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Author Topic: The Price of Full Frame  (Read 9966 times)

daniemare

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The Price of Full Frame
« on: February 10, 2012, 01:50:15 AM »
Just read the rumour about the 5 Series split. I was wondering, with the D800 announced and priced ($3-$3,5k body) and Canon bound to respond within this same spec and price range (it seems for both), where does this leave average photographers - whether enthusiast or pure amateur/hobbyist.

I am almost certain there are more casual (even pro's) photographers out there that are PRICE sensitive rather than SPEC sensitive.  In the film days, full frame cameras were truly available in all shapes, sizes and prices. 

Being a 60D user, I regularly contemplate my upgrade path. The 7D is a very specific cam - well sealed & sports level AF. And FF appears to be that next step in IQ, low noise and DOF control everyone raves about.

What I would like to see is a rebel FF body - Call it a 6D or whatever:
- 1DX Sensor - this will give Canon another body to get volumes up on the sensor
- Upcoming 70D body and Movie features - another re-use
- Current 7D AF - paid off tech

Priced at at under $2k body only.  I can then either use F4 "L" zooms or 3rd Party lenses, with a non-L primes for low light (seeing that the new 24-70 is another price shocker).

Outside of 7D users, I guess most APS-C users are also not too heavily invested in glass, and if so, I suppose some of that is crop body specific in any case. So moving to full frame is not really "switching systems" for most APS-C users. So from where I am sitting a low cost FF body might just steal some other brand customer to Canon also.

Yes the 5D mark II will be available soon second hand, but Canon doesn't make any money from that.

Am I really alone in thinking, as a Hobbyist, that a $2k FF body will be awesome and the current Price trend seems ridiculous? Can Canon make money with such a lower priced FF body with parts from the wheely bin, bearing in mind future L lens sales? Will this cannibalize sales of other bodies? Or does every single FF user out there crave for the 36MP 61 AF pt monster at $3,5k body only as rumoured?
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The Price of Full Frame
« on: February 10, 2012, 01:50:15 AM »

briansquibb

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2012, 02:04:37 AM »

Am I really alone in thinking, as a Hobbyist, that a $2k FF body will be awesome and the current Price trend seems ridiculous? Can Canon make money with such a lower priced FF body with parts from the wheely bin, bearing in mind future L lens sales? Will this cannibalize sales of other bodies? Or does every single FF user out there crave for the 36MP 61 AF pt monster at $3,5k body only as rumoured?

I believe the 5DII street price is about $2k - I suspect the 5DIII STREET price will continue to be the about the same - providing the USD/Yen doesn't continue to get worse

wickidwombat

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2012, 02:10:59 AM »
I really think Canon will keep the 5D2 and reprice it to $1999 to satisfy and own the entry FF market
still great cameras, great IQ and AF works brilliantly in MF mode :P but seriously the center point with f2.8 glass is alright for most stuff. Cannon would be mad to not just continuing to make mk2s and keep that cash cow alive as long as possible
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iaind

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2012, 02:17:13 AM »
I really think Canon will keep the 5D2 and reprice it to $1999 to satisfy and own the entry FF market
still great cameras, great IQ and AF works brilliantly in MF mode :P but seriously the center point with f2.8 glass is alright for most stuff. Cannon would be mad to not just continuing to make mk2s and keep that cash cow alive as long as possible

I agree as replacement will probably be at least $700 more
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sphax

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2012, 03:25:38 AM »
I really think Canon will keep the 5D2 and reprice it to $1999 to satisfy and own the entry FF market
still great cameras, great IQ and AF works brilliantly in MF mode :P but seriously the center point with f2.8 glass is alright for most stuff. Cannon would be mad to not just continuing to make mk2s and keep that cash cow alive as long as possible

Totally agreed, that would be the smart thing to go for Canon, and would put them in a great position to rule the low-FF-market that our friend Danlemare here is obviously representing !! The aged AF will make it way less attractive than the new models (mkIII or X, whatever) but the price drop that I expect to be something like 800$ (1899$ -> 2699$) will for sure create a place for it !! I wouldn't pick it 'cos I really need the best AF possible (why I chose the 7D - I shoot both ski and mtb, so it needs to focus fast !) but it would for sure find its way through the market !! I hope Canon is actually thinking more of the combo 5DmkII cheap + 5DX great than this idiots split in the 5D line that was mentioned today ...

mws

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2012, 09:31:53 AM »
Anyone have any idea on the actually manufacturing costs of a full frame chip vs. a c size? Other then one being larger then the other, I would have to guess that the technology can't be all that different.

neuroanatomist

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2012, 09:55:52 AM »
Anyone have any idea on the actually manufacturing costs of a full frame chip vs. a c size? Other then one being larger then the other, I would have to guess that the technology can't be all that different.

Canon has stated that production cost for a FF sensor is upwards of 20 times the production cost of an APS-C sensor.  It's a combination of far fewer sensors from each wafer, a requirement for more stamping passes for FF vs. APS-C, and proportionately greater loss of FF sensors from QC.
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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2012, 09:55:52 AM »

stabmasterasron

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2012, 10:05:31 AM »
As to the question of how much a FF sensor costs – I am sure someone on here will eventually post that a FF sensor costs 20X as much to produce as a crop sensor.  That is a number I hear thrown around a lot.  I am skeptical of such things, so I did a little research as to the origins of this number.  It seems it was inferred from a white paper written by canon back in 2006.
To me, it seems highly unlikely that the price gap between FF and crop sensor remains today (if it ever truly was) 20X.  Lets say that maybe back when the 5D first launched that the FF sensors were very low volume compared to crop sensors.  Maybe, just maybe way back then, it could have been.  But now, Canon sells lots of FF sensors.  And they have had 6years to work out problems in the manufacturing process.  The yield rate that used to plague FF sensors – I read that this issue is no longer such an issue, as production tooling has much improved.
Now, the more important question, does it make sense for Canon to drop a FF sensor in a consumer price range camera?  I think it will eventually happen.  Maybe not in the next couple of years, but eventually.  Maybe with Canon’s current product placement, a FF sensor in a low cost package doesn’t make sense, but I think there hand will be forced in this issue because:
What makes more sense is for Sony, or Olympus to drop a nice big fat  FF sensor in a consumer body and price it competitively against the top rebel body.  Give it equal IQ to 5D mkii and better video features.  Also give it really good high ISO performance.  This would be a canon and Nikon killer. Hell, I know I would be tempted to switch systems, or let me be more clear – if Sony or Olympus did this, I would switch systems.  There profits from the camera body might be pretty thin, but they know that the type of people who would buy the camera would also be buying lenses, and other accessories from them.  And before I get flamed by everyone saying that this is not technically possible in this price range – remember technology moves on and things get cheaper and easier to make.  I think it is possible to do this and it makes sense for one of the companies on the outside looking in to take a chance on a body like this to win new customers. 

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2012, 10:28:06 AM »
Canon has no real need to discontinue the 5d2 at it's current price point and positioning... For most rebel, 60D users, having this camera at 1800-1900 would be a great upgrade path and for most hobbyists, it would meet and exceed most peoples expectations... and when they outgrow that camera they can jump to it's big brother, the new 5d, either of them assuming 2 gets released, or the 1d series... If they did discontinue it, I'd see it as a big mistake.   
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thejoyofsobe

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2012, 10:30:49 AM »
i'd be very interested in an "entry-level" full frame camera. what i'm looking for is basically a 60D with a full-frame sensor.

take the 60D build quality, articulated LCD screen, put a 5D2 sensor in it with Digic 5 and sell it for $1500 (i.e. twice as much as the 60D and probably half the 5D3).

if something like that came to life i'd probably preorder it though i'm not holding my breath. if it doesn't i'll probably wait until next year and opt for a used or refurbished 5D2.

unfocused

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2012, 10:31:50 AM »
Sorry, but this is a pipe dream.

Look at the marketplace. The only competition in the full frame market is between Canon and Nikon. Sony discontinued their full frame offerings. Fuji (which may be the most innovative of all the camera manufacturers) seems uninterested in full frame and in fact has indicated that their hybrid technology (digital and organic) will outperform full frame sensors.

Nikon is pricing the D800 at $3,000. It will probably drop some over the next few months, but expect it to settle in around $2,600 to $2,800. They have discontinued the D700. There is no reason for Canon to continue making the 5DII once the new model/models are announced. Nor is there any competitive reason for them to stick a sensor that (as Neuro points out) costs up to 20X as much as an APS-C sensor into another body.

In addition, we really don't know what, if any, profit margin Canon was getting on the 5D II during the pre-Christmas rebate bargains. There were many good reasons for Canon to discount the MkII to a minimal price point. They may have wanted to lock in market share, boost fourth quarter sales numbers, boost lens sales or simply reduce inventory.  I'm not saying they did not make a profit at the prices we saw in December, but I am saying that we don't know that they did.

