Why do lenses cost so much?

I often hear this question: why do lenses cost so much? And why are fast lenses even more expensive?

There are several very good reasons for this.

  • Lenses contain very expensive, high-quality optical glass. The more glass, the more cost. The faster a lens, the more glass (that is what “fast” means: a larger opening): ergo, the higher that cost.
  • Today’s lenses contain sophisticated electronics. See my 16-35 f/2.8 lens below, a while ago after I, um, dropped it. Twice.
  • Economies of scale: of course a more popular lens has lower cost, because it sells more (look at the popular 50mm f/1.8 lenses).

Here’s that lens of mine:

Lens "wide open" - for real

Lens "wide open" - for real

The good news: as I have said here many times, lenses are an investment. They are more important to your picture than the camera, and they retain their value, often for decades.

TIP: go to the online Canon Museum and go to the Virtual Lens Plant to see a very interesting series of videos about lens manufacture.

5 thoughts on “Why do lenses cost so much?

  1. Being an Olympus owner, it doesn’t appear as though I get to enjoy $100-$200 50mm f/1.8 lenses like the Canon and Nikon folks do. Instead, I get to spend $438.99USD! I realize that this is a macro lense, whereas the Canon and Nikon aren’t but still, does that justify the 4x price difference?

    • Mike,

      Well, there are advantages to using Canon and Nikon. Economies of scale. That’s why years ago I switched from Olympus, much as I loved my OM-4.

      That said, even at a much higher price, yes, I would definitely say it is worth the price. The result is what counts and you will love it and what it does for your photography.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *