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col4bin
August 23rd, 2010, 09:24 PM
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?

LeeParrish
August 23rd, 2010, 09:41 PM
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.

bvanant
August 23rd, 2010, 09:41 PM
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

Rainer
August 23rd, 2010, 09:44 PM
Market forces. Sheesh.

col4bin
August 23rd, 2010, 10:04 PM
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.

Nemrod
August 23rd, 2010, 10:18 PM
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

col4bin
August 23rd, 2010, 10:42 PM
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.

scubamarketing
August 23rd, 2010, 11:17 PM
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.

Viz'art
August 24th, 2010, 08:10 AM
see below

Viz'art
August 24th, 2010, 08:46 AM
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 (http://www.divephotoguide.com/)

drbill
August 24th, 2010, 11:55 AM
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).

LeeParrish
August 24th, 2010, 12:24 PM
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...

Viz'art
August 24th, 2010, 01:34 PM
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:

natew
August 27th, 2010, 11:11 AM
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 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.

Blueskys4ever
August 31st, 2010, 05:08 AM
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.

Damselfish
August 31st, 2010, 07:18 AM
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...

Viz'art
August 31st, 2010, 08:35 AM
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.

Puffer Fish
August 31st, 2010, 08:49 PM
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..




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.

gwells
September 1st, 2010, 06:16 PM
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.

ronski101
September 3rd, 2010, 07:48 PM
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.

Nemrod
September 3rd, 2010, 09:53 PM
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.

You say a "bit better" and I am here to tell you that the difference between most aluminum housings such as the FIX vs the OEM Canon stuff is like night and day, they are not a bit better, there is no comparison in functionality or quality or durability. It is easy to toss out words, so having used both, I will toss this out, no freaking way is a "bit better" an accurate statement in this regard. The Canon OEM housings are marginal at best, often leak from the start, are notoriously unreliable at depth with sticking buttons and are incomplete in terms of control function. They are essentially disposable dry cases, not serviceable marine housings, and are priced accordingly and this completely justifies the difference in price.

N

ronski101
September 28th, 2010, 04:30 PM
I have had 2 cannon housings for different cameras and never had a leak over 150 dives and a few down to 125+ ft. Never had a sticky button or other functional anomaly. I doubt that I am the exception but I find it very hard to justify paying 6 times more for a housing (especially the plastic one) that is only "A Bit Better" but much much larger and more cumbersome. Typically the returns in features, are diminishing as the price goes up which is true in this case.

Maddog59
September 28th, 2010, 06:16 PM
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.

One of the main things to consider here is that the Canon housing is primarily designed and made for consumers who want to take their camera into and around the water to shoot holiday snaps whilst snorkeling at those exotic tropical locations or the occasional shots of the kids in the pool (Yes they are also able to be used by scuba divers but that is only a side benifit as far as Canon is concerned). The more of a product you sell the cheaper it becomes and as such the more popular it is with consumers. A Ferrarri cost a lot more than a Chrysler but they both do the same basic job, one just does it a lot better!!
I also agree with Nemrod on the issue of quality, the OEM housings are not in the same ballpark as specialist made housings be they from aluminum or plastic and as such should not be compared in the same conversation.



Peter

ronski101
September 29th, 2010, 05:44 PM
I would love to see the statistics that show the failure rates (flooding, sticking buttons, etc) vs their cost normalized by the number sold. I bet it would enlighten us a bunch one way or the other. Of course if i spent a gazillion dollars on a housing and found out i could have gotton one much cheaper i would be burning up the midnight oil dreaming up ways to justify it too.

Nemrod
September 29th, 2010, 06:28 PM
I would love to see the statistics that show the failure rates (flooding, sticking buttons, etc) vs their cost normalized by the number sold. I bet it would enlighten us a bunch one way or the other. Of course if i spent a gazillion dollars on a housing and found out i could have gotton one much cheaper i would be burning up the midnight oil dreaming up ways to justify it too.

It is only cheaper if it works and does what you want it to do and in many cases the "cheaper" alternatives also have some severe limitations like missing control functions, inability to use accessory lenses, require DIY optical connections because none were provided etc.

Just what you want, if you want a basic, cheap, wet case, buy the inexpensive OEM cases and go for it. A Yugo or Chevy Cobalt (about the same thing) generally got people from A to B but a BMW or Lexus is just so much nicer getting from A to B. One is cheap and basic, one is loaded with luxury and performance.

N

chris196
September 29th, 2010, 11:42 PM
Economies of scale or lack there of.

furby076
September 30th, 2010, 11:30 AM
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.

The price on these items are so expensive that most people scoff at the idea of buying the setups creating a smaller market. A smaller market means that each unit, for those that do buy, will be higher. The higher price means a smaller market...a vicious cycle. Reduce the price and you will get more customers. For example there is a restaurant where I live. Good restaurant but charges way too much...people don't return because the costs are so high...the costs are so high because people don't return. If they reduced the price they would have more repeat business. Solid product, terrible price.


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.

Wait there is someone hand making the camera setup? These are not machine made? Meaning if I take housing X and place it next to housing X they will look somewhat different? I am pretty sure these devices are machine made. The first product, in ALL manufacturing, is the most expensive. The first pill for a new drug line costs millions, the second pill costs 25 cents. Hence the pill costs $1 per pill. Same with this. The first housing will cost some very high number...each additional one is marginal (relatively speaking). The problem is that buying a camera setup can easily cost you way more then your entire scuba setup and that scares most people.


Go find your local machine shop and ask them to quote you on a housing (and bring them an example) Bill

This is not a great example. If my housing were a unique product it would be a great example but it is not. Dive photography is a small market but the market is so small because it is so expensive. One poster mentioned the Canon housings...yes they are not as good as they other brands, especially the aluminum ones. Still going from $150 to $3,000 - $5000 is HUGE. The material costs are fairly irrelevant, so it's the design, markup, and volume sales. We are a niche market, but it's also self-inflicted pain.

I also know many divers who use the Canon lines and never had an issue with it. I used my Canon G11 at 130 feet without a single issue.

There are ways to reduce the price of these products 1) get more people to buy, 2) improve manufacturing, 3) reduce costs to customer. Unfortunately it's hard to get more people to buy when costs are so high. It even gets worse that when you want to upgrade something like a dome and the price is high. Even worse...for the rig that I bought to get the MFG rope/screw was $40...I mean come on I think we can all agree that an 8" rope attached to two screws should not cost $40. Or can someone illustrate to me how an 8" rope and two screws is justified with such a high cost?

ronski101
September 30th, 2010, 01:43 PM
If I wanted a Lexus type camera system i would not be using a G10 but would go to one of the SLR systems. Of course, I dive AND take pictures I don't dive TO take pictures. Lugging around some humongous camera system is one Big Big pain especially is rough shore conditions. I can not justify spending thousands more for a housing that is just a bit better in functionality and lens adapatability.

Larry C
September 30th, 2010, 03:44 PM
OEM housings are designed while the camera is in the premarketing stage. They are produced in limited quantities designed to sell out. Their cost is probably based on expectation of 100% sales level based on an expectation that X% of camera buyers will buy a housing. When they sell out, they don't build more. Generally the mfg. doesn't care when they build the next version of the camera if it fits into the old housing or not.
The aftermarket housing is designed after the camera becomes available to at least the reviewers and resellers. The mfg. must first wait to see if the camera will be popular, then if it has the features to be popular underwater. Then they have to judge the demand and produce the housing in limited quantities to satisfy the customer who was not entirely pleased with the quality of the OEM offering. Often the camera becomes obsolete soon after the housing becomes available. Low quantities, plus higher level materials and design, plus surplus product due to obsolescense, plus retail mark-up = more expensive. Is it worth it? If you plan to keep the camera long after it is obsolete and want the additional features/safety/ease of operation of the aftermarket product, yes.
I paid $300 for my first underwater P & S and $195 for the housing. By the time I added strobes, arms, lenses...I had more than $2500 in it. Most of that was transferrable to my next camera. The housing is not necessarily the biggest expense you'll face, so get one that works for you and average out the cost.
Another factor is ease of use with other elements of the package, e.g. if you want to use Ikelite strobes, the Ikelite housing is designed to work with them and allows you features that you couldn't use with the OEM housing and a different strobe.

Lenaxia
September 30th, 2010, 04:15 PM
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.

You are not the only one. I may only be 24, but I have inherited my parents' K1000. It is an amazing camera and superbly reliable. I hope that it will last until I can pass it on to my children.

I am looking to purchase some new lenses for it as the older ones did not hold up as well as the body did.

chris196
September 30th, 2010, 05:10 PM
Any one remember the old Olympus pt-010.
That housing could accomodate a number of cameras C2XXX, C3XXX, C4XXX.
It had to have set some kind of record. And I serviced mine myself and used it through 2 cameras before selling it.
I've also had a Fuji OEM housing. It is the best made OEM housing I've seen and I prefer it over the Ikelites I've encountered.
I've seen the Canons, but never used one.
I have my first non OEM housing coming shortly. I got the Ikelite for the canon S95. I know I don't have access to the real control wheel, but that is not a big deal to me. I plan on being in manual with the apperture changing very little. I'll use the front control ring for the shutter.

There's nothing wrong with buying a higher dollar/quality housing, but it kind of bugs me that people without specific data as to failure rates and such just flippantly dismiss the OEM housings. They have served many people very well and most are serviceable if you have any mechanical apptitude at all.

jd950
September 30th, 2010, 05:35 PM
3The Canon OEM housings are marginal at best, often leak from the start, are notoriously unreliable at depth with sticking buttons and are incomplete in terms of control function. They are essentially disposable dry cases, not serviceable marine housings, and are priced accordingly and this completely justifies the difference in price.

N

I am not looking to pick a fight and am currently using a Seatool housing with a Panasonic camera, but I have owned and used several Canon brand housings for several years, going back to a housing for a Canon S230. There are a few functional compromises with housings on those cameras with wheels instead of just buttons, but Fix and other brands have struggled with this as well.

I have never had one flood or fail to function, whether snorkeling or on scuba down to around 120'. In fact, I still have the housing for the S230 around here and it still works fine, with the original O ring. I have not had any buttons fail to operate properly or any other problems with the housings. Maybe I have just been lucky, but I think we may hear more about Canon housing leaks for two primary reasons. One is that they are probably used in greater numbers than most brands and therefore one could expect to hear of failures more often. Canon appears to have a large share of the "consumer" level housing market, as Ike has a large share of the more dedicated market, so one would expect to hear about Canon and Ike failures more often than other brands, even if quality was equal in this regard among different brands.

Secondly, I would imagine that because the Canon housings are comparatively inexpensive they are used by a wide range of users, as to a lesser extent is probably true of Ike. Some of those users may not be as meticulous in maintaining, cleaning and using the housing as those with the more expensive housings and cameras. That may lead to more "problems" than one would see with Nexus, Aquatica, Seatool, Fix, etc.

On the other hand, I also have a Fuji housing for a little compact that Fuji made a few years ago, and that housing does look a bit better to me, including double O rings.

Like I said, I am not trying to pick a fight and your experience may not be as good as mine. I don't disagree that the more expensive housings are "better" in many regards, I just don't think it is accurate to describe Canon housings as "disposable" or "not serviceable" or as little more than a dry box.

Nemrod
September 30th, 2010, 07:07 PM
Like I said, I am not trying to pick a fight and your experience may not be as good as mine. I don't disagree that the more expensive housings are "better" in many regards, I just don't think it is accurate to describe Canon housings as "disposable" or "not serviceable" or as little more than a dry box.

No problem with me, I assume you were talking to me since you quoted me :kiss2:, your opinions are representative of your experience and that is a good data point for interested parties. We don't have to agree, if in fact we don't agree, does not mean there is a "fight' of any sort. Thanks for providing your excellent insight.

N

Maddog59
September 30th, 2010, 07:11 PM
Like I've said before on this thread I don't believe that the OEM housings are in the same league as specialist housings but they can and are used to take some great photos down to reasonable depths!(Have a look at Gilligans photos for examples)

Try finding any infomation on the Canon OEM housings on their web site and you'll come up blank, other than Canon saying the housing is made to keep water and sand away from the camera in hazardous conditions. Iv'e just spent the last 45 mins trying to find some specs relevant to its underwater use and have basically come up empty!( If you find anything from Canon please post it here) Why won't Canon give an online manual or specs for this housing? Could it be that they don't want to be compared to specialist built underwater housings?

We all like to take underwater pictures and we all have different requirements from our gear and as such we need, by definition a variety of equipment to service those needs and requirements. So if you don't like the cost of a specialist housing don't buy one. That is the whole point of a free market economy. But when you buy your OEM housing and you find that it doesn't quite do what you want it to do, or it doesn't have that one little control that you need, or there is a drop of water on your camera that wasn't there last time you looked, don't complain about the cost of that top of the line housing that the other divers on your liveaboard 2 week dive charter have! Think about the money you saved by not buying that expensive handmade and individually checked and calibrated housing!!
Oh and then ask the other divers for a copy of their photos!! (good luck with that)


Peter

ronski101
October 1st, 2010, 11:52 AM
I got the Cannon G10 OEM housing because of its small size compared to the custom housings and cost vs the benefits. If my housing leaks I will shed a tear but if my fancy high dollar housing leaks it will be a gusher.

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