Film: how realistic/practical/costly is it for me?

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by epp_b, Nov 21, 2008.

  1. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I just bought a 35mm film camera (Nikon n8008) and I am enjoying using it for a change from digital, but I'm wondering how practical and/or costly for me to actually use it more often. One of the reasons I've been wanting to use film (among others like dynamic range, workflow, having a big viewfinder, forcing myself to think more about the photos I take, etc) is because it gets mighty cold here in winter and I'm not sure I want to subject my D40 to our frigid weather too often. If somethings happens to a relatively cheap film camera...oh well, it's $50, not $500 (or more).

    I have an artistic, but also technical background, so I prefer my photos to be in a digital format as they are much more malleable to me that way. To setup a dark room/light table/editing materials/development chemicals/etc is completely impractical and unrealistic for me. It doesn't really make sense for me, I can't afford it and I'm positive that I'd screw up my film every time. ;) Besides, I already have a computer for otherwise personal and work use, so that doesn't even factor in as a cost for having my photos digitized.

    So, my process for film needs to be:

    1. Buy film, use it
    2. Develop it
    3. Scan the negatives

    I live in a small town in southern Manitoba, so my options are pretty limited for local solutions. There's only one place in town that sells and develops film (that I'm aware of) and they only have two consumer grade films, ASA 200 for $10 CAD and ASA 400 for $12 CAD, both Fujifilm brand. Both rolls are 24 exposures and include the cost of mailing two ways, development and 4x6 prints. I'll have to ask them if they would develop any film I give them and at what cost.

    Amazingly, I found someone in my dinky little town who has a negative film scanner for their photo editing business. I have contacted them, but they haven't yet worked out a price for scanning negative film rolls. I imagine it's not going to be cheap.

    So, let's work this out. With film, I do mostly outdoor shots in daylight, sometimes night exposures (but those long exposures using bulb, so the film speed is largely irrelevant), so I'm looking at buying Velvia 50 and/or 100. Let's say I buy in bulk and it comes out to $5.00 per 36 exposure roll.

    If the local store will develop it, say it's $10.00. Based on other services that scan negatives, let's say that it costs $15.00. I don't know yet what resolution they can offer me, but I imagine it's at least as high as my D40 (and probably better because this is film resolution, not subject to digital limitations like noise and problems at 100% crops).

    Total Cost: $30.00 per roll / $0.83 per shot. That's awfully expensive.

    Alternatively, I might be able to mail my film to Don's Photo for them to develop and scan them to a CD at 6MP for $20.94, plus the cost of mailing (probably about $5.00 for a round trip). This is assuming they'll even do mail order. Don't forget to add $5.00 to buy the film in the first place.

    Total Cost: $31.00 per roll / $0.86 per shot. Hang on a second, we're going backwards here, assuming my prices for having it all done locally are correct.

    As a second alternative, I could send it to NCPS (whom I read are really good at this), who will develop and scan it at 16MP for $17.45 US, plus shipping (say $3.00 US for the round trip, because USPS prices are way better than Crappy Canada Post). Don't forget to add $5.00 to buy the film in the first place.

    Total approximate cost in CAD: $31.00 per roll / $0.86 per shot. Same cost as Don's, but higher resolution.

    However, I could have NCPS scan it at 6MP instead...

    Total cost: $18.96 per roll / $0.53 per shot for NCPS to do it at 6MP.

    Getting better, but, for NCPS, I have to drive across the border to ship and receive it, and deal with crappy border guards with crappy attitudes (or pay outrageous international shipping costs and deal with customs over the phone...not fun).

    Is there anything that I haven't considered? Am I being ridiculous? There must be other more local places that I'm just unaware of.

    It seems like scanning is the most expensive part of the process, yet, for me, the easiest. Does it make sense for me to buy a film scanner or are the ones for one or two hundred dollars not worth it? If it's just a matter of scanning speed and workflow, it's not really an issue for me as I am at my computer all day for work anyway.

    Sorry for making this post an epic, I tried to summarize as best I could, thanks to all who endure it ;)
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2008
  2. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Jobo used to make an automatic developer. They stopped making it but I think you could probably find one on ebay.

    Or you could get a C-41 press kit and a tank and do your own for way less than what you could get a JOBO for.

    I have heard you can develop for 7 minutes at 85 degrees f although I can't verify this (it would make things a lot simpler though).

    A chemistry site or two..
    http://www.acecam.com/factory.html
    http://www.speedibrews.free-online.co.uk/photochems.htm#orders


    You even could even make your own chemistry from scratch if you like.
    http://www.bonavolta.ch/hobby/en/photo/c41.htm#Home-made

    Anyway, better photogs than me should be along shortly telling you how to use all of this, good luck!
     
  3. bhop

    bhop No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I scan myself. Roll of film = $3-6, develop only, no prints, at 1hr lab = $2.75, Scanning is just my time. (Epson 4490, my scanner, costs around $140 bucks right now, probably cheaper if you get a used/refurbished one)
     
  4. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Looks neat, but it's horkin' expensive!

