New Product Idea – Build to Order, Upgradeable, Modular Digital Camera

For years now, we’ve been able to buy built to order computers where we can specify our own combination of processor, memory, hard drive, screen, etc.  We can order a computer from almost any company online, customize the specification to suit our own needs, and have it built and shipped overnight from an overseas factory.

What if we could buy our new Nikon or Canon DSLR like that?  There are many comparisons between computers and digital cameras which support such as concept.  For a good enthusiast level Digital SLR camera, you can pay from $500 to $3000.  There are a wide variety features that are found across numerous makes and models. The same is true for personal computers which are in the same price range, bought by the same people, and also offer numerous brands and options.  In fact, the customization of computers has become a whole separate category where power users built their supercomputers for gaming. There are numerous magazines dedicated to the computer upgrade and customization consumer.

For digital cameras, customizable build to order features on could include: sensor type (CCD/CMOS, other), sensor size (APS-C, Full Frame, etc.), sensor resolution (how many megapixels), sensor cleaning features, sensor stabilization features, battery type/size, memory card type, grip type (plastic or rubber), case color, viewfinder (with live view technology improving,  viewfinders will likely become optional as they have on point and shoot cameras), LCD size/resolution/tilting, number of manual controls (buttons, switches, dials), etc. 

As you can see, there are as many hardware features on a good camera as there are on a good computer.  So from a customer usage viewpoint, this seems like a worthwhile idea. A customer could custom order a new camera built exactly to their specifications. If a manufacturer were to adopt such an approach to making/selling cameras – what would be the advantages and disadvantages for both the consumer and the manufacturer:

Advantages:

  • Product differentiation from competition and first mover advantage – nobody else is offering customer the ability to customize their camera straight from the factory
  • Better buying experience – allows customers to spec out their own products (like a computer or car) 
  • Provides customer with the right camera and the right feature set for their needs.  No need to worry about ‘over-buying’ or having to constantly upgrade
  • Opportunity to upgrade camera as required without having to by a new one every year or two
  • Opportunity for a cheaper entry level and a higher priced ‘fully loaded’ models – more pricing options for consumers

Disadvantages:

  • Companies would need to establish a build to order production and fulfillment system
  • Camera architecture would need to be re-designed to support modular components and upgradeability
  • Marketing strategy would need to shift from several discreet models to fewer discreet platforms that you can option up and upgrade in the future
  • Loss of resale value because each camera will be different and second hand buyers will have a harder time understanding what they are buying.
The bottom line is that a built to order, upgradeable digital camera architecture would definitely change the marketplace and improve consumer choice.  I believe people would even pay a premium for this product which would offset the back office changes required to produce it.

Do you think this is a good idea?  I appreciate your comments.