Is Film Photography Still Affordable?

When I started this blog in 2017, the focus was on affordable film photography.  So in 2024, when everything else seems much more expensive, is using film on a budget still an option?

Five years ago…

I haven’t posted about film photography since 2019  – a combination of circumstance and other hobbies – but picking it up again now, I wondered whether cheap film photography was still viable five years later on.

Back then film cameras were pretty much a thing of the past, you could pick them up cheap, but there weren’t a lot of places you could get the films processed.  There were a few outfits like Lomography and The Impossible Film Co (now rebranded as Polaroid) making new cameras and bringing back old film formats, but it was always a bit niche. 

There were quite a few articles listing what were supposedly “the best” film cameras and that tended to drive up prices of particular models, but with a little research a savvy buyer could find equivalent models for much less.

Current state of affairs

So what’s it like now?  Well, I’m pleased to say that it seems to have grown!  A quick look around shows there is still plenty of activity on sites like eBay and Etsy, and apart from the models which were always a bit pricey, the volume of sales has kept the prices reasonably stable.  I’ll put some priced-up examples later in this post.

Film, as a format in general seems to have a bit of a resurgence, too.  While a few like Fuji have stopped some film production lines, a bunch of new film brands have appeared with broad appeal from the fun and quirky to the more serious.  Getting the films developed too seems to be a lot easier now – five years ago I knew only a handful of places still doing it, but now a quick search finds quite a few, some even offering to do specialised films like the remjet-backed movie film.  Price-per-film both for obtaining and processing is a few quid higher than it was, but the availability of new films makes up for that, as relying on increasingly older expired film was never going to be sustainable forever.

Is it worth developing my own film?

While it can result in significant savings, developing your own film is an involved process with an upfront cost for tools and materials.  While black and white film can be developed at room temperature, colour film requires maintaining a warm water bath to keep the chemicals heated.  The process is not difficult with proper preparation, but it is involved – the hardest barrier I found to getting good images was that while drying the films they are very susceptible to picking up dust.

I would recommend beginners get their films developed and scanned by a lab to start with, so they can focus on learning the camera and how film works under different conditions.


I’ll use a few of my cameras as examples of different types of camera that you can choose, then have a look at eBay to price up equivalents using today’s prices.  As always, buying second-hand is a bit of a gamble, but if the description says that the camera is in working condition then it is within your rights to return it if it isn’t. 

Buying items marked as ‘not tested’ or ‘for spares/repair’ are more of a risk – sometimes you might be able to get things going by putting a film or a new battery in, but you have to be prepared that it might never work, and this should be reflected in the price.  Job lots are a fun way to get your hands on a bunch of old cameras to see how they work, but most often they will be a bunch of junk.

Pro Cameras

By this I mean automatic SLR cameras that were made in later years.  They were the most expensive at the time and offer the widest range of options both for shooting automatically and for manual control.  They have replaceable lenses which are purchased separately. The main difference from the previous generation of SLRs is that they have auto focus*, but many other features were added over time.
(*not the T70 pictured above)

As they rely heavily on electronics, which are usually not repairable, it is best to only buy tested, working examples. Make sure to determine what batteries they require and whether the batteries are still available.

While flagship models can still be expensive, the slightly lower-tier models are very affordable.  The only high-end features you are likely to miss out on are things like high frame rates and multiple focus areas which aren’t a great loss to most.

A lot of the lenses still fit modern cameras, so you can pay a lot for very good ones, but the “kit” lenses (the ones that came with the camera) while perfectly capable are usually dirt cheap.

Anyone who has used a modern camera will likely be familiar with the shooting modes of PASM or similar, as well as aperture and shutter speed settings – these can be provided either with a dial reminiscent of manual cameras, or through a menu screen like modern cameras tend to use.

Here is what I paid (including postage) for a few of those examples above, all are competant examples:

  • Nikon F801 (1988) – £16.50 (body only), £3.99 (basic lens)
  • Canon EOS 500N (1996) – £4.94 (body only), kit lens free from a friend
  • Minolta 7000i (1987) – £16.50 (with lens)
  • Pentax Z10 (1991) – £5.20 (with lens)

Here is a range I found on eBay today (click for full images):

Pretty nice! Those are not bad prices, considering they are all are listed as working, look to be in decent condition and also all come with lenses. The lenses on the Nikon and the Olympus are pretty good ones, I paid £31 for one similar to the Nikon one and a 50mm f/2 is a very useful portrait/museum lens.

I paid a little less, but mine were mostly lucky buys marked as “parts only” and I have a few similar buys that ended up not working at all, or some that had issues later down the line.

Manual SLR Cameras

SLR cameras have existed since the 1930s, but it’s mostly since the 1960s that they have had TTL (Through The Lens) focussing and metering. That covers everything from the Zenit I first learned photography with right up to the 1980s semi-electronic precursors to the Pro cameras feature in the previous section.

Their operation is primarily mechanical, so it is generally obvious if they are working or not, and their simplicity means that they can stay working for longer. You might need to supplement their metering operation with an external light meter as selenium cells do not last forever, some do have batteries but they are typically used for “auto” modes and the cameras will work perfectly well without them in all other modes.

Generally manual SLRs are an excellent investment if you buy quality, and that’s perhaps the reason there aren’t more famous brands of them in my collection (too expensive). However there are some beautiful and accomplished cameras in my collection, and here is what I paid for some of them:

  • Yashica FX-D (1981) – £6.48 (body only), £6.20 (portrait lens)
  • Olympus OM10 (1981) – £16.85 (had a nice lens in the bag)
  • Fujica ST605 (1977) – £5.49 (body only) (uses “standard” M42 lenses, usually between £5 and £40)
  • Zenit E – £6.90 (1965) (body only) (also uses M42 lenses)

Let’s see what’s on eBay today:

Again a bit more expensive, but not completely crazy. As always the lesser-known/forgotten brands can be had for a bargain, whereas quality and still-current brands come at a premium. Three of those come with lenses, the one on the Praktica is an absolute steal, and the one on the Pentax is a peach.

Well, that’s all for now, but I’ll post a follow-up part 2 with a round-up of all the other types of cameras. Things might cost a bit more, but then that is not massive surprise, the good news is that film isn’t just making a comeback – it is back!

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