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Author Topic: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...  (Read 7663 times)

dilbert

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2010, 09:16:29 AM »
I think the real question is whether Canon realizes that there is a gap in it's line of lenses, and whether it's going to do anything about it before the crowd stops buying Canon lenses.

As example, which I brought before, take the price of the 100-400/4.5-5.6 zoom.

For the price of that lens, one could buy a 7D with 55-250/4-5.6 (250mm on APS-C being equivalent to 400mm on FF), or 50D with 70-300/4-5.6 + change.

If Sigma can manufacture a 150-500mm for FF with a price tag between those options, so can Canon. Based on past behavior, Canon is more likely to upgrade the 100-400 lens & raise it's price even further, making the gap even bigger.

Eventually, one of the competitors will come in and fill that gap.

But will that necessarily harm Canon?

If the image quality and feature set of the gap filler were at least the equal of the 100-400 (or its replacement), then I could see you arguing yes. But so long as the 100-400 is perceived to be better than what's around it then I'd argue that a gap filler from a 3rd party will not necessarily threaten or harm Canon.

It doesn't have to be as good as the 100-400, just good enough to justify it's lower price.

Let's talk about a 5DmkII body owner who wants a zoom lens longer than 300mm, but is not willing to spend $1,600 on it. Unless you would like to claim there are no such customers, they can:

* Buy an APS-C or 3/4 body with an appropriately shorter lens.

* Compromise on a cheaper lens from a third party, such as the Sigma 150-500mm.

[Note the compromise - he's not getting the same quality, but he's not paying the same price either.]

* Buy a Canon lens that costs about the same the third party lens, and is at least as good as said 3rd party lens.

As the third option doesn't exist, and the first option not likely (and a threat to Canon), the third party lens is a threat to Canon.

If you buy f/2.8 lenses then you have the option of using them in combination with either a 1.4x or 2.0x teleconverter. That can turn a 70-200 into either a 98-280 or 140-400. Ok, that does up the price a little but the MkI can still be had for about $1300.

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2010, 09:16:29 AM »

neuroanatomist

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #16 on: October 01, 2010, 12:13:35 PM »
I'm tempted to say that I think Sigma and Tamron target amateurs and not professionals.

I wonder who Sigma considers the target audience for THIS LENS?!?  Perhaps amateur photographers who are willing to trade in their Lexus for a Lens?
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unfocused

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #17 on: October 01, 2010, 03:50:32 PM »
Just some observations here:

Canon doesn't let the third-party manufacturers compete because they want to. They do it because they have to. I'm sure Nikon and Canon would love it if you had to buy only their lenses, but that isn't a choice available in the marketplace.

If Canon didn't give the third-parties access to their mounts, they would be at a significant competitive disadvantage against Nikon and vice-versa. So both cooperate with the third parties because they have to, not because they are nice guys that want to concede a share of the market.

In fact, I seen no evidence that they are conceding anything. Look at the 250/300mm zoom market. It's one of the most crowded markets in the business, with manufacturers offering lenses from under $200 to (now) $1,500 for the new "L" zoom. Neither Nikon nor Canon are conceding the market to third parties. In fact, if you note that both companies consistently offer a 300mm range zoom in a bundle, you can see that they are clearly trying to protect their market share in that segment. (Get the new camera buyer to buy a two-lens combo in the range where they have the most choice and you start to lock them in to your brand).

I don't know of any evidence out there that "L" lenses are more profitable than non "L" lenses. The margin on an individual lens may be higher for an "L" but the volume will overcome the margin. I would be willing to bet that Canon's profits on its 55-250 EF-S far outweigh their profits on the "Big Whites."

It is interesting to me that third-party manufacturers are starting to compete more directly in the higher-end segment. In my opinion, Canon and Nikon been a bit negligent in producing top-quality lenses for crop bodies and the competitors are stepping up to fill the gap. As a consumer, I couldn't be more pleased, because more competition means more choices at better prices.

I think it is wrong to assume that low-cost lenses don't affect sales of high-cost lenses. Let's go back to the 300mm zoom example. Canon has announced a $1,500 lens. Tamron has announced a $400 lens. Tamron is marketing their new lens as the "sharpest ever." If that proves to be the case, will a sharp, good quality $400 lens cut into the market for a $1,500 "L" lens.

I say it will because no one makes these purchasing decisions in a vacuum. With some compromises, I can afford a $1,500 lens, but I have to weigh what I am giving up against what I am getting. Is the sharpness of the $1,500 lens noticeably superior, or is it "academic?" Do I really need a lens I can take to the rain forest? How often will I be going to the rain forest over the next five years? What's the likelihood that a another lens will be introduced that I want more (a new 100-400mm for example, or a fast 15-70mm.) What else could I buy with that money (new flash, second body, new version of Photoshop, A weekend photo trip, etc.) What value do I set on owning an "L" lens that is, admittedly, pretty cool and impressive.

Every consumer does their own cost-benefit analysis and reaches their own conclusions, but my point is that in the real world, high-end goods do have to compete against value-priced goods for the total consumer dollar.

As a side note, for consumers, the lower the cost, usually the smaller the risk. (I can afford to spend $400 on a Tamron Zoom and if I find it doesn't meet my needs or something new comes out that I really want, I haven't lost that much. I can't afford that risk with a $1,500 lens). In the case of a business, the reverse is usually true. (A commercial photographer on assignment, for example, might spend the $1,500 because the risk involved in using the bargain lens is much greater)

Anyway, just a series of observations to throw some kerosene on the fire.

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dilbert

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #18 on: October 02, 2010, 02:23:18 AM »
I think it is wrong to assume that low-cost lenses don't affect sales of high-cost lenses. Let's go back to the 300mm zoom example. Canon has announced a $1,500 lens. Tamron has announced a $400 lens. Tamron is marketing their new lens as the "sharpest ever." If that proves to be the case, will a sharp, good quality $400 lens cut into the market for a $1,500 "L" lens.
...
As a side note, for consumers, the lower the cost, usually the smaller the risk. (I can afford to spend $400 on a Tamron Zoom and if I find it doesn't meet my needs or something new comes out that I really want, I haven't lost that much. I can't afford that risk with a $1,500 lens). In the case of a business, the reverse is usually true. (A commercial photographer on assignment, for example, might spend the $1,500 because the risk involved in using the bargain lens is much greater)

Anyway, just a series of observations to throw some kerosene on the fire.

This made me a bit curious ... but the only semi-review I can find here:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/Tamron-SP70300mm-f456-Di-VC-USD-14690
which lacks the technical data that photozone.de presents :(

Tamron's USA web page has a very limited MTF graph here:
www.tamron-usa.com/lenses/prod/70300_vcusd_a005.asp

... anyone know of any other, better, data from a review of this lens?

Edwin Herdman

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #19 on: October 03, 2010, 08:05:20 PM »
If Canon didn't give the third-parties access to their mounts, they would be at a significant competitive disadvantage against Nikon and vice-versa.
Canon don't give access to their mounts to third parties.  The EF mount's signalling scheme has been reverse-engineered by other companies, and they STILL don't get it right.

I will agree so far as that Canon isn't really in a position to put encryption or some other strong measure into the EF lens spec.  Even if it were being developed today, the prospect of being locked out of all third party lenses would drive many buyers away.  However, this is more a case of Canon not taking certain proactive steps to lock down the EF mount, rather than opening it up.
I think it is wrong to assume that low-cost lenses don't affect sales of high-cost lenses. Let's go back to the 300mm zoom example. Canon has announced a $1,500 lens. Tamron has announced a $400 lens. Tamron is marketing their new lens as the "sharpest ever." If that proves to be the case, will a sharp, good quality $400 lens cut into the market for a $1,500 "L" lens.  [...]

This made me a bit curious ... but the only semi-review I can find here:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/Tamron-SP70300mm-f456-Di-VC-USD-14690
which lacks the technical data that photozone.de presents :(

Tamron's USA web page has a very limited MTF graph here:
www.tamron-usa.com/lenses/prod/70300_vcusd_a005.asp

... anyone know of any other, better, data from a review of this lens?
Quick note to unfocused, the Tamron lens marketing is a bit confusing.

First it says:
Quote
Unparalleled optical performance in a fast and steady telephoto zoom: In the pursuit to achieve the most outstanding image resolution in the 70-300mm class,
Well, that's two sentences, and it just talks about the "70-300mm class" as if it were just one class of lenses, as if you could talk about the "70-200mm class" or the "50mm class."  It's not clear what they are comparing the "unparalleled" performance to from that, but the language points to it being meaningless.
...then it says:
Quote
As a result, the SP AF70-300mm F4-5.6 Di VC USD (Model A005) boasts sharper contrast and greater descriptive performance than all others in its class.
Well, clearly, $400 and $1500 are different classes of lens, just as the 70-200 and 50mm lens "classes" have their own distinct entries.  I don't think it would take much to surpass the image quality of cheapo 70-300mm lenses.  It's also worth considering when this marketing was composed...if it was done before the 70-300mm was publicly announced (I think it's likely), there was considerably less competition in that range for high quality (the DO lens, from Canon, which isn't well loved, and a lot of other plastic lenses).  All this comes without mentioning the quality of construction, or the possible speed and accuracy of the autofocus system.

About dilbert's quote:  The ephotozine graphs are interesting, but I'm not in the mood to try to translate them into Canon style MTFs (it could be done somewhat; you'd just take the wide-open and f/8 results and try to plot those as points on a Canon MTF, which show much more information for two useful apertures; the ephotozine graphs show the results of stopping down and diffraction eventually setting in, which is something we all know about and which I don't find terribly interesting).  More to the point, we don't know how their methodology differs from Canon's, so we can't compare them directly.  One might be a theoretical MTF chart, another might be observed.  (I guess the ephotozine results are their own results, observed, because I thought Tamron used Canon-style MTF line charts.)  And even if you knew that (I don't feel like searching the web or making phone calls, too busy), you still don't know how their methods differ in other points.  Not enough similar data points to compare, in any case (each of the ephotozine charts provides something like four points you could conceivably compare to a Canon MTF chart).

unfocused

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #20 on: October 03, 2010, 10:36:15 PM »
Quote
Well, clearly, $400 and $1500 are different classes of lens,

That's the whole point. If you read my post, you will see that I used the Tamron and the Canon lenses to illustrate that products that might not appear to be in direct competition with one another actually do have to compete. They are different classes of lenses, but consumers still compare them and assign a value to a whole range of factors when making a purchase in a competitive marketplace.

I used this example as an illustration because some have suggested that Canon and Nikon don't care and don't worry about competition from third party manufacturers. I'm simply showing that they have to, because consumers do not make their decisions in a vacuum. The two lenses just made a handy illustration. One could use any number of products to make the same point.
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dilbert

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #21 on: October 04, 2010, 12:35:28 AM »
Quote
Well, clearly, $400 and $1500 are different classes of lens,

That's the whole point. If you read my post, you will see that I used the Tamron and the Canon lenses to illustrate that products that might not appear to be in direct competition with one another actually do have to compete. They are different classes of lenses, but consumers still compare them and assign a value to a whole range of factors when making a purchase in a competitive marketplace.

What I take Tamron's comments to mean is that their lens has better IQ than the 70-300 IS USM (that is now EOL'd by Canon.) For a cheap lens, that particular Canon lens was praised by many as having L-like IQ:

http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/200-canon-ef-70-300mm-f4-56-usm-is-test-report--review?start=2


Quote
Verdict

The performance of the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 USM IS came as a total surprise. Unlike its predecessor the lens is capable to produce a very high performance throughout the zoom range without the significant drop in quality at 300mm typical for most consumer grade lenses in this range. It seems as if the new UD element helps to lift the optical quality significantly. Distortions, CAs as well as vignetting are also very respectable. So in terms of optical quality the EF 70-300mm IS can be almost described as a hidden Canon L lens. As much as it may promise here its build quality remains in line to what you can expect from a consumer grade lens and the small max. aperture is limiting its scope specifically regarding portraits where you seek for a pronounced fore-/background blurr only possible via large apertures (f/2.8 and larger). However, if you're looking for a very good, light-weight tele zoom e.g. for travel photography this lens should be high on your shopping list. "


... if the Tamron lens is better than this then I expect a lot of people will be interested in it...

