Looking to do Cheap Photography on a Budget – Film photography might be just what you are searching for
Although there are many reasons not to consider a life outside of digital photography, cost isn’t really one of them.
If you are a keen photographer and already shooting digital, my guess is that you’ll already have forked out a small fortune on gear. You might even suffer from GAS or Gear Acquisition Syndrome as it’s more often called.
Take my arsenal for example. I have four digital cameras, tripods, flashes, studio gear etc etc which total something around £1800 – £2200 GBP if I tot it all up. Yep, I’m a penny pincher when it comes to my digital gear so you might have / could have / probably have spent substantially more! I have friends for example who have probably spent closer to £10,000 GBP on digital gear overall.
The cost of good camera gear nowadays is peanuts!
The bizzare thing about film photography is that nowadays, the cost of camera gear is relatively inexpensive, dare I say even cheap. As an example, I have just purchased a Nikon F801s (actually it’s the US version, the Nikon F8008s) which with a vintage Nikon AF 28-85mm f3.5-4.5 cost me £118 GBP including delivery. Both items were used but practically as new and they work together like a hand in a glove. I was going to buy the Nikon AF 28-70mm f3.5-4.5 (see image below), slightly cheaper on Ebay but the 28-85mm lens was boxed, came with the manual and looked brand new. The extra focal length will also come in handy.
It’s heavy though. Mounted on the Nikon F801s you are carting around a ton of weight. After a couple of hours you are probably going to be wishing you’d bought the diminutive Lumix GX-85 I have waxed lyrical about elsewhere on this website, or perhaps something (anything) from the Olympus M43 digital range!! All this aside, £118 for professional quality kit is nothing in the camera world.
Now in truth, you might have some old point and shoot film cameras and SLR’s knocking around the house. I did. I have an old Olympus Trip XB41AF (my wife’s actually), a Pentax KM SLR with three vintage lenses and a Nikon FE with one lens donated by a friend. Other than the Olympus, which does have auto-focus, the Pentax and Nikon cameras are all manual and while the Sigma 28-70 f3.4-4.5 is AF, it doesn’t work on the manual Nikon FE. Hence the reason for buying the Nikon F801s in order to really help nail focus.
The other thing I want to say is don’t knock the lowly Olympus Trip point and shoot. The image below, taken on the Olympus Trip and processed using the Jobo Autolab 1000 was taken from a roll of Acupan 800 which expired around 30 years ago. Not too shoddy in the grand sceme of things.
So there you have it, camera gear certainly isn’t going to be holding you back. That being said, if you are keen to go all in, you are going to need a ton of other stuff though, including film, before you can proudly show all of your friends your latest photos.
So, what have I spent on my film journey (so far)?
My outlay to-date, excluding film which I’ll talk about in the next section, is practically nothing in the grand scheme of things. The list here should give you some idea of what you can expect to pay to get started, that is if you don’t have anything to hand already.
Here we go:
- Nikon F801s with AF 28-85 f3.5-4.5 lens £118.00 GBP (Ebay)
- Lloyd Legacy Pro Bulk Loader £49.00 GBP (Bristol Cameras)
- Custom made 400ft to 100ft bulk film respooler £25 GBP (Ebay)
- Bellinifoto Chemicals for B&W Development – Developer and Fixer about £18 GBP (Nik&Trick)
- Tetenal C-41 Chemicals – £30 GBP (from a friend, normally £90 GBP)
- 1L Kood Chemical Storage Bottles x3 – £24 GBP (Ebay)
- Sous Vide for water bath temperature control – £39 GBP (Ebay)
- Film Recoverer £7.00 GBP (Nik&Trick)
- Plastic Measuring Beakers (set of 4) – about £30 GBP
- Plastic Tub for warming chemicals using the Sous Vide £10 GBP (Amazon)
- Paterson Changing Bag £30 GBP
- Lomography Digitaliza Negative Mask £30 GBP
- Tamron 95mm F2.8 1:1 Macro Lens for my Nikon D600 £175 GBP (Ebay)
Coming soon is everything I need to make a pro-lightbox based around using a Solux 12V 36W 4700K daylight lamp to back-light the negatives. This project will utilise the following components:
- Solux 12V 36W 4700K bulb with a CRI of +99% – £24 GBP (Svenlight)
- Wooden Box with lid (to neatly house all of the components) – £10 GBP (Amazon)
- 240V/12V 48W PSU – £9.00 GBP
- MR16 connector to suit the Solux 4700K bulb – £3 GBP
- Ancillary items to complete the construction – £5 GBP
That’s a total outlay of just £661 give or take less of course the cost of film. As I said, film photography doesn’t have to be expensive! If you intend to capture the negatives with your mobile phone, you can do away with the Tamron lens saving you a ton of money, same thing if you already have a good SLR or point and shoot camera.
