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 1960ʼs, 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. He’s got a DIY attitude and he’s all about cheap and affordable photography equipment. Since this project is based around cheap old film cameras, I thought he’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. Lisa

    Those are awesome sponsors, Brian! Can’t believe you’re giving out free Dianas. How cool is that. Will blog about this. Can’t wait to see the submissions!

  2. Susheel Samuel Chandradhas

    Great sponsors… I’ve always loved ilford film and paper. Lomo, i’m not too sure about, but ‘throw-about’ nature of the photography that it attracts is very attractive.

    You’re not going to get me to shoot with a $50 camera though!

    You’re not going to get me to shoot film for that matter. I’m done with those days


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  4. Derek

    I’m in.

    I just bought a Pentax K1000 for a few bucks under the entry point last week (though the shipping put it over at $58, so I won’t count that). Now I just need to actually remember to get the film developed and scanned under the deadline.

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  6. Scott Coulter

    Brian, I think you’ve been reading my mind. Or at least my e-mail.
    Just last week, I bought some film and loaded it up in my Sears KS Super II
    (mid-80s vintage 35mm, manufactured by Ricoh) for the first time in probably
    10 years or so. The inspiration for this radical step has been your wonderful
    photo uploads from your film cameras, and also this page:

    Since I’m currently at the saving and daydreaming stage with regard to a dSLR,
    I figured I should get out my old 35mm with its reasonably-fast 50mm lens,
    and see what I could do. I just checked, and it looks like cameras like mine are
    selling for well under $50 on eBay (some even with a flash attachment… hmmm…
    maybe I should pick up one of those… eBay surfing is dangerous).

    I’ve also been toying with the idea of starting a photo-oriented blog. I guess you’ve
    just tipped me over the edge of getting that started with your challenge here.

    Thanks! I’m in…

  7. Chica

    I’ve got a fabulous idea rolling about in my head. I don’t know if I can accomplish it or not, but I’m going to try my hardest. :)

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  9. Brian Auer Post author

    @Lisa I agree — those sponsors are way awesome! They’re really excited to be joining us with this project and handing out some goods.

    @Susheel Really? No film? Even for a fun project like this? I KNOW you have film cameras — surely you must have a cheapie laying around.

    @Derek Awesome timing! I’m not too worried about a few dollars difference or shipping costs for the project entries. I’m just looking for cameras in the vicinity of $50 or less.

    @Scott That’s really great — I’m glad to hear you’re jumping backinto the film stuff! I look forward to seeing your new blog too — the project will be a great way to kick-start it.

    @Chica I’ll bet you do! I can’t wait to see what you’re planning!

  10. Brian Auer Post author

    hmmm… you might be pushing the limits there — especially since lenses can cost more than the body on the older cameras. The idea is to find a whole camera for under $50. If the lens and body could be purchased for around $50, then you’d probably be alright. Of course, most camera bodies can be modified to shoot pinhole (which doesn’t require a lens!).

    So use your own judgment on what should be acceptable for the project. I won’t exclude project entries if they’re a bit over-budget — but the judges will be looking for prize-winners that followed the guidelines.

  11. the_wolf_brigade

    If I was a little kid, I’d be wetting my pants with excitement right now. I was worried after you posted this as an idea for a project on the blog a few months back that it wouldn’t get enough interest to be launched. Now? I can’t believe my eyes!

    I think it’s going to be tricky with the project history here at Epic Edits, but I’ve been wanting one of those Diana+s for a long time now. Not to mention my love of high speed b/w film. Although, I’m thinking with LSI on board that this competition might get flooded :D

    I’ll just have to work extra hard on my entry! In fact, I should start today….

  12. Brian Auer Post author

    LOL, thanks for that wonderful mental imagery.

    I think we’ll get a few new participants on this one due to the announcement over at the Lomography Blog. The comments over there indicate that people are fairly excited to participate. That’s a good thing!

    And yes, you should probably start soon (as should I) — actually, I just ordered my camera not too long ago. I should have a project entry up in a week or two once I run some film through it.

  13. Janne

    I have to check your rules and ask what is ok: I just last month got a film camera for under $50 (it was going to get thrown away so I just asked to get it instead). That should qualify I think.

    Now to the problem: I already mostly did what you ask – I took two rolls, took a picture of the camera and wrote up a quick review:

    My guess is, that makes this (wonderful) camera ineligible, am I right?

  14. Brian Auer Post author

    I’d say it’s *just about* an appropriate project entry. You might just update your current review and add a few things in there for the project: where somebody might buy a camera like this, what they’d expect to pay for it, and the remaining shots from one roll of film (maybe just as thumbnails or something at the end of the review — are the ones in the Flickr set from one roll?). But overall, it looks like a good fit for the project!

    Sure, you published the review a few days before I announced the project, but I don’t think that should exclude you from sharing your work with others via this project. If you had written it over a year ago, that might be a different story.

    The idea of the project is to share some knowledge and to explore an inexpensive film camera. You’ve obviously done both of these things.

  15. Pingback: The $50 camera project. « The mediation of life.

  16. Janne

    Ok, I’ll consider it. If I go with the camera I’ll shoot a new roll of film with it and make a separate contest entry (the Flickr set is from two rolls and a couple of shots are friends and family, which I as a rule don’t post publicly without prior permission).

    Or I might just take another old found camera and see what I can do with it instead.

