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.
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 of development hasn’t dropped.
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.
- 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.
Where to Buy Disposable Cameras
Even though development isn’t common in-stores 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 $18 each on Amazon.
- The same Fujifilm camera is $12.99 at Target.
- Walmart beats out Target by a cent, coming in at $12.98 for a Fujifilm.
- 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!
The True Cost of a Disposable Camera is Over $20
A digital camera itself might cost $11 at Walmart or $15 at Walgreens but once development is factored in the true cost is over $20. Here are some scenerios:
- If you buy a disposable from Target for $12.99 and have it developed at The Dark Room, the total cost is $32.94 plus prints.
- If you buy a disable from Walmart for $12.98 and have it developed at Walmart for $10.96, the total cost is $23.94 including the prints.
- If you buy your camera from Amazon for $18 and have it developed at Walgreens for $14.99 the total cost is $32.99 plus prints.
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