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Canon’s 5D/7D Family vs. 35MM Film: A Cost Comparison

  • October 28, 2011
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
Canon’s 5D/7D Family vs. 35MM Film: A Cost Comparison

Hello loyal readers, it’s Andrea here to discuss the cost differences between 35MM film and today’s easily accessible Canon DSLR cameras in the 5D/7D family. But before we discuss the numbers, let’s take a moment to consider the fundamental differences producing for either medium:

Wait for it…
There aren’t any.
Shocking, I know.

Granted, there are significant differences in cost and ease of use when using the Canon 5D/7D, as compared to shooting on 35MM film. But the process of filmmaking is relatively the same.

Or at least it should be.

Lets take a minute to go over the process and then we can get into the details in budgeting.

Talking budgeting on "The Smiling Game"
Talking budgeting on “The Smiling Game”

First, one issue that tends to crop up with the advancements of digital filmmaking is that the actual art of filmmaking is no longer a requirement.

This is not nor should this ever be the case.

Changing the medium from film to digital does not mean that the same level of artistic control and thought need not apply. In other words, just because cameras such as the 5D or 7D can handle low-light situations well does not mean that lighting is no longer important.

Now back to budgeting.

So where are the budgetary line-item changes when switching from 35MM film to digital?  They’re exactly where you think: the cost of the film and processing, plus the reduced cost of equipment, plus the reduced cost in manpower.

For example, Kodak film costs in the neighborhood of $0.23 per foot. Now let’s say you are producing a film with a 25-day shooting schedule. At an average of 4k-5k feet shot per day, that $0.23 per foot adds up quickly. And that doesn’t even begin to deal with the cost of the film development (about $0.13 per foot) and transfer costs.

"The Smiling Game" shot on 35MM
“The Smiling Game” shot on 35MM
"The Smiling Game" shot on 35MM
“The Smiling Game” shot on 35MM
"The Smiling Game" shot on 35MM
“The Smiling Game” shot on 35MM

When shooting on the Canon 5D or 7D, however, the cost of the equipment is significantly reduced, the equipment is easier to use and you may be able to get the same shots with less specialty equipment. For example, maybe you’ll be able to afford getting a great aerial shot on a remote control camera without the full cost of renting a helicopter, a pilot, fuel, an aerial coordinator and the nose-mount rig, etc …

Doritos Commercial Shot on HD
Doritos Commercial Shot on HD
Doritos Commercial Shot on HD
Doritos Commercial Shot on HD
Doritos Commercial Shot on HD
Doritos Commercial Shot on HD

And with less equipment, there are less people required to facilitate your shoot.
And with less people, there are less headaches.

So in the end, the cost differences are significant enough to consider moving away from film and into the digital realm.

As a hardcore and long-term film snob, I surprise myself by saying that, but with the recent advances in digital technology, the time to switch is now.

  • budgeting
  • Canon
  • Canon 5D

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