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01-13-2012, 08:17 PM   #1
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Realative R&D costs when making new models - Flagship model

Lets pretend I was a camera company, lets call the company "Suave."
Lets hold all sensor R&D constant.
Suave could spend R&D money making:

a) a new model. This would involve adding features competitors came up with of have not yet come up with, designing a whole new product, making prototypes until everything works, re-tooling all my assembly line, making new plastic molds, getting bids for new components, marketing a whole model new name....
or
b) i could be cheap and just update the sensor and change a number on the model name to match the pixels.

How much cheaper is B relative to A?

So why not make a FLAGSHIP model. Entry to mid-entry priced. High quality and durability-metal frame, metal mount (don't laugh you spoiled pentaxians there are entry level DSLRs from other brands with plastic mounts). Good ergonomics. Weather sealed. Minimal features just so users can be totally manual or totally auto. Maybe some (few) professional features that will likely be standards in 5 years but for the first 3 years make it a rockstar. Suave then coasts updating only the sensor on this flagship model to stay kinda competitive. It always is on top of the competitors in the sensor maybe well ahead of them in features for the first 2 years if suave can afford it. Possibly add features if only software involved. Everyone knows the name because it was a rockstar when it started and will always be 'well built' if nothing else. And they coast for 10 years. This saves suave money in marketing and R&D and Production and tooling.


Last edited by cadmus; 01-14-2012 at 11:57 AM.
01-13-2012, 08:20 PM   #2
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This was inspired because i poked around for the last 5 months considering the kx and kr bodies rather than fix my k200d. The newer ones have way better sensors. And maybe have a couple features, like video. But the important things took a real step backwards. No improvement in interface, may be less options. No weather proofing. Not as sturdy and ergonomic (note: i only tried the kr). I think this goes for the other entry levels that run on proprietary batteries but i didn't look at those because leaving AA would be a REAL STEP BACKWARDS.

Point is I would be happy to drop $500 on a k200d with a modern sensor. but the kx and kr were not worth it for me. Had pentax saved those R&D dollars would the entry level body be higher quality and less expensive?
01-13-2012, 10:30 PM   #3
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Well, flagship usually means top of the line, not near the entry level.

The "give me a simple DSLR" thread is active elsewhere, with underwhelming enthusiasm.
01-13-2012, 10:48 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by cadmus Quote
I don't understand why this is not the standard way to do it? It is in so many other industries and perhaps is in the cannon and nikon world also? Why do we not see the same in pentax.

Because, up to this point (and for the near future), it's not only sensor technology that is updated and improved on with new models.

Ergonomics, image processor, AF, Lens technology, flash, storage, display, etc

There is a lot more to a camera than the sensor.

01-13-2012, 11:08 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by cadmus Quote
Lets pretend I was a camera company, lets call the company "Suave."
Lets hold all sensor R&D constant.
Suave could spend R&D money making:

a) a new model. This would involve adding features competitors came up with of have not yet come up with, designing a whole new product, making prototypes until everything works, re-tooling all my assembly line, making new plastic molds, getting bids for new components, marketing a whole model new name....
or
b) i could be cheap and just update the sensor and change a number on the model name to match the pixels.

How much cheaper is B relative to A?
Most camera manufacturers re-use the same design on cameras for a few generations already, including Pentax.

For Pentax, K200D was an exception, but I guess they realized that the design of this camera was too expensive to manufacture so if the kept that design they would not be able to keep up with competition. So the came up with K-m design which they pretty much kept for K-x and K-r, with only minor changes.

One thing you must realize is that removing features from a camera will not make it much cheaper to manufacture, but it might limit user base. So it is a risk that a simple feature-less camera will be more expensive for end users than a feature-rich camera. If you want a feature-less camera with few changes between models you can always get a Leica M-series camera.

Pentax DSLR history:

*ist-D - 2003 : First DSLR that had a unique design that was soon dropped.
*ist-DS. *ist-DS2, *ist-DL and *ist-DL2 - 2004 - 2006 : Design updated with a much better design. Minor changes between these models.
K110D, K100D and K100D Super - 2006 -2008 : Small update from previous design, probably necessary for adding shake reduction.
K10D - K20D - 2006 - 2009 : New design with more advanced control layout and with weather sealing.
K200D - 2008 : Same basic design as K100D but with added weather sealing.
K-m, K-x and K-r - 2008 - 2012? : New more compact design for entry level models, with only minor changes between models.
K-7 and K-5 - 2009 - 2012? : New more compact design for advanced models, weather sealed and metal body.
01-14-2012, 11:14 AM   #6
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OK fogel70, I guess they keeping the bodies which is alot of the tooling. I thought the *ists were different bodies back when i played with them. they had the right naming idea. Then i saw them take a step backwards in the models after the k200d...perhaps i was assuming they were modifying too much. But their were other, non outsourced, improvements in most of those model changes.

