As sales for top end cameras of all types declines due to over-saturation of products, something struck me as an obvious solution to stimulate this market and I wonder if any major camera companies are considering this.
What if you leased your cameras from them instead of buying them and replacing them every few years? Think about this, if you really want the latest camera body with every release, you pay a monthly fee and you get it. You don’t have to pay the full asking price, which in some cases could be quite exorbitant (Nikon D4s is an example at $7k), you get full use of the item and you get to replace it with the newer version whenever that becomes available without taking a hit on the capital expense. If you’re a professional photographer the monthly cost would be immediately tax deductible as an overhead instead of a capital expense that you can only claim depreciation on as a tax benefit later.
For the camera companies this means that they would have a steady stream of income provided there is enough buy-in and critical mass, so they wouldn’t need to gamble to any degree on the uptake of a new model they might have spent a great deal of R&D resources on. Also, the older cameras could be returned to them and hopefully recycled. How hard can it be to swap out the circuitry, refurbish the exterior and send them back out with a new brain and suit of clothes? The planet would be happier for sure.
There are so many industries where models like this work. The motor industry is an example. I decided a year or so ago that it’s not smart for me to keep the same car for more than 5 years. So my strategy going forward is that I find the most car I can get for the least amount of monthly overhead. This assures me of a vehicle that shouldn’t give me hassles and doesn’t break me financially. I also don’t have the problem of dealing with super expensive maintenance issues on a paid off car that needs work done nearly every other month (and what cars are they building these days that are supposed to last for more than 5 to 10 years?). The cars I buy usually have a maintenance plan or long warranty so I have piece of mind that should anything major go wrong, the manufacturer is responsible for fixing it.
The cellphone industry disseminated itself into modern culture by adopting a similar business model. You took out a 2 year contract and you got the latest phone. The costs of the handset were amortised over the duration of the contract and the cellphone company also made money by selling you airtime or data concurrently with that handset. Expensive top end cameras could be disseminated into a willing market the same way surely? Lenses you could buy to own, so the more lenses they develop the easier it is to lock you into their brand.
I don’t think that this system would work for cheaper cameras, but it’s definitely something that might get more people interested in the top models that they can’t afford, like the Leica M pictured above. Or the Nikon D4s, or Canon 1DX. I could never afford to buy those cameras, but if I was paying a reduced monthly fee and I had the assurances of them replacing it with a new one in a couple of years without me having to pay more, you bet I'd be pretty keen on those Leica M bodies! The Adobe Creative Cloud model has me quite happy to pay them $9.99 a month to make full use of the latest Lightroom and Photoshop products, the latter of which I haven’t owned in several years.
What do you think? Would you be happy to pay a monthly fee for the full use of a top end camera body like a Leica M or a Nikon D4S or Canon 1DX?