Strange math of camera prices

Many years ago, photography equipment was much more expensive in Switzerland than, for example, in the United States. The difference was so big that it may have been cheaper to fly to New York and buy your stuff there (especially big white lenses, which I neither need nor ever bought). That has changed. Now, there are many online shops that sell photography equipment at prices that are roughly comparable to those in the US and which can be drastically lower than in a regular camera store. I always thought that outrageously high margins of these camera stores are the reason for the price difference. I may have been wrong. Most likely, the camera manufacturers are to blame.
In the graph below you see that the Swiss prices for the Nikon D800, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 and the Olympus E-P3 (with a 14-42 mm lens) are 21-51% higher in camera stores as compared to online shops. The only notable exception is Sony - the NEX-7 only costs 5% more at FotoPro than in the cheapest online shop. Needless to say that I wouldn't hesitate paying 5% more for the possibility to buy the camera in a "real" shop where I can talk to real people and even hold a camera in my hands before buying it. However, this is certainly not worth a premium of 21-51% (at least not for me). In the case of the Nikon D800, the difference amounts to a staggering 868 CHF, which will buy you a fine camera or lens!
Swiss prices (in CHF) for the Nikon D800, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, the Sony NEX-7, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G3 and the Olympus E-P3 (with a 14-42 mm lens) in at FotoPro (red) and in online shops (blue). The percentage indicates how much more expensive each camera is at FotoPro as compared to the cheapest online shop.
Why is there such a huge difference among brands and regular stores versus online shops? I do not know, but two things seem clear: 
  1. The cheapest prices in Switzerland seem to resemble international prices (for example in the US)
  2. The outrageously high prices in Switzerland are brand/camera specific
Therefore, it either seems that camera manufacturers (Nikon, Canon, Panasonic and Olympus) are completely unaware of the current currency exchange rates or simply think that people living in Switzerland can afford to pay 21-51% more for their products. An interesting side-note: The brand with the most honest price policy, Sony, is also the one that communicates its prices the clearest, while Nikon or Olympus do not provide their suggested retail prices on their Swiss websites at all.

Well, I am sorry to bother you with this apparently local problem, especially since most of you visitors are from abroad. However, there is a "higher" reason why I am mentioning it: 
  • Maybe, the honesty and correctness in a brand's business conduct could and should also be a selection criterion when you shop for equipment. 
Of course, the same holds true for camera stores as well: Why would they accept the ridiculous prices (unless they also profit from these exaggerations)? Luckily, it is now easily possible to compare prices for any product around the globe and there are certainly much more severe cases than the examples shown here. The more surprising it seems to me that certain brands try to dupe their costumers AND seem to get away with it. Since correct conduct seems to be the minority, I think it is very highly commendable and should be highlighted.

P. S. I am neither affiliated with any camera shop - online or regular - nor representing any brand. At the moment I do not even own a Sony camera (I did own a small Sony point-and-shoot camera many years ago that provided good service).

2012/03/15 by Florian Freimoser
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