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why is tech cam equipment so expensive?

I'll start by saying have never had a problem paying for quality.

We can debate whether a new DB is worth it's price, but its a complex tool, with many very clever people doing very clever things in an elegant little box and more clever software developed to present the user with a great workflow.
Similar to lenses. I can appreciate the quality control needed to get the best results out of 'multiple bit of glass with a shutter in the middle' - even if the really high end Rodi's are eyewatering

But when it comes to peripherals for tech cameras I am at a loss to sometimes.

A back plate for a cambo for example, to attach a DB. Over $500! :bugeyes: how can that be? What am I missing in terms of engineering a square metal plate with 2 hooks to hold the back on?
An arca-swiss plate is even more hilariously priced; up to $1000
1 wooden handgrip for a WDS - over $500

Is there a disconnect between cost of production (admittedly in very small numbers) and retail price?

I wonder if I can get a highend 3d printer and create a bunch of my own peripherals for a fraction of the price of buying OEM

/waits for someone to make a Rolls-Royce analogy about the cost of replacement windscreen wipers ;)




*I'm having a bad day and I want to rant about something :p
 

dchew

Well-known member
Those examples sound like a great deal! [says an Alpa shooter].
:cry:

I don't know what the volume is, but it cannot be much. I can say I've been to Alpa in Switzerland. The office is not ornate, and there are not fast expensive cars out front. I don't think they are rolling in the dough smoking expensive cigars and drinking $500 shots of cognac.

If you add up the factors of outsourcing (especially in Alpa’s case), small volumes and relatively tight tolerances it fits the expensive, low-volume business model.

And, the last thing I want is for either one of them to go out of business!

Dave
 
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dougpeterson

Workshop Member
Cambo does nearly 100% of their manufacturing themselves (for total clarity I mean full-time Cambo employees working at Cambo-owned machines at Cambo HQ in the Netherlands). They have a rather impressive array of very high end CNC and automated loaders and other large scale manufacturing and finishing devices. I’ll gladly admit that the first time I visited their factory I found it was at least five times larger than I was expecting it to be.

They have a very broad product line, nearly 70 years of manufacturing experience, and also do some contract manufacturing (aka making OEM products for other companies, like Seitz does for Alpa).

The only exception I’m aware of is anodization, since thats a rather nasty process and is better left to a place that does nothing but anodization.
 

dougpeterson

Workshop Member
It’s also my impression that Arca Swiss makes their own equipment (their employees on their machines at their facilities); notably they themselves are located in France (not Switzerland). But I’ve not personally been to their factory, so I’m getting confirmation that this is accurate.

Edit: I’ve confirmed the above is correct. All Arca Swiss products are made in house.
 
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of course I dont want them to go out of business. I just cant reconcile those prices against their perceived cost of manufacture

I may be totally wrong, and there is a tiny margin on those items


As above, I'm happy to pay for quality products - I wouldnt be tempted by the cheaper Actus knock offs from china, on ebay for example

Just confused as to how those accessories got to those price points
 

Shashin

Well-known member
Low production volumes and an expensive production line with skilled employees. That will be enough. Yes, the Chinese have made similar cameras for less, but not to the same standards. Whether an Asian manufacturer could compete at a lower cost would also depend on demand. Demand is quite low so there is not a lot of incentive.
 
Low production volumes and an expensive production line with skilled employees. That will be enough. Yes, the Chinese have made similar cameras for less, but not to the same standards. Whether an Asian manufacturer could compete at a lower cost would also depend on demand. Demand is quite low so there is not a lot of incentive.

absolutely - for the actus I agree, I doubt you could expect the same quality level from the Chinese ones

But for the back or lens plates, those are far less technical parts
 

RLB

Member
It’s also my impression that Arca Swiss makes their own equipment (their employees on their machines at their facilities); notably they themselves are located in France (not Switzerland). But I’ve not personally been to their factory, so I’m getting confirmation that this is accurate.
Doug,

Your assumptions about Arca Swiss production are 100% correct.
 

dchew

Well-known member
It’s also my impression that Arca Swiss makes their own equipment (their employees on their machines at their facilities); notably they themselves are located in France (not Switzerland). But I’ve not personally been to their factory, so I’m getting confirmation that this is accurate.
Thanks Doug. Sorry for the bad information about outsourcing, everyone.

Dave
 

GrahamWelland

Subscriber & Workshop Member
The bright side of technical cameras is that once you build the kit out you basically have a system that’ll last a lifetime. Digital backs come & go to a greater degree but once you have the few lenses and body you’re essentially done.

The low volume super high precision accounts for much of the price (new) plus the margins. The only things that I’ve seriously puked on were the 3D printed Alpa lens hoods - there I did feel that the limit was being pushed somewhat, beautiful as they are. (And the truly sad fact is that at some point I’ll break down and buy them for my 40/70HR lenses)
 
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Shashin

Well-known member
absolutely - for the actus I agree, I doubt you could expect the same quality level from the Chinese ones

But for the back or lens plates, those are far less technical parts
Making flat pieces of machined metal isn't that easy either. And their sales volume is again low. The price is in relation to the camera. I imagine they have found the best balance between supply and demand. I doubt they make a lot of money, but would you want them to make less?
 

Ferg

New member
Agree on all points. I’ve ordered the add|metric from alpa and I still don’t have a final price... but it’s a new version based on the TC.

The R&D costs for 3D printed parts, plus the high quality materials, plus the extremely expensive printer/printer hours means high prices. Alpa invited me to visit but I haven’t taken them up on it; I probably should.

I don’t have a problem with it - or at least, not when it’s a company purchase. Privately is a different story.
 

Bugleone

Active member
My understanding is that the adaptor plate for attaching a digital back requires the utmost accuracy and care in manufacture as the makers tolerance has to be measured in microns to guarantee that focus will be critically accurate...an essential consideration for these cameras.

My take on this is that these cameras offer amazing technicality in manufacture for a very low price!!.......this will become very apparent if you compare with other areas of extreme precision engineering such as aeorospace and medical items. The endoscope found in most modern hospitals makes a Tech cam look quite good value for money.

Also, some of the modern equipement to actually make these components is incredibly expensive in itself....CNC is Not just a milling machine controlled by a computer, there are challenges in every part of it's design and construction. And, then there are the people!......making items like this in this manner is the skilled knowledge of a decreasingly few artisans...Yes, ARTISANS...ie an extreme craftsman who thinks of his skill set as an adjunct of art.

And, we have not even considered the hand work needed to complete each camera component...the work that machines simply cant' do and which ordinary folk don't even know about!.......The bespoke watch industry uses fine CNC machines of their own design and making to produce a dozen balance wheels in 4 days but those wheels then require 5 weeks of polishing by hand using nothing more than a copper burnisher and a huge amount of skill gained over years by the holder of the burnisher.

The area where camera equipement IS massively over priced is in mirrorless full frame models...the Sony A7 offers huge profit on each body and, in terms of manufacture, is priced to what can be extracted from the buyer. Take a look at what else you can get for the price of an a7 and you will see what I mean.
 
I cant believe a lens plate or db plate has the same level of engineering and craftsmanship as a $500 watch

But if they are built with tolerances measured in microns then that might go some way to explaining it.
 

Bugleone

Active member
.....Making db plates is significantly more demanding that making a 500 dollar watch in it's entirety, which is actually just a mass produced item. But you are not alone in your 'ignorance' as ordinary people have no real idea of how stuff is made.

..........I mentioned the 'bespoke watch industry' where 10k dollars is average priced!
 

Audii-Dudii

Active member
I cant believe a lens plate or db plate has the same level of engineering and craftsmanship as a $500 watch

But if they are built with tolerances measured in microns then that might go some way to explaining it.
Based on my experience with some Cambo products, at least -- specifically, the four Sony E-mount camera mount rings I have for my Actus (don't ask!), which vary in thickness by more than .020" from sample to sample -- I doubt the tolerances are that tight for every part they make.

True, these particular parts sell for only $75 -- er, $79 after the recent price increase -- but the variation in thickness I've measured is great enough that I am almost convinced it was intentional.

And even if some parts are machined to micron-level tolerances, I'm not entirely convinced such levels of accuracy can be achieved in practice, as metal expands and contracts with fluctuations in temperature and where I live, that varies by more than 80 degrees F across the year. During the summer, it's easy to experience a 40-degree temperature variation just by taking the camera outdoors and even higher than that if it's the placed into the trunk of a car, left there for a while, and then brought back indoors...

That said, I agree the pricing is all down to supply and demand. Making precision parts in small volumes isn't as cost effective as many people think, hence their production cost is likely higher than they expect. And on the other side of the equation, the people who buy these cameras and their accessories usually aren't pinching pennies, either...
 

Geoff

Member
There are a whole bunch of other costs to add this picture other than manufacturing the part. There is design, R&D, testing, admin, distribution, markups, marketing, and inventory, to name just a few. Look at the sheer variety of parts and pieces each of these manufacturers have - full systems, not just a few parts. And a whole bunch of that stuff sits for a while. Cash flow.

When analyzing costs, its interesting to look at the cost of bottled water in a store. It varies widely - and yet the initial product (water) has a nominal cost to manufacture (the water comes from a well, or in some cases, is processed): most costs are downstream (forgive the pun).

Its all too easy to take one part and say "can make this cheaper". Sure, that's true. But that's like saying the cost of a book is in the printing - which is the only hard cost we see. Its also in the research, writing, editing, distribution, etc. which are hard to assess, but vital to the pipeline.
 

drevil

Active member
I think the most easy answer is, because some people are able and willingly enough to pay that price. demand and offer for very low quantity products
 

dchew

Well-known member
The microeconomics of pricing strategy has always fascinated me, especially in these low-volume cases where it is very difficult to figure out what the price elasticity is. I.e., would there be an increase or decrease in marginal revenue if the price was increased / decreased (and the associated marginal profit)? Even if you change the price and watch to see what happens, you never know what caused the volume fluctuations: was it the price change or was it because someone happened to post on GetDPI about the usefulness of that accessory around the same time? Or, some external economic condition? Etc, etc. It's not like any of these manufacturers sell 1000 of anything every month. The standard deviation of month to month quantities really messes with any sort of analysis. I've worked most of my life in these situations, and can't count how many times we've increased prices only do see volumes increase, and the opposite! Just as well to roll dice to decide a price point.

That's why so many low-volume suppliers resort to a standard mark-up or gross margin requirement. There may be different mark-ups for bulk product groups like cameras, lenses and accessories but beyond that a more sophisticated market analysis just doesn't fly.

Dave
 

CAMBOUSA

Member
Cambo does nearly 100% of their manufacturing themselves (for total clarity I mean full-time Cambo employees working at Cambo-owned machines at Cambo HQ in the Netherlands). They have a rather impressive array of very high end CNC and automated loaders and other large scale manufacturing and finishing devices. I’ll gladly admit that the first time I visited their factory I found it was at least five times larger than I was expecting it to be.

They have a very broad product line, nearly 70 years of manufacturing experience, and also do some contract manufacturing (aka making OEM products for other companies, like Seitz does for Alpa).

The only exception I’m aware of is anodization, since thats a rather nasty process and is better left to a place that does nothing but anodization.
This is pretty much as correct as it can get. The entire Cambo factory team (including Administration, R&D, and Factory staff) fluctuates slightly but is mostly under 20 people most of the time.

The average product is produced in very limited numbers per run, and are all hand assembled once machined, cleaned, and anodized. All of this done to an extreme level of tolerance.
 
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