In this day and age, why spend money on an expensive hobby? We already have enough expenses with food and rent. So I think the best hobby is one that can be enjoyed thoroughly without as much expense. Hence shooting medium format. Having these huge negatives gives me a lot of joy and can be done cheaply. Here’s how to do it.
First, get an inexpensive medium format camera.
Sure, you can get a 120mm Holga for $100 new (and probably $50 used). But really, who wants to shoot with a plastic camera? If you have decent software on your computer, you can always add hipster effects afterwards…. but if the hipster effects are already on the negative… then you are stuck with them. So skip the holga.
- $200-$300 : Minolta Autocord. This is a great TLR. Don’t be intimidated by something new (I was when I first bought the pentax 67 though…). This comes with a fixed lens… but it is a beauty!
- $400-$700: Pentax 6×7. This is currently what I use. I got a whole setup for less than $800 (with 5 lenses). Other choice, Fuji GW690 or the like.
- $800-$1000: Hasselblad 500. At this price, you could only get one lens (probably the 80mm). Nothing wrong with that, it’s a great setup. The Hasselblad engineering will blow you away. Other choice: Mamiya 6.
- There are more choices of course that are much more expensive. But this post is about how to do things on a budget (remember?).
**Above prices are estimates based upon used deals on craigslist and ebay.
Now that you have a camera, it’s time to shoot. So what about the recurring cost of medium format film? Well there are a couple of ways to trim the fat. Brand new, most film goes for at least $5 per roll (and up to $7-9 for more expensive stuff). Here’s how to go on the cheap:
- First, open yourself up to shooting black and white. BnW has a longer shelf life and therefore can be had for cheaper.
- Buy in bulk. Film can last a long time in the freezer so buy big batches at a time and stick them in there with the popsicles.
- Always keep an eye on craigslist (for both cameras and film). People can sell film on there for around $2 a roll. So don’t be shy and go out there and find some in your neighborhood. I bought non-expired E-6 provia 100f for $3 per roll. This would sell for new for over $7 per roll…
- Ebay is another option. I haven’t seen deals on here like I have on craigslist but it’s worth a look.
- The cheapest film I have ever seen (new) is Artista EDU. It used to cost $2.89 but the price went up to $3.19. I bought 150 rolls of this stuff. It is really Fomapan – a cheap Czech film that has been rebranded. One thing about it though – you can’t push this more than 1 stop. Also of note, the 400 iso is really 240 iso. So be aware of that. You can buy it here:
I think you will be hard pressed to find film for under $2 a roll (and shooting medium format will only give you 12 shots at most, so that is 20 cents per photo… without taking into consideration development). Here’s how to save on developing:
- Develop yourself!!!! Developing with a lab is outrageously expensive. Develop the film yourself with your own equipment. You’ll not only learn more about film, contrast, resolution, density, grain… but you’ll gain a much better appreciation for your images.
- Buy developing gear on craigslist (and possibly chemicals too). New reels and tanks can cost quite a lot (especially good ones). I bought my setup for $75 on craigslist which new would have cost over $300.
- Don’t use stop bath (just use water). Don’t use PhotoFlo (a chemical that keeps water droplets off of your negatives). To keep water off the negatives use a squeegee (bought mine for $2).
- Use Diafine developer. This developer can be reused for over a year (as long as it is stored in the refrigerator). While this developer is meant to be reused time and time again, D76 can also be reused quite a lot. Experiment with this.
Hopefully this will get more people to be less afraid of medium format and go out and shoot it. Ours is an expensive hobby, no doubt about it. But there are ways of cutting corners. I suggest using all of them :-).
Happy, reasonably priced, shooting.