Interesting point, which made me curious how much film you'd need to carry. Let's see - he is planning on filling up 80GB with 13MB images. That gives us somewhere around 6000 exposures. Taken in 36 frame rolls that equates to almost 170 rolls of film. Even divided by half, (assuming he does not really need 80GB) we are left with 85 rolls.
I believe, the weight, the bulk and the cost of buying/processing/scanning 85 rolls will all exceed the weight, the bulk and the cost of the electronic gadgets he'd need to
carry for digital.
One can argue that you are more careful with taking film shots than with digital, so not so many rolls are needed, but that would be a slippery discussion ground as there are plenty of arguments from both sides.
Misha - I agree that going for 85 rolls of film or 40 GB is a good compromise on this planning exercise, so let's see how that might work out in terms of cost, bulk and weight for film compared to the electronics he'd have to carry, along with the safety factors of splitting up the storage.
I've taken all prices from the current web pages at B&H Photo:
THE FILM SOLUTION:
Film: Fujifilm 135 36 exp. Velvia 100 @$5.29 ea. x 85 rolls = $449.65
Processing: Fujifilm slide processing mailer @$4.49 ea. x 85 mailers = $381.65
Total cost of film and processing for 85 rolls of 36 exp. = $831.30
Weight of 36 exp. film roll = 1 oz. x 85 rolls = 85 oz. = 5.3 lbs.
Size of 35mm film roll = 1.25" x 1.25" x 2" = 3.125 cu. in / roll
3.125 cu. in. x 85 rolls = 265.6 cu. in. = 0.15 cu. ft. = approx. 4" x 6" x11"
ELECTRONIC SOLUTION 1:
Sandisk 4 GB Extreme III Compact Flash card = $122.95 x 10 cards = $1,229.50
Weight of 10 compact flash cards = negligible.
Size of 10 compact flash cards = negligible.
So the compact flash card solution costs about $400 more than film, but has the least weight and least storage size, and requires nothing more to carry.
ELECTRONIC SOLUTION 2:
Epson P-5000 portable storage viewer = $679.95
Extra battery for above = 59.95
Total for P-5000 plus extra battery = $739.90
Weight of viewer plus charger plus extra battery = approx. 1.75 lbs.
Size of viewer plus charger plus extra battery = approx 96 cu. in.
= approx. 0.05 cu. ft. = approx. 4" x4" x 6"
So the P-5000 solution costs about $50 less than the film, weighs about 1/3 as much and takes up about 1/3 the space of film, but weighs more and takes up more space than the flash cards.
Another point for the electronic solutions is that you can continue to reuse both of them for future shooting, while the film cannot be reused.
On the other hand, since safety factors are a concern for these once-in-a-lifetime shots, let's look at redundancy. If one of our storage units is lost or damaged, we would lose one roll out of the 85 rolls of film, and a little over 1% of our shots would be lost. If one of the 4 GB compact flash cards were lost or damaged, then we would lose 10% of our shots. If the Epson P-5000 viewer were to suffer a catastrophe, then we would lose all (or almost all) of our shots. So in this case, the film would be the safest, the compact flash cards the next safest and the the Epson P-5000 viewer the riskiest.
Since John's expressed concerns were safety for his images and light weight and small size for him to carry, I would have to say that carrying 10 each 4 GB compact flash cards seems to be the best of the three solutions considered here. The cards would add virtually no weight or bulk for the photographer, would not risk the loss of too many shots if one card were lost (although 10% would hurt!), and could easily be sold afterward to recoup most of their initial cost.
The choice would be more difficult between film and the Epson P-5000 storage viewer. The Epson is a bit cheaper, and is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the film. However, if it fails up there, everything on it is lost, and no further transfers can be done from the camera card, so most of the shots of the trip would be lost. Considering the cost and time and effort of this trip, that risk seems to be higher than I would like to take without secondary backup, which would add more cost, weight, bulk, etc. If I had to choose between the two, I'd take the film.
Now we haven't looked at how many camera batteries he'd have to take in order to shoot for a week between recharging, but I believe that that would be doable. A film camera does have the advantage of shooting way more than 85 rolls on one battery, and if the expedition were going to go for a month without possibility of recharging, then digital might not be practical. In this case, with only a week between charging, a few extra batteries would probably do the trick.
I've learned that my initial reaction (film is the answer here) doesn't actually turn out to be true for this situation. The electronic solution with compact flash cards for the storage medium seem to have a definite advantage over film.
I also agree that digital has a clear advantage as an icebreaker; film simply can't do that (unless you take a Polaroid along!), and that can have great advantages for getting the kind of pictures you want.