Back in the 90s, during the glory days of disposable cameras, getting them developed was cheap. Nearly every CVS and Walgreens had a photo lab and processed disposable cameras and film on-site. “1 hour photo” (where film and disposables were developed in an hour or less) was common because so many people used film and disposables. In 1999, over 140 million disposable cameras were sold and in 2011 that number dropped to only 30 million.
With the invention of digital cameras and then smartphones, photo labs moved offsite (some to 3rd parties, like Walmart) to cut costs. Because less people were using film, prices went up because companies could no longer take advantage of the massive volume. Even though film and disposable cameras are now on the rise again, the cost hasn’t dropped.
How Much Do Disposable Cameras Cost?
Even though development isn’t common locally anymore, most drug stores still sell disposable cameras.
- Amazon Prime is a convenient source for disposable cameras, yet Amazon is one of the more expensive places to buy a disposable camera. As of writing, Fujifilm’s 27-exposure cameras are $20.92 each on Amazon.
- The same Fujifilm camera is $15.99 at Target.
- Walmart used to be cheaper than Target but as of July 2022, Target has the cheapest disposable cameras since Walmart now charges $19.99 for a Fujifilm disposable!
- If you’re traveling, gift shops sometimes sell disposables. A friend of mine said she spent $25 per disposable camera at a gift shop in Vegas!
How Much Do Disposable Cameras Cost to Develop?
The average cost to develop a disposable camera in 2021 is around $15. Most labs charge extra for prints.
- One of the best labs in the USA is The Dark Room yet they charge $14 plus $5.95 shipping for a total cost of $19.95. This doesn’t include prints which are $8 extra for a total cost of $27.95. Unlike Walmart and others, you actually get your negatives back from the Dark Room.
- Walgreens rate is $14.99 for up to 24 photos with pickup in store in 3-5 days. Prints are extra.
- Walmart doesn’t publish its prices online. You have to visit a local store to find out pricing and the process takes at least 1 week. I visited my local store and was told the cost for 27 exposures is $10.96 which includes the prints.
What’s the Total Cost of a Disposable Camera?
A disposable camera itself might cost $15.999 at Walmart or $15 at Walgreens but once development is factored in the true cost is over $20. Here are some scenarios:
- If you buy a disposable from Target for $15.99 and have it developed at The Dark Room, the total cost is $35.95 plus prints.
- If you buy a disable from Target for $15.99 and have it developed at Walmart for $10.96, the total cost is $26.95 including the prints.
- If you buy your camera from Amazon for $20.92 and have it developed at Walgreens for $14.99 the total cost is $35.91 plus prints.
Where’s the Cheapest Place to Get Disposable Cameras Developed?
Target is the cheapest place to buy disposable cameras and have them developed, while Walmart just recently was the cheapest. If you only want 4×6 prints, having them developed at Walmart is your best bet because unlike high-end labs like the Dark Room, they don’t return your negatives anymore. At Walmart, development is only available in the store and at my local store, the cost was $10.96 as of October 2021. If you buy your camera at Target and have it developed at Walmart it’s $26.95. Unlike most other labs, Walmart also includes a set of 4×6 prints.
Turn your Phone into an Old-School Disposable Camera
Later Cam turns your phone into an old-school disposable camera. At just $12.99 for 27 photos with free shipping it’s less than half the cost. You can choose from several camera designs, the print quality is way better and if you’re hosting a wedding or event we offer bulk discounts as low as $8.98 per camera with the prints included.
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4 thoughts on “How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Disposable Camera?”
I’m ot asking why it costs that much to develop it. It always costed that. I’m asking why it costs that much to buy the damn camera when it used to cost $6.00 to Buy not Develop a disposable camera. So now we pay $20.00 for a piece of plastic that will get tossed on top of another $20.00 to develop the film in it? Not everyone has a computer or digital camera there are still people who like to open a photo album or send actual material pictures to loved ones once in a blue moon ya know. It is called being human and reminiscing without staring at a computer or figuring how to save pictures from. Phone to an actual real live photo album.
Hey Amy, thanks for your comment. I actually edited the blog post a bit based on your feedback.
The main issue is the industry just isn’t producing as many cameras as they once were so they’re producing anywhere near the volume they were in the late 90s.
If you do have an iPhone or Android, we’re working on an app to do what you described at the end of your comment (“Phone to an actual real live photo album”) called Later Cam. We turn your phone into a disposable camera and the prints automatically show up at your door a week later. It’s only $12.99 and includes the prints. You can download the iPhone app here!
I don’t understand. If the labs besides Walmart don’t give you prints, what is it you are getting when they develop the camera?
Hi Anna! I agree, it doesn’t make a ton of sense. Typically you’ll get back a CD with the digital images on it. It depends on which lab you go to.