  17. cybertoad

    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… I also have some rolls of film that I need to use. Now I must go & order the camera… :)

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  20. jjohnsen

    I haven’t shot any film other than 35mm years ago. So I got my camera Miyamo (?) and shot two rolls. Imagine my surprise to find nobody local develops 120, and to send the two rolls out to get developed is going to cost me $40. Yikes, I never thought developing the film would cost as much as the camera.

  21. Brian Auer Post author

    Really? Nobody local develops 120? You should be able to find a local shop that can do it — it’s still very common. I typically have mine done for the same cost as a roll of 35mm. Dang, $40 sounds really expensive to me (what is it, Kodachrome?) Although, if you shot something other than C-41, I can see why it might cost a little more. I haven’t run across too many places that will do E-6 or B/W without sending them to a pro lab. But even a lot of 1-hr photo places will do C41 for 35mm and 120 films (some will even xpro small orders at no extra cost).

  22. Janne

    $40 for developing 120 is robbery, pure and simple. My local place doesn’t process T-max locally if you want the Kodak development process, and even sent away through the store it only costs 750 yen – about $6 – for a roll. In-store processing costs about 500 yen ($4) or so.

    Isn’t there a web-facing developer you can contact directly? Even if they have to send you a photo bag specially, and you return with normal postage, it should still come to much, much less than that kind of ridiculous cost.

  23. jjohnsen

    I should make clear that $40 was for two rolls, not one. And they do send it out, I honestly can’t find anyone within 20 miles that does it themselves. The online places are $16-20, so not really any better. Maybe I’ll call around Salt Lake and see if anywhere around there does it. Then I can make a special trip when I have a bunch of rolls saved up.

  24. Dima

    Great project. One question I have. Shold it be a camera, which originally was priced 50$ at it’s publishing time? Or can we use some old slr cameras, which cost nowadays almost free.
    Or is this project’s idea to find what kind of cheap new film cameras are nowadays?
    If there is no limit with an age of camera, so I’ll take Lomo Smena-35. The first camera of my life from 80′s.

  25. Brian Auer Post author

    The camera just needs to be a film camera — any age, era, or type. In fact, that’s kind of the idea behind the project, is to find an old camera that’s still in great working condition and capable of producing photos. Most of my sub-$50 film cameras are from the 1970′s or earlier, and they’re great pieces of equipment.

  26. the_wolf_brigade

    Just curious, but you haven’t given any specifics on how to share the roll. Would a slideshow using the flickr video function which can be imbedded in the review a valid option? I might have more photos than normal…. :D

  27. Janne

    the_wolf_brigade: if your film camera is Super-8 I’m sure you’ll be forgiven if you post excerpts, not every frame :)

    I’ll be going with a different camera, but I won’t know yet if it actually works well enough to give any recognizable pictures. The way I read your instructions, we can shoot a second roll if we want and post that one – it doesn’t have to be the first one we run through, right?

  28. Brian Auer Post author

    @the_wolf_brigade you can share the photos any way you please. A slideshow would be fine, and maybe throw a link in there to your set or tag containing all the photos so the judges can get to them in various ways.

    @Janne you can shoot as many rolls as you’d like — you don’t have to post the first roll.

  29. the_wolf_brigade

    @Janne Oh Super 8! *claps hands* I’d totally forgotten about that! I have one under my bed that’s never been used. Been meaning to get some film for it, but it’s pricy over here. As for my camera? Well it does have a movie like appearance…

    @Brian Yeah I figured I’d pull the good shots out and post them in the set I’ve created with the rest in a slide show for ease of viewing. Knowing I can do that means I can sort this review out quicker than I hoped. Maybe. Still got to finish the roll….

  30. Tuckr

    First time reader here. Sounds like cool little contest and I’ll definately try to get an entry in just for the fun of it. I’m assuming you won’t ship prizes outside the US :)

    I’m playing around with two Praktica B200′s and a bunch of lenses from Prakticar and Sigma. They can be found for small change here in the Netherlands.

  31. Brian Auer Post author

    Welcome to the blog Tuckr! And geographic location won’t exclude anyone from the contest — we have such an international audience that it would be silly to do that.

  32. Jocelyn

    Hi Brian,

    I was just curious to know if we could use a cameras that were given to us for free. Years ago when I took photography classes in high school, my dad gave me his old Minolta x-370 and a Canon AE-1 his friend found in his attic. I kind of feel like using either of these might be like cheating, but I figured I would ask. Otherwise, I may have to see if I can fix my Fujifilm Q1!


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  34. Floodkoff

    YES, I finaly finished too. Actualy, I receved scans of my photos at 20.08, but It took a time for tranclating my review. I have just submited my review link and looking forward your reply :)

  35. Tuckr

    Just dropped off 8 rolls to be developed, printed and scanned. Picking up the results next Thursday. Then I’ll select the roll to be used for this project and start writing.

  36. Dogma

    Hi Brian
    Last week i have submitted my PHOTO PROJECT: The $50 Film Camera. It was about Zenit EM camera.
    Have you got it? I did not received a e-mail from you.
    Best Regards

  37. Brian Auer Post author

    You can do what you want with your photos. I usually run mine through ACR to tweak the exposure levels and curves a bit. Like a digital camera, a scanner doesn’t always produce results that are final. With my xpro photos, I sometimes modify the white balance to negate heavy color shifts.

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