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10-15-2019, 07:41 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Rant: camera prices and quality per format

Having looked at various camera formats and lens systems, I find that the pricing of camera is certainly spread from consumer levels (let say around $1000 kind of prices) to serious professional price levels ($10 000 and more), but I feel like the general quality of products and digital image quality aren't a match for the prices. I feel like apsc is good value for money, high resolution full frame is slightly overpriced, and the build quality and image quality of medium format don't match medium format prices. I find that the build quality of full frame is in the same league as apsc, but twice the price, and medium format is built like apsc (same kind of material, same displays, buttoms, dials etc) but five time more expensive.

Do cameras makers think that they can keep building camera bodies with the $1000 type of materials and sell those systems $10 000 because they've got a 33x44mm 20% larger sensor chip in them? Same for lenses. In average, MF lenses are price more than five times the price of apsc lenses, but I don't find that the build quality of MF lenses is five times better than apsc lenses. Also I don't find full frame systems built two or three times better than apsc systems of the same brands, and the image quality isn't 2x or 3x better either. Those simple facts are demotivating.

Were medium format and large format film systems built in proportion to their prices? Are camera manufacturers aware of this?

10-15-2019, 08:52 AM   #2
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Is it not a bit like cars? The 3.0 ltr HSE XL GTI model cost pretty much the same to build a the 1.8ltr base model, but sells for a massive premium.
10-15-2019, 09:28 AM   #3
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Yep, pretty standard performance/price scaling. You'll get a lot more bang for you buck from a Golf GTI than a Porsche 911 GT3,
but the GT3 >will< ultimately outperform the Golf.
10-15-2019, 09:46 AM - 1 Like   #4
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Markets dictate prices, not cost of materials or build quality. Although those things can affect what the market is -- it is a feedback loop. Still, smaller market = higher prices. People often have an intuitive feeling that the retail cost of things should be the cost of producing them times some "reasonable" amount of profit, and that's that. But that just isn't the way world works. Cost of materials, labor, etc set a floor, but not a ceiling.

10-15-2019, 09:55 AM   #5
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Factoring out obvious luxury offerings, the pricing of high end product reflects both additional cost of manufacturing* and the size of niche markets for specialty products. If those conflict with a non-customer's** sense of value, so what? One person's point of diminishing returns is another person's entry level.


Steve

* Without belaboring the point too much, those I know who do extensive field photography swear by the ruggedized high end product they work with. Ditto for high volume studio folk and users of technical/large-format cameras.

** That would include most of us on this forum.
10-15-2019, 10:01 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by vonBaloney Quote
People often have an intuitive feeling that the retail cost of things should be the cost of producing them times some "reasonable" amount of profit, and that's that. But that just isn't the way world works. Cost of materials, labor, etc set a floor, but not a ceiling.
True. When I was a youngster I was interested in motorbikes. Honda's best selling 750cc 4 cylinder was the benchmark for every other manufacturer. Honda then introduced a 400cc 4 cylinder model. It looked fantastic, had innovations, and was loved by the motorcycle press and customers alike. But Honda stopped making it after two years. Not because it didn't sell but because they could not make enough margin from it. The cost to produce was the same as the 750cc model, but they could not sell it for anywhere near the same price. It had to go.

---------- Post added 10-15-19 at 06:06 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by vonBaloney Quote
People often have an intuitive feeling that the retail cost of things should be the cost of producing them times some "reasonable" amount of profit, and that's that. But that just isn't the way world works. Cost of materials, labor, etc set a floor, but not a ceiling
I worked my whole career in a business, that was by no stretch of the imagination "retail", but saw producers at times producing "product" at well below the "cost of production" for extended periods, sometimes years.

Last edited by pschlute; 10-15-2019 at 10:06 AM.
10-15-2019, 10:16 AM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by biz-engineer Quote
I find that the pricing of camera is certainly spread from consumer levels (let say around $1000 kind of prices) to serious professional price levels ($10 000 and more), but I feel like the general quality of products and digital image quality aren't a match for the prices.

Do cameras makers think that they can keep building camera bodies with the $1000 type of materials and sell those systems $10 000 because they've got a 33x44mm 20% larger sensor chip in them? Same for lenses.

Were medium format and large format film systems built in proportion to their prices? Are camera manufacturers aware of this?
I think there are several factors, and it's mostly about marketing, supply & demand, economics....not a direct correlation of price and value.

