Disclaimer: The title of this series is a bit misleading. To me, it’s not a competition of which is better, but simply an exploration of the quality/cost/experience of shooting film vs digital. The conclusions are based on my personal opinions, preferences, and taste. As my awesome friend Chad Zellner commented, “Any avenue of creativity is a good one.” See Part 1: Introduction here.
Welcome to part 2! We’re getting into the thick of it. No hiding now–we’re talking cost today, and I think you’ll find the conclusions interesting. None of the prices below include added costs, such as tax or shipping. Here are some estimates on the cost of shooting film vs the cost of shooting digital:
COST OF CAMERA & LENS // For simplicity’s sake, I’m generalizing two groups. Level 1 represents lower priced cameras that are used professionally but aren’t as high end as level 2. Level 2 represents higher priced cameras that are considered creme
de la creme by most. The two film cameras listed are not in production anymore, so they must be purchased used.
FILM: Used Mamiya 645 Pro TL + 80mm // $789.00
FILM: Used Contax 645 + Carl Zeiss 80mm // $2,100.00
CONCLUSION: Purchasing a digital camera + lens will cost you a little more than twice as much as a film camera + lens. Film wins.
COST TO SHOOT // We’re just talking about actually capturing pictures here. We’ll get to post processing in a moment.
FILM: Roll of Fuji 400H 120mm film ($4.99 per roll–16 shots) = $0.31 per photo.
DIGITAL: SanDisk 16gig CF card ($49.99). The 16gig CF card holds about 692 photos (when shooting medium sized RAW files or “MRAW” on the Canon 5d mkiii). However, the CF card can be reformatted and reused many times, meaning you can shoot thousands of images for a one time purchase of $49.00.
CONCLUSION: The most important thing to realize is film is a reoccurring expense. It’s hard to compare the two down to the penny, since CF cards can purchased once, then be reused. But let’s just limit the number of images to around 700, and leave out the fact that CF cards can be reused. Digital cost to shoot 700 images: $49.99 (for CF card). Film cost to shoot 700 images: $217.00 (remember, it’s $0.31 per image). Even leaving out the fact that CF cards can be reused, digital is still much less expensive to shoot than film. Digital wins.
COST TO EDIT // This is tricky to compare, because processing film is a reoccurring cost, whereas processing digital can be a one time cost if you edit yourself, or a reoccurring cost if you outsource. Again
FILM: Processing and scanning at Richard Photo Lab = $26.50 per roll (16 shots). To develop 700 shots (what you might develop for one wedding) would cost $1,162.
DIGITAL, DIY: Lightroom 4 ($149) + VSCO actions ($119) = $268. You’d have an upfront cost of $268 to purchase your processing software, but once you purchase it, you have it for a long time. You can edit tens of thousands of images with that one time purchase. Let’s pretend that in 3 years you edit 63,000 images–an estimate if you shot 30 weddings each year for 3 years, at 700 images per wedding. Your cost to process one image would be $0.004 per image.
- FotoFafa: $0.25 per image x 700 images = $175 per 700 images
- Richard Photo Lab Digital Services: $0.50 per image x 700 images = $350 per 700 images
CONCLUSION: Digital DIY processing is by far the most economical.