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What makes one lens more expensive than another?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by D@ne, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. D@ne

    D@ne Mu-43 Top Veteran

    593
    Feb 23, 2012
    Toronto
    I don't know much about lens construction. I'm curious why a lens like the 12-35 ($1300 USD) is so much more expensive than something like the new 45-150 ($300 USD).

    Aside from "better construction", are the lens elements a large factor? For example, the 12-35 has 4 aspherical lenses, 1 UED lens, and 1 UHR lens. The 45-150, on the other hand, has 2 fewer aspherical lenses, and no UED lens.

    Also, how does aperture factor in?

    Novice questions, I realize.
     
  2. MAubrey

    MAubrey Photographer

    Jul 9, 2012
    Bellingham, WA
    Mike Aubrey
    Yes.

    The exotic glass elements affect the price significantly. The complexity of the lens design is also a factor and the aperture also affects the price.
     
  3. michaeln

    michaeln Guest

    Some of it is marketing driven too. If they perceive it as more of a specialist lens, they will ask more for it. The vast majority of people are fine with the 14-42mm kit lens, and comparatively few feel the need for a constant aperture relatively faster but more limited zoom range lens at 13 times the price.
     
  4. D@ne

    D@ne Mu-43 Top Veteran

    593
    Feb 23, 2012
    Toronto
    How does a lens element(s) with a lower aperture differ from one with a higher aperture?
     
  5. michaeln

    michaeln Guest

    They use more expensive glass formulations, it takes much more engineering time to design it, etc...
     
  6. lenshoarder

    lenshoarder Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    They are bigger. In general yields are inversely proportional to size. The bigger something is, the harder it is to make and thus the more expensive it is.
     
  7. D@ne

    D@ne Mu-43 Top Veteran

    593
    Feb 23, 2012
    Toronto
    So I assume a 2.8 M43 lens cost less than a Canon/Nikon 2.8 lens?
     
  8. MAubrey

    MAubrey Photographer

    Jul 9, 2012
    Bellingham, WA
    Mike Aubrey
    Yes and no.

    Smaller sensors require sharper lenses if they are to maintain the same image quality, which means fewer aberrations in the glass are necessary, which results in more expensive glass.

    At the same time, some things about μ43 make things cheaper, too. The shorter distance between the lens and the sensor (flange focal distance) makes it easier to make wide angle lenses. Thus Nikon's 14-24mm is $2000, but Panasonic's 7-14 is $900.

    There are simply too many other factors involved that may or may not trump aperture.
     
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  9. Jman

    Jman Mu-43 Veteran

    475
    Apr 20, 2011
    Columbus, OH
    Material cost is only one part of the equation. It's been mentioned, but designing a sharp f/2.8 constant zoom requires a significantly more sophisticated design to achieve high image quality than a variable aperture kit zoom with small apertures. But, you can have two lenses with the same specs and one can be double or triple the cost just due to performance and/or brand name.

    Take Leica for example. There are lots of full frame 50mm f/1.4 lenses out there, and while the Leica summilux 50mm f/1.4 might be at or very near the top of the list when it comes to overall quality, a good portion of it's insane $4,000 price tag is due to the Leica name.
     
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  10. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    And of course, there's simply the development cost. If a manufacturer has to start from scratch and design a new lens from the ground up that takes thousands upon thousands of hours of R&D, I would expect to see that reflected in the cost. A lot of people seem to think the only thing that matters is materials cost and therefore a smaller lens should be cheaper. Some take that to an even further extreme, contending that every m4/3 camera/lens is therefore overpriced.

    I'm not sure where this comes from, since with almost everything in the electronics world, smaller == more expensive due to design challenges. When laptops came out, they didn't cost 1/3 as much as a desktop because they were 1/3 the size and used less components :rolleyes:
     
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  11. michaeln

    michaeln Guest

    The u43 market is way smaller than dslr market too, so the economies of scale canikon can leverage on their fast lenses aren't present to such an extent with u43.
     
  12. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    Tolerances and how well the lens is corrected contributes greatly. And that includes the tolerances on the production line. The finish can also be a big cost.

    The design is done on computer. Since lens design is really variations on a theme, the design of the lens is not a driver of price--a computer generated design for one lens compared to another is not much different.
     
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  13. danska

    danska Mu-43 Top Veteran

    945
    May 21, 2012
    Portland, OR
    Joe
    On that note, the Panasonic 12-35 is 2.66" deep by 2.91" long and weighs 10.76oz. The Canon 24-70L is 3.3"x4.8" and weighs three times as much, 33oz. And in this case the 12-35 is cheaper than both the Canon and Nikon equivalents.
     
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  14. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Jay
    This is true, and yet I've seen many posts complaining that the 12-35 is vastly overpriced :rolleyes:
     
  15. michaeln

    michaeln Guest

    I think it is. That's unlikely to stop me from buying one though.
     
  16. danska

    danska Mu-43 Top Veteran

    945
    May 21, 2012
    Portland, OR
    Joe
    I'm not too surprised people think that! But when you look at mass-market equivalents, I feel like it is priced very well. $1299 buys you a good amount of other lenses in this realm. Imagine what they'll say when the 35-100 comes out :wink:.

    I have been considering the 12-50 Olympus because I want a weather-sealed lens for the EM-5. But a maximum aperture of f5.1 @ 25mm just isn't going to work for me. I would rarely use it. I feel like I could use the 12-35 almost all the time. If I'm going out for the night, the PL25 will be my go-to, but for anything during the day I shoot the PL25 at f2.8 or higher anyways.
     
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  17. D@ne

    D@ne Mu-43 Top Veteran

    593
    Feb 23, 2012
    Toronto
    Thanks for the info all...very interesting.

    Naturally, I realize development, brand, etc. factor into price...I guess I was just curious about the actual physical elements, and if certain lens elements are inherently more expensive than others.
     
  18. shizlefonizle

    shizlefonizle Mu-43 Veteran

    372
    Apr 21, 2012
    From what I've read on other forums, seems like a quite a few people assume m4/3=smaller sensor=cheaper gear, or they expect it to be cheaper because they see it as a secondary system. Looking at comparable lens (canikon, etc.) and the fact that m4/3 is a much smaller market the $1299 may even be considered "cheap". If it follows the other premium Panasonic lenses it will drop in price making it a "bargain".
     
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