The cost of creating Rig parts

This post is a reaction to SBG comment about my budget rig article. SBG said :

$1500 pretty much only gets you a rig – definitely not a rig AND a quality lens. The pricing of shoulder rigs and accessories is laughable. $107 for a straight grip?? Over $1000 for a matte box? puh-leese!

I am sure a lot of people agree with him. I do too which is why I am working on the budget gear article series. The thing is, I am also working on putting on the market a very specialized piece of gear for HDSLR users. Old time readers probably remember me talking about this about a year ago.

My idea is original and solves a real problem for HDSLR shooters. Everyone who saw it loved it and wondered why no one ever thought about it. Seeing all these interested people, my question to them was: how much are you willing to pay for it? I was hoping to hear 30-50$ so I could make enough profit to make it worth the investment, especially since alternatives are twice more expensive. I have to admit that the part in question looks deceptively simple but people where suggesting me to sell it at a price point under my manufacturing cost! Outch!

Unless you worked in the field, it is hard to guess how much it cost to CNC a piece of metal. I know because I was surprised too! Trust me, it is more than what you think! As soon as you put the words precision and steel in the same sentence, you know it will cost a lot. It is like adding Italian after design. At least, in my case, it should not go out of style the next month.

And, to make things worst, you can’t have these puppies build on order (unless you are RRM and stack orders), most shops will ask for orders to be at least X big if you don’t want to be charged prototype pricing for each unit (which is the equivalent of adding unique to Italian design).

So, you end up investing a massive amount of money without knowing if the product will sell or not. Not a very comfortable situation.

On one hand, if you badly evaluated the market you will end up losing money because you can’t sell your products. On the other hand, if you were right and the market loves your product, some people (from China/Korea/India) will build replicas and sell them at half the price and destroy your market. And just to prove my point, here is a cheap knock off of the Z-finder!

Of course, if you can put yourself in a position where your product can’t be replicated for some technical/economical reasons, it is like hitting the jack pot like David did with the D-Focus.

I am currently at this crossroad. Having to make a decision if I am willing to risk nearly a month worth of earnings on a single deal or not.

What would you do?

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do ... I'm not professional photographer and I don't need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better ...

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  • SBG

    Ahh, glad to play provocateur on this one. I do have experience in manufacturing CE products overseas, and am familiar with the common obstacles of managing materials, build quality, etc. I was also a pro video shooter for nearly a decade (working for a production company, shooting local commercials, infomercials, etc) . I think the culprit has more to do with “camera culture”. A Lamborghini will definitely get you from A to B, but most people are willing to compromise on many aspects of a car in order to save some money. The camera culture can get too caught up on comparing specs, wanting to appear to be a pro. I would guess that the majority of HDSLR video folks are hobbyists or part-timers, rather than pro shooters working with big crews and big budgets. In a logical world, these folks would be willing to trade some amount of quality for a reasonable price, but often they are compelled by “spec envy” to just go with the flow. The manufacturers often know this, and play to it. Retaining high prices while the cost of production decreases with each run or increased order size. It’s expected in some circles for sure, but with HDLSR folks, who are already accepting things like lossy compression, poor audio support, etc. you would think they would be less ready to buy into this “only the best” thinking. In turn, the manufacturers have been incredibly consistent on maintaining these high price points.
    Things are beginning to change slowly, although only as a result of new manufacturers entering the market – as of late we’re starting to see some shoulder rigs at $600, about half of what the common price was a year ago. Of course the older manufacturers are trying to hold their pricing where it was, but they can only make it for so long. I expect that we’ll continue to see improved quality at lower prices in the future, from new companies, but I think it’s taken longer than needed (or maybe I’m just impatient). In the mean time, it creates a market where its very easy to take a “wait and see” approach.

  • Dood


    a die-cast piece of reinforced plastic will do quite well, as would 3mm birch plywood.

    the Hastings triplet, if it covers the screen, for one’s eye-position, would nuke the competition for quality, probably… ( watchmakers use ’em ).


    If you’re going to make a product, you’re also competing against the crowd, eh? for patent application help, too ( or you WILL be suckerpunched by the competition )…

    Good luck, & enjoy the resources…

    Teh Dood…

  • admin

    Thanks for the links!

    I dont really care about DIY folks, I dont want to compete vs them, it is pointless since they value the fun of making the part more than their time.

    But since I want to sell my stuff relatively cheap, I am targeting people for whom 35$ is less than 30mins on a job which should include pretty much all pros.

  • Просматриваю статьи на данном сайте уже какоето время!!! И могу сказать щас что буду продолжать это делать :)

  • Dibakar

    Hi – wondering if you’ve started building them?

    • admin

      Yes and no… I stopped looking for someone to build them after being let down by 7 people and i am now trying to figure out how to build these fast because at 1h per part, it is not economicaly viable for me to build these yet. I have some ideas on how to speed things up that I am going to try soon…