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Lens Prices


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#1 Charlie Seper

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 08:37 AM

Can anyone tell me exactly why good camcorder lenses are so expensive? Is there a good reason for it? I have to wonder because I've watched prices come down on good quality telescopes and field glasses over the past decade or two, while their lens quality just goes up, yet camcorder lens prices keep going up it seems. I would think that it would be just as difficult to make good lenses for either. Besides, its all just ground sand. I really don't know anything about lens grinding though.

PS, why is it so expensive to process film? I don't know much of the science behind it and was just wondering where the expense comes in.

Thanks.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 10:07 AM

Two reasons for the high cost of professional cine and video lenses (especially cine lenses): (1) shooting motion as opposed to stills requires a higher level of quality, since focus and zoom adjustments can happen in mid-shot, so changes in exposure, shifting, breathing, etc. are less acceptable (and some of the solutions require bigger elements, more elements, and better-made elements); (2) the sales volume is lower than for consumer still cameras, and therefore fewer lenses are made at higher per-lens costs.

Motion picture equipment is still practically hand-made by highly-trained technicians, as opposed to punched out on an assembly line. Pro video equipment IS more mass-produced than film equipment, but still even less so than consumer still and video products.

As for the costs of processing, I'm sure that is based on cost of the chemicals involved, cost of the equipment and maintenance, cost of personnel, and need to earn a profit paying for all of this. Actually, it seems to me in the past ten years that processing costs haven't risen much. 20 cents per foot of 35mm film processed (which I think is close to what some places are charging) doesn't sound like much (probably cheaper than what your typical still photo lab charges); it's only due to the sheer amount of footage used in filmmaking that it adds up.
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#3 Charlie Seper

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 11:42 AM

"the sales volume is lower than for consumer still cameras, and therefore fewer lenses are made at higher per-lens costs."

Yeah, that makes sense.

I would have thought that all the grinding was computer controled by now. You'd think it would be an easy affair to stick in a bit of glass, set the dials to a certain tolerance, and walk away. I can't imagine that it takes more than a few hours to grind even the best 35mm lens and about a nickel's worth of sand/glass. Even though the manufacturing equipment might be expensive it would still seem quite a profit to charge $10,000, hand made or not. I'm sure there's more to it but I imagine there's got to be a huge profit margine there. I had a friend who I knew from my church years ago that was a lens grinder for an eye doctor in town and he talked like it was easy to do.
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#4 Robert Hughes

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Posted 15 May 2005 - 10:39 PM

But the engineering and tooling costs involved in any high technology or high precision item has to be amortized across the production run; if you spend a million dollars developing a gadget, you've got to recoup that cost, whether your product is a million disk drives or a hundred lenses. Imagine how much your computer would cost if Dell or Apple only sold a hundred of them.
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#5 Matt Pacini

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Posted 16 May 2005 - 01:45 PM

I used to whine about the film processing cost too, until a friend of mine bought a lab/post production facility.
He said they actually LOSE money on the processing. They use it as a loss-leader to get telecine & FX work.
Depressing...

MP
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#6 Stephen Williams

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Posted 16 May 2005 - 02:19 PM

I used to whine about the film processing cost too, until a friend of mine bought a lab/post production facility.
He said they actually LOSE money on the processing. They use it as a loss-leader to get telecine & FX work.
Depressing...

MP

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Hi,

I wish the labs in Switzerland would loose money on processing. Its a very small market, you phone to say when you want your film prcessed and its done while you wait! In about 1 hour with cleaning!

Stephen
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#7 Mark Sasahara

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Posted 17 May 2005 - 02:33 PM

You are also paying for the manufacture of the highest quality glass. Schott glass is not for windows, it's manufactured under the strictest quality control to create "water white" glass that has no inherent color to it. That way your Zeiss and Schneider lenses will look fantastic.

Ever look at window glass? It's green. I think it's about 10CC-15CC green, if memory serves. I don't know where Canon and Fuji get their glass, or if they manufacture their own, but the quality control is quite high as well.

(producer)
I mean you just get a camera and and some actors and shoot the darned thing! I mean Geeze, how hard can it be?
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#8 Charlie Seper

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Posted 21 May 2005 - 02:10 PM

Thanks for the replies.
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