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Thread started 14 Jun 2012 (Thursday) 09:55
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Were film cameras this expensive?

 
dharrisphotog
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Jun 14, 2012 09:55 |  #1

I never was on board with photography in the film days. My first DSLR was a XSi (then 50D, D7000 and now D700). For full frame, the cameras are damn expensive. Granted theirs more electronics and techology in them, but I have to wonder:

Where film cameras this expensive? I know photography wasn't as popular as it is today so I'd imagine the low volume would have made the cameras more expensive? Did film cameras cost $3k-6k in the film days?

(accounting for inflation).


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SkipD
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Jun 14, 2012 10:07 |  #2

I spent nearly $300 for each of my Nikon F bodies (no lens) in 1967. My estimation (based on the prices of automobiles) is that it takes nearly $10 of today's money to buy what $1 would have in 1967. A couple of inflation calculators I found on the web show an average of the 1967 US Dollar being worth almost $7.00 in today's money.

Add in the prices of the Nikkor lenses in 1967 and yes, the prices were roughly equal to today's better cameras.


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groundloop
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Jun 14, 2012 10:31 |  #3

Razeus wrote in post #14578062 (external link)
but I have to wonder:
Where film cameras this expensive?

I'd say today's DSLR's are on par with good 35 mm cameras. I bought my first 35 mm SLR in the late '80's, a Nikon with two Sigma lenses and as I recall had around $700 into it.

I know photography wasn't as popular as it is today

Oh, I don't know about that.

I think the biggest difference is that with digital it doesn't cost anything to experiment, and you can see the results almost immediately (not to mention having your camera settings stored in the image file). I used to keep notes on my settings and have to wait for a few days to get prints.




  
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gonzogolf
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Jun 14, 2012 10:35 |  #4

My Canon A-1 was $500 in 1978..




  
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ToddR
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Jun 14, 2012 10:39 |  #5

Interesting. I wish I could remember what my old Canon AE-1 Program cost in 1982 or 1983. Seems like around $250. An inflation calculator suggests that's equivalent to about $595 in 2012.


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Jun 14, 2012 10:40 |  #6

For those who have just discovered imaging in the brief electronic and digital age: the major expense with film was in processing and printing. Anyone who actually needed to get a dozen rolls of 35mm film processed at one time and went through that exercise several times a month does not miss the expense, the inconvenience and the wait to get prints and negatives back from a film lab. There was no magic in dropping off rolls of film at a lab and then having to pay for processing, just money that kept flowing out of your pocket and into someone else's pocket.

Razeus wrote in post #14578062 (external link)
I never was on board with photography in the film days. My first DSLR was a XSi (then 50D, D7000 and now D700). For full frame, the cameras are damn expensive. Granted theirs more electronics and techology in them, but I have to wonder:

Where film cameras this expensive? I know photography wasn't as popular as it is today so I'd imagine the low volume would have made the cameras more expensive? Did film cameras cost $3k-6k in the film days?

(accounting for inflation).




  
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hairy_moth
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Jun 14, 2012 10:42 |  #7

According to this article (external link), the AE-1 was introduced in 1976 for $275. The AE-1 was considered an advanced amateur model, similar to the 7D or 5D today; Nikon had a pretty solid lock on the serious professional market at that time.

According to http://www.westegg.com​/inflation/infl.cgi (external link) What cost $276 in 1976 would cost $1045.12 in 2010.

So prices seem fairly stable. Since then, electronics have become very sophisticated and (relatively) inexpensive. I think the price of good glass was and remains steep.


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rick_reno
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Jun 14, 2012 10:50 |  #8

I bought a Nikon F in 1967 with the motor drive, I think it cost over $400, that seemed like a lot of money then. Putting in perspective, I was at Stanford in '67, tuition was about $3200. Tuition today is just over $40k. Camera today are cheap, very cheap considering what they do and that we don't have film costs built in.




  
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Jun 14, 2012 10:52 |  #9

Razeus wrote in post #14578062 (external link)
I never was on board with photography in the film days. My first DSLR was a XSi (then 50D, D7000 and now D700). For full frame, the cameras are damn expensive. Granted theirs more electronics and techology in them, but I have to wonder:

Where film cameras this expensive? I know photography wasn't as popular as it is today so I'd imagine the low volume would have made the cameras more expensive? Did film cameras cost $3k-6k in the film days?

(accounting for inflation).

My old EOS 500N did cost quite a lot - especially when you compare with what an entry-level DSLR can do.

But it was still cheap to buy film cameras - compared to the amount of money you spent on the film, processing, ...

When you did buy that film body, you did not have any live view. You had to wait for your prints to know what happened with the exposure. If you didn't like how the camera metered, you had to chip in more money to buy a separate exposure meter. They exist now too, but most people manage by just looking at their histograms (or sometimes just the captured photo on the display).

And with the film body you had to decide what film to put in it. Then you realized halfway through the roll that you need another film because you are going to shoot indoors with bad light - and you don't have any flash worth the name. ISO 3200 on our current DSLR bodies is a joy, compared to taking that old film camera to a museum with signs all over that flash photography is forbidden...

So the DSLR normally ends up cheaper with one huge exception. Because it's so much more fun to run around with a DSLR and get instant feedback, we want more. So we buy much more lenses, filters, flash equipment, ... than we did during the film era.


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Jun 14, 2012 10:52 as a reply to  @ hairy_moth's post |  #10

We (my family) paid for film Rebel in 2001 something like 300$. With taxes.
In 2009, we paid 700$ for digital Rebel before tax.

Photography was very popular before it was digitized.
For example, FSU film cameras were made in millions units quantities, they were sold world-wide.
Now it is popular to have camera, which is different from photography.


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Amamba
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Jun 14, 2012 11:09 |  #11

Film cameras of comparable level were cheaper. E.g. my Rebel G was $240 in 2001 (with a kit lens). I believe Elan 7 body could be had for $500 - this is at least the equivalent of today's 7D. So the film cameras were about 1/3rd of today's cost, at least. Part of it makes sense considering that there was no processor inside, and I bet the electronics were much simpler. And the film cameras didn't get obsolete as quickly, as long as the metering system and AF worked well. My then-20 year old Zenit ET camera required more work (focusing was manual, and exposure had to be read off of a built-in meter and then dialed in manually). But it still provided me with a metered reading and the final result when using the same film and the same lens was as good as Rebel's. Basically, as long as I was not doing shoots of a fast paced action, I could use a 20 or even 40 year old camera in same exact conditions as a then-modern camera and get the same exact results with little extra work of dialing in the meter readings manually. The only reason I went with Rebel was for AF and built in flash, both of which are very helpful when taking photos of kids. And in the hindsight, I'd be better off buying a cheapo used battery-operated external flash with a cable sync, and investing in more M42 lenses instead. Other than some convenience features, these two cameras 20 years apart were on the same level. A lot of what is today handled in the body, was handled by film back then, so all you had to do to "upgrade" was pick a different roll of film.

Now, try to get the same results at ISO1600 using a 1 year old T3i and a 6 year old XTi ($630 back in 2007). Or at ISO6400. How about the changes in dynamic range between today and say 5 years from now. The overlapping areas in which the 5 year old technology gives you the same results as the latest and greatest technology are getting smaller and smaller. So while you can still get excellent results with XTi under same conditions today as you could in 2006, you just can't match T3i's useability range. And as long as technology keeps improving, 20 years from now (if the electronics in your current body survive that long) your camera will be only useful as a conversation piece. So yes, we save on cost of film, and get a greatly improved ability to learn quickly and manipulate the final output on the cheap, but we pay more for hardware upgrades and they are more frequent.


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MotorPro
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Jun 14, 2012 12:19 |  #12

It is hard to compare the prices. A T3 (for under $500 )will do 100 times as much as an old AE-1. Add in the cost of setting up a dark room and supplies. Today people will shoot 1000 shots in a weekend. In film you would have to take out a morgage to pay for the film and developing. All over I would say digital is cheap.




  
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Jun 14, 2012 12:22 |  #13

kf095 wrote in post #14578361 (external link)
Now it is popular to have camera, which is different from photography.

Best summary ever.


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Jun 14, 2012 12:37 |  #14

kf095 wrote in post #14578361 (external link)
We (my family) paid for film Rebel in 2001 something like 300$. With taxes.
In 2009, we paid 700$ for digital Rebel before tax.

Photography was very popular before it was digitized.
For example, FSU film cameras were made in millions units quantities, they were sold world-wide.
Now it is popular to have camera, which is different from photography.

Sorry, care to explain? There have always been gearhead and camera fetishes long before digital. I think this is revisionist history.




  
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Jun 14, 2012 12:56 as a reply to  @ gonzogolf's post |  #15

For those who are newcomers to digital imaging: you may be interested to note that Canon has been making digital SLR's for only 12 years, and prices have plummeted in that time and the cameras' capabilities have expanded. That first Canon DSLR, the D30, (external link) in the era's U.S. dollars, cost $3,000 and was considered a huge bargain at the time. The only other EF-mount digital cameras available at the time were units that had been converted by Kodak, and the least expensive cost around $9,000 US, (external link) and that was considered a low price when compared with the U S $28,000 price of the previous generation's Kodak converted film digital cameras. At the time, there were no messages from hobbyists in photography forums asking whether film cameras had ever been as expensive as DSLR's, because there were only a handful of individuals who could even dream of affording one of the converted Canon film cameras. If you wanted a bargain DSLR you had to get a Kodak DCS315, a converted Nikon Pronea APS camera.  (external link)Of course this is ancient history by 21st-century standards, where nothing happened more than two years ago.




  
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Were film cameras this expensive?
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