Why All Companies Should Make $11,000 Cameras

What would camera companies create if they were unbounded by the final product's price point?

In this video editorial from broader FOCUS, Jaron Schneider delivers a thought-provoking assessment of the current camera industry's turn towards selling lower-cost products. Is it possible that by only engineering cameras in the shrinking confines of what people will spend, that we are stifled from greater innovation?

Schneider's point in the video is not that these companies should try to create more expensive cameras as an objective, but rather the price would be a side effect from truly pushing the boundaries on all facets of design. The goal is for camera companies to showcase their absolute best technology without the accounting and marketing teams breathing down their necks worrying how they will ever sell these things. In making these advanced products, it would provide the consumer of today a beacon of why they should be investing in a company's product line; they've witnessed the innovation they are capable of and evidence of what's coming down the pipeline.

Is this something that you agree with? Would you like to see what a camera would look like if it were free from the burden of being salable? Let us know your opinions in the comments below.

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30 Comments

Rob Davis's picture

Because companies that make radical products consumers didn’t ask for tend to fail, especially when we’re talking about mature technology. Analog-to-Digital was likely the last major hardware innovation. The next innovations will be software. Camera manufacturers just need to deliver a good enough capture for the software to take over. We’re barely beginning the era of content-aware processing. Buckle up.

Usman Dawood's picture

Very good point.

Alexander Yakimov's picture

Nicely said. Curious, what, in your opinion , are major tech innovations before ADC?
P.S. probably on a smaller scale: Demanding software would drive hardware changes and vice versa...

Rob Davis's picture

In the next 5-10 years I think we’ll see a trend towards fewer lenses. Possibly even some pro fixed lens cameras that are precisely calibrated for backend processing that minimizes the need for physical magnification or perspective control.

That will probably be the next significant hardware change. Also that cameras themselves will have more interface options to interact with software, like the new Zeiss mirrorless.

Probably the major processing will be done in-camera or on a server somewhere. We’re starting to see AAA video games being streamed now where all of the graphics processing is being done offsite. Adobe’s new “enhance image” feature takes a raw file and rewrites it creating a new raw file with better resolution (in theory). I could easily see us taking 20MP images, checking a setting that sends them from the camera to a server and by the time we get home there are 100MP images waiting for us with enhanced resolution, color, etc...from a service we pay a monthly fee to.

marcus joyce's picture

In 5 years, 10 years, 20 years the watch will be still as desirable, as will the lambo (we can see that with the countash). The electronics will be paperweights or junk or museum pieces or retro hipster stuff.

Canon has released ultra high ISO industrial cameras is that not the "pinical".

Perhaps better comparison is the Mercedes SClass. A super expensive car. The point of the car is the best of the best. But over years the technology filters down to it's more broader audience.

Canon sticking a 9 point focusing screen into an SL2 is a joke. Or the poorly layed out focusing screen in the 6d mk ii. Technology isn't filtering down. It's being plucked because "it's a price point".

Every new canon should have equivalent focusing speed or features of the 1dx mk ii.

Mirrorless kind of changes this game. We are out of the hardware and more into the software relm. Configured by ini files to suit the price point. Not 2 card slots or the amount of megapixels. But focusing speed, continuous shooting speed etc.

How many people work for Lamborghini? How many dream to make exotic supercars? How many people does it take to make a watch? How many people graduate today and think hmm I'd love to invest my life into photography equipment when the market is slowly dying... Vs the possibility of computational photography or the next Snapchat and be a global tech superstar.

TV's are sexy and "the wall" can be sold to business clients trying to impress. Or the council lad who watches premiership football on the dole with a can of Dutch larger.

You could start taking about $25,000 fountain pens etc.. but it's collectable and desirable

Tony Northrup's picture

I totally agree that there's an opportunity here. How can Canon demonstrate a 100 megapixel camera, but they can't hand-make a small number and sell them for $20k? Leica does this pretty well.

I guess it probably wouldn't make financial sense. Canon has a limited number of engineers who can develop new products, and they'd rather dedicate those resources to products that will sell in the millions rather than the thousands. There's a reason Elon Musk uses the same iPhone as you and I.

I think there's an opportunity for third-party shops to build custom cameras. We were just talking about finding someone to build a custom body for an a7R III - transfer all the same guts into something more like a D850, with a bigger grip, bigger lighted buttons, and maybe even give it a retro design and a flip screen. Or maybe just stick it in a Nikon F1 body. That's all theoretically possible. People do it all the time with cars, video game systems, and that's all I can think of but every list needs at least three items.

Rob Davis's picture

I'm assuming based on the last paragraph this is a parody account of some kind.

Jared Wolfe's picture

Didn't Hasselblad just slap some sexy wood handles and their name badge on some sony products and sell them 2-3x......didn't work out too well.

Han Seoul-Oh's picture

leica is a brand name that has cultured their cachet over decades. canon is a commodity brand.

there's a reason why you'll see more ferraris than honda nsx's driving around on any given day despite the significant price gulf.

on top of the fact that building a halo product with no intention to sell it is a waste of R&D resources. those engineers have to be paid whether their designs are sold or not.

Robert Trerice's picture

Wouldn't the next logical steps be introducing high end processors, like the one in the Galaxy Note 9, to give more "on the road functionality." Or even modular camera design where you can chose a body, a sensor, evf, back screen panel and swap out parts as needed. This would give the option of low MP sensors for great low light performance as well as the possibility of a high MP sensor for ultra detail.

$11k camera halo product?
Nikon: hold my beer
58mm f0.95

Jared Wolfe's picture

There is no replacement for displacement. Give me a 6x6 sensor back for my Hasselblad V series cameras.

Eric Raeber's picture

This may have worked for camera brands such as Leica or Hasselblad, but they have always played the luxury card and the reliability card. Not the technology card.

Samsung differentiates itself by putting together micro-Led panels that are expensive to manufacture. Lange and Sohne produces a watch that is expensive to design. Lens manufacturers produce glass that requires precise (hence expensive) labor. Ultra premium prices cannot, in my opinion, apply to the semiconductor industry.

What makes a camera feature unique? The sensor and the processor. Both are semiconductors. How much does it cost to manufacture a state-of-the art chip, that adds a stop to your dynamic range, doubles your frame rate, or halves your auto-focus time? This is in the $100 million range. You would need to sell a truckload of $11'000 cameras te recoup costs...

This is why camera manufacturers need to go mainstream with their top-of-the-line tech.

americans like to complicate things. pay more for a camera? youre a clown. its too expensive as it is.

Phillip Breske's picture

“Too expensive”? What would you charge if you had to design, build, and sell a camera that includes thousands of parts and hundreds of thousands of people in the process, from artists to assemblers to truck drivers to sales people? You have no idea what you’re talking about.

I would say the exact same thing about you. you have no clue. youre living in some kind of lala land.

yes, lets all start giving extra money to the companies. thousands of extra dollars because breks wants to be a charity. go away.

Phillip Breske's picture

First of all, your grammar, spelling, and punctuation is atrocious.

Second, how does paying for something equate to being a charity? If a camera company creates a camera that costs $10,000 and someone pays for it, in what universe does that count as a charitable contribution? Further, if someone WANTS to pay their own money for a product, no matter how expensive that product may be, what business is that of yours?

Do you think Canon or Nikon OWE you something? Do you think they should be giving away cameras for free? If that's your reasoning, I'd say your stance is that the COMPANIES should be running charities for poor, entitled photographers.

Instead of just hurling insults, maybe you could make a sane, logical case for your argument.

Oh, wait. Are you 12? If so, I apologize.

listen breks, I gave my opinion and it wasnt directed at you, I dont care what you have to say. go say it to someone else. your opinion and argument means shet to me. go fight with someone else.
youre wasting your time

shows your low level brain power to think that everyone who posts is an english native speaker. I dont give a damn if I have grammar mistakes. its not my language, and if you couldnt read it and understand it, then youre 12yo. besides youre close minded to think that only native english speakers post when the internet is intl.
but it also shows that you have a weak argument when you have to pick on things that are irrelevant.like grammar.

do me a favor, well do this back and forth forever. go argue with someone else cause your opinion doesnt matter to me. im not trying to convince you, dont try convincing me. were just going to go head to head

Phillip Breske's picture

Head to head or toe to toe makes no difference to me.

While I accept that not everyone speaks or writes in English, I am surprised that they don't use punctuation or capitalization in your country. Where is that, exactly? I'd like to read up on the history of a country that managed to get to the 21st century without those standard writing tools.

My argument isn't weak. I said that people should be able to spend their money on whatever they want to spend their money on and you said that I was being a charity. I asked you to explain that and you said my argument was weak. It seems to me that, in addition to the writing issues, you also don't know the meaning of the words "argument," "opinion," and "debate."

So again I'll ask your age. Do your parents know you're here? Are Mr. and Mrs. Steel aware of what you do while they are at work? (I'm assuming Mrs. Steel works and that you don't live in a country where they throw battery acid in the faces of women who get too "uppity.")

Phillip Breske's picture

Also, your initial post stated: "its too expensive as it is." I need to know what you think is too expensive? Are the cameras too expensive? And what pricing model would you like these companies to adopt? Should be giving them away for free? Do you think they could sustain their business with this model of building highly-complex pieces of technology and then offering them to the public for nothing in return?

conversing with you stinks. btw, you have nice photos. why 2.2/5 rating? do you prefer only shooting b&w.

Phillip Breske's picture

That's your answer? That's your argument in support of your statement? A fart joke?

Sad.

thats all the effort im going to put with you.

Phillip Breske's picture

That's fine. I just wish you put as little effort into your other comments so the rest of us would be spared the lame attempts at self-important bullshit.

David Pavlich's picture

Hear, hear!!! Why should anyone care how someone else spends THEIR money? If I had the dinars and wanted to spend $50K on a Phase One to take pictures of my cat, why would anyone care? It's my money.

This moral high ground pap is really tiring.

Phillip Breske's picture

Shh. I don't think Mr. Steel knows what the word "moral" means.

Phillip Breske's picture

There will always be a market for ultra-high-end, limited-production products that demonstrate advances in technology. The Bugatti Veyron is an insanely expensive car (that costs less than it does to produce, by the way) but still manages to sell every copy because there are people who want the best, newest, biggest, fastest, etc ... and they don't care what it costs. VW/Bugatti make those cars not because they think they can turn a profit (they don't), but because they want to show the world what can be done when you place no constraints on the people who design and build things.

Canon/Nikon/Sony are all perfectly capable of doing the same thing, but Sony, with its vast income from fields other than photography, could probably handle the costs better than its rivals. They could design and build the "ultimate camera" and sell it for $60,000 or more and I guarantee there would be people willing and able to spend whatever it takes to get their hands on one.

David Pavlich's picture

True that. However, I'd rather have a Koenigsegg. :-) :-)

Phillip Breske's picture

Also outrageously expensive and also not piling up in the dealers' lots. :)

David Pavlich's picture

Ayup! And they, just like all the other hypercar builders, will sell every last one of them. Quick story. I owned a tennis shop and one of my customers sold his medical device business. He's a carguy, so he decided to buy a new Ferrari, a 360 Modena. He went to a dealer in Florida and the guy basically laughed at him.

He said that the only way you get a new Ferrari is to buy a used one from the dealer, then another, then another. The dealer said that every Ferrari on the assembly line has a buyer's name on it and unless you're a Ferrari regular, your name isn't on one of them.

He bought an Audi R8. :-)