A bit More Detail on Film Costs
Film cost is without doubt a significant variable associated with non-digital photography. I have been reasonably lucky in that several of my friends have gear and film that they no longer wish to work with and as such they have kindly donated this to me. I have also purchased expired film from Ebay, often in bulk so costs agan have been controlled to a certain point. My refrigerator, much to the annoyance of my wife, is full of expired colour film which I am slowly getting through.
Fujifilm Superior 100 (Classic Negative) is a colour film that I love but it will cost you maybe £20 per roll even if you can find it, and that’s for expired film. Film costs though are a movable feast and you can buy all kinds of 35mm and 120 format film ready to load into you camera from a few pounds upwards.
All this being said, and apart from my fridge full of boxed colour film, I like to experiment with bulk films. These are commonly available in 30.5m (100ft) rolls or as 122m (400ft) rolls although you can also get them in 17m rolls. You can also buy 35mm cine film in longer lengths, for exxample 1000ft but re-spooling this onto 100ft rolls requires specialist gear that I don’t have access to. For this reason, 400ft is my limit!
Here are some examples of current costs:
- FP4 Plus 125 ISO B&W in 100ft length – £120 GBP
- HP5 Plus 400 ISO B&W in 100ft length – £120 GBP
- Kentmere 100 ISO B&W in 100ft length -£60 GBP
- Fomapan 100 ISO B&W in 100ft length – £61 GBP
- Fomapan 400 ISO in 100ft length – £65 GBP
- Rollei Superpan 200 ISO B&W 100ft length – £52 GBP
- ORW0 UN54 B&W in 400ft length for £165 GBP
To put this in perspective, you can get about 18 rolls of 36-exposure film out of a 100ft roll. That means Fomapan 100 (which is quite similar to FP4 Plus) will cost you about £3.40 per roll. That’s not bad really especially if you are processing at home.
If you are interested in shooting with colour motion picture film, then ORWO have a range of colour films that require processing using ECN-2 chemistry. You can buy this chemistry from various sources including Nik&Trick who are selling a BelliniFoto ECN-2 kit for £39.95 GBP. Not for the faint hearted but given the savings you can get on 35mm Colour Negative film perhaps worth a look.
Nik&Trick also sell Kodak Vision3 500T film for just £7.25 GBP for a 30-exposure roll while you can buy a 400ft roll from Kodak for £315 GBP. A 400ft roll will net you around 76 rolls of 36-exposures which is about £4.15 a roll. This is a substantial saving if you are hell bent on shooting 76 rolls of film!
I know what your next question is going to be, how do I spool a 400ft film down to 100ft to use in my bulk loader. The answer is, you need one of these…
Now I got really fortunate with mine, one was selling on Ebay for £29 GBP. Eventually I got it for £25 GBP and I’ve already used it to respool my 1996 expired FP4 Plus 200ft roll of film down to the 100ft core on the RHS. Damdest thing though, the film was emulsion side up on the big coil which meant that when I spooled to the smaller coil the emulsion was on the wrong side (top surface rather than bottom) when rolled into the cannister using the Lloyd bulk loader. Easily sorted, I just reversed the 100ft spool in the Lloyd so that the emulsion was the right way up ie facing down. You live and you learn as they say!! When I roll the next spool I will wind on a “a figure of eight” to ensure that the emulsion is on the bottom surface.
Can’t find one? Visit https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4868217 for the 3D printer files to make one yourself or find someone with a 3D printer on Fiverr who can make one for you.
Some recent images.
Other Posts you might like
If you enjoyed Cheap Photography on a Budget there are a number of posts on this website talking about film processing and editing so have a wander around if this interests you. Here’s a few you might like: