybe 5 times as much to print, it was the time that made me decide on that job.

But I cannot get portrait paper for the darkroom anymore, so digital it is. And because I have a lot of expensive film in my freezers I cannot really say digital has saved me any money on film for my commercial work.

I would guess that few people reading this print enough to make this a problem for them. And for my personal work the advantages of digital are pretty strong.

Hi Mike;

Given that I use the same hardware/software to process both, film cost more. Color positive film is getting expensive and good labs are scarce. I use a lot of b&w film and process it myself.

Good camera memory is inexpensive and reusable. And, I only archive great shots, all others are nixed. Same with film.

My pro scans of really good photos (just a few a year) add to my film costs. But, it's worth the trouble and expense to me.

I can see a time when color film materials become extinct.

I don't worry about printing all my good film images immediately but, with digital, printing is important. Files can be damaged or lost via electronic failures and eventual bit rot. Another cost to integrate.

I don't create that many winners.. so, considering it all, film cost me more.

The thing about digital is that you don't need to worry about the cost of pressing the shutter release. That cuts two ways - you can be more careless and get worse results, or you can take chances that you might not have with film. But there's a definite psychological effect. It's like getting an all-day pass to the amusement park as opposed to paying for each ride individually, or an all-you-can-eat buffet. You might wind up paying more overall, but you feel a sense of freedom when each little bit of extra use isn't costing you money.

There are other non-cost advantages. Archiving and indexing digital images is much more flexible and versatile than with film. Sports photographers and others who need to shoot action when it happens no longer need to constantly change film. Low-light sensitivity is much better.

As with film, digital costs what you are willing to spend on it. I have more disposable income now than when I went to school, so I spend more. When I was doing it professionally, it was of course quite different as the prime objective was to take money out of the business, but expensive equipment often made me more competitive.

In my first 10 years of more serious photography I used inherited equipment and the only equipment I bought was a lightmeter. Film was bulk loaded for B&W and from the outdated bin for colour (which is why most of it has now faded beyond hope). Each shot was considered and printing enlargements was very considered. In later years after I was earning more I spent more and more and finally, on the last trip in 2004 on which I shot only film, I brought approx. 240 rolls of colour for 3 weeks. Now I shoot 95% digital and overall, my spending is about the same as in the last years of shooting only film.

I spent years shooting film and doing my own B&W darkroom work. Shifted to digital in 2005. My paying work is sports and events. I liked Leicas and Contax film cameras. A Leica M4 from the 60's was still going strong forty years later! I'm still using those Zeiss Contax lenses on mirrorless cameras. So the capital investment was lower with film. But today, I can go to a sports event and take 2000 photos with a 12 per second frame rate (or better.) I can hang a web album from an event in a matter of days, or hours, if necessary. My clients aren't asking for prints. If I want to provide what people want from shooting film, I'd have to add another level of scanning and post processing, converting film to digital files. I could still be producing B&W prints from a chemical darkroom, but who would see them compared to the thousands on the world wide web?
Bottom line, digital is more expensive, capitalizing and upgrading equipment, but cheaper on a "per image promulgated" basis. Digital produces more photos, of better quality, more readily delivered. Film had cheaper capital costs, but more labor in providing less to a more limited audience. If you are shooting to produce a limited number of "fine art" prints, a film set up and a lot of time will be cheaper than digital. However, if you're satisfied with a cell phone and an Instagram account, then digital is cheaper.

Well, this one is easy. Back when I shot film I didn’t have much money, so my life in film was a darn sight cheaper. Things changed for me about 12 years ago, and that’s more or less when I transitioned to digital (over 3 years, really). So I’d say I’ve spend quite a bit more in my ‘digital decade’ than I did in my ‘film decade’ that preceded it.

Digital photography immerses the photographer in the software editing processes. In film photography, the photographer is immersed in the physics and poetry of light. Each media has its limitations. If you have never spent time in a darkroom, you may not understand.

I shoot roughly 10000 frames per year with digital, which would be quite expensive with film! Especially when one factors in that I would need medium format for the high quality images. But the fact that one more image costs very little, a memory card fits 800 photos and I can instantly choose between ISO 100 and 12800 makes experimenting with digital much more frequent than with film, leading to a large number of frames.

