Mono Magic: Photography, Breaking Bad style
Snap up a bargain with film cameras and a bit of DIY
If you just pop into Boots, you could be forgiven for thinking that film photography is an expensive hobby, at £7 for a roll of Ilford HP5 black and white film. Fortunately, there's still a good range of film around; you just need to know where to track it down.
There's still a surprisingly good range of film available, especially for black and white
For example, Czech film maker Foma makes a decent ISO200 film called Fomapan 200, that can be bought for around £3.10 a reel at Silverprint in London. Agfa's latest incarnation of APX100 can be found for around £3.75 and produces excellent results; buy in bulk from Amazon and you can get the cost down to £2.51.
It's worth shopping around; different vendors seem to have very different prices on film; you'll find it worth comparing AG Photographic, Calumet Photographic, Firstcall Photographic and Silverprint, depending on what you're looking for.
If you're feeling adventurous, there are films designed for aerial photography, or films with more infra-red sensitivity, and a range of speeds from as low as 20 up to 3200. Forget the likes of Instagram, the joy of film is that each one has its own characteristics. For a retro-feel, choose a retro film, rather than a filter.
Oddly, there's probably more choice of black and white film these days than colour. For instance, Kodak no longer makes any slide (transparency) film, while Fuji has cut back its range. Thankfully, you can still buy the magnificent Fuji Velvia slide film, though at around £11 a roll it's not cheap.
For cheap colour prints and playing around, it's worth checking out Poundland, who often have rolls of colour negative film for £1. The last time I bought some, it was 24 exposures of Agfa Vista. Agfa's CT Precisa slide film is OK, but not a patch on Velvia, in my view. Lest you think film remains on a downward spiral, a Kickstarter project last year successfully raised enough money to restart production of Ferrania slide film, and the first rolls are expected in June.
Once King of the Hill, Kodak slide film is no more, alas
One of the downsides of film for many is the lack of instant gratification – and the cost of processing the film. If you're shooting colour slides, there are fewer and fewer places that will process the film for you, and rising prices from Royal Mail make posting film off to be developed more costly than it used to be.
But it's still possible to get black and white processing done at a reasonable price. Ilford Lab's downloadable order form includes standard postage both ways, and processing on its own will cost £6.50. Ag Photolab, based in Birmingham, also includes freepost to send your films, and charges £3.99 for processing, plus return postage from £2.88, depending on the size of the order. Both will scan to CD, and makes prints as well.