I think we all know that shooting film comes at a cost, literally. And the bigger the chunk of film you expose every time you open that shutter, the worse it gets.
Some argue that that's a good thing since it makes you think twice before shooting. I think that argument is silly: film has many good things to offer other than being "expensive".
But to the point here: how much money are we talking about? Let me show you my numbers, how much I spent on my gear and how much I spend every time I shoot with my Bronica SQ-Ai.
The first thing you will need if you want to shoot film -no matter the format- is, of course, a camera and a lens.
I'd say the Bronica SQ-Ai is a mid-range medium format camera, price-wise. Something in between the cheaper cameras and the almost unaffordable ones.
That wasn't the case when it was first released. It was an expensive system, but its price has depreciated quite a lot.
This is what I paid for my kit (I bought most of this in the spring / summer of 2017, both online and at physical stores, prices might vary):
Camera with prism finder, 80mm f/2.8 lens and 120 film back: $410
80mm f/2.8 lens: $100
150mm f/4 lens: $100
250mm f/5.6 lens: $180
Extra 120 film back: $100
Waist Level Finder: $100
You might have noticed the two 80mm lenses. That's because Rachel got another camera for herself and that one came with a 50mm f/3.5 she didn't like, so I took it, gave her the 80mm and got another copy for me (by the way, she got her Bronica for $220 on eBay, with lens, film back and finder!)
So the cost of my kit was $990. It's a lot of money for a 20-year-old camera, but bear in mind that a Hasselblad with just one lens can cost that much. It was also much cheaper than the Sony full frame kit I was using before switching to film.
These are just the basics to get started, but I do have more stuff than just the camera and the lenses: check out my camera gear here.
Film home development kit
As I said, the cost of shooting film isn't a good thing for me, that's why I try to keep it as low as I can. Without going too cheap that the results are affected, of course.
I bought all the tools I needed (changing bag, Patterson tanks, measuring cups, thermometer...) for around $100, and I purchased a scanner (Epson v600) for $200. Add to this binders and sleeves to archive your film ($30) and the total initial cost should be of around $330.
As for chemicals, I've used two so far: Kodak D-76 and Ilfotec HC. It's not the purpose of this post to talk about the differences here, let's just say I like the latter better but I still use both. Anyway, the cost of developing and fixing a roll of 120 is about $1.
Once again, I try to keep the cost down in every step of this process. HP5+ is the perfect stock for those who are getting started with film (like me) and it's also in the cheap side of the spectrum. I pay around $4.79 per roll.
Some film stocks have bundles you can buy to lower the cost of an individual roll, Fujifilm Acros for example.
So, what are the final numbers?
Initial investment in camera gear: $990
Initial investment in film home development kit: $330
Total initial investment:$1,320
Cost of developing a roll of 120 film: $1
Cost a roll of 120 film: $4.79
Cost per photo:~50 cents
50 cents per photo might not seem much, but how does that add up with time? I posted my shooting film 2017 numbers, and if those stay true for longer periods of time, I will be shooting some 240 rolls of 120 a year. That will cost me $1,400 a year, plus of course all the time I'll need to "invest" to develop and scan those images.
Shooting medium format film is expensive
And I still love it.
I don't shoot film because it costs me money, I do it despite of emptying my wallet a little bit more every time I press the shutter. Don't feel bad about this though, for me it's an "investment" of sorts, since it improves my photography and makes me happier. There are plenty of other reasons of why I prefer film, and rest assured we will discuss those here pretty soon.
I hope this article helps anyone trying to get into shooting medium format film! Please don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or something to add.