The Cost of Hybrid Film Photography Part 1 – Sunk Cost

When accountants talk about costs they make a distinction between a sunk cost, which is a cost already incurred that cannot be recovered, and a future cost, which is either a cost not yet incurred or a cost already incurred but which can be recovered. Future costs can be complicated to analyze. In the remaining posts of this series of articles I will only address marginal cost, which is the future cost of producing one additional unit. 

First, a general disclaimer. Just about every post on this blog, including this series, reflects the way I do hybrid film photography. I take the pictures with film cameras, I develop the negatives myself, I digitize the negatives myself, and I make the inkjet prints myself. 

That said, the sunk cost of hybrid film photography can be pretty much what you want it to be. 

A serviceable film camera can be bought for a few dollars at a garage sale. A new Leica film camera will set you back thousands of dollars. 

Freestyle sells a film developing kit for $89.99. A top of the line setup with an Ilford changing bag, a Kindermann tank, a Hewes reel, a good dial thermometer and additional graduates could cost twice that. 

A new Canon 9000F or Epson V600 flatbed scanner costs less than $200. If you already own a digital camera with a macro lens an excellent digitizing setup can be assembled for even less. On the other hand, to replace the Leica BEOON copy stand and Schneider enlarging lens and actually buy the borrowed Fuji digital camera I use for digitizing my negatives would cost six or eight times as much. 

If you are reading this post on a tablet, laptop or desktop computer you already have all the computer hardware you need to do an excellent job of processing your scans and making inkjet prints. And just for fun, I ran through the whole process using just my iPhone to prove to myself that it can be done. Or you can buy an iMac Pro for $5,000. 

Absolutely top notch photo processing software is available for free or very little money. My current favorite is Affinity Photo which costs $49.99 for a perpetual license. More expensive alternatives like the Adobe Photography Plan for a $9.99 a month subscription are available too. 

Most of my inkjet prints are made with an Epson Workforce 30 printer that cost me about $60. It is no longer in production but other photo printers are available in the same price range. I also have an Epson R2880 printer that can print on heavier paper, make larger prints and has more printing options. It is out of production too. The current Epson equivalent, the P600, costs about $700. 

A common decision-making error is to take sunk cost into account when making present and future decisions. That’s where the marginal cost of negatives and prints comes in. It is absolutely independent of the sunk cost of the equipment and software used to produce them. Stay tuned…

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