Quantity affects price. If a company can only sell fewer units targeted for the high end of the market, any perceived profit is lost in the low number of units from demand. Parts for a Mazda are more then a Toyota not because of quality, but because of the per unit quantity. The demand is not always lower due to price, but often because of size, weight, huge files, the users need.

Also the pro can lease or borrow or rent higher end gear. Tax write-off and pass the cost onto the client. The price also separates the serious from the crowd.
10-15-2019, 12:04 PM - 1 Like   #8
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Part of the cost is materials and part of the cost is how many pieces will be sold. If manufacturing costs are double or triple and fewer pieces are sold then engineering and tooling costs are much higher per piece. Also, profits are going to be a percentage of the costs.

10-15-2019, 12:08 PM   #9
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...And it's probably going to get much more expensive from here on out.
10-15-2019, 12:14 PM - 4 Likes   #10
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That medium format sensor is 68% bigger than FF not 20%. It is area that counts and costs. Production costs do not scale linearly with sensor size either, larger sensors mean lower wafer use efficiency and the effect of any defect is proportionately greater when you get fewer per wafer to start with. Similar issues affect lenses - optical glass is expensive and the amount used depends on the area of the glass required so again it isn't a linear function. Larger lenses are more difficult to make than small ones so again you have greater cost with any defective lens elements. Larger image circle means more glass and more weight needing stronger lens bodies and mounts and that costs more.

Capitalism is based on pricing at whatever the market will stand so long as that makes a viable profit. It seems to me that Pentax are offering very good value in all market segments.
10-15-2019, 12:47 PM - 2 Likes   #11
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Definitely the law of diminishing returns applies here. As you pay more you get less extra as the value goes up.
But that said the manufacturing cost of these higher end cameras are actually quite a bit higher than lower end due to:
* Larger sensor - a lot more expensive (harder to get the quality yield for a larger area of silicone than smaller parts)
* Larger sensor = larger pretty much everything (shutter, mirror, prism, and processor to handle the large amounts of data)
* Lower sales volume = high cost of components and labour
10-15-2019, 12:54 PM   #12
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It’s also perspective. For you, 10k is a lot of money. For a poor person in a poor country, $10 is a lot of money. For a large business or a wealthy person, 10k is basically the same as $10. I work on projects where round off errors are in the millions. $10k doesn’t even show up on the ledger.

If you were shooting a look book for a major fashion house, 10k is meaningless compared to your budget.

Last edited by Kozlok; 10-15-2019 at 01:01 PM.
10-15-2019, 12:57 PM - 2 Likes   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by kiwi_jono Quote
Definitely the law of diminishing returns applies here. As you pay more you get less extra as the value goes up.
But that said the manufacturing cost of these higher end cameras are actually quite a bit higher than lower end due to:
* Larger sensor - a lot more expensive (harder to get the quality yield for a larger area of silicone than smaller parts)
* Larger sensor = larger pretty much everything (shutter, mirror, prism, and processor to handle the large amounts of data)
* Lower sales volume = high cost of components and labour
Plus different tooling must be designed and produced, possibly different sourcing also, and if your demand to a supplier is low, you’ll have to pay a premium for them to even produce it when you need it.
10-15-2019, 02:16 PM   #14
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Medium format doesn't sell in the quantity of APS-C, so economies of scale are absent. Full-frame is still outsold by a long way by APS-C. Perhaps if we might all be persuaded to buy MF gear (rotfl) the price might reduce drastically, but I don't want to lug a 1.5kg (and upwards) camera with matching heavy lenses and the rest up hill and down dale. Family members are all too happy to let me carry my kit myself, you're doing fine Dad, just another couple of miles to the Arch...
10-15-2019, 03:30 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by StiffLegged Quote
Medium format doesn't sell in the quantity of APS-C, so economies of scale are absent.
That's a flawed business model that ultimately never worked. The only sustainable business model in the long term is to deliver value to customers in relation to the price they pay for the product or service. Increasing prices because there aren't enough customer leads to business failure in the long term, simply because customers buy less and less products when the higher prices don't equate higher value. If camera companies continue to fall asleep on their past aquired business, they wll be doomed. The more I look at the specs of new camera models (mirrorless), the less I am interest to buy anything... it's pure technological stagnation, same tech as five years ago at higher prices, and some mirrorless model are even worse than DSLR.
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