Why Are Cameras So Expensive? A Look at The Factors Contributing to The Cost of Cameras

So, I recently tried to get a digital camera, you won’t imagine how expensive they have suddenly become, or should I say they have always been expensive?

Another reason why you probably are wondering why cameras are so expensive would be the high resale value of digital cameras; in fact, compared to cell phones, DSLR cameras can hold a pretty high resale value years after they were first released.

So, why are cameras so expensive? This article will discuss why, while sharing some factors that generally contribute to the cost of cameras, which can make them have a good resale value down the line, and what to look for when getting your digital camera so that you can also enjoy a pretty healthy resale value.

Why are cameras so expensive?

The shortest answer to this question is that nice things cost a lot. And many people are only looking to get some of the best video equipment they can get their hands on, and in many cases, the quality and customizations that a DSLR camera can offer you aren’t very possible on many androids, iPhones, and general smartphone cameras.

Diminishing returns

Moving from what we will call shitty decent to something relatively high-end costs more money, which is one reason why digital cameras and lenses cost quite a lot of money. For most persons who buy a new camera, all they get that is of any value is the camera bodies. The kit lens that comes with most digital cameras are of no actual value, so they often need to invest in another set of lens, whether that be a prime lens, zoom lens, or any other set of expensive lenses. 

Going from having a kit lens to using more high-end lenses will cost more. So, you’d find yourself spending double the cost of buying a DSLR camera just to get around a 50% increase in performance. On the other hand, if you are going from a good camera and OK to great camera equipment and pictures, you should be prepared to spend almost double just to get around a 10% increase in performance.

Diminishing returns ensures that the more you spend on the base cost of purchasing your camera bodies and out-of-the-box camera gear, the more you’d likely spend on an upgrade or the less you’ll find yourself paying.

Lower Profit Margin, Low Volume, High R&D cost

The more high-end camera manufacturers go, the more exclusive camera gear becomes, and the lesser the number of products that manufacturers get to sell. You will agree with me that not many photographers buy pro-level DSLR cameras, not even professional photographers.

So generally, manufacturers produce very few pieces of the best cameras; they deal with a low-profit margin and have to ensure that the few cameras produced cover their production costs, making these cameras so expensive.

There is also a difference in the R&D style. For example, whenever Nikon cameras come with new cameras, their engineers would have to decide what features to add to the new line of cameras. They would have taken some features from older cameras on the same line, making the cost of more recent releases cheaper. But what about when they produce a camera on a different product line? Sometimes, they would have to think up features from scratch, making this very expensive.

A good example is when camera makers try to combat the high camera prices by producing entry-level DSLR cameras. Generally, they take features from higher-end cameras just so that everyone in the camera market gets something that fits their budget.

What this does is make high-end cameras very expensive to design. Since these cameras are so expensive, we have a situation where there are low sales volume because only professional photographers will be using them, making the prices go higher.

Everything is expensive – even digital cameras

Yes, everything is getting even more expensive. You can imagine what it would cost you to get any device on the Canon EOS range some years ago. The prices of used ones on eBay and Amazon are now as high as what you would have spent to get a new camera years ago.

This is true of all cameras, mirrorless cameras, point-and-shoot cameras, full-frame cameras, video cameras, party cameras, zoom lenses, film cameras, photography equipment, and everything on the new and used market.

If you’re into video making, audio equipment and smartphones now have high production costs. In addition, the birth of better smartphone cameras has resulted in a shrinking market for entry-level DSLRs and expensive high-end cameras, leaving only serious photographers who spend a lot on these devices.

When we couple the high cost of production, with the ever-increasing inflation, with the fact that the average person doesn’t need an expensive camera to take quality images, we see why digital cameras are so expensive.

The Body

Since mirrorless cameras and DSLR cameras are pretty much the same costwise, let’s examine a few things in the camera body that generally contribute to its ever-increasing cost.

The sensor is one of the most critical elements in any high-quality camera. Sensors get better every year, and the newer the camera, the newer the sensor that comes kitted.

The sensor size will also determine the cost of a camera. With a larger sensor, you get a larger pixel; with a larger pixel, you get lower light sensitivity, less noise and more bright light dynamic range. So a bigger sensor produces better pictures, but they get ever more expensive.

CAMERA SENSOR - Why Are Cameras So Expensive

Whether you have mirrorless cameras or DSLR cameras, you need some buffer RAM to allow for more efficient processing of the image capture process. A high-quality camera adds more buffer memory, sometimes as high as hundreds of raw shots, and the higher this buffer RAM, the more expensive your DSLR camera gets.

The more expensive DSLR cameras and mirrorless cameras aren’t built out of plastic, as you might already know. We have seen some that are made out of magnesium allow; we have even seen some with elements of the real pentaprism, meaning a larger viewfinder magnification.

You expect to pick your camera back up when it falls and still have it 100% functional, and all of these is the reason why you will see a point-and-shoot camera go for $500 while a high-end Canon EOS will be going for $2000-4000.

camera body canon eos 7d- Why Are Cameras So Expensive?

You would also consider that many of these cameras are expensive because they now have connections and ports for remote triggers, microphone input, and output, HDMI output for videos, ports to hold grips, batteries, smart flash units, and many others that cameras years ago didn’t have.

And speaking of batteries, expensive cameras typically need a bigger, more expensive battery to operate their newer upgraded parts more efficiently.

Lens, quality ones, not the kit lens

While we touched on this subject in passing, I thought it would be great to have one section dedicated to it, because, whether we like to admit it or not, your lens contributes to just how expensive a camera is. The kit lens that comes with most beginner DSLR cameras is plastic and pretty low quality.

And while it’s probably still an upgrade to smartphone cameras and your typical point-and-shoot camera, they’re still miles below what serious photographers will like to use.

zoom lens

There are zoom lenses that go for $1500 and above. Yes, some cameras are more expensive than your cell phone and your favorite iPhone!

So, if you love photography and want to take good pictures, smartphone cameras might not cut it, mirrorless cameras might not cut it, and a point-and-shoot camera just might not cut it.


Still, the more you want, the higher you go looking for better specs; you just can’t help but realize that a good camera is worth a fortune.

The beautiful thing is that they have good resale value, so you might be able to sell your expensive lenses for as much as you got them.

Are cameras even worth it?

The short answer will be NO. No one needs mirrorless cameras to take quality images when we have smartphone cameras that do just the job. You’d find modern cameras on the iPhones and Samsung devices of the vast majority, which take some of the most beautiful pictures I have seen.

Because we live in a digital age, social media sites now have image and video sizes that encourage taking great images and videos with cell phones. In addition, many app developers have now created photo editing apps, making it easy to take and upload pictures and videos to sites like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube shorts.

So, we can categorically conclude that the average person doesn’t need entry-level DSLR cameras; they have most of what they need on their phones. This is one of the biggest reasons for the drop in camera sales and the high cost of the average digital camera.

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Do expensive DSLR cameras take better pictures?

Yes, high-quality and expensive cameras take some of the best pictures you can imagine, way better than any smartphone camera. Of course, one of the biggest reasons expensive cameras take great pictures is because they have many more range and custom settings than most smartphone cameras, but that is where it all ends.

We should mention that the quality images a camera produces are all too often the work of the photographer behind the camera. A pro photographer can produce a way better picture with an entry-level DSLR camera and third-party lenses than the image quality an entry-level will produce with expensive gear.

So it all comes down to the photographer in most cases. While we believe expensive cameras can produce better pictures in the hands of a pro, we also think a smartphone camera can do an excellent job in the hands of a pro.

Do cameras get cheaper over time?

No, they don’t always get cheaper over time. I have seen cameras released ten years ago cost as much as those released 3-5 years ago. I have seen some that even cost more than new models. However, I believe the cost of cameras and lenses will drop or stay stable based on the quality and range.

An expensive camera or a high-end full-frame camera will hold its value years down the line, but an entry-level DSLR camera or point-and-shoot cameras will likely get cheaper over time.

Why is this the case? The features of most high-end cameras, like Wi-Fi, customizability, shutter speed, image quality, and many others, can outlive many models of cheaper point-and-shoot cameras and pretty much any entry-level DSLR camera.

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