The problem with mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras

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Andreas Stuebs
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The problem with mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras
6 months ago

The release of the Nikon V3 camera has led me to come to the conclusion, that one of the problems of the MIL-cameras is the high expectancy. These cameras are to be compact, offer a high level of photographic quality and are supposed to be less expensive – after all they are more compact hence they must be cheaper. The new zoom lens by Nikon is a case in point. A fair number of posters complain that it is too expensive. Where they have a point, or do they? Let us look at the cost of a complex lens – what are the driving factors: development effort, which needs to be recouped, labour and the cost of the production lines and materials. I have not got the figures, but I would assume, that the material costs are only a small fraction of the cost, so the size of the lens does not really factor in. A high quality zoom for a 1" form factor camera is as complex as a high quality zoom for FF camera. What you gain in size you make up in required resolution due to the smaller pixel pitch of a 1" sensor over a FF sensor. So I would not assume that a high quality lens for a 1" system or µ4/3 or APS-C can be that cheaper to manufacture than a FF. When it comes to economies of scale APS-C DSLR lenses should have the benefit, as APS-C DSLR still make up the bulk of system cameras out there both in historic and present sales. But the expectancy is that lenses for mirrorless cameras should be cheaper.

A similar argument holds for the camera bodies. But for the mirror mechanism and penta mirror/prism the development of a mirrorless camera is as expensive as the DSLR counterpart. (plus the cheaper DSLR benefit from the development hand-me-downs of their more expensive siblings).

It is a vicious circle – Mirror less is less complex than DSLR and more compact so it should be cheaper, but it isn't, so I will not buy it, which means that the numbers will not grow sufficiently for the price to come down. And DSLR are the actual real cameras aren’t they? I find the approach Fuji went interesting, in that they gunned for the expert market first, trying to get out of this expectancy trap.

Mirror less are as good – some claim better – as DSLR but their success in the wider market is partly stymied by unrealistic expectance of customers – to be less complex, more compact and cheaper.

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