What else is new? [weekend digest]

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  • J Shin

    So, the writing’s on the wall, yet again, for film’s demise.

    Is it time for me to switch to digital, yet? Well, in my nerdy-girly way, I ran some numbers, and this is what I got.

    I paid $720 for a used Leica R8. A new M9 is $7000, a used M9 is around $5300. The Sony a99, to likely be the cheapest full-frame, is rumored to be around $2500. (I am ignoring the cost of accessories I have gotten for the R8, since I will likely get similar things with the others.) The cost of Provia + developing and mounting is about $17 per roll.

    Ignoring the cost of SD cards and backup disks, and the convenience of digital editing, this means, I will break even:

    – switching from R8 to a new M9: after about 370 rolls or 14,000 actuations
    – switching from R8 to a used M9: after about 270 rolls or 12,000 actuations
    – switching from R8 to an a99: after about 100 rolls or 3,800 actuations

    There is no way I will be shooting 370 rolls-equivalent over the next several years, so switching to M9 does not make any economic sense to me. I can see me shooting 100 rolls, so switching to a99 may be viable.

    Now, looking at it differently, consider the fact that digital cameras have a limited lifespan, so I have to be able to recoup the equivalent film and processing cost before it dies. That means,

    – with a new M9, I have to take 410 rolls-equivalent (16,000 shots) before it dies
    – with a used M9, I have to take 310 rolls-equivalent (12,000 shots) before it dies
    – with an a99, I have to take 150 rolls-equivalent (5,600 shots) before it dies

    Again, the M9 makes no reasonable sense to me, while I can see myself taking 150 rolls (5,700 actuations) before the a99 croaks or becomes obsolete in 5-10 years. I imagine I will be taking a lot more shots, but not have any more usable shots, given that I would be tempted to waste more shots, but this does not change the analysis.

    If you have a decent film system, and you can continue to get film and processing at reasonable price, it does not make sense to go digital for cost reasons unless you take enough photos. Assuming a 5-year lifespan, that is 50 rolls or 2,000 shots per year for a $2,500 camera. Conversely, for someone like me, a “serious amateur”, a camera above $2,500 is less economical than a film camera.

    • Michael

      Trust me, shooting digital makes you shoot much more.

    • @ J Shin: ‘Ignoring the cost of SD cards and backup disks, and the convenience of digital editing’

      Ignoring the convenience of digital editing is a pretty big one…as is ignoring the cost and/or tedious time of scanning your film.

      I always laugh at you film hold-backs who try and financially analyze the benefits of staying with film…you’re missing the whole point. You used the example of shooting 5700 pics in 5-10 years……with digital you will find you shoot MUCH more just because it’s free once you buy the camera.

      I am not a ‘spray and pray’ type of shooter, but even I can easily burn through 5700 pics in 2 years. You will end up with many more keepers because A) you will shoot more, and B) it costs nothing to experiment….which means you will also grow quicker as a photographer.

  • amien

    Fuji Velvia ? This is dramatic. I love to shoot 67 in Velvia 50, apparently the only one that has not been discountinued … yet…

  • Anonymus Maximus 1st

    I think your calculation is missing the time needed to scan the film.
    I am not sure if you want to award it with a monetary factor or only the time factor, but as time is scarce (for me) the question should rather be whether my time is valuable enoyugh for me NOT to waste it with an itermediate process step, that does not add anything and at best does not degrade quality.
    Scanning a film with “best” quality (we are talking Leica after all ,so no short cuts here) takes you at least 5 min. For one roll with 36 that would be 3 hours.

    As much as I enjoy a roll of film from time to time, scanning is the killer for me.

  • Shady

    I started with digital and just recently tried film (started when taking a community college class a year ago). I really enjoy the whole process of film. It forces me to think about the shot a lot more. I just shot a roll of Velvia 50 120s (6×6) and found one frame I really really like. In fact, I got it drum scanned so I can print it big. The amount of detail and range I got out of the film is great but I can’t overlook the hassle and cost. Film + development + scan takes a lot of money and time. However, I do recognize the high resolution of 120 film but 35mm doesn’t go too far beyond digital FFs using regular scans.

    I will continue to shoot film (especially BW) but slide really is a lot work. Still, I am very sad to see Fuji discontinue these. I really like the way Velvia’s look. I hope 120s have a lot of life left.

    Also, if you want a FF, you can check out used Canon 5D2. 21 MP is pretty equivalent to good 35mm scans and the price should be much cheaper now that 5D3 is out.

  • Ziggurat

    Hi J Shin

    M9’s have not really depreciated enough yet. 6 to 12 months after the end of the production cycle would be the time to buy. If the M10 is out in september, next year may be the right time to start buying second hand.

    For now a good used M8 is a bargain. You could adjust to the rangefinder system and sort out the lenses you like to work with; although you will have to use a little imagination regarding the eventual move from 1.33 crop factor to full frame.

    I bought my M8 18 months ago. All the main depreciation had been borne by the first owner. It’s now done 10,000 actuations and is still in as new condition. The shutter I believe is rated for 100,000 and can be replaced by Leica anyway; just the electronics that are a shot in the dark really.

    However, the main reason I bought this camera, or would buy any camera, is that I believed it would help me to make the kind of pictures I like to make. It does.

    Hope this helps a bit.

  • I shoot digital 99% of time, BUT I also shoot film (my family) because I’m sure that film will last as long I’ll live or even longer. B&W negative is opticaly printed on b&w paper in our local lab, and colour slide I use for projecting on wall. So end of velvia is very-very bad, beacause it is a signal for me that further investment in film gear is pointless. Hope that provia will stay for at least a decade or more.

  • That really sucks about Velvia 100 but at least they are keeping the Velvia RVP 100 around longer. I’d be pretty upset if I had bought a 4X5 and couldn’t get Velvia 50 for it. A sign of the times I guess.

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