Frugal Photographer
Frequently-asked questions

Information about Frugal Photographer and our products.

Table of Contents

  1. Who, what, when, where, and why are you?
  2. Is film really better than digital?
  3. What are your shipping policies?
  4. Why don't you ship to (name of country here)'?
  5. What are your payment policies?
  6. Can I reserve an item for future delivery if it is temporarily out of stock?
  7. Can I phone my order in?
  8. There's a problem! What is your phone number?
  9. What is your privacy policy?

About Frugal Photographer

Where are we? Frugal Photographer is a 100% web-based retail business, that went online on September 1, 2001, and has operated continuously ever since. The web store is in the process of selling off existing inventory but the site itself will probably remain, as a resource for people who use antique cameras, or are curious about silver-halide photography in general.

The company is run by me, a real person, David Foy, of Calgary, Alberta. There's nobody else here. I use the term "we" on this web site because there are a number of people elsewhere whose work and ingenuity make this whole enterprise possible.

I ship to Canadians (and elsewhere in the world) from here, but while the store is in the process of selling off inventory, some orders will be filled from Nampa, Idaho.

Why are we here? Because photography is an important art form, and legacy systems and legacy processes are powerful tools for artistic expression. That's why some sculptors today still use mallets and chisels while others use 3D printers, and some use both. But my main motivation is that it saddens me to see so many excellent cameras go unused.

Legalese: The Frugal Photographer online store is an operating unit of Adox Fotowerke, Inc., incorporated and registered in the Province of Alberta. Adox Fotowerke, Inc. is not related in any way to the German company named Adox Fotowerke. The coincidence of the names is a long story that I will probably put up on my blog some day. Suffice it to say that my company and the German company of almost the same name have an excellent relationship, and we both try hard to minimize any confusion about who is who.

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Film is better than digital, right? Right?

Sometimes yes, usually no.

They are different processes, used differently, for the same purpose, which is recording images. There are appropriate uses for both. Only in rare cases is one "better" than the other.

Most photographers who use film use digital cameras as well. Digital technology allows you to record a much greater number of images in a shooting session, and that's often very valuable. Your images are available immediately, and can be shared electronically within seconds. That's very powerful.

Film demands a slower, more contemplative approach. If your photography is starting to feel stale, an afternoon with a film camera will bring you back to the basics.

It is true that film images have a different "look".

A digital image is a sample; the scene is reduced to a specific, unvarying number of pixels, each pixel recording one of some specific number of brightness levels. Each pixel is a discrete unit, isolated on a flat surface. Clever software turns this unpromising collection of data points into a visible image.

Film records a representation of a scene, not a sample. The film receives a continuously-varying flow of light from every part of the scene, which impinges on thousands of billions of silver-halide ions contained in hundreds of billions of silver-halide crystals. The crystals are in a thick, unordered, 3-dimensional cloud, overlapping each other in a matrix of clear gelatin. They are so small and so numerous that there is a continuous analog scene recorded in the matrix upon exposure. Nothing about a film image is discrete. These crystals react with light, and are transformed into silver metal particles ("grains") during development, but there is no sense in which the grains that make up an analog photographic image are data points.

Film images are recorded on a physical surface which is radically modified by physical reactions during exposure and by chemical reactions during development. Every film-developer combination is noticeably different in the way it makes a scene visible. Contrast, granularity, edge effects, and dynamic range are just a few of many image qualities that are under your control. As you get to know your film-developer combination, you will begin to compose, and control lighting, and make processing decisions, that take its characteristics into account. This is a very different artistic and intellectual process than applying filters to an image created by your camera's software.

Both film and digital are capable of recording a high dynamic range; both are capable of being greatly enlarged; both can give wonderful colors; both are controllable to some extent. That's not an issue. Using film or digital is an aesthetic choice. You are choosing a set of tools that are best suited to your vision and your working methods.

Perhaps most importantly, film photography is a minimalist world. You can make powerful images on film with nothing but a pinhole and a shoebox. If you want to become an accomplished photographer, all you really need is a lens with an adjustable diaphragm and a shutter with adjustable speeds. Learning to read a light meter, set an aperture for the depth of field you want, and then select a shutter speed that will give you good shadow detail, seems complex until you compare it to the mind-numbing wizardry it takes to learn all the controls on a digital camera (not to mention the next step, which is that world of wonders called Photoshop). And Lord Help You when your digital camera becomes obsolete (which it will, soon) and you have to start all over again with a new brand, a new feature set, and all-new controls. Minimalism is not the be-all and end-all of artistic endeavor, by any means — only the hardiest of wedding photographers is going to shoot weddings on film — but it is a very useful way of focusing on the roots of the art.