Then there's the upgrade cycle with digital. The expenses upfront are significant, but I feel I always got pretty significant improvements when upgrading. AF is way beyond any film camera now. Digital has all sorts of convenience, like flipping displays. But it comes for a price; I don't upgrade every cycle and I don't feel I'm missing out.

Lastly, there's the question of computers. But I need computers anyway. And darkroom work costs and is laborious; computers are faster to work with and more convenient. So the comparison not only boils down to how much the absolute costs are in one's particular case but also how much one is willing to pay extra for convenience. Personally, I'm quite happy with the current situation where my "photo time" can be spent primarily on photography itself.

In today’s NewYorkTimes, (worlds greatest photography magazine):
“High School Darkrooms Offer Way To Learn Photography and Patience.”
As above, slightly OT, but agree entirely about the film darkroom as a “meditative space.” Hey, choose the context, choose the tools, choose the
destination for your image.

As many have said before, digital is more expensive in the short term. However, some people tend to compare the price of 135 film cameras to the cost of full-frame digital ones, and that's not right. A direct comparison between 135 film and full-frame digital does the former no favours when it comes to image quality. Having never found an entirely satisfactory colour film - one that works consistently under a large number of lighting conditions -, I find only black and white film holds its own against digital, but that's mainly subjective. As for me, a black and white conversion always screams 'fake'.
If, however, the discussion turns to medium format, none of the above applies. While it is true that there is a new generation of great and not outrageously priced cameras by Pentax, Fuji and Hasselblad, compare their cost to a mint second-hand Zenza Bronica ETRS or a Fuji rangefinder. And things get even more interesting if you factor in the cost of lenses. It will take forever for digital to compensate the price difference, and I find no evidence of digital medium format being better than film.
In a nutshell:
- 135 film is better and less expensive than CX, micro 4/3 and any other sensor format under APS-C;
- 135 film and APS-C prices are comparable, but not when you factor in the cost of good lenses;
- 135 black and white is better than digital;
- Medium format film will always be a better deal than digital.
And let's not forget there is no such thing as a digital 4x5 sensor. (If there were, Sony would have made it and fitted it into a compact camera.)

Film is more expensive here. In the end, a roll of velvia used to cost me 15CAD, plus 11CAD to develop. Let's say I take 1000 photos per year, its over 700$. And I have printed nothing yet.

I have bought my first digital camera in 2000, a point and shoot for about 700$. The second one in 2005, a canon rebel xt for 1500 euros. And finally a Fuji xpro-1 for 1800$. Add and divide, that's about 250$ per year for digital :)

Computers : I have bought two of them since the early 2000s.

Simple answer from me. I gave up film photography due to the cost, especially the fixed investment in the darkroom real estate - a true luxury at land prices in inner city Melbourne Oz, where I live - and many multiples of the cost of a computer / software / printer combination.

Digital is priceless if you are motivated to shoot again and again until you like the results, especially for newbies. Film is more about the process of mastering exposure and development. Digital can reach the finish line quicker, whereas the process of film can promote mindfulness. Choosing more automation is generally more expensive, but finding mindfulness can be priceless. Rewards can be found in both, but cameras that are collecting dust are most expensive of all.

"Cheaper" vs."More Expensive" should not be the question. What's most important is the method of getting better at the art of picture taking. With film the process was much slower and involved chemicals and temperatures and tanks and trays...Back then (1970) I enjoyed bulk loading film, developing three rolls of film at a time, drying, cutting into lengths to fit sleeves, printing, drying...Now with digital, it allows me to concentrate on the "IMAGE" and see the results the same day. I still compose, crop and expose "in camera" and through Lightroom, see my pictures as I remember them and learn the ins and outs of getting the best pictures I can get. In the end, I am much better photographer with using digital cameras and enjoy the "process".

Jeepers, Mike: you will get an avalanche on this topic. The comments already are a rich summary, i should think. Allow me to ask a related -- but to me more constructive -- question: How has digital changed the relative costs of several important dimensions of the act of still image capture?

The obvious point is cost-per-shot is "free" vs 75 cents or whatever. Great. So we take more shots. I think that this is only the tip of the iceberg IF your objective (which mine is but yours may not be) to generate prints.

