After shooting in film, you will have to develop, and then either printing or scanning them to get a presentable copy.

I am okay with the film camera's investment, be frugal and I can get shooting within $US300, body, lens, film, cartridge, tent.

Developing the film would need some chemicals and tanks, no more than $US100 if I choose wisely.

But scanning them requires the extra investment of light box, film holder and either a digital camera or a scanner, which could easily be another $US400-$US800 investment. While sending away your prints away for either printing or scanning would be time consuming.

Is there a way to save money when first shooting in film?

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Is there a way to save money when first shooting in film?" – Don't buy what you don't need until you need it? You also didn't mention ongoing cost of consumables. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 3:52
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I would suggest that photography is not a cheap hobby, but it doesn't have to be a super expensive one either. Maybe it's not much of a "defense", but if you enjoy it, the cost can be worth it. I have always shot film, but was personally never interested in the darkroom side of things. I just pay a lab to do it for me, on a per-roll basis. \$\endgroup\$
    – osullic
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 10:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Please define 100 and the other numbers in your question. We don't all live in the same country. \$\endgroup\$
    – MrUpsidown
    Commented Jan 21, 2022 at 13:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: With which film camera should I start? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ See also: Is a Canon EOS 50D a viable starting point for a photographer in 2020? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 12:39

4 Answers 4


As someone that grew up with film it is ironic that the digital revolution, in reverse, is the cost problem you're facing right now.

Prioritize what you'd like to do.

Getting a good used body and a good lense, perhaps one that can be used on a digital bodi.e., Eos or Nikon).

Digital 'undoes' many of the things Negatives have built in. To take full advantage of the range of film you're going to need higher end scanners- Nikon made several that show up on ebay from time to time around the 400$ price mark.

As for printing your own material, that's doable- watch the garage sales and post wanted in Craigs. There are lots of people out there still that have darkrooms and are retiring- or in some cases dying- and their families would love to see the material given to an up-and-coming photographer.

I would also consider local community groups that may pool resources for shooting.

Yes, photography is an expensive hobby. However you've already faced the steep learning curve using digital (And you are going to have to unlearn many habits).

Digital could teach you how to time photos within a day- how to get 'peak action' and master the shutter press. Film that could be hundreds of rolls over weeks- and every camera would be subtle and different.

Good luck, enjoy your time. Don't get too caught up in needing it all today.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh I learned with film before DSLR, that is why I got to compare the two and decided to invest in an SLR and not an expensive DSLR. Because l prefer the experience of shooting with film. \$\endgroup\$
    – user104521
    Commented Jan 22, 2022 at 3:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Asmodean You can get a good used digital camera for less than what you are complaining used film equipment is going to cost you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 12:36
  1. Stick to 35mm. Shooting medium format (not to mention large format) film is very expensive, from equipment to materials to processing.
  2. For the camera, look for "sleeper" equipment whose prices aren't affected so much by cult or collectible status. An excellent SLR body and prime lens can be had for $50–$100.
  3. If you end up shooting a lot of film, consider buying it in bulk and loading into cartridges yourself.
  4. Use cheap and long-lasting chemicals, such as Rodinal for a developer.
  5. For digitizing negatives, a lot depends on how much resolution you need and how much distortion you are willing to accept. (Is the goal to post them on social media, or to make prints?) You can build your own lightbox using a couple of light bulbs, a diffuser screen (i.e. acrylic) and some sort of box. For results that far exceed what ordinary, affordable scanners can output, consider a cheaper, older mirrorless digital camera (~$150), a lens adapter (~$20), an old manual-focus 50mm macro lens (~$50), and a tripod.

At the very cheap end of the scale, you could create a lightbox by taping the negative to your window using masking tape and use one of the various phone apps to do the scanning.

I started at a slightly higher level than this, with a tripod, an old DSLR, and an old manual focus lens with an M42-EOS adapter. I already had the lens and the tripod and I was able to borrow the DSLR, but I could have bought it for <$100. I am using a cardboard poster tube to reduce the effect of ambient light.

I have since upgraded to a "proper" copy stand - which took a year of patience on eBay - and one of those lighting panels the YouTubers use to use for backlighting.

