I am looking into CCD cameras that can be attached to a microscope. I understand that there is a premium to pay for anything labeled "industrial", but I don't really understand why they cost so much, given that their framerates/resolutions are comparable or worse than what you find on modern smartphones. For example, the Prosilica GE2040 listed here is monochrome, takes 4K resolution pictures and its maximal framerate is 15 fps costs ~6300 USD - but a smartphone costing tenth of that can shoot 4K res 30 fps movies!

What am I missing here? What is special about these cameras that make them so expensive?

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    You are asking what is the difference between a 35mm camera that shoots at 205fps and a smartphone? Even regardless of framerate, you must understand that a full frame sensor has advantages over the minuscule sensors in smartphones. – dpollitt Feb 20 '15 at 4:02
  • From what I understand, at 4K resolution this camera can only do 15fps. The ones that can do high frame rate have a very low resolution (e.g. VGA). Why can't you just use the sensor you have in a smartphone or in a simple hand-held camera with a microscope and get better quality more cheaply? – Bitwise Feb 20 '15 at 13:09

Why can't you just use the sensor you have in a smartphone or in a simple hand-held camera with a microscope and get better quality more cheaply?

You're starting from a false premise — that the resolution tells you much about the image quality. The $6000 camera from your link has a 1/1.2"-format sensor, which has an area roughly 5× that in an iPhone. That larger area gives an inherent advantage.

As you note, this sensor is an industrial part, with very detailed specifications readily available; among other things, if you need that technical information for a paper, you're not guessing. And while it has different characteristics from sensors in typical consumer cameras, it is a high end part. You can see more on what can matter in a sensor at What characteristics make a digital sensor good? — this alone is probably the key answer to your question.

But additionally, there are other distinguishing characteristics. For example, the sensor (and camera made around it) is available in a monochrome version, which means more per-pixel resolution if you don't care about color. And beyond image quality, the camera has features like gigabit ethernet output which are appropriate for a lab instrument; that

And, finally, the smartphone has a cheap lens built into it, a fixed limiting factor. This camera is an interchangeable lens system, making it much more versatile for whatever application.

Now, it may be possible that the consumer-device output will be just fine for what you need. In that case, awesome. But better quality more cheaply? No.

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The difference is a higher reliability and compliance to different (industry) standards.

Say for example you are building automated assembly lines for other companies that at some point require computer vision. If this assembly line fails and stops doing whatever it is supposed to do, the company that bought it from you will charge you by the minute (and call you as often). It seems to be a good idea to use a camera that is built to last instead of some consumer product that is designed to be replaced in a few months with another version.

While they do not have any specifications online, I wouldn't be surprised if this industrial camera is dust and/or even splash proof.

The connector is Gigabit Ethernet, probably with a special connector to ensure dust/splash proving. A lot of consumer laptops for example only come with 100 Ethernet these days, because people like the convenience of wireless connections. This is different in industry applications. It's not like factories set up wifi to share their important images.

Consumer electronics are so cheap because that is one of the most important goals in their design process.

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