Development Costs

  • Development cost per roll of negative film: $6.90 = $0.288/frame @24 frames, $0.192/frame @36 frames
  • Development cost per roll of slide film: $10.50 = $0.438/frame @24 frames, $0.292/frame @36 frames
  • Scanning cost per roll of film: $8.68 = $0.362/frame @24 frames, $0.241/frame @36 frames
  • Fixed cost to ship to lab is $5.05. The fixed cost to ship back to me is $5.35. Let's say I ship ~5 rolls of film per lab shipment, 4x36 + 1x24 = 168 frames. This works out to $0.062/frame. Roughly.

Costs per frame for 35mm film

From cheapest to most expensive, only new film considered (i.e. no eBay film). The "total cost per frame" is the base cost per frame, plus shipping fee, plus development, plus scanning.

Film PackCost/PackCost/FrameTotal Cost/Frame
ProPlus II pro pack with 5x 36 frames $23.58 $0.131 $0.626
Roll of T-Max 400 with 36 frames $4.95 $0.138 $0.696
Pro400H with 36 frames $8.24 $0.229 $0.724
Ektar 100 pro pack with 5x 36 frames $41.91 $0.233 $0.728
Portra 160 Pro Pack with 5x 36 frames $43.26 $0.24 $0.735
Superia X-TRA 400 with 4x 24 frames $10.98 $0.114 $0.826
Super HQ 200 with 4x 24 frames $11.29 $0.118 $0.83
Superia 800 with 4x 24 frames $13.45 $0.14 $0.852
Velvia 50 slide film pro pack with 5x 36 frames $53.47 $0.297 $0.892

Summary

The 24-frame-rolls are secretly much more expensive than I would have thought. There are cheaper labs than the one I used, but with every other lab I have had significant quality issues, and this lab has never had those issues. But to think each time I push that shutter button it costs me ~75 cents is sobering. That's between $25 and $32 for a roll of 36 photos, or roughly $20 per roll of 24. Aiee.

I average 12,000 photos a year. (I used to shoot more, but I've been better at taking fewer crappy photos lately.) So the math on that works out to, using an average cost of $0.80 per film frame, for a year's worth of photos: $9,600. Wow. That's significantly more than a digital SLR. Amazon tells me a Canon EOS 5D MkIII camera body is $3,400. If I buy a new one of these every year (which is ridiculous), that's only 4,250 photos per year of film.

Conclusion

Anyone who tells you film is cheaper is lying.