Photography On A Budget: Part 5


The 35mm Option.

In this section we will examine the pros and cons of secondhand film camera photography, keeping in mind the constraints of a limited budget.

 So what exactly do you get from film? 

  • First off, better dynamic range than you will get with digital cameras. However higher end digital is closing the gap.
  • Over 100 years of film photography to call upon for help.
  • Permanent easily stored negative.
  • Develop and digitize to USB or CD storage media.
  • No white balance issues.
  • Fixed ISO rates for film, easier to select aperture & shutter settings to suit.
  • Difficult to over expose. Especially with modern SLR’s.
  • Good variety of film & speeds available.
  • Color tends to be more natural, not over saturated as in some (digital) cameras.
  • Is capable of being printed in large format without obvious degradation of the image.
  • NO camera noise as with digital.Film has very fine grain and does not exhibit luminance noise.
  • Large file format, full frame 35mm not APS-C sized as in DSLR’s, (excluding the likes of Nikon D3’s)
  • Good lowlight exposures are able to be made.

As you can see from this list there are plenty of reasons to choose film over digital. I tend to blend the 2 formats as that allows me to review the image as shot in a digital, check the settings the camera used and then shoot the higher resolution shot with the film camera.

I tend to find that the 35mm is set one stop above or below the digital as a rule as the digital interprets light levels, while the SLR tends to display the light across the imaged area. If a shot is done at f5 in the digital and I review the frame, I may well decide that the 35mm should be shot a little faster or slower depending upon conditions. The contrast color and tone recording ability of film is far better than what I commonly find with the digital cameras. The overall result from film tends to be more even across the whole image, more natural in terms of color and contrast. That then gives you an idea of how you can use either one or the other or both formats to get the best from any situation.

So what is the down side of using film?

  • Images are not re-viewable in camera.
  • Film has to be sent to a process lab for printing or recording to permanent media.
  • Time to process can be a much as 5 days or though 1-2 days is typical.
  • Film on a shot by shot basis tends to be more expensive. (Below I will show  an expected expenditure for a years worth of film imaging.)
  • Limited amount of exposure per roll of film. Max 36 shots per roll.
  • Can be easily damaged if exposed to light, (produced by film transport jamming. Rare but not unknown.)

Film costs: 

  • 1x 24 exposure Fuji Superia 400 color film $7.50 per roll (bought as an 8 roll pack)
  • Develop and record to CD $20.00
  • Total cost for a 24 exposure film recorded to CD is $27.50 or $1.14 per shot. Sound expensive?
  • You can then select the shots you want to have printed. This usually costs $0.12 per print, or less if you do a bulk order.

Lets then assume that you are going to use 1 x 24 exposure roll of film per fortnight.Thats 624 images that you have shot at a cost of $715.00 per year, and a further $85.80 to get a 6 x 4 (150 x 100mm ) print. Thats a total of $800.80 NZ dollars per year. Or $15.40 per week. Thats not an unreasonable cost for a hobby/passion that you wish to pursue. In fact its a good deal less that most people would spend in a week on fast food. Therefore if you wanted to have DSLR type photos but cant afford the camera , remember , a good entry level /pro level SLR  can cost less than $50.00 NZ. You get high quality images at a totally affordable price. A comparable camera in the second hand DSLR market could cost as much as three times the annual operating cost of the 35mm SLR.

So is there really a use for 35mm film. Most assuredly and will for some time to come.

Happy Snappin.


  1. Where are you getting your film developed? Develop and record for CD for $20 is much cheaper than i’ve seen anywhere. Though i guess i’ve been looking at 5×7.5s for a 36exp. Nevertheless, New Zealand seems ridiculously expensive compared to every other country i’ve had film developed in.
    Any suggestions as to where to have them developed? I’ve been using doubleJ, but the paper they use is cheap super thin stuff and they’re super expensive.


  2. Andrew, apologies for the late reply.
    I get my scans done at the local fuji centre here in Hamilton.
    Where are you located?


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