Pricing for Early Digital Cameras (SLR's)

Discuss older Nikon-based Kodak digital SLRs, including DCS 100, DCS 200, NC2000, DCS 400/600/700-series, etc. Ask questions, post general comments, anecdotes, reviews and user tips.
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Pricing for Early Digital Cameras (SLR's)

Post by ndrummond93 » Tue May 24, 2005 8:49 pm

My first post, but there will be many more.. Jarle has a great website, many thanks for setting up this webboard.

- Pricing is relative to the end user.... here's my observation on pricing for the first generation Digital SLR cameras. Most of my experience is via the military, especially the US Air Force, for whom price is often no object... the needs of the mission come first.

Quick background, the first generation commercially produced digital SLR's were the sole domain of Kodak... which built their early professional commercial digital camera business on the advanced technology that had been pioneered for the use of CCD technology in the imaging field for the US military via surveillance and recnonnaissance satellite technology in the 1970's. Although I've not seen anything unclassified in print that directly traces the lineage of the the first digital SLR CCD's, you can be pretty sure that the classified reconnaissance satellites were using digital CCD chips at least 10 years before they were introduced commercially.
Since the military/government was the main user of the technology, the ideal customer for a Digital Camera would have been the same... as reflected by the pricing and the number of cameras produced and sold to the military.

Beginning with the DCS 200 and DCS 4xx, (and up until the DCS 5xx/6xx series), the prices reflected that only the government was really expected to buy the first few generations of cameras- or perhaps a news bureau or 2. Many of the DCS cameras I've picked up at a Gov't surplus auction still are identified by the original National Stock Number (NSN) that was used to order them through supply- and if you know that, you can sometims look up that NSN to see it's original contract pricing. Although my information is incomplete, here's an short list of the prices the gov't paid on the original purchase of the cameras: (unknown means I haven't located a NSN for that camera)

DCS 100 (unknown)
DCS 200 $20,000+
DCS 315 (unknown, probably around $5k)
DCS 420 $9,242.03
DCS 460 $22,750 (body & charger only)
DCS 460 $28,750 (complete kit w/ lens, card reader, etc)
DCS 620 $10,028.75
DCS 660 $18,750

The pricing varies somewhat based upon the unit number of cameras purchased on each contract... contracts with large numbers of units (100+)would be cheaper per unit bought than a contract with say, only 10 cameras on it.

In the last few years the gov't /military have gotten away from issuing contracts for commercially available items like cameras- instead, federal or military units are authorized to use a Gov't owned credit card and they can purchase the camera on the open market... although larger vendors can usually provide special GSA-approved (General Services Administration) pricing, which will be anywhere from 60-80% cheaper. CDW (a commecial reseller of office and computer equipment) has a government division that sells Canon photo equipment to the military, especially the US Navy... I think they are Canon's #1 reseller in the US for Canon SLR equipment.

More info to follow as I have time to post it.


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Post by Webmaster » Tue May 24, 2005 9:08 pm

Hi Nathan!

Welcome on board, and thanks for the kind words. Great first post! Looking forward to hear from you again.


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Post by Stan Disbrow » Tue May 24, 2005 9:48 pm


I first saw a Kodak digital imaging system around 1985. I was with IBM at the time, and we were working on building a fully robotic manufacturing line. Kodak had most of the pieces that would later be used in the original DCS then. We incorporated imaging subsystems as inspection stations at various stages on the line.

I clearly recall that Kodak demonstrated the capabilities of their imaging technology with a system that was installed into a Nikon F3 camera body. This wasn't quite as portable as the eventual DCS, but it was a very good way for them to sell us on the system. It's pretty easy to see how Kodak managed to evolve their sales tool into the DCS they sold to news agencies a few years later.

Oh, and the cost of the Kodak imaging stations we bought was $35k each at the time. That sounds costly, but when a half-dozen of these are considered against a multi-million dollar plant refit, they were quite inexpensive.

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Re: Pricing for Early Digital Cameras (SLR's)

Post by Webmaster » Mon Jul 11, 2005 11:23 am

ndrummond93 wrote: DCS 100 (unknown)
Apparently, the cost for the original DCS kit was somewhere around $25.000 - $30.000:

'The first true digital SLR, the Kodak DCS 100, had been shown behind closed doors in 1990, having been produced previously as the Hawkeye for unspecified agencies. It was on the open market by 1991 – a Nikon F3 with a CCD system fit within. It wrote to an external hard drive mounted in a case slung from the shoulder. It was slow and cumbersome, heavy for some, but its CCD contained an astounding one million pixels. For that you could pay upwards of $25,000.'

Source: ... .asp?P=469

'Shown privately at Photokina ’90 with a price of $30,000.'


'Some trivia: the first digital SLR was a Kodak DCS-100 in 1991 with a 1.3 Mp sensor and $30.000 tag. '



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DCS100 pricing.

Post by Brian Sweeney » Thu Jul 14, 2005 10:44 am

The DCS (DCS100) is listed in Popular Photography's Dec 1991 issue with a price tag of $20,000 for camera and electronics pack. I suspect you can run the price up quickly with accessories.

I paid $12,400 for my DCS200ir body. With accessories, ie ext battery, ext disk, lenses, the total cost for the "system" was $16,500. That "total Value" gets assigned to the body as it had the "inventory tag". So if it was surplussed, the cost that shows up on that tag is $16,500 ragardless of if the lenses are surplussed with it. At the time (~1993) I could pick up the DCS200c body for just under $10,000.

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