1020026_25 mm1-40 sec at f - 1.8ISO 200

One of my viewers shared his thoughts on film vs digital and did a nice cost benefit analysis. I asked if I could share it as a post and he agreed.  Thanks to Norbert from Belgium for sharing.


I’d like to talk to you a little about (spoiler alert )…old-fashioned analog photography. One and a half years back I became seriously interested in photography after my purchase of my first DSLR (Rebel T3 with the 17-50 f/2.8 Tamron. I rather wanted the fixed aperture instead of a more expensive body with a flippy touchscreen) and purchased my first prime lens last spring (the new Sigma 30mm f/1.4). Since then I’ve spend a good $1300,- worth of camera equipment. That amount of money is a lot for a just graduated vet with photography as (just) a hobby. After being inspired last summer by a friend owning a Canon AE-1 Program, I began calculating the cost of analog photography. I did a little search on eBay and estimated that with a budget of around $130,-, I could buy myself a professional level SLR. I made a little Excel sheet to calculate the price per photo if I would bring the film rolls to a local lab to get it developed and scanned on a CD (that way I avoid printing costs).

View the spreadsheet in own window

I came to a price of $0,32 cents per photo (Calculated the prices roughly to dollars, but maybe real American prices differ a bit). Eventually I bought an Olympus OM-2 (because of it’s compact size and huge viewfinder) with a 50mm f/1.8, 35mm f/2.8, a little flash and batteries for both the camera and the little flash for a total of $120,-. So far, I’m really happy with it for four reasons:

  1. It really feels like a machine that will last. It’s sturdy, solid and older than me.
  2. In your shows and reviews, camera size is always a big issue and I agree. I think the motto “The best camera is the camera you have with you” is absolutely true.
  3. The smaller and lighter a camera is, the bigger the likelihood of bringing it with you. The size of my DSLR sometimes hold me back to bring it to, let say, a simple night out at a restaurant. Old pro-level SLR’s are significantly smaller and lighter, and so are the lenses. It’s a full frame SLR in the shape and size of a modern compact camera.
  4. It’s full frame. Shooting at f/1.8 on a crop or FF sensor (or film ;)) definitely makes a difference.

You have to think about your exposure settings and the photos you take. On a DSLR you can cheat. Great, but it doesn’t learn you much. A SLR pushes you to ‘read’ the light and to be fully in charge of the composition of a photo (and not waste a few shots to check your composition afterwards). You really have to “think before you click” .

Returning to the financial side of things, I wanted to compare my digital versus my analog equipment. I had a bias towards digital (like most people probably) that digital has the big advantage that you can shoot for free. I calculated that I would have to shoot 70 rolls of film before the costs of my analog equipment would equal the costs of my digital equipment. Assuming that I shoot four 36-rolls a month (one per week), that would take me 2.25 years. I think for the average amateur photographer, that’s not much shorter than the period after people tend to upgrade their gear. Additionally, upgrading your analog equipment, by for example buying that extra lens, is also much cheaper and with the difference in money you can buy some film again.

Editors Note: Here in the US MPIX.COM will develop negatives for  0.19/exposure extending the time to 2.56 years.

And yes, there are drawbacks to analog photography of course. Mainly two big ones, I feel.

  1. You’re fixed with the same ISO during one roll of film. It’s a huge drawback when combining outdoor with indoor shooting. A small note along the side is that analog noise is prettier than digital noise, but still, it’s a handicap.
  2. No RAW files. I’m not developing my own photos (yet, maybe), but RAW is a definite miss. Nothing will beat RAW when it comes to equalizing the exposure over the whole picture (think highlights and shadows).

Of course, analog photography would be impossible harder for the modern professional photographer. But I think it’s a good ‘instrument’ for the amateur level photographer,  I thought it might be a good idea to share this idea with you. Analog photography is often regarded as a bit romantic and hipster (think Lomography). I would like to point out that analog photograph can also be a good alternative for the rationally thinking amateur photographer.

I added two of my favorite images from my last film roll .

Screenshot 2014-12-16 14.29.42 Screenshot 2014-12-16 14.29.57

All the best from Ghent, Belgium,


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 Menzie's Penstemon or as the nerds say - Penstemon davidsonii ;) Found these little purple flowers on the way down from Paradise in Mt Rainier National Park and thought they made a nice foreground to the beautiful and still snowcapped peak in the distance. Captured with the GH5 and 12-35 f/2.8 Lens #lumixloungegh3
 Rainy Day Reflections of Seattle's coolest public library - I almost said coolest building but the new Amazon spheres are crazy cool. I like living in the future - now if we could just ecotopia this place up all would be peachy!
 Upper Sunbeam Falls - Powered by melting snow(seen at the top of the frame) - Captured with GH5 and 12-35 f/2.8 lens 0.4 second exposure.

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  1. That is a good report, but I just finished a 2 week river cruise in Europe and I took about 3,500 photo’s. Now if I had film I would still have to shoot that much to allow for flexibility. I also believe that where I live it would cost more to do film. Also, there isn’t a way to help the photo with film. If necessary. Just my Opinion

    • Yeah, but how many of the 3500 pictures are actually keepers?
      What I love about analogue photography is that you have to take your best picture everytime, experiment and wait for the outcome. For me it’s superexciting.
      You can still for about a U$100 pick up a negative scanner and use camera raw and/or Lightroom.

  2. As always, figures can be made to display one side versus both sides.
    The figures provided are for film are for used equipment, and for digital, new equipment prices were quoted. Questions need to be addressed before this is viable for true usage.
    Will the used equipment last?
    How many failed film photos will be taken that will be lost forever never able to be reproduced again??
    T5 with 18-55 mm $449 [$358 used]
    50mm 1.4 $399 [$299 used] 50mm 1.8 $125 [$88 used]
    16 GB SD card $9
    Total= New $857 to $583 [used $666 to $455]
    Sony NEX-5TL on sale at Amazon $299 [plus $9 {SD card} =$308]
    And then the “quality” of those digital CDs. Ever see how big each file size is? From what I have seen they are less than 10 megs a photo. Pure VGA stuff. I wouldn’t even use them for Facebook.
    Now let’s talk QUALITY, ADJUSTABILITY, HDR, and least we forget; VIDEO.
    Now where is the REAL value?

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