The Pros and Cons of 24 vs. 36 Exposure Rolls of Film – Which is Better?

Before starting this business, I bought a lot of 35mm film, from a lot of sources. One thing that always confused me was the whole issue of 24 vs. 36 exposure rolls, and how little the price changed between the two. In most cases, there isn’t a big difference in price; you pay something like 10% or 20% extra to get 50% more shots.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like a fair, but there are some advantages. For instance, sometimes it feels like it takes forever to take 36 shots, so it can be nice to just get a roll finished earlier, especially if you have some shots on it that you really want to see.

Then you start to factor in developing: If you’re just getting negatives done, almost all labs charge the same price for 24 or 36 exposures. And even if you’re also getting prints at the same time, the price for 36 is usually only a bit more expensive than 24 (and sometimes the same price).

But if you’re developing the film yourself, as many people do, then you’re fine either way: The chemicals are already pretty cheap, and they should also last longer if you’re doing short rolls (unless you’re using one-shot chems, which is common for B&W film). Of course, you’ll probably spend more time developing if you do a lot of short rolls vs. a smaller amount of long rolls, and that might make a much bigger difference to you than a few bucks here and there.

So, there are things to be said for either 24 or 36 exposure rolls, but if you look at the sales figures, the 36-shot rolls are the clear winner. People just prefer having the extra shots, and the popularity difference is so overwhelming that I have decided to only carry a couple of 24 exposure rolls in the store (the nice cheap Kodak Gold 400, and Superia 400).

I’d love to hear from people about what they prefer, 24 or 36. Please feel free to add a comment with your thoughts!

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