PHOTO PROJECT: The $50 Film Camera

Alright! It’s time for another super-fantastic photography project here at Epic Edits! This project is truly shaping up to be of epic proportions. The theme will be film photography, and we have a couple of big-league sponsors and experienced judges rooting us on. This one will require a little more effort on your part, but I’m hoping that we can all get excited about this little adventure we’re about to take on.

[UPDATE] The results of this project have been posted — be sure to check out all 80 film camera reviews that we received.

Those who have been following the blog are aware of my recent love for film photography — so this project should be of no surprise! The project will be open through mid-September due to the requirements I’ve set forth. Be sure you read through this announcement and if you plan on participating, you’d better get moving!


I’m so excited to announce that we have not one, but two really awesome sponsors supporting this project! Lomography and ILFORD Photo have decided to pitch in some goodies for a few lucky contest winners at the end of the project.

Lomography will be contributing 3 Diana+ cameras! Dating back to the early 1960สผs, the all-plastic Diana camera is a cult legend – famous for its dreamy, radiant, and lo-fi images. The brand new Diana+ is a faithful reproduction and a loving homage to the classic Diana – with a few new features tossed in. This is an amazing addition to any film photographer’s collection. Lomography is a globally active organization dedicated to experimental and creative snapshot photography. Boasting more than 500,000 active members across the world, the idea of Lomography encompasses an interactive, democratic, social, cultural, vivid, blurred, and crazy way of life. Totally cool people in my book!


ILFORD Photo (part of Harman Technology, ltd.) will be contributing 6 bricks of 120 format black & white film to go with those Diana+ cameras! That’s 30 rolls of pure gold my fellow photographers! We’ll be splitting up 10 rolls each of their HP5 Plus, XP2, and Delta 3200 between the three contest winners — which also happen to be 3 of my favorite black & white films (Coincidence? I think not!). For over 125 years ILFORD Photo has set the standard for the highest quality photographic products and achieved legendary status throughout the worldwide photographic community. Today, ILFORD Photo offers a wide range of exceptionally high quality black and white photographic materials all featuring very high image quality, ease of use and consistently reliable results.

In total, we’ve got over $300 worth of prizes to split up between 3 contest winners! So if I’ve piqued your interest with these snazzy prizes, read on and find out how you can get some for yourself!


This project has many different intents, and all of them revolve around learning and exploring new mediums. First and foremost, this project should be fun and exciting for any photographer to participate in. For those who have been brought into photography after the start of the digital age, this is a great opportunity to learn a little about the history of our hobby and pick up some new skills by shooting film. For those already familiar with the days of film, this is a great opportunity to get back to your roots and rediscover the magic of film photography. And for those already shooting film today, this is a great opportunity to share your knowledge with others and maybe pick up a new toy!

My main objective for the project as a whole is to show other photographers that film photography can be very inexpensive and exciting. For whatever reason, there’s a popular belief that film photography is expensive and tedious. But through your participation in this project, we can disprove that point and show everybody just how great film can be.


If you’re planning on participating in the project (and especially if you want to participate in the contest), pay careful attention to the following requirements. This is a multi-part project, and it’s going to require self-publication of a little writing and a little photography. Also – the links scattered throughout these requirements will prove to be useful.

  1. Find a Film Camera for Under $50
    That’s right, I’m asking you to spend money on this project (gasp!). Actually, you have two options here: 1) go buy a film camera, or 2) use one that you already have. I would encourage everybody participating to pick up a new camera, but if you’re strapped for cash and you already have a cheap camera, go ahead and use it. You can use any type of camera as long as it’s a film camera (and under $50).
  2. Shoot Some Film With Your New Camera!
    Go grab a couple rolls (or packs) of film and run ’em through your new toy! Get acquainted with your camera and make note of the ins-and-outs of your particular equipment and film you’re using.
  3. Write a Review of Your Camera
    Once you’ve gotten comfortable with your camera, I want you to write a review of it. The purpose of this is to educate other photographers on that piece of equipment. Tell us where you got it, how much it cost, some of the cool features, some of the not-so-cool features, how to use it, what you love about it, etc. The sky is the limit here, and what you write is totally up to you.
  4. Publish a Photo of Your Camera
    To go along with your mini camera review, I’d like to see a photo of your camera. The photo can be taken with any camera of your choice — I just want to see what it looks like. This part is important, because your camera photo will be the link to your project entry when I post the final results (so make sure we can actually see your camera!).
  5. Publish an Entire Roll of Photos
    Hey, this is a photography project right? So let’s post some photos! Along with your review, I want to see an entire roll of film that was taken with your new camera (and it doesn’t have to be your first roll). Why an entire roll? Because it’ll be neat to see any mistakes along with the gold nuggets.
  6. Submit Your Link Here
    I know, it may seem like I’m asking for a lot here, but there’s really not too much work involved. To enter the project you will need to have a single URL link that will take me to your review, your camera photo, and your roll of film. There are plenty of ways to go about this — so no excuses!

Based on our project history here at Epic Edits, I’m expecting some very high quality project entries!


All project entries will be automatically entered to win one of three prizes from our sponsors (and all three prizes are the same). Two judges will each choose their favorite project entry based on the quality of the review and on the photos presented. The third winner will be a “people’s choice award” decided by a poll when I post the final results. Here are your two judges:

Jim Talkington is a professional photographer of 20+ years, has had experience with advertising, photojournalism, editorial, catalog, darkroom technician, retail photo sales, writer, and many more facets of photography. He also has a strong history with film photography.

Udi Tirosh is a fellow photography enthusiast and photography blogger. Heโ€™s got a DIY attitude and heโ€™s all about cheap and affordable photography equipment. Since this project is based around cheap old film cameras, I thought heโ€™d fit right in as a judge.

So like I said, these two guys will each be choosing one winner to receive a Diana+ camera from Lomography and 10 rolls of film from ILFORD Photo. The third winner will be chosen by the blog readers. Good luck everyone!


Before you enter your project, double check the requirements and rules posted above. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements, I’ll ask you to revise your entry. If you do meet them, I’ll send you a confirmation email.

[UPDATE: Here are five project entries from week 1 that stand out as good examples]

IMPORTANT: When submitting your project entry, please provide the link to the specific web page for your camera review (and be sure that the photos are accessible from your review). A link to you website, blog, Flickr stream, etc, won’t cut it. Please submit the page link.

[UPDATE] The results of this project have been posted — be sure to check out all 80 film camera reviews that we received.

91 thoughts on “PHOTO PROJECT: The $50 Film Camera

  1. Brian Auer Post author

    I usually straighten mine if they’re slightly (and unintentionally) out of rotation. Though, I don’t do this with the Diana shots because it would make the vignette look weird.

  2. Janne

    I figure we have the same tools at our disposal no matter what the source of the images. And especially since we’re going to implicitly compare the results from these old cameras with the results from our digital ones I’d say that any postprocessing you’d use for digital is fair game here too.

    That said, since we want to see the results from the camera I have elected to not crop away from the format of the camera (I just cropped the film edges), and I the only local edits I have done is to remove the most obvious dust and scratches. But things like level adjustments, contrast, brightness, unsharp masking and so on is, I think, fair game.

  3. bran

    i dont find that tweaking the photo’s from the cameras a fair game though. in a way, we’re lying about what the camera is really capable of.

  4. Pingback: 5-Day Reminder for the $50 Camera Project

  5. the_wolf_brigade's GAS is incurable

    I personally didn’t edit my photos at all other than a resize as I felt it was important that I represent what the camera is truly capable of, rather than what can be achieved with a computer or a darkroom.

    However, as the project is/was designed to encourage people to come and try film for the first time it’s entirely possible that when the people who entered had their photos scanned by the lab, the lab adjusted the scans for best “appearance” in the same way that prints used to be adjusted from the negative in the good old days.

    I think at the end of the day that what counts is the negative you get to hold in your hands. A scan shown on the internet can never match that result that you get to hold and marvel at. Essentially a scan of film on the internet becomes just like another digital file to everyone who encounters it. The true film experience comes from using the camera in the first place….

  6. Janne

    Film is a great change of pace. It’s a different kind of fun from digital, and very worth pursuing in its own right. And yes, negatives are kind of cool.

    But in the end, it is the process – having fun doing it – and the result that counts. For me, the result is whatever I can upload to Flickr, put on my blog or email to my friends. The negative is just like a RAW file – essential, but still just an intermediate step on the way to the final result.

    To me, not postprocessing (whether in computer or darkroom) feels a little like shortchanging the camera and the image and never finishing what I started. It would be like presenting a draft rather than the final, polished version of a text.

  7. the_wolf_brigade's GAS is incurable

    Janne wrote: “It would be like presenting a draft rather than the final, polished version of a text.”

    What a great way of putting it! I’ve always approached it in the vein that everybody is going to have their own interpretation of the final result though, so I wanted to show the potential for the camera I chose, rather than a final product which will naturally differ depending on a lot of variables, not least of all the users preferences.

    I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m looking forward to these reviews so much. I really loved reading your review as even though I own a variation of a box camera and love shooting with it, you used some styles I hadn’t thought to apply such as using the long exposures needed by these cameras for motion, and using the ground as a support to capture unique perspectives.

  8. gary

    I’m not in favour of altering the photos from the camera to the extent that it destroys the subtleties of the camera or film (personal preference, of course), but not adjusting levels, colour balance and removing dust would be like jamming a negative into an enlarger, not blowing the dust off, grabbing the first random piece of paper underneath and accepting the first print as the final product regardless of result. In the darkroom we all make choices that influence the print.