    Like I said, I'm not really good with chemistry and these sorts of things, I'd screw it up.

    I think there's a 1 hr photo lab about 30 miles from where I live, but I doubt it's that cheap. That said, it may be my best option.

    My thinking exactly. As long as I'd have a scanner that can do an adequate job, I'd be more than happy to do it myself.

    That scanner looks pretty good. If my math is correct, you should be able to get about 30 megapixels from a high quality shot on a high quality 35mm negative, is that correct? Not that I'll ever scan that high, but it's good to know.

    Can you post some samples of scanned negatives?
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2008
  5. djacobox372

    djacobox372 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have an excellent film scanner for sale for just $100.

    http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1446737&posted=1#post1446737

    if you shoot black and white and develop yourself it should only cost you about 20 cents a roll, after a one time cost of about $75 to get all the stuff you need to process.

    Film can be had for about $2 for a 36 exposure roll, so you're looking at about 6 cents per photo after your one-time upfront costs for the film scanner and development equipment.
     
  6. ann

    ann No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    developing film is not rocket science. the first roll is always nerve racking, but after that it is easy and cost pennies to do yourself.

    you can use a bathroom, and the only th ing that needs to be dark is a room or changing bag to put the film onto a reel and then into a tank. Everything else is done in regular light.

    the basic can be purchased these days for less than 50 dollars.
     
  7. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    This really is such a broad subject that it is difficult for me to know where to stop. You have asked specific questions, so it is easy to know where to begin - but you've already been given good answers on costs and there's little to add.

    I think that you have to follow your heart before you follow the numbers and the money.

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    You can get a wide range of high quality film by mail order, probably cheaper for 36 exp than local 24 exp: Freestyle, B&H, Adorama etc.

    Now that you are considering an FM2, you are going to be able to use old, good-value manual focus AI Nikkors from Keh.com etc.

    Process only C-41 should not cost you $10 even at a lab. Maybe you want to pay that for the first few rolls locally while you are learning. Later you can do it cheaper by mail order.

    I have a D40x. Film scanned on a cheap scanner won't quite match it for detail. Cheap scanners promise more than they deliver. The true resolution of most scanners below the Nikon 4000 and 5000, and Minolta 5400 bracket is generally closer to between 1800 lpph (lines per picture height) and 2200 lpph equivalent for full frame 35 mm - about the same as, or slightly better than, the D40's lpph resolution. If you get a low cost film scanner, like one of the very good value Plustek models, you will have resolution similar to your D40, but with the possibility of far exceeding it because your raw material (the negative) can be scanned at much higher resolution later on a better scanner.

    You may be photographing in high contrast situations - backlit snow. The dynamic range of film is very useful for that.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  8. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Well, shoot, I find can find all sorts of wonderful AI-S and Series E glass all over eBay.

    Like I said, that also includes 4x6 prints, not that I want them.

    So, why are scanners like the Epson 4490 (one that I've been looking at) advertising 4800 DPI when they can't actually achieve that?

    I guess if 6mp is enough for me with my D40, then between 4.5mp (which isn't really a whole lot less) and 6.7mp should certainly be enough for me. Like you said, I'll still have the negatives that I can scan using a much better scanner at any time if need a higher resolution.

    Something else I wanted ask is: when you look at 100% crop of an image taken with a digital camera, it gets soft and ugly with anti-aliasing and noise because that's just the way digital sensors are. With 35mm film scans, do you get the same problem or is it sharp at 100%? Does it depend on the scanner?
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2008
  9. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    No one knows? :(
     
  10. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I think scans still look good at 100%... See this thread for a recent scan of mine. Maybe not the best example, but I included a 100% crop.

    Not the sharpest picture I've taken, but you get the point (hopefully).
     
  11. Battou

    Battou No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If you really want to play with film for digital display for any extended period of time, Buy a scanner. You can not go wrong, Mine has paid for it self many times over.

    I bought it on E-bay for about $200 USD, Consumer grade Fuji 400 scanned At 400 DPI:

    (unprocessed full frame)
    [​IMG]

    100% crop

    [​IMG]

    It may not look like much at 100%, but that is only 400 DPI, if I decided to use it at it's max of 2720 it would be different but...400 is more than enough for me.
     
  12. Paul Ron

    Paul Ron TPF Noob!

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    I think your prices are a bit off.

    I don't shoot 35mm, only MF B&W but when I do use color I buy film in what they call "professional packs" of 5 rolls of 120 from B&H n stock up for the year. The initcial outlay may be high but it brings the overall costs down in the long run.

    As for developing color I use cheap online services, Google searches wil find planty to choose from, they develope my 120 film for about $2.50 to $4.00/roll negatives only.

    I scan them on my Epson 3170 at about 600dpi to proof them. That gives me a good idea of what I have. If I find I like any of the shots, I'll send em out to a local NYC lab to make analog enlargements. I don't like the results of analog negs made into digital pics, the results are always dissapointing. It also husrts my sence of pride as a photograher.

    If I wanted digital pics, I'd invest in a good DSLR in the first place.
     

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