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Why is photography equipment still so expensive?

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by bravegril36, Mar 27, 2021.

  1. bravegril36

    bravegril36 In the Stop Bath

    I've never understood why everything costs as much as it does. Is there some kind of professional photographer committee that decides on these outrageous prices? All I want to do is get into the world of photography, not have to sell my non-existent children into slavery to be able to afford a new reliable body/lens.

    Okay, I may have exaggerated a bit. But, you know what I mean. Unless you have a rich uncle or "know someone," how the hell does this hobby work? It's photography.. I just want quality images to share with the world!
  2. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    My answer to that would be"Go second-hand!" - admittedly I was lucky enough to work somewhere that had a load of unused Nikon film stuff gathering dust, so I didn't need to buy any lenses, but I bought a second-hand DSLR at about six years old for, I think, £119 - it's now seven years older than that, I think the quality is OK:

    [​IMG]_DSC0081 ready by gray1720, on Flickr
    (admittedly this is with a lens that cost four times more than the body, but I'd never have bought a modern equivalent new).

    If you let us know your budget and what you fancy photographing I'm sure we can help - it might be a good time as smartphones are now so capable that camera values really don't hold.
    Mark101 and andymcd like this.
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Photography has never been a "cheap" hobby. You could argue that now it is more affordable than it ever was.

    Certainly the only way I got into it was a) being given my first "proper" camera, b) buying s/h and c) restricting most photography to B&W, developing and printing my own on a hand-me-down basic enlarger in the cupboard under the stairs.

    I was in my 40's before I could buy my first "new camera" and that was a body and two lens budget combo (they were rubbish) - I forget how much but probably around £500 in 1996.

    Camera prices are usually high when a camera is launched and then settles as a market price develops. Cameras are good for a long time. My first digital, bought in 2007 is gone now but mainly because I thought import prices would soar on Brexit so I traded it in. I'd expect any camera to give 10 years service as a minimum.
    Mark101 likes this.
  4. andymcd

    andymcd Well-Known Member

    Secondhand (from a reputable dealer) is a good way to keep costs down. Digital cameras have been very capable for some years now, so buying latest and greatest isn't always necessary. Also, digital cameras tend to depreciate faster than lenses. When I started out in digital, I started off with cheaper lenses and traded up to get better ones as I could afford to.
    Mark101 likes this.
  5. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Well-Known Member

    Like Adrian I've brought lots second hand, less than 5% of my lenses have cost over £100.
    I've brought several nice cameras for under £250, and even the FF camera which I had IR converted came to well under £1000.
    Reliability of these have been excellent and I'm covered for respectable kit in most realms of photography. My skill generally limits my results more than my gear.
    My kit is a bit lacking for wildlife & sports I've never been able to fins an affordable 300mm/2.8 let alone one with fast AF, but even so I've managed some reasonable results in these fields (along with many duff shots). Limited hardware can just be a challenge :)
    Mark101 and andymcd like this.
  6. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Just to get our facts right: photography is now far cheaper than at any time in the past.

    An entry level SLR such as the Pentax S1a cost £88 with a 55mm f2 lens in 1968. According to the Bank of England inflation calculator that is now £1,481. The equivalent but much more effective dSLR might be the Nikon D3500 with an 18-55mm zoom lens, which is currently on sale for £450 or less than 1/3 of the price.

    On top of this enormous reduction in the hardware cost, the effective cost of each photograph is a now a tiny fraction of 1p but in 1968, each picture would have cost you roughly 47p (or £17 for processing 36 shots).

    The cost of sharing pictures is effectively nothing because anyone reading this already has access to an online device. To share a picture with someone (other than face to face) would be in the range of £1 allowing for print and postage charges.

    The entire premise of the original post is incorrect.
  7. cliveva

    cliveva Well-Known Member

    Hi, I agree with Andrew, photography has never been so cheap. In the late 70's , my darkroom alone would have cost more than a very good camera now.Then all the cost film entailed, against two cards, which are getting cheaper all the time. It just appears expensive, because it is and always has been, but in relation to income I would hazard that it is much cheaper now.
    My first SLR a Zenith em, cost £77, the equivalent of around £800 now , so for the same money todays camera is a technical marvel , science fiction in the 70's !!
  8. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    What I would view as being expensive are lenses for newer mirrorless mount systems, such as Nikon Z. In reality pictures of high technical quality can be taken with some modestly priced secondhand equipment, for example a Nikon D3200 with a 35mm f1,8 lens or a Fujifilm X-E1 with an adaptor and heritage lenses.
  9. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    not only is almost everything cheaper now at every level.
    But the quality achievable with the kit is also far higher than was normal in past days.
    However when comparing professional work of the fifties against now, pretty much only the style of work has changed.
    Except in specialist areas where the specialist equipment make difficult subjects far more easily handled. Bird photography and almost all nature images are far better today, as is sport.
    Not only was decent kit extremely expensive in the past, it was also primitive.

    However software is a new field which ranges from free to go, to extremely costly.
    I am looking a getting the new version of PTGI pro as it has made some important advances, but at over £260.is difficult to justify on cost terms, for something I will only use occasionally. but hey ho!
  10. Bazarchie

    Bazarchie Well-Known Member

    I agree that new equipment prices, other than entry level, are high and in my opinion are getting higher. Some of the mirrorless body lens prices are hard to justify unless you have deep pockets.

