Last post I wrote about an online auction I was watching for a Canon EOS Elan 7e (Elan 30) that I hoped would go for a song. Long story short - it did, and I won it! :-) I'm now the very proud owner of a mint condition Elan EOS 30 and I couldn't be happier.
But what I wanted to talk about in this post is the 'dark side' of the retro film habit; batteries and film processing.
Once I had won the Canon EOS 30 film body, I Googled the manual to make sure I had the appropriate batteries for it. As we know with all modern cameras, no batteries no picture. The other problem is that battery technology has changed over the years, and camera manufacturers have changed right along with it. This may sound like a good thing, but in reality if you start collecting a range of cameras then you'll most likely need a range of batteries - some of which aren't all that easy to find (and possibly expensive when you do).
Worst case scenario with some of the older cameras that took a mercury battery cell (now no longer manufactured), the camera will have to be retrofit for newer technology. This is the case with a lot of polaroid cameras.
With the newer technology, some took regular AA's, some took CR123A's (like the Elan 30), while still others opted for the 2CR5's (the Canon EOS 5). Unfortunately, where I live in small town New Zealand, neither of those last two options are ideal.
I won the Elan 30 on Trademe for the princely sum of $28NZ (I kid you not!). Fortunately I have a couple of old CR123A batteries floating around at home, but they are probably on their last legs, so I needed to source some new ones. Sounds like a trip to my local camera store.
At my towns camera retailer (a Kodak Express chain store) I was told that "no", they didn't stock this type of battery anymore, but that "yes", they could get them in for me. For $20NZ each. And I need two of them! That's $40NZ worth of batteries for a camera that cost me $28.00NZ. The batteries are more expensive than the camera. Go figure.
A local electronics store down the road was a little better. They also didn't stock them and were only going to charge me $14NZ each, making the batteries worth exactly the same as the camera body. That's just crazy. So my last resort - online shopping. Back on to Trademe (New Zealand's version of eBay), and I found a deal of $12NZ for six CR123A batteries - that's $2 each! Now were talking. Needless to say that's the way I've gone. But I still can't believe my local camera store was going to charge me $20NZ for one battery! Is it any wonder small town retail shops are closing? They really do need to be more competitive. And just as an aside - and another example, Kodak film at the same store is $17NZ per roll for Kodak Gold stock standard film (and $49 for a 3pack). Ouch!!!
Having shot said roll of film, I took it back to my local Kodak Express store to get it developed. "Sorry buddy" the guy behind the counter said, "We don't do developing here anymore." Turns out film isn't quite dead, but in small town New Zealand it's as close to it as you can get without shoveling the dirt on top of the coffin!
It wasn't all doom and gloom though. They do send film out to get processed, but only when they have at least ten rolls, and it usually takes a couple of weeks to collect that amount. Unfortunately for me, they had just sent out their order on the courier that morning, so I'll have to wait another couple of weeks if I want to get it processed 'locally'.
I'm old enough to remember 1 hour processing for film at your local camera store (sigh), and even though I certainly didn't expect that to be the case anymore, I also didn't think it would be a two week turn-around time?! Maybe that's the price of shooting film now just about everywhere?
I went to the Google again and considered on-line processing services, but when you factor in postage to and from the service, plus processing costs, it works out at about $16NZ per roll just to develop only (no prints, cd etc). Mind you, it will probably end up costing that much for my local lab to 'send it out' for processing anyway? Once again, the price of shooting film.
Having said all of this, none of it puts me off shooting with film. I just might not be shooting a lot of color negative. I may become a black and white shooter, processing at home in caffenol and scanning on my Epson V700. That will bring the cost down considerably.