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01-11-2009, 06:28 AM   #1
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Camera products quality vs price.

First of all, i believe it may be discussed before, just under some different title. If it is so, just point me to the link/links and ill read on my own.

This is applies to all manufacturers.

There is a thing that has been bothering me since i started reading about, and bought my DSLR (k100d).
It is the reliability and quality control of end devices.
Why there are so many complaints about them. It gets even worse when you look at the relative high price comparing to similar products and their prices.

I clearly understand that compatibility between systems parts (bodies, lenses, flashes, memory cards etc) and the precision and complexity required is hard task for manufacturer.
Also they are one of the equipment which gets one of the most abuse during usage (weather, mechanical shock, etc). But that's for there is the relatively high price. Still they seem so fragile, error prone and deficient.

You can buy a computer, working at Gigahertz frequencies, consisting of numerous modules requiring extremely high precision (HDD for example), nanometer precision electronics for approx 100$, with everything being able function flawlessly, with rare cases of failure.

But buying a camera for 600$ and a lens for $500 for example, still leaves such a large margin for failure to happen. Even, if the mount standard exists almost half a century. camera is basically a computer and the mechanics was already way before them.
Even compacts are better at this (although, working on the same principles, enduring same usage but costing much more less, only having a smaller sensor).
And differently focusing lenses.. there was a user pointing it out as one of the DSLR mysteries..
Really, cant they just "screw" the lens until the phases match some error?

Such a performance/failure rate for any other product, would lead to complete selling failure.
Imagine a theoretically fully supported memory module model glitching on 1/4 computers it has been installed and costing 0.5k$, needing its timing phase to be calibrated with computer at service overseas or similar nonsense.. could this be considered a finished, end product?
Or a TV not being able to synch its frame exactly on few channels..lets see, by some 10 Lines (having picture shifted slightly down/up). For how much you can get a tv (20..30$)...how many need messing with service, to make it work with DVD, sounds system or CATV/SATTV?

Most of the time, i just try to use me equipment on trying to not think about it, but when i come to this, makes me feel kind of robbed from the side of manufacturers (are they conspiring or what). If i choose to pay more for something that should be theoretically better, i get something more unreliable, always having to worry about compatibility and similar things.

Duno, if it matters to anyone, just a general thought. I don't think anyone should face such dumb problems using tools, costing that much.
I'm not even mentioning build, optical and other qualities, for the price which sometimes is much less than some film era products, costing the same or less...

On the other hand, i've heard, it is better to buy a expensive lower level product, than cheapest for a higher level ones. Since so many users get entry level/low end DSLR's basically they are just paying for the APS-C sensor size. By buying an expensive compact, the sensor is cheap, everything other can be ob better quality (complex processing, high precision body, bright glass). There are much less complaints from K20d/40d/D80, L/* glass and higher class products users. One person once said about k20d: "As i took it everything i wanted just happened as expected without any hitch", that cant be said by all products, even knowing they are lower end.


Last edited by ytterbium; 01-11-2009 at 08:24 AM.
01-11-2009, 08:40 AM   #2
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When consumers get past the bottom line mentality rut that they have been stuck in for the past couple of decades, we might actually start to see precision equipment that is actually made to a level of precision that precludes the sort of quality control problems that we commonly see.
For example, there is only one reason for the back focus/ front focus problems we end users get to deal with, and that is poor quality control at the manufacturing level.
Quality control costs money, we aren't willing to pay the manufacturer for it, and so we become the quality control inspectors.
They are even nice enough to put focus biasers into the camera firmware that we can access so that we can do our own quality control adjustments.
01-11-2009, 12:26 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by ytterbium Quote
Why there are so many complaints about them.
Two reasons, both related to price:

1) Trying to sell a complex device like a DSLR at a price below $1000 means cutting some corners - and many of these will be in QA.

2) Making a complex device like a DSLR available for less than $1000 means it will be purchased by a lot of folks who really don't understand (yet) how to use it. Many will post will complaints that stem directly from this lack of understanding ("my camera underexposed this picture of snow!").

Add to this:

3) The nature of forums like this is that many people turn to them only when they have problems. A large number of people *don't* have problems but don't bother posting about their lack of problems.

Frankly, I think the effects of #2 and #3 are probably underestimated by most.

QuoteQuote:
You can buy a computer, working at Gigahertz frequencies, consisting of numerous modules requiring extremely high precision (HDD for example), nanometer precision electronics for approx 100$, with everything being able function flawlessly, with rare cases of failure.
Computers are so cheap because they are produced in sold in enormous quantities and can be mass produced on a scale unimaginable for a DSLR. And if you think they work flawlessly, I can only assume you've never owned one for more than a couple of years. I've had more hardware failures than I can count.

But note that the *mechanical* aspects of a DSLR are unliekly anything in a computer. It is paradoxical but unquestionable that we've gotten better at producing devices at the nano level than things involving moving parts big enough to see.
01-11-2009, 01:27 PM   #4
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Wise words Marc.

As for computers. I have one machine running from year 2k (had to add more RAM and replace the HDD, funny the fault was in electronics), second one soon will have 3 years. No other problems, just regular maintenance (cleaning dust, updating software). In the mean time im able to fully focus on my task.
In the mean time, it hasn't been a full year and i had three dslr issues, with three separate lenses. The one with focus i wrote about some time ago (Basically a camera issue). Another one with lens (70-300) temporarily not communicating with camera (now an then, the camera for a split second thinks no lens is mounted). A SMC P F50/1.7 Showing A-.- (not in the A position) unless you hardly push/turn the aperture ring on the lens in A direction (same was with 70-300, but i was able to fix that.. just a badly designed switch).
Inbox Foto (foto.inbox.lv)
Metallic part on top of the F596B label. Being pushed down by plastic bump on aperture ring, to touch the circuit board and connect the A pin. If they would just put switch with more distinct on/off states and not parts where metal rubs against plastic (damaging it), which would cost the same would rule out such problem.
At least that's my point of view.
Many products made these days are basically crap. But most of them are priced accordingly.
Sad that in the mean while manufacturers have policies making it next to impossible for more advanced users to effectively deal with such problems on their own, repair their gear, even it could be easily made possible (by software, in most cases).

Maybe its not worth thinking about it... just makes you feel bad. Use what you got as best as you can and try to be happy you can get it at all.


Last edited by ytterbium; 01-11-2009 at 02:05 PM.
01-11-2009, 01:36 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
Two reasons, both related to price:

3) The nature of forums like this is that many people turn to them only when they have problems. A large number of people *don't* have problems but don't bother posting about their lack of problems.

Frankly, I think the effects of #2 and #3 are probably underestimated by most.
Good point. So in the last 10 years I have purchase 3 cameras, 3 flash units, 6 lenses (including the “notoriously bad” DA* 16-50), and an assortment of odds and ends all from Pentax. So far not a single bad item. Pentax QC is 100%. Is this any help?

DAZ
01-11-2009, 02:08 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wheatfield Quote
When consumers get past the bottom line mentality rut that they have been stuck in for the past couple of decades, we might actually start to see precision equipment that is actually made to a level of precision that precludes the sort of quality control problems that we commonly see.
For example, there is only one reason for the back focus/ front focus problems we end users get to deal with, and that is poor quality control at the manufacturing level.
Quality control costs money, we aren't willing to pay the manufacturer for it, and so we become the quality control inspectors.
They are even nice enough to put focus biasers into the camera firmware that we can access so that we can do our own quality control adjustments.
I was just talking to another photographer about this, and how people are more and more willing to accept less. Wedding photography in this particular instance; now you can get somebody to shoot your wedding for $200-300 -- with predictable results. Problem is, enough people do this and the general standard gets lowered to where people don't even KNOW it could be better.

The same for equipment. Sure, people bitch about things being problematic etc, but they don't really make much of an effort to change it. Since people are willing to put up with things like AF adjustments being needed (and this being a more common feature lately, I have to wonder if lens quality control is being allowed to deteriorate in lockstep with it), why would the manufacturer care to change?

