What makes housings so expensive?

Discussion in 'The Canon Corner' started by col4bin, Aug 23, 2010.

  1. col4bin

    col4bin Angel Fish

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    I get the part about being waterproof and not corroding from salt water but a lot of housings cost more than the camera bodies. Is it really justified or are we taken advantage of when it comes to pricing?
     
  2. LeeParrish

    LeeParrish Nassau Grouper

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    First, it's like all scuba gear in general which has a high markup due to it being sold in relatively low volumes typically through small resellers that have to carry stock that may or may not turn quickly. Having shelves full of merchandise that doesn't sell quickly is a lot of money to tie up in a store, so you need to get a good rate of return on such items. Stores like Best Buy can sell consumer items at a small markup due to turning products quickly off the shelves.

    Then more specific to underwater housings and gear, this is a much smaller market than the scuba market itself since many divers don't buy this type of gear. So it wouldn't surprise me if some of the higher end housings aren't built to order, and they may only sell very small numbers of them. Cameras sell like consumer items, in fairly high volume for the lower end cameras, and decent volumes at the higher end cameras, since many more photographers do non-underwater work. Then factor in that camera models that change all the time so they have to continually re-tool the housings for the next camera. Add it all up and you are looking at a product that will cost significantly more than a typical high volume consumer product. My guess is that without modern computer based design and layout, CNC, and low cost plastic molding that housings would even be significantly higher than they are now.
     
  3. bvanant

    bvanant Loggerhead Turtle

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    The reason that housings cost so much is that they are essentially hand made, one at a time. A very big very expensive CNC machine will be able to make only one at a time. There is no volume effect where is you make a bunch you can automate. Ikelite molds their housings so once the mold is made you can make the second one a lot cheaper than the first one but the first one costs a ton.

    Go find your local machine shop and ask them to quote you on a housing (and bring them an example) and you will understand that you are not being screwed but that it costs lots to make thinks that big and that complex that don't leak. Sealing is very tough to do. On the other hand, there are little bits and pieces that sometimes make you wonder but it all comes down to the fact that the metal housing guys just don't make enough of any one housing to make them cheap.

    Bill
     
  4. Rainer

    Rainer Tech Diver

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    Market forces. Sheesh.
     
  5. col4bin

    col4bin Angel Fish

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    Thanks all. I would have never figured this out if Rainer did not tell me it was market forces ;)

    I had no idea that there was so much manual labor involved in making these. Thanks for the insight.
     
  6. Nemrod

    Nemrod Giant Squid

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    Extremely low volume, relatively high parts count, very short marketable duration because cameras change on a less than one year cycle. They have to recoup their investment quickly to make a profit.

    You either pony up and play the game or sit it out on the sidelines, some things are just expensive, race cars, boats, telescopes, underwater photography etc are just a few that come to mind that cost more than you think they should, they just do.

    N
     
  7. col4bin

    col4bin Angel Fish

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    I hear you on the expensive thing. My other hobby is modding my car and nothing is cheap in that space.

    I am ready to pony up on the housing. I want to get the shots. I have basically decided to go with the G11 since I already have one.
     
  8. scubamarketing

    scubamarketing NASE Instructor

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    If it makes you feel any better, the retail markup on housings is relatively low. I've purchased Ikelite and Sea & Sea housings in the past at cost and it was less than US$75 under retail.
     
  9. Viz'art

    Viz'art Nassau Grouper

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    see below
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2010
  10. Viz'art

    Viz'art Nassau Grouper

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    It is a question that I am asked quite often, and yes for the most part, they are hand crafted, we do benefit from new CNC (computer numerically controlled) machinery that help us get those slick hi tech looks that you see on housing nowadays, older version housings were casting and you needed the smelter and the foundry and where limited in shape by the process, these CNC machine are the same type you are likely to find in Mc Donnell Douglas and Lockheed Martin machine shop and we actually share a some commons points, our products are both based on pressure resistant envelope and have to be environmentally resistant, the degree of precision required are to the same military specification. As some crew cut leatherneck sergeant would likely say, failure is not an option, so an exhaustive series of test are performed all through the process, every part is hand fitted and tested again and again, it’s a lengthy process and while the final product might seem expensive in the end, but in light of the lengthy process involved and the numbers of operation I can tell you that we at least make an honest living and we are not gouging anyone, I personally think that it’s still possible in North America to come up with quality products at a competitive price while paying the employees a decent wage, all we need to do is keep grounded and fair and avoid behaving like the auto industry whose attitude theses last few years has really disgusted me, with all the corporate BS and golden parachute and other stunts that they have being pulling, it’s a wonder I still drive a North American car


    Dive Photo Guide asked me to write an essay on the making of an underwater housing, this should be on line this fall, you can check for it here: www.DivePhotoGuide.com
     
  11. drbill

    drbill The Lorax for the Kelp Forest

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    As LeeParrish said, low volume market. Might be able to get them more inexpensively if camera manufacturers adopted non-proprietary connectors and button layouts so a smaller range of housing types would be necessary. Heck, in many cases you can't use the same housing for two different cameras from the same manufacturer.

    This is one reason why I've stuck with the Top Dawg for a decade. I've had 6-7 different camcorders in that housing without a single modification. L&M has seen the wisdom with some of their newer housings for Sony HDV camcorders (they made the Top Dawg for Backscatter).
     
  12. LeeParrish

    LeeParrish Nassau Grouper

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    In a way we are the benefactors as well as victims of cameras having turned into consumer electronics devices, away from their precision mechanical roots, which means annual model changes and product lines that are all just slightly different. Today the pace of change and innovation is much faster, but with that we pay in that equipment is obsolete much faster and it means that add-on markets don't have time to recoup costs on developing items like housings. In the older 35mm days, a company might only have a couple camera bodies available, usually one in the pro market, and one maybe in the lower end market. Now look at what Nikon and Canon offer, a whole line of slightly different cameras all along a price curve. Also, in the 35mm days people would buy a camera body and often keep it for many years. I had an old Pentax K1000 that I bought used that was well over a decade old before I upgraded and then only because I found a great deal on a set of Carl Zeiss T* lenses that went to a Contax RTS system. During that decade I switched film a few times since then the innovation was often in film and chemistry, as well as new lens designs. I am pretty sure the K1000 was in production for over a decade. Back then it was quite an event when a new camera body came out. But this was before electronics made their way into cameras. Then the switch to digital photography from film and we are now on a continuous upgrade cycle, with new cameras announced every year at most. We can only hope that it will slow down some time in the future as sensors get capable enough that the need for upgrades becomes less of an enticement. But that time may never come since we are all now conditioned to see these as short term items that we upgrade all the time anyway...
     
  13. Viz'art

    Viz'art Nassau Grouper

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    Your K1000 descend directly from the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic introduced in 1964 and remained virtually unchanged mechanically until it was pulled from the market in 1997, shutter mechanism, mirror box, slow speed governor pretty much remained the same through out its life span, that brings memory, I was a service technician in the 80's for Pentax Canada and I was on SP / K1000 duty, a simpler time it was, I could overhaul one of thoses on a rock in the middle of a forest with only a screw driver and a pair of tweezer:burnout:
     
  14. natew

    natew Nassau Grouper

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    This bugs the heck out of me. And I can't understand why they have to change things so significantly, even in the same product line. Take for example Canon, every model in the A series is different, every sub-series in the A-series is different, which means every single camera they make has a different housing and every year they change the design of everyone of those models. Just from a camera perspective this doesn't make sense, canon has to retool all of their manufacturing atleast once a year, they have to develop new bodies, create new buttons, etc, etc. That has got to cost them a huge amount of money. You also have consumer confusion and resistance to change, people get very familiar with their cameras and many hold onto them for years and years simply because they don't want to learn a new camera. Wouldn't it make sense for these companies to keep bodies and button layouts the same accross years and within specific model lines and just change out the guts? That way people would be more inclined to upgrade more frequently, same camera but better MP or battery efficency or whatever the new cool wiz-bang feature is. Seems like a win-win for everyone.
     
  15. Blueskys4ever

    Blueskys4ever Nassau Grouper

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    Why do automobile makers make subtle changes to the exterior of a model that fundamentally does not mechanically change for 8 years. Sales. Sales. Sales. People are more focused on the cup holders than the transmission.
     
  16. Damselfish

    Damselfish Orca

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    The camera companies do whatever will help make the camera sell without consideration to the housing issue, the UW market is just so small it's not something that concerns them. Sure if they made a more technically advanced camera that fit old housings perfectly a few more UW photographers might buy it. But a bunch of other people might not buy it cause it's no different looking, slicker, bigger screen, or whatever from an old one - so they probably lose. And the people designing them probably aren't even thinking about this at all.

    For his next DSLR, my husband is holding out for a camera with control over USB and a housing that supports it. Could be waiting awhile as I've heard nothing about that for awhile...
     
  17. Viz'art

    Viz'art Nassau Grouper

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    We have had electronic control in the past and moved away from it, not only are they temperemental in a salty and humid environment, but should the housing f#$$d, they you are out both of a camera and a housing, mechanical linkage is also easy to maintain in the field and independent from each other whereas a minor electronic failure will put you out of access for the complete housing controls. some other company have tried as well and have given up, apart from the Italian manufacturer Leo who has that approach, I know of no one else.

    Just to get you thinking, pretty much all housing are built on the same basic mechanical linkage to the controls principles, still the weakest point and the major gripe of you, the users is more than often the strobe connectors and cords, yet they are simple electric connections;) that explain also the rise and fame of the optica connection!

    As for the camera manufacturers versus the housing manufacturers: We, in the underwater photography business are nothing more than a grain of sand on the big beach of photography.
     
  18. Puffer Fish

    Puffer Fish Captain Happy ScubaBoard Supporter

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    I had a spotmatic when they came out... nice camera, but a contax was a work of art.

    The odd thing, speaking as a mfg engineer and not a diver, is that the technology exists for making a case in days and not months.. but case mfg's either cannot afford or don't know it is available.

    I just got a new LED light...250 lumen, small...very nice...the tube that holds the batteries... well it started out as a block of aluminum.. and everything was cut away to make what looks like a tube. Cutting down their time to market would seem to be very valuable...and a camera case is ideal for this type of machining...one would just need to decide if they wanted metal or plastic. The cost to make either would be fairly close.

    And as there are no hard molds... or special tools... once one is designed, they could make one at any time later they wanted. Not tooling, no inventory.. just higher per unit mfg costs...

    Note: one designs the types of holes that are needed...then someone designs the case, which has the holes put wherever they want, the machine then cuts out the shape , with the holes and any other special features.

    I know some of the 3d imaging systems would actually be able to design the case around a camera without much human interface.

    It would be expensive to setup, and roughly half the cost or so of the current production methods...

    But that appears to be a dream..



     
  19. gwells

    gwells Angel Fish

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    my wife and i still have our k1000s buried in the bottom of the old camera bag. can't bear to throw it away, my first SLR from 1978.
     
  20. ronski101

    ronski101 Barracuda

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    What is interesting is the price difference between the Cannon housing and the others. If Cannon can make a profit on theirs, why do the others charge many times more. The quality and performance on the others may be a bit better but not to justify the cost difference. Does Cannon sell that many more to allow the much lower cost? Not all of the others are CNC machines out of aluminum.
     

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