Why are so few lenses bought per DSLR? (Motivation of two polls)

Started Sep 29, 2013 | Discussions
merops
merops Senior Member • Posts: 2,195
Why are so few lenses bought per DSLR? (Motivation of two polls)

Every so often I see a blog or forum post about how few lenses are bought per DSLR, usually together with a comment along the lines of “for most people it was pointless to buy an interchangeable-lens camera”. While I agree that a fair proportion of users may only ever buy one lens, I think that the average number of lenses bought per camera body (the number available to the industry) is misleading taken as a raw statistic:

First, some of those who currently have bought only one lens will go on to buy more lenses. For these people it is not pointless to have bought an ILC. There will always be beginners.

Second, which is the point I really want to make, the same lens can be used on multiple bodies. Indeed it is likely to be used on multiple bodies because lenses ‘age’ more slowly than bodies. Even if the number of lenses sold per camera was exactly 1, I would expect many people to have a range of choices of lens to use on their camera(s). For example, since going digital, I have bought 8 lenses (of which 3 have been stolen), and 5 camera bodies (all the same mount-type and format). I have therefore bought 1.6 lenses/camera – you might think of me as an almost equal mixture of a complete noob (1 lens/camera) and someone just beginning to experiment (got their second lens for the same body). In fact I have a choice of 5 different lenses for each of the bodies that I (still) have!

To judge how big this difference is, I have set up two polls to compare these two numbers (how many lenses/camera have you bought; how many lenses/camera do you have available to use). Unfortunately, DPR polls do not allow you to ask two poll questions in the same post – hence the two separate polls. It would be handy if respondents answer both. Thanks.

BOUGHT: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52242300

AVAILABLE TO USE: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52242304

Barrie Davis
Barrie Davis Forum Pro • Posts: 21,460
Slow down.
1

merops wrote:

Every so often I see a blog or forum post about how few lenses are bought per DSLR, usually together with a comment along the lines of “for most people it was pointless to buy an interchangeable-lens camera”. While I agree that a fair proportion of users may only ever buy one lens, I think that the average number of lenses bought per camera body (the number available to the industry) is misleading taken as a raw statistic:

First, some of those who currently have bought only one lens will go on to buy more lenses. For these people it is not pointless to have bought an ILC. There will always be beginners.

Second, which is the point I really want to make, the same lens can be used on multiple bodies. Indeed it is likely to be used on multiple bodies because lenses ‘age’ more slowly than bodies. Even if the number of lenses sold per camera was exactly 1, I would expect many people to have a range of choices of lens to use on their camera(s). For example, since going digital, I have bought 8 lenses (of which 3 have been stolen), and 5 camera bodies (all the same mount-type and format). I have therefore bought 1.6 lenses/camera – you might think of me as an almost equal mixture of a complete noob (1 lens/camera) and someone just beginning to experiment (got their second lens for the same body). In fact I have a choice of 5 different lenses for each of the bodies that I (still) have!

To judge how big this difference is, I have set up two polls to compare these two numbers (how many lenses/camera have you bought; how many lenses/camera do you have available to use). Unfortunately, DPR polls do not allow you to ask two poll questions in the same post – hence the two separate polls. It would be handy if respondents answer both. Thanks.

BOUGHT: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52242300

AVAILABLE TO USE: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52242304

Please back-off with the multiple postings/polls.

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merops
OP merops Senior Member • Posts: 2,195
Re: Slow down.

Barrie Davis wrote:

Please back-off with the multiple postings/polls.

Apologies if I've offended you. Ask an administrator to remove all three posts if you want.

Ideally, all three pieces would be in the same post. Unfortunately, as I explained in the non-poll thread it's impossible to ask two questions in the same poll. Asking just one of the questions isn't interesting because it is the comparison of the two answers that is interesting. I thought that I might (just) get more people to vote in both if I explained my reasoning for there being two polls, and linked to them both.

I don't have an axe to grind. I'm not trying to 'sell' anything. I'm just interested in knowing how much difference there is between the two values: lenses/camera bought (the figure that is available) and lenses/camera available to use (the figure that shows the extent to which people actually exploit having an ILC) is. It may be of no interest to anyone else, but as far as I know there is no rule against posting on uninteresting topics, only posting multiple times on any topic, whether interesting or not. As I explained in the previous paragraph, the three posts go together, but I couldn't post them in one single post.

In peace,
merops

roby17269
roby17269 Senior Member • Posts: 1,560
Re: Slow down.
1

merops wrote:

Barrie Davis wrote:

Please back-off with the multiple postings/polls.

Apologies if I've offended you. Ask an administrator to remove all three posts if you want.

Ideally, all three pieces would be in the same post. Unfortunately, as I explained in the non-poll thread it's impossible to ask two questions in the same poll. Asking just one of the questions isn't interesting because it is the comparison of the two answers that is interesting. I thought that I might (just) get more people to vote in both if I explained my reasoning for there being two polls, and linked to them both.

I don't have an axe to grind. I'm not trying to 'sell' anything. I'm just interested in knowing how much difference there is between the two values: lenses/camera bought (the figure that is available) and lenses/camera available to use (the figure that shows the extent to which people actually exploit having an ILC) is. It may be of no interest to anyone else, but as far as I know there is no rule against posting on uninteresting topics, only posting multiple times on any topic, whether interesting or not. As I explained in the previous paragraph, the three posts go together, but I couldn't post them in one single post.

In peace,
merops

I have no problem with your posts.

But have you considered that the population here may not be representative? I mean a lot of forum users here will probably have (had) more lenses than the average DSLR user.

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merops
OP merops Senior Member • Posts: 2,195
Re: Slow down.

roby17269 wrote:

I have no problem with your posts.

Thanks.

But have you considered that the population here may not be representative? I mean a lot of forum users here will probably have (had) more lenses than the average DSLR user.

Yes, I agree entirely that DPR readers are a biased sample of DSLR users. However, the main thing I'm interested in is the difference between the two values: lenses/camera bought, and lenses/camera available to use. The first of these values is what the industry can measure, but this measurement is being implicitly and mistakenly confused with the second value. As I posted, my values are 1.6 and 5, which is a huge difference. Also, it's possible for the first value to be less than one, whereas the second is only less than one if people own camera bodies for which they have no lenses at all.

However, I think there is still a problem: I want to be able to compare the (average) answer to the two polls. This can only be done if the samples for the two polls are not biased with respect to each other. This would be the case if people voted either in neither or both of the polls, but it seems that some people think that the polls are duplicates rather than asking different questions (that's kind of reasonable, because people are here for leisure reasons, and there's no rule that says they have to read stuff carefully), so only answer one. That's still OK, as long as the people who answer the first poll are not a biased sample in relation to those who answer the second poll. This issue wouldn't have arisen if DPR allowed two poll questions in one post. (So maybe I shouldn't have even tried asking this, but I was curious to know the answer.)

(The sort of data analyses I do for work makes me quite aware of the risks of biasing in sampling, and what conclusions you can and can't draw from data - hence my realisation that lenses/camera bought doesn't tell you whether people ever change the lens on their camera, and my interest in knowing how different the two values are.)

malteser01 Junior Member • Posts: 35
Re: Slow down.

But why restrict this to DSLRs? After all, your real interest is whether people multiple lenses for ILCs. They don't have to be SLRs. Or is it that the m4/3rds gang would skew the numbers because they can carry more lenses around? Hmm, perhaps it would be an idea to have APS-C ILC (not DSLRs obviously) and m4/3 ILC polls.

Does it just come down to weight and price?! After all, APS-C/FF lenses are way bigger and heavier than m4/3 lenses, and typically substantially more expensive too. (I'm a Fuji user.)

Hmm, you've given me thoughts.

Incidentally, my experience differs from yours in that I believe lenses age more quickly than bodies. I've been through 3 lenses on my single SLR...

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merops
OP merops Senior Member • Posts: 2,195
Re: Slow down.

malteser01 wrote:

But why restrict this to DSLRs? After all, your real interest is whether people multiple lenses for ILCs. They don't have to be SLRs. Or is it that the m4/3rds gang would skew the numbers because they can carry more lenses around? Hmm, perhaps it would be an idea to have APS-C ILC (not DSLRs obviously) and m4/3 ILC polls.

I was trying to get a reasonably 'homogeneous' sample: the difference between the two values (lenses/cameras bought; lenses/cameras available to use) might be similar in different camera types, but the actual values be different ... for the reasons you give:

Does it just come down to weight and price?! After all, APS-C/FF lenses are way bigger and heavier than m4/3 lenses, and typically substantially more expensive too. (I'm a Fuji user.)

Hmm, you've given me thoughts.

Incidentally, my experience differs from yours in that I believe lenses age more quickly than bodies. I've been through 3 lenses on my single SLR...

I was taking the ''glass is a better investment than bodies'' adage as an indication that the average lifespan of a lens is greater than that of a body, but I'm sure there will be some exceptions, such as yours.

Dennis Forum Pro • Posts: 18,609
Re: Why are so few lenses bought per DSLR? (Motivation of two polls)

merops wrote:

Every so often I see a blog or forum post about how few lenses are bought per DSLR, usually together with a comment along the lines of “for most people it was pointless to buy an interchangeable-lens camera”.

Ahhh ...

But most DSLRs sold are entry level bodies sold to consumers who aren't interested in photography as a hobby, so polling on dpreview is irrelevant and misleading.

- Dennis

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jrtrent Veteran Member • Posts: 4,883
Re: Why are so few lenses bought per DSLR? (Motivation of two polls)

merops wrote:

Every so often I see a blog or forum post about how few lenses are bought per DSLR, usually together with a comment along the lines of “for most people it was pointless to buy an interchangeable-lens camera”.

Another thing to consider is that interchangeable-lens cameras have more to offer than just the fact that you can change lenses. The viewing system alone on a DSLR could be reason enough to buy one.  Control flexibility, ergonomics, and the variety of accessories available could also be good reasons for choosing a DSLR, even if the only lens a person needs or wants is the kit zoom.

While I agree that a fair proportion of users may only ever buy one lens, I think that the average number of lenses bought per camera body (the number available to the industry) is misleading taken as a raw statistic . . . I have set up two polls to compare these two numbers (how many lenses/camera have you bought; how many lenses/camera do you have available to use).

I think that's an interesting idea for a poll, that a person who has purchased 1 or 2 lenses per each camera body purchased could end up with many lenses available for the camera body they're currently using.

First, some of those who currently have bought only one lens will go on to buy more lenses. For these people it is not pointless to have bought an ILC. There will always be beginners.

Interesting that you associate having/using just one lens with "beginners," or that the acquisition of multiple lenses is needed to justify the ownership of an ILC.  I think Raymond Cho mentioned in another thread that many people may only need a 3X zoom.  The kit lens most of the moderately-priced DSLR's are sold with already encompasses the range that used to be considered a standard trio of lenses for SLR and rangefinder camera users (e.g., the 35, 50, and 85mm lenses I bought for a Contax outfit), so one lens can serve multiple purposes.

Second, which is the point I really want to make, the same lens can be used on multiple bodies. Indeed it is likely to be used on multiple bodies because lenses ‘age’ more slowly than bodies. Even if the number of lenses sold per camera was exactly 1, I would expect many people to have a range of choices of lens to use on their camera(s). For example, since going digital, I have bought 8 lenses (of which 3 have been stolen), and 5 camera bodies (all the same mount-type and format). I have therefore bought 1.6 lenses/camera

I have also purchased 5 DSLR's, but aside from a second Olympus body to replace one that died, all used different mounts (Nikon, Olympus, Samsung, Sigma). For one purchase, it was actually cheaper to buy a camera as part of a two-lens kit rather than as a body alone or with one lens, so I have purchased 6 new lenses for the 5 camera bodies, or 1.2 lenses/camera.

Another way of looking at it is that since four of those six lenses was a standard zoom in the mount needed for that camera body, functionally, I've only purchased three lens types:  a standard zoom, a telephoto zoom (which was in the two-lens kit, and which I gave away as I knew I'd never use it), and an f/1.4 normal prime (the only lens I purchased for the Sigma; it's also the type of lens I used with the Nikon body, but that lens was received used).

– you might think of me as an almost equal mixture of a complete noob (1 lens/camera) and someone just beginning to experiment (got their second lens for the same body). In fact I have a choice of 5 different lenses for each of the bodies that I (still) have!

There was a time in my experimentation with the hobby that I bought and used a lot of lenses, and other accessories (I think I had just about every lens and accessory available when I was using Praktica bayonet-series bodies), but over time I discovered that all I really needed for the pictures I enjoy is a normal lens (or a standard zoom, which I typically shoot at a normal focal length). Using 1 lens per camera body doesn't have to mean that a person is new to the hobby, nor does using just one or two lenses have to mean a person is beginning to experiment; it could also be indicative of an experienced hobbyist who already knows what he does and doesn't need.

Sad Joe New Member • Posts: 12
Re: Why are so few lenses bought per DSLR? (Motivation of two polls)

Well, maybe I am hogging someone else's lenses as I have 2 x Canon DSLR but 8 x AF lenses (and counting) plus 6 x FD lenses and even older M42 lenses via a range of adapters. Next on my buy list is the 40mm F2.8 or the 50 1.4mm. Perhaps its time to update an DSLR instead so I don't wish to continue to screw the figures up.....the whole point of having a DSLR is to change lenses...

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nelsonal Senior Member • Posts: 2,464
Re: Why are so few lenses bought per DSLR? (Motivation of two polls)

I'm sure I screwed up your polls pretty well.  I've bought 1 lens using the definition provided (half of my two DSLRs).  I have available to use more than 20 lenses, as I have many used and more adapted lenses, but have only bought 1 lens new.

Mike_PEAT Forum Pro • Posts: 13,321
Unless you bought cameras with a different mount...
2

It's the divided by dSLRs part that skews the answer...I've had 4 dSLRs in 10 years but they all had the same mount, so I wouldn't buy new lenses with each body!

It's not until I bought a mirrorless that I got new lenses, but at first I used the same lenses from my dSLR with an adapter, until I desired some smaller lenses to match the size of the smaller body.

Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 19,840
People buy the lenses they feel they need. . .

Most people can, and do, get by with just one or two lenses. This isn't some arbitrary rule I made up, but is based on my observation of how people behave.

People tend to concentrate on those types of photography that they like the most. Birders buy long lenses, and don't often have much need for super-wides. Street shooters and candids shooters, tend to buy fast, modest wides, and don't often buy long lenses or super-wides.

Photographers are no different than anyone else. They want to make their money improve the things they care about and they avoid the lenses that can't help them with their passion, unless they have the extra cash laying about for no good reason and feel like an indulgence.

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merops
OP merops Senior Member • Posts: 2,195
Re: People buy the lenses they feel they need. . .

Thanks for all the answers. I was interested in a specific question (see OP), but there are some interesting comments around the topic of why people have different numbers of lenses/camera.

At present there are 40 answers to the 'bought' poll and 60 to the 'available to buy' poll. Clearly some people didn't answer both polls. On the (shaky) assumption that the two groups of people are not biased with respect to each other, it is clear (eye-balling test, P <<0.05 ) that lenses/camera bought is generally less than lenses/camera available to use. For 'bought', the median (the middle-ranked vote) is >2 to 5, and for 'available to use' it is >5 to 10. This is the kind of difference I expected to find between these two numbers. Obviously, if the sample was of more 'entry-level' photographers, both the medians would be lower, but the difference would very likely still exist.

If you still want to vote, the polls are here:

'bought': http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52242300

'available to use': http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52242304

CAcreeks
CAcreeks Forum Pro • Posts: 12,820
Some people feel ripped off
1

It goes way back.

Canon and Minolta abandon their manual focus mounts for new autofocus mounts.

Nikon makes old lenses increasingly incompatible with new bodies.

