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CCD cameras: Why so expensive?


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Just a rhetorical question from someone who knows little of the subject!

What is so special about them? It seems that to add the words "long exposure" and "megapixel" bumps the price WAY up!

Surely, £250 digi video cameras are long exposure, and dont need "cooling".

Is it something special about the chips, or are they modified versions we get in our (i.e. consumer) Fuji and Olympus digital cameras? These have been "megapixel" so long now they don`t use the term in marketing them anymore!

I do realize that the market for specialist astro cams is far smaller than consumer digi cameras, but would it make that much difference?

I was looking at the Atiks and Starlight Xpress and their prices are daft enough, but when you look at the Sbigs and Yankee Robotics, well........ :shock: :lol: :shock: :)

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OK - here we go then.

ART-285:

Case - £100

Populated board set - £140

Various bits and pieces - £100

ICX285AL - £350

Packing/etc. - £20

Total - £710

Let's not consider the 18 months development work, by four people, or the fact that they all want some recompense for that. Nor the fact that there is support for badly-assembled kits that averaged about £70 per camera.

The ART-285 went out for £795 plus VAT.

The ART11002 will be sold through dealers - who expect to make a profit and will also have to provide support. The ccd alone comes in at around £1250 :)

Do the sums...

Arthur

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Just a rhetorical question from someone who knows little of the subject!

What is so special about them? It seems that to add the words "long exposure" and "megapixel" bumps the price WAY up!

Surely, £250 digi video cameras are long exposure, and dont need "cooling".

Is it something special about the chips, or are they modified versions we get in our (i.e. consumer) Fuji and Olympus digital cameras? These have been "megapixel" so long now they don`t use the term in marketing them anymore!

I do realize that the market for specialist astro cams is far smaller than consumer digi cameras, but would it make that much difference?

I was looking at the Atiks and Starlight Xpress and their prices are daft enough, but when you look at the Sbigs and Yankee Robotics, well........ :shock: :) :shock: :)

It's not as simple as that. Arthur adds up some equipment, but doesn't say why the parts are so expensive. Mostly, it's chip sensitivity, anti-blooming, pixcel size and output noise, or readout noise. A "long" exposure with a digicam is, what, 30 seconds? A long exposure on a research grade camera will be hours. The sensitivity of an astro CCD will be orders of magnitude higher than a digicam and a feature called "antiblooming" reduces the amount of spill over between pixcells. Not sure how pixcel size compares in the modern cameras, so I won't comment there, but readout noise is substantially reduced via cooling to liquid helium temps in astro CCD's. Even the cooling done with Sbig products will kill readout noise more than a digicam. Additinally, there's chip size, but that's for another day.

Besides, I've said too much already, given the rhetorical nature of this question... :lol:

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OK so we dropped the rhetorical bit, I was not answering because of that.

Hand made comes to mind, as does the small market for these things. Consumer products sell in their millions so the development costs are spread thinly, CCD astronomical cameras sell in the hundreds, if they are popular, so the development costs are bigger per unit. How many people do you know with a video camera and how many with a real life astro CCD?

Arthur pointed out that four people did the development work on one camera over 18 months. That's a cost of about six years of salary so lets call that (as a minimum) £120K. If the cameras sell well and they produce 600 units, then thats £200 each ish in development work. Add in the cost of prototypes, rent of where the work is done etc. the unit cost of these is justified.

The bottom line, as with all business, is that the people who make them need to make a living. If they sell at inflated prices then somebody will notice and undercut them and take all the business away from them. Life's like that, so the astro cameras are either fairly priced or they sell none of them and starve.

Try buying a real video camera like they point at people in soap operas, that's more like the analogy as the market size will be similar, they will be megabucks per unit.

The stuff isn't overpriced, there's just not a big enough market to drop the costs down enough.

Captain Chaos

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OK so we dropped the rhetorical bit, I was not answering because of that.

Hand made comes to mind, as does the small market for these things. Consumer products sell in their millions so the development costs are spread thinly, CCD astronomical cameras sell in the hundreds, if they are popular, so the development costs are bigger per unit. How many people do you know with a video camera and how many with a real life astro CCD?

Arthur pointed out that four people did the development work on one camera over 18 months. That's a cost of about six years of salary so lets call that (as a minimum) £120K. If the cameras sell well and they produce 600 units, then thats £200 each ish in development work. Add in the cost of prototypes, rent of where the work is done etc. the unit cost of these is justified.

The bottom line, as with all business, is that the people who make them need to make a living. If they sell at inflated prices then somebody will notice and undercut them and take all the business away from them. Life's like that, so the astro cameras are either fairly priced or they sell none of them and starve.

Try buying a real video camera like they point at people in soap operas, that's more like the analogy as the market size will be similar, they will be megabucks per unit.

The stuff isn't overpriced, there's just not a big enough market to drop the costs down enough.

Captain Chaos

That clarifies greatly CC. I was wondering just the same thing only the other day.

Andrew

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It's all economies of scale. A case in point is planetary imaging, you can buy a mass produced (un modded) Phillips Toucam for £40 that will do an excellent job, the next step up performance wise (other than modding the Toucam) is specialized astro equipment that costs 10 times as much.

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