I am scanning negs up to 4x5 like this, though as I can't zoom out far enough in my current setup 4x5 involves taking multiple exposures and stitching them together afterwards.

I think my conclusion after all this is that scanning negatives isn't significantly less complicated than wet printing in a darkroom!

  • \$\begingroup\$ I applaud your ingenuity, but when I was considering scanning 35mm film vs shooting digital I discovered that I could get more resolution out of a full frame Nikon D850 vs a high end film scan at my local photo shop (but that was flatbed, and not a drum scan. But my local drum scan shop charges an arm and a leg - to the point that I could justify buying an Epson v850 if I was shooting a lot of film). So a low end DLSR is going to leave a lot on the table when digitizing 35mm. 4x5 would be a different animal though, especially if stitching. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Commented Jan 24, 2022 at 0:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ As it happens, if I'm feeling particularly conscientious I can stitch 35mm too, as 1:1 of 35mm is bigger than the sensor in the camera. Given that I'm still able to wet print, I feel this activity is getting into the category of diminishing returns. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 4, 2022 at 13:30

How to save money when first stepping into analogue?

Start with a cheap used digital camera and make the vast majority of your beginners mistakes at a cost of practically zero per shot.

If your budget is extremely limited you have other options besides a new DSLR or a used film camera. You can also find used digital cameras that are 2-3 generations older than the current models for very modest prices. You don't need an SLR or DSLR to start learning, either. A good used bridge camera or compact that has the ability to manually control shutter speed, aperture, and sensitivity (ISO) will allow you to get started learning the basics of exposure, composition, and post-processing (much of which can carry over to the darkroom - almost everything we do in digital post-processing has a corresponding antecedent in the chemical darkroom). It will also give you the flexibility of shot to shot customization that was once only the domain of those who used sheet film rather than roll film.

Many of us grizzled old-timers like to boast about how we started with film in the era before autofocus existed and how it forced us to learn how to be real photographers. But the reason we did so was because it was the only way to start back then.

Now that you have a choice, though, starting with film is probably not the best way to get where you want to go even if your ultimate goal is to shoot your most important work on film.

  • The overwhelming advantage of digital is that it allows one to experiment and learn without the per-shot expense of film. Your initial cost to start is not really that much less with film, but by the time you've shot your first 500 frames the cost of film and developing will have overtaken the cost of a good used entry level DSLR. By the time you've shot your first 10,000 frames¹ just the film and processing could have bought a nice lower end pro-level digital system.
  • There's also much to be said about the instant feedback of viewing a histogram on the back of the camera immediately following the shot. In the film era some of the best photographers in the world would use a polaroid back to test their lighting setup before loading the film and shooting.
  • Digital allows you to set the ISO and white balance of each shot individually, just as a century ago with the use of sheet negatives. Roll film, on the other hand, locks you into a specific sensitivity and color balance for an entire roll of film.
  • While there is much to be said about the lessons learned from processing your own B&W film in the darkroom there are just as many lessons that can be learned from developing your raw digital files on the desktop. You can also learn a lot about exposure, contrast, white balance and color, composition, etc. by processing your photos critically with the digital equivalent of a darkroom - your computer.
  • Digital cameras record information with each frame that tells you what aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering pattern, AF point, etc. you used. This is extremely helpful when reviewing your images to see what did and, perhaps more importantly, what did not work. In the film days a student would need to stop and write all of those things down for each shot.

Even if you decide you want to ultimately shoot with film, shooting with a slightly older used digital camera is a faster and more economical way to learn many of the fundamentals of exposure, composition, technique, and how using different focal lengths, apertures, shutter times, etc. will affect the resulting image than starting out with a film camera would be. This is particularly the case when you're not sure if any problems you might see in your earliest images are the result of user error or of camera malfunction.

¹ Henri Cartier-Bresson is oft-quoted as having said, "Your first 10,000 frames are always your worst." He was perhaps the greatest street photographer of the 20th Century and is certainly one of if not the most well-known. In photographic circles, the initials HCB are enough to positively identify him.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure this answers the question... \$\endgroup\$
    – Kahovius
    Commented Jan 23, 2022 at 22:00

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