Kodak has absolutely knocked it out of the park regarding the re-release of Ektachrome E100 film in 35mm format. I mean, I'm no film shooting veteran and I don't remember what it was like to shoot original versions of some of these films. In fact, this was my first roll of slide film, ever.
Lately I've been shooting lots of black and white, especially Kodak's Tri-X 400 in both 35mm and 120 format. The sharpness, the tonality, the grain, the development flexibility–all inspiring.
But also! All much more affordable.
At about $5-6/roll that's already half the price of a roll of Ektachrome. Then, personally, I find it quite expensive to get developed and scanned color film. For black and white I use Daniel Collins Photo for development and scan locally because he does an amazing job and has become a good friend. For color, however, I love sending my film to Richard Photo Lab. They are top-quality for sure, but better utilized for client work / large volume stuff.
Let's look at a breakdown of how expensive shooting film currently is:
Kodak Ektachrome E100 35mm roll (36 exp.) --> $12.99 Round-trip Shipping & Handling to RPL --> $13.98 E6 Process & Scan (Large) --> $42.28 Proof Prints (as Process & Scan add-on) --> $4.72 Total: $73.97
It hurts to look at that. I spent $74 to shoot one single roll of film.
Yes, I ordered prints too. Yes, I ordered the largest and most expensive scans on RPL's Noritsu scanner. But, until recently I shot a Nikon D810 for my digital work, which gave me a roughly equivalent image size/resolution (I said roughly, give me a break pixel peepers) for every single frame, for free. So, to roughly match that to digital quality, this is what you have to pay for. The prints, well those are just nice and only a $5 add-on.
I'm done justifying it. It was worth it for my first roll. Going forward though I'll be buying Ektachrome for special occasions. It's a luxury film for me right now, but I am so in love with the results that I desperately wish it could be my regular film stock.
Positives, Not Negatives
Call me crazy, but I view it as a positive to put a monetary value on each frame I take. Do you know why? Because each frame should be valuable. We as photographers are not the average person with a cell phone, we purport to care deeply about images and when has it ever hurt to care more about the quality of something? Shooting film trains me to be concerned with creativity, efficiency, and value. I tend to think that's more important now than ever because of the absolute firehose of images surging constantly across digital mediums.
It's not that one is better than the other, but there is always room for people who take pride in their craft. Shooting images is a craft. Shooting film is a craft. Developing film is a craft. Post processing, darkroom work, it's all craft. To get better at a craft we have to face challenges and find ways to overcome them. Digital has its own challenges. It's not universally better or easier either. "Automatic" mode on a DSLR does not create anything other than an image with adequate exposure. It works the same every time no matter what you're shooting or why or what you'll do or not do with that image after taking it. My latest challenge is taking images that matter to me and limiting myself to those. Shooting film puts a real constraint on me to do just that.
Does it hurt when I waste a frame and calculate that the mistake just cost me $2.06? Yep. So I try not to do it again.