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #21 on: October 04, 2010, 12:35:28 AM »

Edwin Herdman

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #22 on: October 04, 2010, 03:38:24 AM »
That's the whole point. If you read my post [snip]
I wouldn't ever disagree with your overall argument - that people weight different lenses by cost and utility.  It would help explain my thinking if I highlighted the part of your post I was responding to:
Quote
I think it is wrong to assume that low-cost lenses don't affect sales of high-cost lenses. Let's go back to the 300mm zoom example. Canon has announced a $1,500 lens. Tamron has announced a $400 lens. Tamron is marketing their new lens as the "sharpest ever." If that proves to be the case, will a sharp, good quality $400 lens cut into the market for a $1,500 "L" lens.
"Sharpest ever" is pretty strong language.  I was cautious about reading too much into your words there, but it made me look at Tamron's specific wording and claim of "unparalleled optical performance."  They didn't say sharpest ever (i.e. of all lenses) but they come pretty close; they may be deliberately vague about what other lenses comprise the "class."  I conclude that they want everyone to think that way, even if it's an unreasonable claim (not that I know this to be the case - in fact I'm leaning towards the Tamron being almost or just as sharp as the Canon, and more consistent across the frame too).  My point is only that, and I was trying to see if I couldn't unravel their marketing a bit.  Similarly, a lot of the praise for the Canon 70-300mm seems too strong, too, after the release of its own MTF chart.  We get one or two cherry-picked pictures from them (the only I've seen that was useful was the full-frame cat picture from a 5D Mark II, which looks very nice though perhaps not up to the standards of a safari or in displaying the result from challenging lighting situations).  I feel that the 70-300mm L charts look astonishingly like those of the 100-400 of 1998, reversed - with the 100-400 seemingly better at the far end, and the Canon 70-300mm L looking better at 70mm, like any other 70-300mm zoom.  I will feel a lot better about all this when more impressions and photo samples appear!

There is also a danger of uncritically assuming that Canon knows best and Tamron is fated to short as usual (so goes the ancient prophecy / stereotype).  Obviously we don't know yet, but right now it looks very good for Tamron.  All of Canon's previous 70-300mm cheapies (even the DO, which isn't cheap) seem to be blown away (remembering Michael Reichmann's warning against comparing MTFs from different companies) by both the new Canon and the new Tamron.  The comparison is lenses that start out at 60-80% contrast and go down from there, across the frame, against lenses that start out above 80%, maybe even above 90%, in the center.

It's interesting to point out that the Tamron 70-300 chart is smoother than the Canon one (not to mention much smaller and harder to read).  One possibility is Tamron's chart could be less precise / incorporates fewer samples than the Canon one, but I don't see an issue in how they present their chart that way (aside from the really horrible decision to make it tiny).  If I can compare the two MTF charts, the Tamron may well be just as good as the Canon (in terms of MTF - versus the Canon, the possibility of the Tamron's aperture closing at a different rate, or sharpness improving at a different rate when stopping down, complicates things), the Tamron charts may well point to it being every bit as sharp as the Canon, and not just starting off about as sharp as the Canon, but holding that sharpness almost all the way across a full frame, where the Canon 70-300's sharpness starts dropping off pretty quickly.  It seems safe to assume that these good traits improve as it's stopped down.

You've presented me with a welcome opportunity for me to ask myself how much of a premium I put on the (assumed) Canon-issue autofocus reliability advantage (assuming my camera is good at AF; it isn't), IS (four stops versus three?  Seems to be the case for the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 versus the Canon one, as well; I doubt I'd like to press IS that far in most cases), weather sealing, the anti-smearing coating, and the white metal body.  If I were out there shooting pictures from my own budget for a living, I wouldn't put a $1100 premium on the 70-300 unless I really thought it had some kind of durability advantage, or it had a proven edge in image quality and autofocus hits (at the $400 price, you can replace the Tamron easily, or stock nearly four for redundancy before you could get a single Canon 70-300mm L; obviously I'd not like to carry around that much in case of emergencies, but having an extra with the luggage could be extremely useful).

There's also a lot that could be fairly critical in creating a pleasing image that one or the other lens does better or worse than the other, which is hard (or impossible) for me to guess from spec sheets, with blur and color reproduction being the two that come to mind.

I'll admit that I have a bias towards hideously expensive, special-purpose lenses, which is why my personal lens collection is so unbalanced towards everyday shooting :)  It's been great for technique though.

My final thought is that this is, on the whole, looking to to be a possibly disappointing end of the year for Canon.  If the 70-300mm's reputation ends up as "it's metal and white but otherwise $1100 more expensive than the Tamron," this will be the second relatively high-profile, excitement-causing announcement that got undercut by the competition - in this case the $1100 price difference leaves the possibility of it being looked at as another Canon entry undercut by the competition.

I won't say that 2010 was a wasted year - facts, that the 60D received such criticisms and price competition, despite its great new (may I say innovative?) features, and that the Canon 70-300mm has strong competition, augur well for photographers.  We are getting much needed refreshes of some critical components, more options at price ranges suitable for different budgets, and apparently more competition overall.  I suppose this was expected, after the incredible, economy-proof growth of the DSLR segment around the time I got my T1i, with sales records being surpassed in shorter time than ever.  From a snip of a Canon announcement off DP Review earlier this year:
[quote# In 2003, the 20 millionth EOS camera was produced, doubling the previous 10million landmark in just six years
# In December 2007, the EOS series’ 20-year anniversary, production of EOS SLR cameras rose past 30 million – just four years after passing 20 million
# In April 2010, Canon reached its current 40 million production milestone – rising from 30 million units in just two years and four months.[/quote]
The 50 million EF lenses milestone was reached this year, as well.

unfocused

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #23 on: October 04, 2010, 12:12:22 PM »
Edwin and Dilbert,

I think we all came to the same conclusions, just from slightly different perspectives. You both are much more technologically literate than I am and I appreciate your efforts to really delve into the details.

One correction, when I wrote my original post I used the phrase "sharpest ever." I didn't have Tamron's marketing materials in front of me and it looks like I mis-remembered their tag line. Should have written "Sharpest, by Design," which is what they are using in ads. Doesn't really change anything. It's a marketing term, obviously, but was interesting to me because it indicates that they are clearly sending a message that they intend to compete on the basis of sharpness.

Quote
My final thought is that this is, on the whole, looking to to be a possibly disappointing end of the year for Canon

Me too. It's not like I'm angry or anything, just kind of disappointed that the summer/fall announcements so far haven't been particularly exciting. Of course, these things are always from a personal perspective, but I was surprised that we didn't see a new EF-S lens announced with the 60D. Maybe I got spoiled by the quick succession of 7D, 15-85 EF-S and 100mm Macro IS announcements (Which combined to do some pretty serious damage to my wallet).

Someone on the forum suggested that Canon may be upgrading their "L" lenses to accommodate the next generation of sensors, with an eye toward the usual 10-year or more lifespan of "L" lenses. That made some sense to me. A necessary chore, but not likely to excite consumers. Maybe we'll see more fun stuff in 2011.
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Edwin Herdman

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #24 on: October 05, 2010, 02:04:45 PM »
It's a marketing term, obviously, but was interesting to me because it indicates that they are clearly sending a message that they intend to compete on the basis of sharpness.
Agreed 100%.  It'll be great if they actually do compete at the level this suggests.

Thanks for the compliments, as well, but I wouldn't put too much faith in my MTF readings...it's fun to guess at, nothing more useful than that.
« Last Edit: October 05, 2010, 02:10:08 PM by Edwin Herdman »

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Re: Speculation on why new lenses cost more...
« Reply #24 on: October 05, 2010, 02:04:45 PM »