The problem with mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras

Started Mar 13, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Andreas Stuebs
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The problem with mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras
Mar 13, 2014

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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