A photographic Luddite converted… almost.

I worked in the photo lab business from 1987 right up through the time digital killed film developing (do you hear the Buggles singing in your head?).

Throughout 2003 and 2004, traditional photo labs everywhere were closing rapidly, as more and more traitors customers switched to digital and attempted to print photos at home.

To remain competitive, photo labs would have needed to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade to the new digital photo printing machines. Many lab owners just decided to give up instead.

We struggled to stay in business, but in January of 2005, it was dead, and I was laid off for good.

For almost twenty years, I always had a generous employee discount on all my photo needs, so I was a little out of touch with the actual costs of buying film and having it developed! You can imagine the shock.

Having been in the business and having a clue about photography, though, I would never trust places like Wal*mart or K-mart or CVS with my film.
I remember the technician who serviced our processing machines telling me horror stories about emergency calls to all the ‘Marts and various drug stores on his route: employees destroying customers’ film, screwing up the photo chemicals (not exactly rocket science, either), etc.

During the final few years of that long career in photography, aside from my 35mm equipment (I also did some freelance work, as well as studio portraits), I had a little digital camera for snapshots and sharing online.

So once I left the business, I relied more on my digital camera, and used my “real” camera for special occasions that justified the added costs of better-quality processing.

My digital camera died a  few months ago. It makes a rattling noise when I shake it, and this self-professed camera geek can’t fix it. And don’t think I didn’t open it up to look inside. At one time, I was a whiz at trouble-shooting (35mm) cameras. Things have changed, you whippersnappers.

I hadn’t quite realized how handy that little Fuji Finepix was until I went to the Maine Highland Games yesterday. I wanted to take pictures, but didn’t feel like lugging my big 35mm SLR with me… so I borrowed a friend’s embarrassing little point & shoot camera.

This morning, I swallowed my pride, crossed my fingers, and took the film to Wal*Mart. I didn’t order prints, just a CD of digital images (total cost: $4.27, as opposed to $6.96 for prints + $2.47 for the CD).

Results: At the least, Wal*Mart didn’t destroy my film. The camera was the problem here. With no zoom lens, everything I focused on is but a dot in the distance. I edited and zoomed and cropped like mad in Photoshop, and things still look awful.

drummajor.jpg                   taber.jpg

(left) Drum Major         (right) Throwing the Taber

I’m not (quite) ready to get rid of my 35mm SLR (yay! I could sell it on ebay for a tenth of what I paid for it!), but I seriously need a digital camera. I’m all but done with film.

Ideally, I want a Canon Digital Rebel, so I can use the Canon lenses I already have. And maybe I can pick up a little freelance work here and there, to make the new camera earn its keep. That’s frugal-thinking, right?

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Filed under budget, business, cameras, career, cheap fun, frugal, money, money management, photography, shopping, technology, work

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