The second point is cost-per-8x10-print has dropped sharply: from $6.50 at my local Ritz 20 years ago to $1.90 at CostCo today. Equal or greater drops are in other sizes. Plus i can print at home up to A3+ for a third of CostCo's price.

But THAT is only the tip of the iceberg. The *real* benefit to me as as an artist is controlling my print's workflow. That is huge it seems to me and something that was VERY costly in the film age both in cost (a darkroom) and time terms. Well, don't forget the chemicals and paper too.

Overall i would never go back. But i cannot seem to sell either my FM3A or F100 bodies either . . .

-- gary ray

I'm thinking there is a simple answer to this very difficult question? The higher your volume of shooting, the cheaper digital becomes. For lower volume shooters, the increased hardware costs are never offset by the savings in consumables.

Something nobody seems to have addressed is what film cost—or didn't—in the professional context. I did editorial and corporate assignment work from the early 70s to the mid 00s. It was film except for the last few years. Chrome film and processing was a break-even or mild profit center, since you charged a day rate plus expenses and F&P was one of those expenses. Marked up from actual cost, it covered a bit of overhead.

Since a significant amount of my work for good clients who appreciated it was in B&W, after marking up the film price I charged at least as much as the best custom labs would have for develop/proof, and more for my final repro prints (because I'm a better printer, at least of my own pictures) which gave these jobs a second profit center.

When I finally had to go digital in 2004 to take a large book project that had to be shot that way, I found it a lot more expensive. First, I couldn't use my vast inventory of Nikon, Leica, Hasselblad, and LF gear but had to drop capital on digital capture equipment. At least my lights still worked. But then I also had to manage the digital files and work up the RAW files for the client—the equivalent of making prints, though of course much faster. On that first project I got to bill hourly for that extra work, but this quickly went by the boards. Clients expected it for free. That is, the few clients who were still commissioning any original photography at all.

I think this is what we call a paradigm change.

Horses vs. automobiles.
Newspapers vs. online news services.
X-ray vs. CAT / MRI.
Land line telephony vs. cellular communications.
Chemical photography vs. digital photography.

Coming from decades of working in black and white, mostly medium format (6x7) ...

Even though digital is so flexible I think I enjoyed working with film a lot more and I have yet to see a black and white image done in digital that outshines one from film.

I have 40 year old prints that I've washed in water to clean up. Do that with an inkjet print!

Negatives; keep them dry and they're good to go. I love it. Convert your digital and copy and convert again and copy and backup and copy and convert until the day you die. Who the hell dreamt that one up?

All you ever needed was a good lens. The camera was pretty much what ever you wanted because it didn't really matter. Now, instead of just switching to a different film to get finer grain we have to switch to a whole different camera and lens system. It just makes my head want to explode.

Dead batteries, no problem, unless you're digital.

Cost? Digital is just and endless money pit. I can't even look at my images unless I agree to keep paying Adobe monthly fees. If I had been paying those fees for the past 40 years it would have added up to around $10,000 by now. Just to look at them! What's with that?

Arguing for digital is like arguing for fast food. I like KFC but you won't find me pushing it as the way to live a long life. Like my wife says ... "It just makes me want to puke ..."


It depends on the endpoint.

I make black and white 8x10 contact prints on photographic paper for about $8 including film, paper, and all the chemistry. The whole process works perfectly even without electricity. Technically the picture can deliver sharpness, tonal gradation, and grainlessness beyond the discerning power of the human eye. The camera and lens already perform better than I can see so there is no practical obsolescence, no feasible upgrade - ever. And I get something I can sign, annotate, display in an art gallery and store archivally by simple means at negligible cost.

But if the endpoint is a digital screen-looker then things get more expensive. I have to take that nice contact print and scan it, computer process it, and output the digital file to a nice monitor. The apparatus used costs more than the camera and lens and I'm on my fourth upgrade; sigh.

And if the endpoint is just a screen-looker then a telephone will do that for free. Ok, the telephone has to be purchased and kept charged but this successful technology delivers the endpoint that most people want: look-able pictures at no cost, requiring no technical knowledge, and imposing no financial penalty on failure.

I don't doubt that the ultimate endpoint, pictures beamed directly to the mind, no eyes needed, will be even cheaper and more popular.

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