The Danger of Colors

Back when Pentax first started the whole "any color you want" craze for cameras, I wrote about the risks of pursuing that strategy and how it was one indicator that cameras had become commodities and were no longer being judged much by their performance.

This week I was reminded of one of the other consequences as vendors started trying to unload their Nikon J2 cameras. Consider this list at Amazon US (for comparison sake, Nikon's suggested retail price is US$549.95):

  • Black J2 with 10-30mm lens: US$352.99
  • Orange J2 with lens: US$299.99
  • Pink J2 with lens: US$399.99
  • Red J2 with lens: US$299.99
  • Silver J2 with lens: US$354.99
  • White J2 with lens: US$349.00

Now, not all of those are being sold directly by Amazon, but even amongst the ones they do stock Amazon's price varies considerably with color.

So I guess there's a lesson here: buy the black or silver version if you're buying early, as it will hold its price better and thus likely sell for more used. Buy the least popular color when a model is being closed out for a new generation, as it will cost the least.

Note that there is currently a US$100 difference between color choices at the moment on the J2. That represents a discount of 25% on the least costly color versus the most. 25%. There's no difference in features or performance or image quality here, just a painted shell color. That'swhat I call faddish. There's no basis other than fashion for that differential.

Now think about this from a dealer's point of view. Sticking just with Nikon, the current color variations in the Coolpix through DSLR models would require a dealer to stock several hundred camera SKUs (stocking units) in order to be able to serve any customer request. Know any camera dealers that do? I don't. That fact alone should have told the camera makers that color options were a very bad idea. Note that even Apple doesn't do color variations except on things that sell in tens of millions of units, and they're using daily data from their many stores to balance color production.

That said, I've been working on something for awhile now that I think will be telling. Once we hit the full brunt of summer I'll be able to report my full set of data. But consider this: if I had a white Nikon V1 and a black Nikon V1 and was using them outside on a tripod for hours in the middle of a hot sunny day, would there be a difference between them? ;~)

Colors do matter, but not in any sense that the camera makers are promulgating. Based upon the data so far, silver is probably your safest color choice, as it best balances reflectivity and value retention.

text and images 2017Thom Hogan
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