Do We Really Need $6,000 Cameras?

canon 1dx

Canon and Nikon think we need $6,000 cameras but do we really? - by Canon

Apparently Canon and Nikon think the photography world is ready to trade in their car for a new camera and set of lenses. That’s just about what a Nikon D4 or Canon 1-DX and a set of lenses will set you back. A camera or a car? Not a tough choice for most people.

It’s not at all certain these two particular cameras were aimed specifically at still photographers anyway. Both cameras boast impressive video specs and perhaps the real targets are filmmakers, to whom a $6,000 camera body is a relative bargain. Still, when you start with a $6K body and add lenses, rails, flags, follow focus, and a monitor it starts getting the price up near real digital film cameras like the Sony PMW-F3L.

“While you would still have to add the lenses, the price difference on a budget film production is not that significant compared to what you gain with features like Genlock, Timecode, and 10 bit 4:2:2 HD-SDI output,” says Bill Pryor, a Kansas City commercial video producer who shoots most of his footage on the Canon 5D MK II.

captain america frame

Footage from Canon 5D MK IIs integrates seamlessly with 35mm film in Captain America - via Canon

When shots from Canon 5D MK IIs can be seamlessly integrated with 35mm film in movies like Captain America, it begs the question of just how much more quality do filmmakers really require?

For years photographers were spoiled as technology and competition drove prices down and to see the trend reversed so abruptly on the flagship products of both lines will be an interesting trend to watch. The question it begs for photographers centers around the compelling value proposition that would make the EOS-1DX the definitive choice over a Canon 5D MK II?

Certainly the flagship cameras have better low light performance. If you’re a full-time professional sports photographer shooting in highly variable lighting conditions inside sports arenas, perhaps the price tag is worth it. I might argue the Nikon D700 and Canon 5D MK II are fairly capable low light shooters themselves, but the D4 and 1DX push low light performance to new levels.

I could also see a National Geographic photographer on assignment someplace near the end of the world needing both the superior weather sealing and low light performance, which cuts down on the amount of lighting gear they have to carry. In places where every slot in an equipment bag is a precious commodity, then the extra $4,000 for a camera body is outweighed by other factors.

nikon D4 skeleton

Is what's inside a Nikon D4 really justify the price tag?

Overall, I’m really working to find justification for the added expense and just can’t see it. You can buy two D700’s for the price of a D4 and carry a spare body. Instead of a 1DX tricked out for filmmaking, get two 5D MK IIs and use one for covering shots.

It’ll be interesting to see if the photography world proves me wrong and demonstrates there’s a serious market for $6,000 cameras, but I’m not holding my breath.


Nikon D700 vs D4

Nikon D700 vs Canon 5D MK II

Nikon D700 vs Canon 1DX

Canon 5D MK II vs 1D x

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4 Responses to “Do We Really Need $6,000 Cameras?”

  1. Kolner February 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Try giving a random pan, that you bought at you local supermarket, to a serious professional chef.
    He’ll cook well with it, certainly better than any of us, but he’ll find it less efficient.
    Less comfortable.
    Pro equipment is all about comfort.
    Pros can afford comfort.
    If you’re not a pro, stick to the 5D.

  2. John MacDonald February 6, 2012 at 6:22 pm #

    Killer feature for me this year is tethering via ethernet. As a canon user finally getting 2 CF card slots will be nice. There is also the issue of ruggedness, of the body, the lens mount, and of the shutter. Improved focus would be nice, I’ve stopped holding my breath on that from Canon, though.

    Does a non-professional need a professional camera? Well, no. But I can come up with some times that they might want one. Lots of amateurs shoot wildlife, sports (and highschool sports have TERRIBLE light, been there done that), travel.

    As far as cost? My insurance lists about 30k in lenses, so… $6k for a body isn’t a heck of a lot.

  3. Paul K.J. Harris February 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    For some $6,000 is definitely justified depending on what you are doing. If you are a photography student this is insane but if you are a serious pro or sem-pro then it might be. What I think is kind of strange is that $6,000 is peanuts compared to medium format digital cameras. Take a top-end Hasselblad or Phase One and you are above $40,000. Compared to that $6,000 is CHEAP.

  4. Vincent March 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

    Everybody drives a car and harks out an average of € 15000 which comes to a roughly €300 monthly just to go to work and shopping. People spent € 100 a month on sat. TV

    Lifespan of cam like the D4 is 5 years, so roughly € 100 a month. For a pro shooter you must be kidding not to justify your daily gear you earn your money with

    I happily own the D700 since it came out. Technology moves on and demand for both video and stills as well. Looking forward to the D4