The GetDPI Photography Forum

Great to see you here. Join our insightful photographic forum today and start tapping into a huge wealth of photographic knowledge. Completing our simple registration process will allow you to gain access to exclusive content, add your own topics and posts, share your work and connect with other members through your own private inbox! And don’t forget to say hi!

Why Are Tech Cams So Expensive?

Serious question. Someone asked it on Reddit in response to a link I posted to the RS600 thread, and I didn't really have an answer for them. So if anyone can offer a little insight..
Extremely high precision, specialised piece of equipment, built from high quality materials to be robust and durable.

The lenses are absolute leading-edge designs, especially in wide-angles. People on this particular forum are discovering usability flaws in the real world the technology is that new, these are not flaws like a firmware error, they are flaws in the optical design because it has never been done before.

If you've never used say a Rodi HR40 or similar lens on a tech camera, you cannot imagine just how good it is.


I don't know, colorspace, but its a perfectly legit question.
I will assume its because they are tight-tolerance, custom machined appliances that are difficult to make well, and must be adaptable to a wide variety of camera backs and lens mounts with closed proprietary interfaces.
That means demand and supply are low.
I wonder myself why there are no inexpensive knockoffs and 3D printer plans for one out there already.



Well-known member
The cameras are the least expensive part of the total kit. If you add up the cost of a high megapixel back along with the cost of a wide, normal and longer lens, the camera is probably less than 25% of the complete package.
I bought a Arca Swiss pancake; I would guess that the number of these sold new each year number in the hundreds or low thousands so there is little chance that the producers of these wonderful cameras can benefit from economy of scale



Well-known member
The quality of the lens one can use on a tech camera makes it unforgiving if there is any slop between the digital back and the lens. Guess what makes that connection as precise as possible? Manufacturing precision instruments takes time and money, and the clientele pool is small.


New member
Serious question. Someone asked it on Reddit in response to a link I posted to the RS600 thread, and I didn't really have an answer for them. So if anyone can offer a little insight..
Its basically a very low volume (sales), high quality (design, build quality / precision and materials / finish) camera body. They are almost custom made cameras. Once you hold one in your hands and use it you will understand. Some Cambo models can be had for not that much money. So there is a wide range in price.


Subscriber & Workshop Member
It doesn't help that these small volume, high precision cameras are built in traditionally high cost locations by small companies. In fact, some aren't even built by the company that you think but are built by suppliers. Alpa for example are in fact built by Seitz in Switzerland.

Here's another factory tour by Seitz. Although talking about their Roundshot and panoramic own brand cameras, the bodies you see in the video laid out on the tables are in fact Alpa STC bodies.
Sietz - Alpa manufacturer
Last edited:


Hi Colourspace,

Here's the thing. Manufacturing with precision requires precision. I'm not sure if you have used Tech Cams before, but the quality is decades ahead of what any SLR can achieve. Getting that quality (opto-mechanical) requires precision. Getting that precision requires more precision. Try machining something with that micrometre precision and you will understand what I am saying, ie. the machines that make these machines themselves are (need to be) built with precision. These machines cost a lot of money to make and maintain. In fact, these machines are costlier than some of the machines that make medical and surgical tools.
Hope that helps.


Workshop Member
seriously a relatively simple tech cam has nothing like the complex detailing and super fine precision in machining and assembly of, say a non-electric nikon or leica


Subscriber & Workshop Member
John - I suspect though that building an analogue Leica M or Nikon SP in the quantities of the technical cameras today would cost more per unit than even Alpa/Arca/Sinar/Linhof/Cambo actually do. Exquisite as they are, they do or more accurately did, benefit from at least some economies of scale.

I know that you could actually design and build your own technical camera if you wanted to and indeed have the tools and equipment to do so. How much would one cost though to actually buy given your New York overheads and component, assembly and raw material costs? You'd obviously not be doing this as a purely material and time cost only exercise and that alone probably accounts for more of the cost of the technical cameras we see at retail.


Is a techcam more difficult to make than say a Sony A7? Techcam, I think, it's a rather "Low tech" piece of camera equipment given there are only few moving parts. What does it really do? To allow you to focus the optics (which made by other companies) and perhaps some vertical and horizontal movement. There is no autofocus, there is no light meter, there is shutter (other than Alpa FPS), there is no mirror box..... the list goes on. The only thing that hold the price is the low supply and demand by people using those outstanding optics with movement.


Active member
If Sony only made 500 A7r's per year, what would the cost per camera be?

I agree with Graham and others here- whole heartily!! Being in manufacturing my entire life, it is always a misconception, to look at a finished product, have a beer and decide there is nothing to it - that is until you attempt to do it. Easy to copy (somewhat) difficult to innovate.

The machinery alone is expensive, and to amortize it over the life of the product(s) is a fundamental consideration. This is to say nothing about the skill of the workers, and R&D.

Manufacturing has some basic rules.

1.How fast do you turn your money, from purchase of materials until payment is received.

2. What is depth of the manufacturing run.

Making product is not easy, specifically, when you have no room for errors, if any of the tech camera manufactures turn out a defective product, it can take years to reestablish your reputation. The tech companies, do not appear large in any sense of the word, they do not make a commodity product. I remember hearing for example that Rodenstock had to trash 2 entire runs of their 90 HR SW, due to being unable to maintain the quality, they guaranteed .

As an owner of two techs, and two AS view cameras, I can truly understand the question of the OP. Do I sometimes feel that they are over priced, sure!! But then reality steps in, the moment I use them. This is not to say, that I feel they are prefect, I think all of us would like some small changes here and there to make them easier to use.

How many manufacturing companies can you call up and speak to knowledgeable people, and then find them responsive. My personal experiences with Renee at Cambo and Rod from Arca Swiss - are unparalleled. Try calling up Sony or Nikon, or Canon. The dealer network is also fantastic, I could not ask for anything more from Capture Integration. Rod is also extremely helpful and knowable. All of these things are part and parcel of the purchase. It would be daunting to consider this investment without thier support>

Also it is more than just a board - AS, Alpa, Cambo, all make tilt shift mechanisms. mount the lenses, and calibrate them. They all want you to have success with their products.

As mentioned earlier, maybe with 3D printing, this will eventually bring down the costs, somewhat, I fine 3D fascinating.

My 2 cents.

Last edited:


If Sony only made 500 A7r's per year, what would the cost per camera be?
The fact of the matter is that Sony will never make make a product like A7r with 500 units as sales projection. That would not even cover the basic setup in their manufacturing processes.


Active member
I don't think tech cameras are that expensive. Compared to a Sony A7r or similar mass-produced camera yes, but you should compare to other precision mechanics equipment made in small volume, ie not necessarily cameras. Small volume precision mechanics made by a western work force which has decent salaries and social security. These are manufactured in a totally different way than a mass-produced camera.

It's not possible to make a low cost unit without automating most manufacturing steps, and letting the rest be assembled by cheap labour. And to make everything automatic you need lots of specialized manufacturing tools which cost a huge amount of money in setup cost, ie you need sales in large volumes to make it work, and the tech camera market is too small for that.

If you look at tech cam lenses, lens prices are not too expensive compared to the performance you get, assuming you get them on a lens board :). I mean a Zeiss Otus lens is not very cheap ($4K) and for landscape apertures I get just as much performance with shift and tilt using my 72mm Schneider Digitar (about the same FOV with MF sensor, costs less than $2K with lens board). The reason for this is that tech cam lenses can be made with simpler designs, as they don't require as wide apertures and as strong retrofocus designs (this might be changing though... :-\), looking at the amount of glass per dollar you get in a tech cam lens they are still considerably more expensive than mass-produced lenses though.

And for some reason it seems like you really need these expensive things to get the precision you need. Not many cheap tech cams are made, but you can instead look at geared tripod heads if you want to compare. I have an economical manfrotto geared head, but the tightness and precision is no way near my Arca-Swiss D4 head. I've tried a few of these manfrotto heads and sample variation in terms of tightness here and there is startling, and I guess that is what would happen if you tried to make a cheap tech camera too.

What I do think is mysteriously expensive though are the digital backs. They should be expensive due to their small sales volumes, but I just think it's too extreme as it is today.


Subscriber & Workshop Member
Where I think the technical camera stuff IS overly expensive is with the small accessories and custom helicoid mounts. As Torger will attest with his lenses on lens boards, there's a huge leap in cost between a nude Rodie 40HR and the same lens mounted on an Alpa mount with helicoid. The price difference isn't covered by the precision machined chunk of aluminium and bolted on helicoid & mounted lens - even with adjustment on a colimeter at the factory IMHO. As regards some of the things like plastic lens rear covers, delrin body plates, aluminiumt body spacers / mounts for viewfinders etc are also outrageously expensive too for items that are little more than a machined square piece of metal with two mounting screws ($200) or injection molded clip on covers ($40+).


I think the pricing of the accessories follows the "Apple way". 30 Euros for an USB cable, or 80 Euros for a cold shoe adapter from Arca Swiss. Same concept. These are "luxury" items, so the price is only related to what the customer will pay - not to what it costs to make.