5 reasons to buy a film camera instead of a disposable one


In recent years, there has been an upsurge of people making films. There’s something alluring about the art of analog photography that you just don’t get with digital cameras. The element of surprise and the possibility of being completely wrong makes it both exciting and a little daunting, and yet so many people are investing in film cameras and/or ditching digital altogether.

One of the most popular types of cameras for those new to photography is the disposable. The best disposable cameras are easy to use, relatively cheap to buy, and require no prior knowledge of ISO, shutter speed, or aperture to operate. The quality of images you get from disposable cameras isn’t amazing, but it’s also kind of charming. I’ve never really been able to figure out why we love the disposable aesthetic so much, but I’m also guilty of it.

When I was in my freshman year of college, I religiously bought disposable cameras for parties, festivals, and vacations, making sure the photos I used them for were memorable. As soon as I’d used up the film roll I would head to my local developer to have it processed – and more often than not I would pay the extra to get it done within the hour so I didn’t have to wait any longer long to see the pictures.

These days, I’ve ditched disposable cameras and embraced a more planet-friendly way of filming. When the conversation around the issues of plastic waste and single-use waste came into the spotlight, I wanted to do whatever I could to reduce my personal contribution to the problem. I started shopping at zero food waste stores, stopped using straws, and also invested in a semi-automatic camera.

The initial cost was a bit more than buying a cheap $9/£7 disposable, but overall well worth it. I’ve also expanded my film camera collection to include a Nikon FM2 and a Canon AE-1, but when I don’t want to think about what settings I need, I rely on the Konica Z-up 110.

Sure, disposables are still a lot of fun and they have their place, but if you shoot a lot with them, it might be worth investing in one of the best film cameras. Here are five reasons why it would be beneficial (for you and for the planet)…

(Image credit: James Artaius)

1. It creates less waste

The fact that it’s called a disposable camera is a little misleading, as most film processors will actually send the camera out to be recycled. Using an automated machine, the cameras are broken down into separate components so they can be sent for recycling. The plastic bodies are then ground down, melted down and reshaped into a new camera body. All salvaged components are also reused, but not everything can be recycled – some items must be scrapped. The process itself also uses a lot of energy, which may not come from renewable sources.

2. You can be more creative

If you invest in a good film camera, you have no limits on the type of film you can use in it. Ok you have a limitation in that it has to be 35mm film but you can experiment with shooting in color, black and white or even try creative film which gives your images a completely different look. Brands like Dubblefilm make some really cool films that give your images subtle shades or even rainbow-colored light leak effects. Check out our guide to the best 35mm film to find out what’s on offer.

3. It could save you money in the long run

Unfortunately, movie prices have risen so much recently that you can’t find a movie as cheap as it was a few years ago. However, you can often find bulk buy deals on sites like eBay where if you’re lucky you can get it for $5/£5 or less per roll. You’ll still have to pay a development fee, which can vary wildly depending on where you go and whether you want physical prints, digital copies, or just the negatives.

(Image credit: Hannah Rooke)

4. Your camera will be part of the memory

If you invest in a film camera and take it with you everywhere, it will start to be part of the memories it captures. I hold my film camera on a long lanyard so I can wear it around my neck or across the body, so I’m ready to use it at any time. My camera has traveled the world with me, seen some of my favorite bands, and captured some of the best moments of my life. It may be “just” a camera, but once you’ve used it enough, you’ll never want to part with it.

5. Better images and more features

Just because the pictures look better doesn’t mean you lose that cinematic aesthetic we know and love. If anything, you can achieve this even easier if you buy the right type of film. Although disposable cameras have a built-in flash, semi-automatic film cameras are often more powerful and therefore more useful. It’s also very likely that they’ll come with a self-timer mode, which means no one has to be left out of group photos.

Of course, if you want to film but don’t want to pay for the processing, you can invest in one of the best instant cameras such as the Fujifilm Instax SQ1 or the Polaroid Now+. It’s worth noting, however, that while you won’t have to pay any development fees, the movie is more expensive, and overall it’ll probably work about the same – only you won’t have not the excitement of recovering all your photos in one go!

Whether you decide to buy a traditional 35mm SLR, a retro point-and-shoot style film camera, or a modern 35mm such as the Kodak M35, you can be sure it’s a worthwhile investment. Film cameras have changed drastically over the years, but even today, modern full-frame digital cameras are based on the 35mm sensors found in analog cameras.

Film photography will always have a place in my heart, no matter how advanced mirrorless cameras are, because at the end of the day, you simply can’t beat the original form of photography.

Read more:

The best retro cameras
The best film scanners
Best film cameras
Best Darkroom Equipment


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