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What are your shipping policies?

Some orders are shipped from Nampa, Idaho, by USPS First Class Parcel. Most are shipped from Calgary, via Canadan Post. I ship to the US via Canada Post's Tracked Packet service, which typically takes a week to ten days. It's delivered directly to US addresses the same as if it is a Priority Post parcel. There are no duties or taxes payable on orders smaller than $800.

Special shipping requirements can always be accommodated. Just send an email before you place your online order.

We have shipped to every continent, including Antarctica. We ship to all countries except for Germany and Italy (see the next paragraph), and a few that are serious fraud havens (you know who you are).

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Why don't you ship to [name of country here]?

We no longer ship to Germany because, like all shippers, we are required to comply with the LUCID program's package recycling regulations. We are required to purchase an annual license, and engage a German partner who will recycle our shipping envelopes. All this for a half-dozen orders a year. While we applaud efforts everywhere to recycle packaging, the cost of compliance is too high to justify participating.

We no longer ship to Italy for the simple reason that about half of the packages we have shipped there over the years are never delivered. In order to justify paying for shipping methods that include tracking, we would have to impose an impossible shipping cost on Italian customers, and it makes no sense. I hope some day to have an Italian retail partner who can look after orders from Italy, but it may take a while.

Some countries are serious fraud havens. Nigeria comes to mind, but there are others. It's too easy for people there to steal from me. There is no recourse. I send the package, but it never arrives. I refund the money. The financial and time costs of filling orders to those countries are far too high.

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What are your payment policies?

You are asked to pay online when you place your order. We have no way of processing payments made by check, money order, or cash. Companies and institutions buying in wholesale quantities should contact me about using purchase orders and establishing payment terms.

Our credit card processor is Elavon Converge, through their affiliation with Costco.

We never see any of your credit card information. It is sent from your browser via an encrypted SSH channel directly to the payment processor. It is never sent to us, never revealed to us, and it is not stored anywhere in our computer systems.

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Can I order by phone?

No. Sorry to be brusque, but No.

I know this seems like I don't want your business, but it's not that.

I don't have employees, and I don't keep a regular office or regular hours. Even if you did get me on the phone, I have no way of processing payments. And the business is too small to afford a call center's monthly fees.

The fulfillment warehouse in Nampa, Idaho, doesn't have a call center that can process payments. They will happily work with you to solve shipping problems, but they can't take telephone orders (or give technical advice). If you live in the Boise/Nampa/Caldwell area, you can pick up directly from them and I will refund your shipping payment.

If you want to order outside the online system, I have no problem working something out with you. Please contact by e-mail, using the e-mail form on this web site.

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How can I contact you? What is your phone number?

Telephone may seem like the fastest and easiest way to contact me, but it is actually the worst. For that reason, I don't make my phone number available.

Let me explain. It often takes me many days to return a call. This is not because I want to be hard to reach. It's because this is a very small business and I have a day job. I travel frequently, I have no employees to whom I can delegate, and I do not maintain a regular office. It is not unusual for me to be away from the telephone for several weeks at a time. If I'm in the darkroom making up rolls of film, or in a meeting, or having lunch, or driving, and the phone rings, I don't answer.

Usually our customer service is excellent. The payment processor is flawless. The people at the Nampa fulfillment warehouse are very good. They ship promptly and make very few errors. When there is a problem, I work with them and the payment processor to get it solved, quickly, and fairly. If a shipment goes missing, and some do, I'll have it shipped again. If the right thing to do is refund your payment, I refund it.

But sometimes our customer service is rotten. Every so often, the wheels fall off. Your first reaction is to pick up the phone. But nobody answers. You leave a message. Nobody calls back. You try again, later. Still no answer. It doesn't take long for you to get very angry.

But even when I can't answer the phone, I can usually reply to e-mails the same day or soon thereafter. Even if I'm traveling, I'm never away from email for very long.

So to be sure you get the best possible customer service, not the worst, please contact by e-mail, using the e-mail form on this web site.

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What is your privacy policy?

We never share your personal information or order details with anyone except our shipping warehouse and payment processor, unless required to do so by law.

Modern web sites cannot function without setting cookies, and we use cookies on this web site to control what happens when you click various navigation links. We do not set cookies that collect information about you. If you set your browser to reject cookies, this web site will not function correctly.

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