Olympus stops making an ILC. Contax and Minolta go out of business.

Pentax makes exclusively APS-C cameras so their previous range of lenses isn't wide enough.

Sony creates a new E mount (unnecessarily?) while still producing A mount cameras.

Olympus claims to still support 4/3 but MFT seems to have taken over mind-share and R&D.

Bottom line: why commit to anything.

stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 19,739
Re: Some people feel ripped off

CAcreeks wrote:

It goes way back.

Canon and Minolta abandon their manual focus mounts for new autofocus mounts.

Nikon makes old lenses increasingly incompatible with new bodies.

? I can still use my 1979 50mm 1.8 AI lens. What are you referring to?

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MediaArchivist
MediaArchivist Veteran Member • Posts: 4,663
Re: Some people feel ripped off

CAcreeks wrote:

It goes way back.

Canon and Minolta abandon their manual focus mounts for new autofocus mounts.

Minolta switched from the MD/SR mount to the (current) A mount in 1985... almost 30 years ago. I have one of the first A mount lenses from 1985 and it works perfectly on my a77 and a99, and there are thousands of good condition Minolta lenses available at any given time. I am not as familiar with the other mounts, but at some point progress has to happen. I do understand the frustration from lack of a screw drive for AF, but that is only "entry level" cameras. If you have older lenses just don't get an entry level camera.

It should be noted that on MFT and NEX systems, adapters are available that will allow almost any lens ever made to work on them. Perhaps some people feel ripped off, but I am certainly not one of them.

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GodSpeaks
GodSpeaks Forum Pro • Posts: 13,598
Re: Some people feel ripped off

CAcreeks wrote:

It goes way back.

Canon and Minolta abandon their manual focus mounts for new autofocus mounts.

Nikon makes old lenses increasingly incompatible with new bodies.

Actually, there are very very few lenses that Nikon has made over the years that are incompatable with the current Nikon DSLR lineup.

Every old lens may not be compatable with every current body, but there is likely a body that will work.  Screw drive AF lenses, for example.

Olympus stops making an ILC. Contax and Minolta go out of business.

Minolta is now Sony.  Not sure to what Olympus ILC you refer.

Pentax makes exclusively APS-C cameras so their previous range of lenses isn't wide enough.

Wait for their entry into FF.  

Sony creates a new E mount (unnecessarily?) while still producing A mount cameras.

Unnecessarily?  I cannot agree with that.

Olympus claims to still support 4/3 but MFT seems to have taken over mind-share and R&D.

The new EM-1 does properly support 4/3 lenses.

Bottom line: why commit to anything.

I sure do not feel 'ripped off'.  Why do you?

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Sammy Yousef
Sammy Yousef Veteran Member • Posts: 4,655
Why buy lenses?
1

I'm not here to make camera companies rich. I buy a lens when I need it because my existing set doesn't do something I want to.

A good well rounded set up that would let you shoot most things would include 3-4 zoom lenses to cover everything from ultrawide to somewhere between 300mm and 500mm, a 1:1 macro lens, a portrait lens and perhaps a couple of other primes. That gives you everything from microscopic to telescopic and low light to boot. You can't hang more than 2-3 of them off your neck at a time and there will be overlap. Sure you can spend a mint on specialised glass but unless you're shooting regularly in conditions that require it, how is an amateur hobbyist to justify lenses that can cost more than cars?

Most beginners and casual shooters can get buy on one or two lenses. They're not shooting sports action, macro or astrophotography, and the built in flash is enough for them.

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57LowRider Veteran Member • Posts: 3,997
Re: Why are so few lenses bought per DSLR? (Motivation of two polls)

Never mind dSLR, back in the day you had to be really keen (and have plenty of disposable income) to buy a range of lenses for your SLR. I only ever had two lenses for my OM-10, the kit 50 and a Tokina zoom. That was enough to do most of what I wanted to do at the time and it was as much as I was willing to spend. I'm sure that was the situation for many other people; the ILC factor was convenient for us but almost secondary to the then unique functions of an SLR body (like view and metering through the lens).

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