Prior to my arrival I had assumed that resources for film photography would be available in Sofia and this was confirmed by a number of Sofia residents on an expat forum. Soon after my arrival I took a day and walked around the city tracking down the photography retailers that had been recommended and looking for others.
So far I have found four stores that provide extensive services for film photographers. They all sell film, chemicals and paper. They all develop and scan both colour and black and white film – positive and negative – in multiple formats.
I also found a small antiques market with a few vendors selling second hand cameras. So far they are quoting me tourist prices but I’m hopeful that in time they might be more flexible. As expected the selection of used cameras consists mostly of devices from the former Soviet Union. I’ve seen Zorkis and Feds, Zenits and Smenas. I’ve also seen a couple of Praktica SLRs from East Germany.
Quite unexpectedly the film selection has very few examples of Russian or East European films like Siberra or Foma. Instead it’s mostly Ilford, Kodak and some Fuji and Rollei. I’ve also been surprised by the price of film here – it’s not cheap, typically costing between 10 and 15 Lev for a roll of 35mm film. That’s $6-9 or £5-7, broadly similar to what I would expect to pay at home. Developers and related solutions appear to be even more expensive than in the US or UK.
Combine this with the very reasonable prices for film developing in store and there’s really no incentive for home developing. Prices for developing vary but start as low as 5 Lev for colour ($3, £2.30) and 7 Lev for B&W ($4.20, £3.20). Scanning is also relatively cheap with one store offering 4800 pixel wide scans for only 8 Lev ($4.75, £3.70) per roll.
I have shot one roll and am most of the way through a second so I hope to try a couple of the developing and scanning services soon. Overall, though, so far Sofia seems like a very film friendly city.