QuoteOriginally posted by Fogel70 Quote
....For Pentax, K200D was an exception, but I guess they realized that the design of this camera was too expensive to manufacture so if the kept that design they would not be able to keep up with competition....
And your guess that the k200d was too expensive to make a profit is the likely explanation for dropping that body. Unfortunate but likely. Too bad they wend backwards in quality construction. i love that thing.

QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
Well, flagship usually means top of the line, not near the entry level.
'Flagship' does often refer to top of the line but my friends who were or are in advertising use 'flagship' to mean the product that will be a symbol of the brand. Most often the top of the line. But i could see that not working in cameras. In this field, the pros will upgrade every year or 2 and will research all the new features and will CRAVE that top of the line specs and will remember the many model names. Suave should give them new model names, they can handle it. But those on the bottom and newbees coming into the field more need the basics, look only at pixels and picture quality (in low light) and can remember limited names. (like: rebel). If your intro camera keeps its name for many years (changing only a suffix) and is SUPER WELL BUILT it could be a flagship.

WillsWing for instance has a high tech fancy hang glider come out with a new name every 1-4 years. TOP OF THE LINE. but their flagship is the mid level or almost entry level glider. (sport, super sport, ultra sport...) It is boasts simplistic quality and safety and a couple solid features for performance but not much more. They all land the same. R&D is minimal (same frame, same joints, very little changes). I think that is what made them the biggest glider company. Flashy name changes could be correlated to the fancy improvements in the high high performance wings and that only mattered to those who could afford them and knew how to handle them. While the brand name came from a high quality entry level glider that rarely changed and was likely the bread and butter for the company.

QuoteOriginally posted by SpecialK Quote
The "give me a simple DSLR" thread is active elsewhere, with underwhelming enthusiasm.
I am not looking for affirmation. I am looking for a % or $ value. I wanted an unbiased estimate.
But...yes...you have me pegged.
QuoteOriginally posted by Fogel70 Quote
...One thing you must realize is that removing features from a camera will not make it much cheaper to manufacture, but it might limit user base. So it is a risk that a simple feature-less camera will be more expensive for end users than a feature-rich camera....
yes, I realized this, i am aware. and surely pentax is too.
I am not thinking i came up with a winning business strategy I am curious as to how much is saved in R&D, retooling and manufacturing if they did this.
QuoteOriginally posted by alohadave Quote
....it's not only sensor technology that is updated and improved on with new models.
Ergonomics, image processor, AF, Lens technology, flash, storage, display, etc
There is a lot more to a camera than the sensor.
YEAH. that is my question. those other things don't have to be updated with a new sensor (ok image processing does and soft/firmware). If rico or suave or whoever had a low level line that was not reengineerd each edition.... if it only updated the component that it buys from sony, what is the relative amount saved compared to the average model upgrades we have seen in the last 12 years of pentax?

Last edited by cadmus; 01-14-2012 at 12:03 PM.
01-14-2012, 11:55 AM   #7
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It is possible that no one could estimate this value without being a R&D person at a camera company. but i am a toxicologist, i can't even guess. I figured someone here had manufacturing experience and could give a value even with huge confidence intervals attached.
01-15-2012, 06:37 AM   #8
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Well if Pentax would just put a new sensor in K-7 and called it K-5, they probably wouldn't spend a lot of R&D money. (wow they did, that is smart, and some new AF).

To do that again with K-5 is a bit more difficult. They could use the same body and sensor, and just upgrade other futures in the camera. Processing engine, AF_module, metering and white balance. The 16mp sensor in our K-5 is about the best around, staying at APS-C, so there isn't much to get to keep improving.

I think for Pentax, we pay for R&D on the sensor with buying the product, since we don't design it ourselves. Probably a staffle. so the more you buy, the cheaper it gets.

New design on electronics, AF and other futures are also used in other products, 645D and K-r, so for a small companie this means that sticking with one type of those futures (AF, processing etc) for all cameratypes makes them cheaper.

For R&D devidings: When you have a summ of money to spend on R&D then you can make the R&D spendings on a camera cheaper by either selling more units, or making the lifespan of the product longer (look at the productionperiode of Canon 1Ds Mark III that was over 4 years). Or look at the current 16mp sensor from Sony that is in our K-5, but also in a lot of other camera's (Nikon D5100, D7000 and Sony Nex and A55), wich makes it cheaper since all sold sensors contribute to this product.

It could well be that development of software for our camera is more expensive then some of the hardware designs.

01-15-2012, 02:14 PM   #9
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Entry models have a sorter life then the advance models.
The life of the K200D was just as long as the rest, how long was for example the K100D or K100D super on the market?
You also see that a design last about 2 models.
So we can expect that the new beginner model will be the same design as the Kr but the new advance model will probably be a new design.
But the take over with Ricoh is now somewhat in the way, i wonder how that will influence the upocming models this year.
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