As The Verge‘s resident headphone obsessive, I often find myself having to justify to people why they should spend more than, say, $50 for superior sound quality. I relish the challenge, and I do my best to be an ambassador for better audio equipment that may be a bit pricier. But then I look at cameras like this here Nikon Coolpix W300, which has the temerity to cost $389.95 (or €469 in Europe / £389 in Brexit-addled Britain), and my heart sinks a little. Why are people prepared to throw down the best part of $400 on a simpleton point-and-shoot?
My grievance is with the lack of symmetry. We’re habituated to cameras costing a few hundred dollars, so when a reputable name like Nikon is plastered onto a new (admittedly waterproof and ruggedized) orange shell, we seem to be okay with the associated cost. Other things in our lives, such as chairs, backpacks, and yes, headphones have all seen their entry-level price reduced to ridiculous levels thanks to mass manufacturing and cutting corners on quality, and so our expectations of them have shifted (unfairly, in my opinion).
For $389, you can buy a Peak Design Everyday Backpack plus a set of field pouches and accessories and still have enough money left over for a week’s worth of celebratory mocha frappuccinos. Or you can grab a NASA wallet made out of high-quality leather that might last you a decade. Or get most of the way to acquiring a Herman Miller chair. Or, should you have an extra 11 bucks, you can obtain a pair of the delightful Bowers & Wilkins P7 Wireless or the noise-cancelling Sony 1000Xs and get into the world of wireless sound in luxurious style.
Or you can spend your money on a camera that looks like this:
Please don’t misread this to be an indictment of Nikon or of the class of basic point-and-shoot cameras that just do their job. I think there’s obviously a space and a demand for cameras of the W300’s rugged ilk, but I don’t think it’s at $389. Smartphones have obviated most of the applications for dedicated point-and-shoots these days, and they cost dramatically less: a little over $200 for the Moto G5 Plus, for example. Their image quality is not far behind, either, and Nikon has unfortunately never really distinguished itself through its Coolpix range, which seems almost entirely divorced from its superb DSLR lineup.
What I’m arguing is that we should weigh purchases not based on the anchoring point of the cheapest thing in their category, but on the value and quality they can provide us. I think a chair you’d spend day after day sitting on is inherently more valuable than a camera you might use on the occasional trip to the beach. And the same goes for a reliable bag or wallet, as well as for headphones, the most ubiquitous gadget that isn’t a smartphone.