    However, as others have said buying used is a good option. The cameras may be a few years old but they are more than capable. Decent lenses tend to be good for several years. Just be careful where you buy.
  11. pixelpuffin

    pixelpuffin Well-Known Member

    It’s as much or cheap as you make it
    A used canon 400d will cost you around £50 quid add a used 18-55 IS zoom, another £50
    Or maybe a used fast 50mm lens, nice and sharp £50
    That kit will deliver in spades

    *** reason I said the 400d is due to it being the first model to offer auto sensor cleaning - a huge time saver ***

    Granted it’s no R5/R6 but then it ain’t £4K+
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2021
  12. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I just don't see how you can claim that. All the "classic" cameras were expensive by comparison with modern equipment, in absolute terms and even more so if you take account of the enormous improvements in facilities.

    Take the Nikon range: in 1968, a top of the line Nikon F fitted with a Photomic head and with 3 lenses to cover 28mm to 85mm would have set you back £513, which is equivalent to £9,098 in current value. Today, you can buy a D850 (45 million pixells) with a 24-70 f2.8 for £4,250, which is half the price and will give you several times the resolution offered by the film based machine.

    ...and costs virtually nothing per shot.
  13. ChrisNewman

    ChrisNewman Well-Known Member

    I agree with Andrew. But until a few years ago there was a market for budget cameras and lenses that is disappearing fast. Nine years ago my wife wanted a basic compact digital camera, and we bought a Canon PowerShot A1200 new for under £50. It has a 4× zoom lens, and takes pictures of a quality that would have been hard to match when film was usual. Nowadays hardly anyone would be interested in buying a basic camera like that; they’ll use their phone. And for anyone who wants a system camera for even better results, with more control and versatility, but doesn’t want to find the price of the latest, best kit (and even that costs less to buy, and far less to run, than the cars that nearly all of us find the money for), 2nd hand items initially bought by those keen and prosperous enough to have updated their kit are more capable than anything the manufacturers could produce new and sell for an equivalent price.

  14. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    They can not imagine it, because they did not have to buy the vintage equipment when it was new, like us ancient ones.
    I have been a pensioner for over 20 years. And I have bought more photo gear in that period than in the previous 20. It really is less expensive to day. Not cheap by any means but less expensive.
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  15. pixelpuffin

    pixelpuffin Well-Known Member

    I think we need to put things into perspective
    Most of the younger generation won’t bat a eye dropping £1K+ on a must have iPhone 12
    Yet then bemoan the cost of a modern camera that also costs £1K

    it is what it is,

    case in point - I recently scored a used canon 6D that’s extremely clean, boxed with all accessories for £300 I then downloaded the free canon app to my ancient iPhone
    I’m now controlling the camera via my phone, instructing the camera to send me the files, messing with them and uploading to social media in a matter of minutes. For what I paid and the freedom I now have is incredible value for money.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2021
    RogerMac likes this.
  16. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    I had an exchange of emails with the Editor a few weeks ago which included this subject, as part of a comment about AP's 'From the Archive' page and his conversion of original retail prices of old equipment to 'current' prices. I made the point that a similar comparison with hi-fi equipment was interesting, because I had recently purchased a decent (and very well reviewed) 'no frills' stereo amplifier new for £450, which was definitely better than a well-reviewed one I had paid £600 for in 1994. I still have the same speakers and turntable, and used the same CDs for testing, so a meaningful comparison was possible. The main reasons for the decline in price (allowing for inflation) is manufacture in China or Thailand (despite the Japanese brand name) and the replacement of mechanical parts (volume, tone and source selection controls) with electronics. Something similar has happened with cameras - many mechanical parts have been replaced with electronics and manufacture is now done somewhere 'cost efficient'. For a mirrorless camera body, how many moving parts are there apart from the shutter and the control buttons? Cynically, I would suggest that with a modern digital camera body, much of the price is to fund R&D to provide features many of us do not need, and if given the choice, could do without if the price was less.

    The part of the cost of photography that has changed most (for me) is not having to pay for film and processing. The last roll of Kodachrome I ever used cost me over £10 for 36 exposures.

    I would always advise somebody wanting a decent camera to look at the second hand stuff on the websites of the reputable retailers who advertise in AP. I cannot foresee myself ever buying a camera body or lens new again, and leave this to others so that their old stuff will keep the second hand market well stocked.

    re. the iPhone12 - does anybody really buy one of these new?
    I thought they were all 'sold' on rental contracts so that the users probably has no idea of the real cost of the hardware.
  17. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    The last time I went to Laycock Abbey there was an exhibition featuring platinum prints, lovely quality but how many of us could afford the chemicals nowadays?I
  18. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    I think that’s close to the main point. The historical perspective does make a difference.

    But if you look at the top of the ranges without experience of the past the cameras must seem a lot, or unaffordable to someone without that experience.

    We also live in curious times and great uncertainty. Sales of everything have stalled, global trade is disrupted, companies are stressed out. Lens list prices have gone up enormously. I’ll have to nearly double the cover for my new-for-old insurance looking at the prices of lenses as listed in AP.
  19. Bazarchie

    Bazarchie Well-Known Member

    My son in law does and fully understands what it costs.
  20. IvorETower

    IvorETower Little Buttercup

    Photography need not cost an arm and a leg. You can get a perfectly good compact camera for well under £100.
    When you start looking at interchangeable lens cameras, have you any idea what goes into them - the precision manufacturing of the mechanical parts, calibration of shutter, aperture control mechanisms etc, and as for lenses, they are extremely complex items that take many hours to manufacture.. it's actually a wonder that some of the fixed primes can be sold for the prices that they are.
    Petrochemist likes this.

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