Highlights from the 2006 RAW Survey - Chapter 5

Chapter 5.Preferences among Camera Features in a Hypothetical Camera Purchase Decision

Ratings of Factors that May Affect Camera Purchase Decisions

Part III of the 2006 RAW Survey asked a series of questions about the relative importance of several performance features that photographers typically weigh when considering purchase of a new professional grade digital camera system, including:

  • Form Factor: 35mm SLR form vs. medium format
  • Sensor Size: the dimensions of the imaging sensor expressed in millimeters
  • Image Size: the size of the image files expressed in megapixels
  • Color Depth: the number of bits per channel of color data
  • Focal length multiplier: the focal length or field of view factor compared to 35mm standards
  • Frame Rate: the number of images recorded per second
  • Sensitivity: the sensitivity of the imaging chip expressed in ISO values for "noiseless" images
  • New lenses available: the number of new lenses that would take advantage of all camera features
  • Image Quality Index: a fictional new rating of overall image quality expressed on a 100-point scale
  • RAW Technology: whether RAW image files are written in proprietary vs. open, standard format

Each of three hypothetical camera "brands" was given a unique combination of these 10 factors that typically differentiate advanced digital camera systems (see http://openraw.org/2006rawsurvey/originalsurvey/). Respondents were then asked to rate the importance of each of the 10 factors for making a decision about which of the three hypothetical camera systems to "purchase." Ratings were made on a 10-point scale, where "1" meant "Not at all important," and "10" meant "Extremely important."

  • Two of the factors were rated significantly lower than the other eight. About half the respondents gave scores of 6 or below to "frame rate" (52%) and "focal length multiplier" (48%). Only 8% indicated that "frame rate" was "extremely important" (a score of 10), and only 13% gave the highest rating to "focal length multiplier."
  • Four of the factors show relatively higher (and relatively similar) rankings. Between 26% and 35% gave scores of 1 through 6 to "image size" (26%), "new lenses available" (28%), "form factor" (35%), and "sensor size" (27%). Between 31% and 38% of respondents rated these four factors with scores of "9" or "10" (extremely important), with between 19% and 22% rating all four as "extremely important."
  • Three factors, "sensitivity," "color depth," and "RAW technology," also showed similar and higher rating patterns. Few respondents gave these factors low scores (in the 1 to 6 range) – 13% for "sensitivity," 15% for "color depth," and 17% for "Raw technology." Moreover, about half of respondents – 50% for "sensitivity," 48% for "color depth," and 53% for "RAW technology" – gave all three dimensions scores of "9" or "10" (extremely important), with 27% to 32% rating all three factors as "extremely important."
  • Among the ten factors, "Image Quality Index" (a fictional, independent rating of overall image quality on a 100-point scale) stood out from the others. Only 9% rated "Image Quality Index" with scores in the 1 to 6 range, and 63% rated it as "9" or "10" (extremely important). Nearly two in five (37%) rated "Image Quality Index" as "extremely important."

In summary, three of the 10 factors received average scores between 6 and 7, three factors received average scores between 7 and 8, and four factors received average scores between 8 and 9 on the 10-point rating scale. The "frame rate" factor received the lowest average rating (approximately 6 on a 10-point scale), while "Image Quality Index" received the highest average rating, over 8.6 on the 10-point scale.

The relative order of importance of the factors is roughly the same for all six types of photographers and imaging professionals. For most (but not all) of the factors, average ratings given by professional photographers are slightly higher than those given by other categories, but the differences are relatively small.

Most Important Reasons for Selecting a Specific Brand in a Hypothetical Camera Purchase Decisions

When asked which of the three hypothetical new camera systems they would "purchase," nearly two-thirds of respondents (65%) indicated a preference for Brand B. Considerably smaller and nearly identical fractions chose Brand A (17%) and Brand C (18%). The factors considered "most important" for the hypothetical purchase decision differed considerably for respondents who "bought" each of the three models.

