Why Are DSLRs So Expensive?

I bought a HDD Recorder for my TV the other day.  It cost me £260. It seems to have a million and one features and functions and I was quite blown away by what it could do. After browsing through the manual for a while then putting it down, I glanced over at my two DSLRs sitting there on the coffee table. It was hard to believe that, what I was looking at, constituted a market value of around £6000. Even the Nikon D610, classed as a consumer DSLR, cost £1400 and that’s before you put a lens on it. And what do they do? Take pictures.

I know that’s a bit of a simplistic answer (they also record video) but it begged the question, just why are they so expensive compared to some other consumer devices and P&S (Point & Shoot) cameras.

Well, here are the answers;

1.) Technology: There’s actually a mind-boggling amount of state-of-the-art technology packed inside a high-end Full-Frame DSLR. The Shutter, Auto Focus, Image Processing, and Metering systems to name a few will all be the result from years of technological research and development. Of course, fitting all this technology into a device that you can hold in the hand is not easy. The manufacturing process is highly specialised and usually conducted under laboratory conditions.

Want to see a Nikon D600 taken apart bit by bit and get an idea of the number of components used to build such a camera. Take a look at iFixit’s teardown here .

2.) Optics: The same goes for lenses. If you thought they were simple to make, take a look at the 80th Anniversary video of Nikkor Lenses by Nikon Imaging Corporation.

3.) Sensor & Image Quality: This is the piece of light sensitive silicon that records image data. It is, in itself, a highly specialised component responsible for producing the image. There are a number of factors that determine the quality of an image and, generally, the larger the sensor, the better the image quality will be. Full Frame image sensors are many times the size of the ones installed in compact cameras. They are, consequently, many times more expensive to manufacture.

4.) Control: A DSLR will offer a photographer complete control over how he/she takes a photograph. Photos can be took that would be impossible to create with a compact camera. The 440 page User Manual for the Nikon D800E soon gives you an idea of just how much control you do have.

5.) Build Quality: A pro quality DSLR will be built to withstand all sorts of rigours and extreme conditions. Their robustness is legendary with many tales of survival on the internet. Check this article out for one such story.

So, maybe £1400 for my D610 doesn’t seem so bad after all.

The Next Camera – Nikon D800 Pre-Ordered

I have been keeping a watchful eye on the camera market recently to see if any of the new mirror-less systems were maybe worth adding to the kit-bag as a smaller, more portable alternative to my SLRs. Sadly, none of them seem to be able to tick all the boxes. They’ve either got neat, feature-packed bodies but a poor selection of oversized lenses (Sony NEX), good selection of lenses but poor sensor performance compared to DSLR (Samsung, Panasonic, etc.) or we have the “nearly there” Fujis which seem to have most of the boxes ticked but suffer from bugs, glitches and/or poor design aspects. Nikon’s “soccer mum” 1 series does not appeal either. So, a mirror-less system isn’t for me just yet. Of course, the Fuji X-Pro1 is just around the corner but at £1,700 body only and about £500 for a lens, that would buy me the new Nikon D800.  Well… let’s put that another way, it IS going to buy me the new Nikon D800.

Nikon D800

The D800 will be Nikon’s long awaited and highly anticipated successor to the D700. Not exactly an upgrade of the D700 as it boasts a massive 36 megapixel sensor, three times the size of the D700’s sensor – that’s getting into medium format territory. The RAW photo files alone will be in the region of 75 Mbytes in size so potential owners need to ensure their computer performance and storage is up to the mark. High resolution sensors are more demanding of technique and lenses but, get it right and the results should be nothing short of amazing, especially for landscape, studio and macro shots.

For my kind of photography which incorporates a high proportion of landscape and macro, this SLR is right up my street. The camera starts shipping in late March but with huge demand, I don’t expect to get mine until April at the earliest. Never mind, I’ve still got my D700 and D7000 to play with until then.

Anyway, if you wish to drool over the specs of this camera and read a neat little preview, go to http://www.dpreview.com/previews/nikonD800/