For years Canon has publicly maintained that they have a goal of migrating APS-C users to full frame over time. But, while that may make for nice sound bites, it does not override the fact that Canon is a business and their long term objective will always be to maximize the profit margin within the constraints of the marketplace. Their actions, and those of virtually every one of their competitors, indicates that almost all the competition, growth and technology innovation is focused on APS-C sensors.
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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2012, 11:03:39 AM »
Or you can buy a full-frame EOS 3 for a few hundred bucks with those sexy 45pt AF points (and "eye-control focus"!), throw some fujichrome in there and enjoy all your EF lenses in their full awesomeness!
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neuroanatomist

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2012, 11:06:55 AM »
What makes more sense is for Sony, or Olympus to drop a nice big fat  FF sensor in a consumer body and price it competitively against the top rebel body.  Give it equal IQ to 5D mkii and better video features.  Also give it really good high ISO performance.  This would be a canon and Nikon killer. Hell, I know I would be tempted to switch systems, or let me be more clear – if Sony or Olympus did this, I would switch systems.  There profits from the camera body might be pretty thin, but they know that the type of people who would buy the camera would also be buying lenses, and other accessories from them.  And before I get flamed by everyone saying that this is not technically possible in this price range – remember technology moves on and things get cheaper and easier to make.  I think it is possible to do this and it makes sense for one of the companies on the outside looking in to take a chance on a body like this to win new customers.


The problem is that the selection of quality lenses from Canon and Nikon is much greater than that offered by Sony or Olympus, so I suspect most of those interested in a FF sensor would think twice.

To me, it seems highly unlikely that the price gap between FF and crop sensor remains today (if it ever truly was) 20X.  Lets say that maybe back when the 5D first launched that the FF sensors were very low volume compared to crop sensors.  Maybe, just maybe way back then, it could have been.  But now, Canon sells lots of FF sensors.  And they have had 6years to work out problems in the manufacturing process.  The yield rate that used to plague FF sensors – I read that this issue is no longer such an issue, as production tooling has much improved.


I think you're probably correct to some extent.  Even the 20x figure stated by Canon was likely an overstatement.  They do reference a need for three stamping passes during lithography - you can see the result of thoses passes on this Nikon D3 sensor:



However, Canon currently makes a lithography imager that can 'expose a 50mm x 50mm area in a single shot' (here's a link to the product).  Granted, that's for CCD/LCD production, but given that the artifacts seen in the D3 sensor above are not found on the 1DsIII sensor, it seems likely that Canon has applied the same technology for internal use in single-shot stamping of CMOS sensors. 

None of the manufacturers publish their production costs, but most estimates I've seen suggest that a current APS-C sensor costs $70-80 to produce, and a current FF sensor costs $300-400 to produce. 

In the bigger picture, though, the cost to produce a sensor is pretty much irrelevant.  Manufacturing costs are far from the most significant factor in determining the price of a product.  Consider - the iPhone 4S and the Amazon Kindle Fire have approximately the same production cost of ~$200.  The Fire sells for about what it costs to produce one, while Apple gets $650 for an iPhone 4S. 
« Last Edit: February 10, 2012, 11:08:35 AM by neuroanatomist »
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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2012, 11:06:55 AM »

stabmasterasron

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2012, 11:56:38 AM »
neuroanatomist, I think those cost numbers seem much more reasonable than the 20X number I always hear.  Thanks for the info, good post.
Yes, it would be a problem that Sony and Olympus do not have high quality lenses built up yet (at least they don’t have the reputation of the L lenses, actual numbers could be different, I don’t know).
But if they could produce a killer body priced just above the top level Rebel, this would pose a serious threat to Rebel sales as well as the equivalent Nikon bodies.  Because the buyers they are then targeting are not people who are long time slr users (who know that lenses are more important to a camera system than the body).  It could be, but the people they would be after are the well healed consumers upgrading from point and shoot, or maybe m4/3.  Give them a killer body and a good kit lens and sell it within a reasonable reach of the top rebel – this would definitely pose a threat to rebel sales.
I know Sony tried this a few years ago.  But I think they didn’t price the camera right.  It was much closer to 5D mkii prices than Rebel prices.  Maybe this had something to do with production costs, who knows.
But one thing is for sure, technology will continue to trickle down to the masses.  Just like when Canon shocked the world with the price/performance of the 5D classic.  This trend will definitely continue.  I don’t know if frame size will continue to be important or not, but a prediction I will boldly make is that digital cameras will continue to get better (I know, I really went out on a limb there).  And image quality will continue to increase and this will be passed down to lower costs models eventually. And then I will still be bitching and moaning that the $3000 body has some feature I really want in my $1000 body.  Some  things never change.

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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2012, 12:29:32 PM »
- Current 7D AF - paid off tech

Keep in mind, AF systems have to be designed for the sensor size they compliment, to achieve the right amount of frame spread. The 7D AF was designed for an APS-C size sensor, so technically speaking, creating a 7D-style 19 cross-type point AF system for FF would not really be paid-off tech. Who knows what kind of nuances might present when "scaling" the technology to FF size, but its highly doubtful it would be particularly cheap. It would need to go through the same kind of design and QA process that any new AF design goes through.
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Re: The Price of Full Frame
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2012, 12:29:32 PM »