The Yellow Pad And The Calculator


Last week’s evening sales event saw the promotion of a camera and lens combination that costs $ 11,500 – that’s one camera and one lens. The lens is a simple autofocus prime lens – the standard focal length for the size of the sensor. The camera is big, it is well-built, and the sensor size is large. It takes extremely detailed pictures and they can be done under the poorest of light conditions. The dynamic range of the camera is so great as to make it nearly impossible to overrun the highlights or shadows – important considerations for any shooter.

But…$ 11,500? Okay – I know that the Hasselblad cameras and Phase One cameras and a number of other professional devices are much more expensive – in some cases amounting to to price of a decent new family sedan car – so high prices are not new. What surprises me is that last week’s camera is aimed at the amateur or starter pro at that price. For people who often go out on a shoot wearing sandals, torn jeans, and a feed cap on backwards ( and I see ’em every day in the shop ) this seems a pretty stiff price.

The retired middle managers going to Africa, Antarctica, or the Greek Islands – frequently in the same week –  are another matter. They need a basket to throw money into before their old bosses do an audit. Cameras and cruises are perfect, particularly if they can both be done on “automatic” setting. This would be a fine set-up for them as it would combine the maximum spend with the minimum learning curve and would be sure to be more impressive gear than that of the other members of the camera club. The lenses are no more onerous to carry than the longer ones for the Nikon or Canon system, particularly if you leave them in a bag in your stateroom while you are in the bar.

A working pro might justify camera this if he could get enough high-pay work quickly or if he could get his accountant drunk enough to sign off on it. The gear is certainly capable of doing a good job, but getting that good job and then getting the client to pay up would be the trick. Even in the wedding trade it is likely to be used only for the gardens and set-up location shots – those are giant files to process for reportage pictures. The pro who promoted it candidly admits to using a Canon for the candids. Canon are happy.

I guess it really comes down to the business of how many shots are going to be taken for that $ 11,500. If it is 11,500 that’s a buck a pop – still better price than shooting film in a medium format camera – but when you ask yourself how many of those 11.500 are going to be sold at a profit ( and the profit shared with the tax office ) it starts to look different. Factoring in the time that digital cameras remain current, desirable, and working well is also a problem – that camera is like all consumer goods; on a dive to obsolescence from the minute it comes out of the factory. It’ll take your $ 11,500 plus interest with it when it crashes unless you find some way to compel it to spit a lot of money out fast on the way down.

Welcome to photography. Smile. Just relax and let the hooks do their job.


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