  9. Javier

    In my entry, I did adjust the same parameters I adjust when uploading to Flickr.
    Contrast, saturation, curves. etc.

    I found that if I don’t do it the photos are somewhat flat. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Claire

    i was excited on this project but im afraid i wont be making the deadline ๐Ÿ™ i just used half a film roll, i need more sunlight and interesting things to cover. im locked in the office most days and its rainy season here in the philippines. anyway, im so inspired by this project that i promise to do a similar review for all my film cameras ๐Ÿ™‚ goodluck to you guys!

  11. Scott Coulter

    OK, I finally decided it was time to quit tweaking my review and submit it.

    Sometimes I spend even more time fiddling with my prose than I do with my images. Either way you eventually have to stop fiddling and actually show it to folks.

    With regard to the discussion above, I did not do any curves or levels work on my pics; only some very minor spot edits, and some of them got a very slight unsharp mask after resizing for upload. Other than that, they represent how the scans looked when I got them from Costco. I’ll probably go back and pick a few to do more complete post-processing on now that I’ve completed the challenge requirements.

  12. Javier

    Great shots in your entry Scott!

    Congrats man, I specially liked the man washing the building.

    This competition is going to be hard ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. cybertoad

    Negatives developed, scanned & uploaded into Flickr, now I need to write the review! I only had an opportunity to run one roll through so what you’ll be seeing is the first shots out of the camera. Nothing as exciting as some of you guys out there (some inspiring stuff out there), just a plastic Vivitar Ultra Wide & Slim.

    As for tweaking, I also just upped contrast ever so slightly to make them look less washed out as a result of the scanning. After the project I may re-visit some and tweak a bit more like Scott said.

    I also loved how Janne explained things – wonderful view on digital tweaking!

  14. Janne

    Claire, don’t worry and just finish the roll. Since I have little free time I had to do the competition quite early (didn’t’ help that I thought the deadline was last week…) so I just shot pretty much my whole roll in one day, on the way to the supermarket. That means there’s going to be a lot of uninspired or semi-failed shots there. I suspect that really was the idea behind posting a whole roll; we show each other that failing a lot is normal for everybody.

  15. the_wolf_brigade's GAS is incurable

    Claire, Janne’s right. Failing shots is something everybody does, so why not try some new techniques? For example, I don’t know your camera that you’re using, but does it have a “bulb” setting where you can open the shutter for a long period of time? You could try some long exposures at night, or even just some photos with a flash, if it had one….

  16. Dima

    I didn’t know what kind of photos I’ll take, until there was a day when my dance group kept small party. So I’ve got a light that this would be good photowalk in one evening. But there was some surprise on the way. At the same time I decided to shot one situations only once. Except a couple of photos.

    Here is review of Zenit TTL camera and at the end of it is link to roll.

  17. Brian Auer Post author

    Yeah, sorry — I should’ve been more clear about that in the project description. I didn’t really expect people to do multiple reviews, but I guess some people had many sub-$50 cameras in their collection already. Looking back, I probably should have said something like “limit 3 project entries per participant”, but it’s kind a late now. I think there were only 2 or 3 people who submitted more than one camera review.

  18. Erick Cusi

    Sorry, too! I thought I could submit more than one entry. It wasn’t stated on the rules, so I assumed I could. I just sent my fifth review when I saw Bryan’s post regarding multiple entries. Sorry!

  19. Janne

    “At the end of the day itโ€™s the quality of the review that counts right?”

    I was just going to say that it’s having fun doing it that’s important – but hey, the quality thing works too ^_^

  20. cybertoad

    OK Brian – I’ve posted. My camera review is posted under the photo of the camera itself. Link is given under description of the set.

    Now just waiting for Hurricane Ike to come though & possibly take out our power (I live iN NW Houston)… wanted to post this in case it did!

  21. Monte

    I am sorry about submitting another camera,,I too did not see only one per person. Did I just get disqualified?

  22. Brian Auer Post author

    @cybertoad Got it!

    @Ani, I sent you a confirmation email a little while ago, didn’t you get it? You’re good to go.

    @Monte — it’s not problem! I didn’t say you couldn’t! Nobody’s been disqualified.

  23. Matt

    Hey I was just wondering when you expect the results to be posted. I bet you have hundreds of entries to go through, so take your time!

  24. Brian Auer Post author

    Results should be up early this week. The judges and I have already gone through many of the entries, so we’re just making some decisions and finishing off the results page.

  25. Pingback: 80 Film Cameras for Under 50 Dollars!

  26. mirc

    Hi Brian – this project is a perfect excuse to buy the Vivitar Ultra Slim & Wide that Laurie introduced me to her via her Fickr stream
    Very nice hacks hereโ€ฆvery helpful
    Thanks a lot..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *