Why are camera lenses so expensive?
- Oct 24, 2019
- 2 Comment(s)
Lens are essentially glass products. Why can some of them sell for tens of thousands of dollars? The scope of discussion here is limited to lenses in the early 1000-12000 yuan range. I think that the price of such lenses is more in line with the scope worth discussing.
Refutation 1: Glass is very cheap. The glass on our windows is very cheap. In fact, they are very elementary silicon dioxide crystals (here crystals are called crystals in a broad sense. Glass is amorphous. Physics in junior high school or senior high school has already been said). They contain many elements that can affect the optical quality. The simplest is that we are from the following. A side view of the glass reveals that the glass is green because it contains iron. In fact, there are many elements, but these things do not affect the application of glass as a window, so it can be ignored. But when it comes to precision optical instruments, many of these elements must be removed or controlled, thus increasing the cost of production. Some things need to be removed and some things have to be added. Glass used as lenses generally needs a higher refractive index to improve optical performance. Early glasses achieved this goal by adding lead, but later they were banned because of the need for environmental protection. Instead, they used more expensive elements (specifically those I am not sure about) to achieve this goal. Ben. The cost of glass grinding is very high, not because of manual grinding (the lens used to grind glass now does not have the characteristics of huge sales), but because the glass itself is very hard, we need to find some special alloys that are much harder than it to grind, and these alloys are also wear-and-tear products, the cost is pendulum. Yes. Of course, some very cheap lenses use resin glass, just grind it. Coating, modern optical instruments are multi-layer coating, equipment is also expensive bar, technology are patented. Special glass, such as aspheric lens, is expensive in grinding, ultra-low dispersion lens, expensive in composition, fluorite, in fact, is calcium fluoride, early natural, now all manufactured, Canon patents (but this thing does not need to be in the "huge sales" lens). In summary, lens glass is very expensive to create rumors 2: lens hand Tools are mosaic. Apart from Schneider, Leica and original Zeiss (which is not a huge sales lens), there are hardly any visible lenses in the market that are fully manually assembled. They are all assembled by machine first, and then assembled by each module. There is no mystery in the legend. They all draw gourds in the same way. Japanese manufacturers have long assembled some cheap lenses abroad, so the cost of mounting is not much higher than that of general electronic equipment. So it's not expensive to install artificial parts.
At sigma's Aichi factory in Japan, workers are making the final assembly.
Rumor 3: Although lens design requires a great deal of manpower and material resources, it can be diluted by large output. Apart from Galileo's familiar story that a concave lens and a convex lens are stacked together to form a telescope, lens design has always been calculated first, and how the curvature of the glass will be folded. Shooting, stacking, distance, and imaging all depend on calculation. It used to be man-made calculation, but now it is computer-based calculation, but it still involves a lot of investment in human and material resources. The structure of modern lens is much more complicated than before. The cost of designing a lens is based on millions of RMB, so it is not as easy and cheap as we expected. So when a lens structure is designed, it can be patented and protected. And the production of lenses is not as big as we expected. After all, it's not IPHONE. On May 23, this year, Canon announced that the cumulative production of EF lenses reached 90 million. This is a lifetime of all models ah, are not enough to IPHONE 4S sales (actually I do not know how many, haha)
Hey, you're expensive. Let me just say what I think of those really expensive lenses. I'll define them as 15,000 to millions.
The fact that we all know before is that the amount of lens produced is very small. If you have a slightly more valuable lens, you might as well look at their lens number, you will find that their production volume is basically 10,000 units (Pentax, Sony), the more powerful is 100,000 units (Canon, Nikon). This is enough to show that the rarer the lens (and not necessarily the better the optical quality of the lens), the lower the ability to equalize the cost of design, production and circulation, the higher the price. So it's okay for ordinary consumers to bite their teeth and put on a cheap red ring, but if you buy a 501.2 or a Leica set, most people can't afford it. In photographic equipment, it should be said that in the top areas of almost all consumer goods, one penny for one product, one penny for two products, one yuan for three goods, let alone the marketing and market positioning factors of the enterprise itself (these I do not discuss, because it does not involve technology, production cost itself).
There is a legend that in order to make the glass in the best condition, Leica in the last cooling step of firing, temperature control by one degree centigrade in an hour, the melting point of the glass is about 1500 degrees, so it takes about two months to completely cool the lens (so I always think this is a legend). As ordinary consumers, we have little access to know how distressed engineers are in pursuit of the ultimate optical quality. It would be forgivable to add the scary wage slips of German blue-collar workers, or the shots of 230,000 people moving.
Again, no matter how good the lens is now, there are very few hand-polished ones. In the era of underdeveloped machines, masters are very important, but today's mechanical technology has long exceeded the accuracy of human hands too much, just like you have heard the story of chess masters and computer games before, now? Which master came out in disgrace? It's not to improve the precision. As I said before, the craftsmen who can see Kung Fu are competent. It's just to save money. It's much more expensive to build a motion lens arm than to invite a real person. The difference between Pentax's Vietnamese Princess lens and Nissan's is that the cost is saved and the price is increased (cheap!). What's more, all of the Sony Cais are made in Japan. In fact, Fukuoka Optics comes from the same line as Frenda. So why is it cheaper than De Cai (how much do you think it will sell if De Cai can focus automatically?)
Of course, there are some lenses beyond my ability to discuss, such as large picture lenses, and even some abnormal lenses, which are really at the cost of work, such as:
In 2007, Carl Zeiss also exhibited a 1700mm F4 Chinese picture lens on Photokina. It is said that a wealthy Qatari businessman specially designed for wildlife shooting, weighing 256kg, is the largest long-focus lens used by the non-military in the world. The price is said to be millions of dollars, mounted on a Hummer.... ...
In the comments, many friends expressed great confidence in manual grinding, indicating that the best lenses should still be hand grinded. I would like to reiterate my point here. 1. Today's CNC machine tool processing has been able to achieve nano-level accuracy, I can not think that the human hand can achieve this level. 2. It is true that in some top areas, when there are not many products needed (usually one or two), pure hand-made products will still be adopted, but basically not based on accuracy considerations, but on cost considerations. For example, the commentary mentions that the best astronomical telescope lenses are manufactured by hand, which I think is entirely possible. Best of all, it's basically NASA's level. Then the diameter of the lens is at least tens or even hundreds of centimeters. It certainly doesn't need much, so there's no need to develop a precision machine tool for grinding (the cost will be very high), so it will use human hands. Manual grinding out a piece, measurement, accuracy is not enough, improve and re-grind, then side grinding and re-test, there will always be a product that meets the standard, and then this is completed, which is the real process of accurate manual production.
University of California Observatories Technical Facilities