Why Are Camera Lenses So Expensive?

Good photography is not possible without the right equipment. And the right equipment can cost quite a lot. The quality of the final output is directly related to the quality of your equipment. One of these crucial pieces of equipment is the camera lens, and oh, are they expensive!

The standard lenses, like the kit lens, are not that expensive. They may be somewhere between $300 to $800. You can see that these are the most popular lenses, and the economics of scale comes to play. A lens for Sony NEX 5 will cost you around $700.

But if you are looking for some of the ‘better lenses’ to step up your game then you should expect to spend somewhere between $1000 to $2000. The cost of high-end photography lenses can go much higher.

But, unless you are a professional photographer and you do not assume a decent return from making such expenses on your equipment, you don’t need the high-end lenses.

But why camera lenses so expensive?

  1. Camera lenses are precision equipment

The simple reason why they are expensive is that they are precision equipment. You would not accept a camera lens that is not precise or does not produce sharp images.

Camera lenses are optical instruments; therefore they have to be absolutely precise and need to work in different environments. 

In addition to this, the quality of the final product is dependent on the kind of materials that goes inside the camera. Think of this, you need to put a highly precise optical instrument into a rugged yet lightweight case that is expected to be exposed to a lot of travel, shaking and potentially hazardous weather conditions. Not easy!

Furthermore, the glasses, lens coating and rotors that make autofocus possible are all expensive. All of these things add up.

The more features a camera lens has, the more expensive it gets. A camera lens isn’t only working with the light, it’s also working with the sensor in your camera. It also needs to be fast.

Different systems, such as aperture, need to work with other systems such as auto-focus. High-end cameras make full use of the sensor in the camera, this means the high-end lenses also need to expose the full sensor, which makes the lenses more expensive. Try using a cheap lens on a high-end camera, you’ll be able to notice the difference.

  1. Research and Development costs

If you have been in the market for camera lenses, then you know that every year manufacturers come up with more and more features on their lenses.

The world of technology is constantly changing, and there is competitive innovation between the manufacturers. They put a lot of money into research and testing. 

Customer’s demand for lenses is also getting higher in terms of quality and performance. They check every detail of the lens, and that increases the production cost.

Companies need to take more time polishing each lens element, more time is spent checking the performance of the lens during assembly. And, finally, when the lenses hit the market, the consumers will have to pay for this cost as well.

  1. Economics!

Think in terms of numbers, how many people own high-end lenses? This number, compared to those that own kit lenses, is very small. This means that the production number is not very high.

And if you compare the prices that you pay for the features, one may argue that camera lenses for beginner and intermediate photographers are actually getting cheaper than they used to be. 

Kit lenses have almost become like a standard product, and there isn’t much innovation year to year, therefore the costs for those are down. The fairly basic kit lens is cheap enough for the manufacturer to include it free with the body. But this isn’t true for other lenses.

In addition, a lot of care needs to go into designing and manufacturing these instruments. This kind of manufacturing is not possible by cutting costs.

They require specialized production facilities and people who are specialized in manufacturing. All of this carries on to the final price tag.

With DSLR and Mirrorless cameras becoming more popular, professional photographers prefer feature-laden, fast-performing lenses that can deliver superior value, and this higher value comes at a higher price.

The camera industry is also focusing on getting the consumer to graduate to a higher level in photography, and this means that they want to focus on more high-end features and better lenses.

You might want to read about the best camera lens cleaning kit.

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