The Unconsidered Accessory

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I can reveal a secret from the camera-seller’s trade that you probably did not suspect: some cameras don’t make money for the shops that sell them. Neither do some lenses. Where the paydirt in the shop is located is in the accessories rack.

There is a fierce competition amongst a town’s photo shops and the on-line outlets to reduce the price of major units like cameras and lenses to a lower figure than that of the competition. First perceptions of a price, when looking at an advertisement or talking to sales staff, are so important that nearly anything goes to reduce that number. Sometimes this is done by cutting profit margin to the bone and sometimes by presenting the price in a convoluted fashion.

I’ve seen adverts that listed an impossibly high price referred to as ” recommended retail ” or ” manufacturer’s list ” and known that it was all a total farrago. Then a ” usual ” price was listed that was equally fanciful…eventually followed by the real price that the seller wished to get. There was a further, lower price that the seller would settle for as a regular matter and a still smaller number that they would accede to, to keep their rivals from getting the sale. In most cases it never really got below the cost price to the shop though on rare occasions it might dip into the red. Not for long…

The saving grace for the shop was the fact that the accessories sold to go with a modern camera were inexpensive to buy and expensive to sell – and a profit might be clawed back. This accounted for the pressure to make filter, card, cleaning cloth, tripod, battery, and case sales. It probably is the underlying reason that cases are not automatically included with digital camera sales.

Outrageous? No, it is the state of affairs to which the demands of the public have brought us. Both sides of the counter suffer or benefit in equal measure so there is no net change.

It has, at least, eased the pressure that we once saw with the dodgier of the US and UK mail-order firms to make up ” kits ” to justify their prices. These ” kits ” included in some cases the standard accessories that were included in the camera boxes as they left the distributors like straps, lens caps, back caps, lens cases, and electrical accessories. The manufacturers then stymied the crooks by printing the items that you were supposed to get in the instruction books…but the worst of the gonifs took to removing the instruction books and substituting photocopies with pages missing.

The other kind of ” kit ” that amused the trade was the business of bundling together a cheap UV filter, a pack of paper tissues, a blower brush, and a plastic tabletop tripod to try to sweeten a deal – a deal for $ 1500 worth of equipment. Not dishonest, but not useful, and just more trash to toss at the end of the day.

Do I have accessories with my cameras? Yes, but they have been selected carefully and reduced in number and size to the absolute minimum. And I have always bought good stuff – it lasts and delivers value far better than the ” impulse rack ” pickup.

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