  • For the 17% who selected Brand A, the "sensor size" (24x36mm or "full-frame 35mm equivalent) was identified as most important by over one-third (36%), and "Image Quality Index" score was named as most important by 29%. These two factors were named by nearly two-thirds (65%) of those who preferred Brand A. Only 1% to 9% named any of the other eight features as most important for their decision.
  • Among the 18% who "purchased" Brand C, it’s top ranking "Image Quality Index" score was cited as the most important reason by 54% of respondents. Another 19% named "sensor size" as most important (Brand C was the only model of the three to have a sensor measuring 80mm by 80mm). Finally, "image size" (88 megapixels) was considered most important by 12%. These three factors were named by 85% of those who preferred Brand C. Each of the other seven features was named as most important by only 0% to 6% of this group.
  • The 65% of respondents who chose Brand B named three factors as most important to their hypothetical purchase decision: "RAW image technology" by 38% (Brand B was described as having the most open RAW imaging technology), "sensitivity" by 22% (lowest noise over the widest ISO range), and "Image Quality Index" by 10% (the IQI score of 90 was lowest of the three hypothetical brands). A total of 70% of Brand B "purchasers" named these three factors as "most important." The other seven features were named by only 1% to 7% of those who selected Brand B.

Most Important Reasons for Rejecting Brands in the Hypothetical Camera Purchase Decision

Respondents were asked to identify which of the 10 camera features was the most important reason that they chose not to "purchase" each of the two camera models that they rejected. In each case, respondents who "purchased" a specific hypothetical brand had distinctly different reasons for rejecting each of the other two brands.

Reasons for Rejecting Brand A

  • Among the 65% of respondents who preferred Brand B, 75% indicated their most important reason for rejecting Brand A was its "RAW image technology." Brand A was described as having the most proprietary RAW technology of the three hypothetical brands, with features designed to ensure that Brand A buyers would have difficulty using RAW conversion/editing software other than that provided by the manufacturer of Brand A. The other nine factors were mentioned by only 1% to 6% of Brand B purchasers.
  • Respondents that "purchased" Brand C (18%) were somewhat more divided in their descriptions of the most important reason they rejected Brand A. 46% indicated "Raw image technology," 21% named "Image Quality Index," 11% identified "image size," and 10% reported "sensor size," as being their most important reasons for rejecting Brand A.

Reasons for Rejecting Brand B

  • Among the 17% who preferred Brand A, 38% cited "sensor size," 24% named "Image Quality Index," 11% indicated "focal length multiplier," and 10% mentioned "RAW image technology" as their most important reasons for rejecting Brand B.
  • For the 18% who preferred Brand C, two factors predominated. Nearly one half of these respondents (45%) rejected Brand B for its inferior "Image Quality Index" score, while one-quarter (26%) rejected Brand B because of its smaller sensor size.

Reasons for Rejecting Brand C

  • For respondents who "purchased" either Brand A (17%) or Brand B (65%), the medium "format factor" was the reason cited most frequently for rejecting Brand C.
  • Many who favored Brand A also rejected Brand C because of the large "image size" (17%) and the large "sensor size" (12%).
  • Among the 65% who chose Brand B, the second most frequently cited reason for rejecting Brand C was its RAW image technology (25%). In addition, 10% of Brand B "purchasers" rejected Brand C for its large "image size."

Possible Implications of Respondents’ Preference for Hypothetical "Brand B"

The largest percentage of respondents who preferred Brand B in the hypothetical purchase decision indicated that their choice was influenced by Brand B’s "RAW image technology," which included:

  • Open RAW file format
  • Documentation to be provided to the public (including independent software developers) at no cost
  • Brand B’s manufacturer does not offer RAW conversion or editing software

Brand B’s RAW imaging technology was cited as the most important reason for the hypothetical purchase more often than any other factor for any of the three cameras.

Most respondents – 25% of 18,385 who answered all questions in this section of the survey – identified the open, documented RAW imaging technology as the single factor that was most important to their selection of Brand B above the two other brands.

No other single factor was cited by more than 15% of respondents. In this hypothetical purchase framework, RAW imaging technology clearly dominated all other individual features with respect to its potential impact on future purchases.

We believe the results reported here should be considered carefully by camera makers and software producers as they continue to develop both the technologies and the marketing strategies for the new systems they offer to the next generation of prospective customers.

Calvin Jones – Fri, 2006/04/28 – 7:31pm