People are just OK with accepting less, initially for the lower price of admission, but I think in the longer term because less now becomes the standard.
01-11-2009, 02:09 PM   #7
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I subscribe to the Consumer Reports Web site (www.consumerreports.org) and while I have some issues with their camera evaluations, I do find their user feedback useful. For digital SLRs the incidence of defects/repair is 3-5% across brands (Pentax is not part of their current stats). In other words, 3-5 people out of every hundred walking out of Best Buy or Ritz with a new dSLR are going to have problems requiring return/service. That is about the same as for any other consumer electronic item including digital P&S.

Here are the numbers by brand:

Fuji: 3%
Olympus: 4%
Canon: 5%
Sony: 5%
Nikon: 7%

I think it is safe to assume that to be the acceptable defect rate from a bookkeeping perspective. Any better quality control would yield a diminishing return on investment. If you figure 3-5% of users, it is easy to see where the many valid complaints come from on this forum.

The big question that comes to mind is if there is better QA on a Leica, high-end Nikon or professional MF gear costing many times what most of paid for our Pentax dSLRs.

Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 01-11-2009 at 02:33 PM.
01-11-2009, 02:18 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Marc Sabatella Quote
...Computers are so cheap because they are produced in sold in enormous quantities and can be mass produced on a scale unimaginable for a DSLR. And if you think they work flawlessly, I can only assume you've never owned one for more than a couple of years. I've had more hardware failures than I can count...
I had to chuckle on that one. My last hard drive upgrade (Seagate) failed two days after installation due to rapidly developing bad sectors. The drive surface was apparently flaking off as it was being used.

Sometimes stuff does not even wait a reasonable time before it fails...

Steve

01-11-2009, 02:23 PM   #9
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There are many essays to be written on the myriad issues raised in the first post. But in general, you have a combination of technological issues along with business ones. Combine that with a fickle public who in recent years have been spoiled with everything becoming faster/better/cheaper, and you will get flawed products.

Manufacturers will change things just to make more money. Planned obsolescence is a business model now. Disposable is part of our culture. If you're going to produce something with a limited life span, then why worry about craftsmanship? Instead, focus on "features" and lifestyle marketing. And imho one reason you see so many complaints here is a mix of people who actually have used high quality tools and are frustrated, along with a younger set that have grown up digital and think that everything should be easy and have a spec sheet a mile long. The manufacturers aren't stupid, so they pile on the features and ship another product that is marketed as being "better."

This is one reason I actually stay with Pentax. The ltd prime lenses are not driven by the marketing department. Somebody there actually shoots pictures rather than writes spec sheets and ad copy.

Some people can hold a Leica Summicron lens and be amazed. They will appreciate the feel of it during use, and the images it produces. Others will look at it as anachronistic and woefully underperforming. It doesn't zoom, won't AF, and doesn't look "modern." And those people will be happier with something that shoots more FPS, has faster AF, higher pixel count, makes coffee, scoops the catbox, etc. There is no right or wrong, but they are different. My hope is that some manufacturers will still understand the value of craftsmanship and make a product that reflects that admittedly small user base. And will do so for less-than ridiculous sums of money. I don't really like RF cameras, and can't really afford Leica glass. But I "get it", and would like something that has the same gestalt.
01-11-2009, 02:38 PM   #10
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Maybe then im just being one of those 3..5% with my camera, thus also noticing others with similar problems. So my assumtions may be wrong. Unless users who complain about unexposed snow, in the same way dont see/notice real problems. Someone shooting only people with 18-55, 55-200, having no other expierience, would not notice even 5 cm BF.
But then the same could apply to other electronics, making the stats still correct.

As for accepting lower quality. Thats why, for example, i bought Pentax over Canon, IMHO they had higher standartds.
But in general there istn much you can do. When i had my fuji s5600, it was a good camera, having few software dependant options not allowing it to be a great camera. Noise reduction was way too strong for actual noise (comparing to RAW, wich you had to go trought 3 menus to turn it on) making pictures like paintings, there was no magnification for manual focus, so it was guesstimate. Anyway, so the many S5600 users made a page, requiring new (few minor changes) firmware. I think there were approx 1Milion requests gathered from users worldwide..no use. At last the site invited users to send e-mails to local Fuji dealers, asking for this. There was not even a negative (explaining) reply from Fuji, absolute ignorance. You paid the money, we forget about you.

As for my experience, maybe my camera unfortunately just falls in to the 3..5% and i haven't been careful enough while buying used glass.

Last edited by ytterbium; 01-11-2009 at 02:46 PM.
01-11-2009, 03:49 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by pingflood Quote

The same for equipment. Sure, people bitch about things being problematic etc, but they don't really make much of an effort to change it. Since people are willing to put up with things like AF adjustments being needed (and this being a more common feature lately, I have to wonder if lens quality control is being allowed to deteriorate in lockstep with it), why would the manufacturer care to change?

People are just OK with accepting less, initially for the lower price of admission, but I think in the longer term because less now becomes the standard.
Look at the amount of whining over the initial price of the long awaited 60-250mm lens.
It's not that people are willing to put up with badly built products, they are practically demanding them.
01-11-2009, 04:14 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
I had to chuckle on that one. My last hard drive upgrade (Seagate) failed two days after installation due to rapidly developing bad sectors. The drive surface was apparently flaking off as it was being used.

Sometimes stuff does not even wait a reasonable time before it fails...

Steve
Yep, take intel for example (and other microprocessor companies) - they spend billions on the construction of large scale manufacturing plants that require high precision in the mass production of their chips. And these manufacturing plants can be dedicated in the creation of a single type of chip.

And as since they have dedicated plants, the price of the products they produce are substantially cheap because the systems are entirely automated - there's also no requirements for changing parameters or settings to create a diferent product.

You mention that the DSLR's are just computers and their components are already made etc etc. Thats pretty much right but you have to keep in mind that these components are made in one place and assembled in another in some (obscure) way that the manufacturer wanted. Desktop computers follow a standard - you have a motherboard, a socket for your cpu, slots for memory etc etc. Although I don't know much about the internals of DSLR's, despite the form factor being similar, the companies probably try weird different ways of placing things together....

In any case, don't compare normal computers with DSLR's, that's all im trying to get across.
01-11-2009, 05:07 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Vylen Quote
In any case, don't compare normal computers with DSLR's, that's all im trying to get across.
I think the comparison between a computer and a camera body does not hold.

It's not how how complex or sophisticated a device is that determines it's cost but rather production costs.

I would bet that the mirror-prism system on the K20D requires more production input than many entire low-end computers. A normal computer is almost entirely the result of automated production while this is not true of a DSLR body.

If you doubt this just compare the cost of a Rolex mechanical watch movement that delivers the same reliability and accuracy of a $25 buck digital Timex. The difference - production on one can be automated and on the other not.

BTW I have a gorgeous Rolliflex TLR with a Zeiss 2.8 Planar lens from the late 1950's. It cost me $360 bucks new. The comparable camera now is going for about $5500. The price difference makes sense to me given the mechanical complexity and quality - there's no free lunch. But from the viewpoint of design complexity and sophistication any 100 buck PS wins hands down.

Last edited by wildman; 01-11-2009 at 05:14 PM.
01-11-2009, 05:16 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by ytterbium Quote
...As for my experience, maybe my camera unfortunately just falls in to the 3..5% and i haven't been careful enough while buying used glass.
I feel really fortunate that I haven't have any problems with my camera and am truly sorry that you have had difficulties with yours. As for not being careful enough buying used glass...I think all of us have had problems with used equipment and new stuff from unusual sources at one time or another. Within the past year my experience has included:
  • A new Zenitar 16/2.8 with defective everything. It even fatally broke the aperture coupling on my film camera when I mounted it.
  • A Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50/1.4 with fungus
  • A Pentax KX with bad just about everything
The kind of contact issues you have had are generally pretty rare...bad Karma perhaps?

Steve
01-11-2009, 06:22 PM   #15
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Electronics hardly cost anything to produce now. Miniature mechanics and electro-mechanics are the expensive stuff now. The shutter and mirror box are both falling in this segment. Those are the expensive components on the camera, and, if you look at complaints, you can see that you hardly get any complaints about those components. When it comes to mechanics, I think all camera manufacturers are geniuses.
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