There are many reasons why MFDB must be more expensive than a DSLR body, but I wonder does it really have to be this expensive?
Pentax has clearly proven that it doesn't have to be the case when you do things in a smart way. They do of course leverage economies of scale accross their full camera operation, but the photographic value of a 645D is not impacted by this, on the contrary.
The problem is indeed that the flow of events has resulted in the MF brands serving both the photography and luxury markets with a single product line. High end backs manufacturers have managed to position themselves so as to serve the same market high end audio, high end cars, high end wines,... have been serving for years. And why would they not cater for that market?
Traders, successful businessman and some hard working folks nearing retirement have piles of cash and they litterally don't know what to do with it. And the clock is ticking like it is for all of us. Those are smart people who know the value of things. The name of the game when serving this market is simply to produce enough justification for the buyer to feel good about signing the check. Usually it helps if that quality is "visible" to the outside world, because ego is part of this discussion:
- the best lenses for Leica S,
- 80 mp for phase and Leaf,
Note that I am not debating the reality of these claims, they are real, zero doubt.
Once you have found this differentiator that people can feel good about, the price is simply not that relevant. On the contrary, the more expensive the better because it prevents lesser folks from mixing in the club, which would ruin the whole story a bit. We have seen high end DSLR being compared to "VW" recently, while MFDB are "Porsches", which examplifies the point beautifully.
I happen to know quite a few of those guys and have zero negative feelings about them, "good for them" is how I feel about this whole thing. I happen to also know a few people serving the luxury market on the sales/marketing side in other domains (audio,...) and the way they market their products is a copy/paste of the way MFDB are being marketed here and elsewhere.
The "victims" are the "normal" photographers willing to shoot MF, since the elite has basically kidnapped the MF platforms for their own enjoyment... that is if we forget Pentax. That is a key difference with high end audio for example, because photographic platforms are essentially closed... It is not legitimate to be mad about Wilson Audio selling 160,000 US$ speakers, but it is legitimate to be made about Phaseone for not making the Mamiya digital platform more affordable because their is a strong link between the buyers of a photographic platform and the seller. I do believe that the seller as an untold responsibility towards the buyers.
Now, some high end photographers in fact also like the pricing because it provides them an entry barrer against younger and talented folks who cannot afford these monsters right away. Note that I am not saying it is the only reason why they use MF. They use MF because of the photograhic value... but they are pretty happy about the unaffordability as well.