Sunday, August 25, 2013

Asleep at the Wheel

[WARNING: This is a rant about photography, specifically Canon.  If you don't pay attention to the industry, you'd be better off just skipping this post.  I don't really have anyone to talk to about this stuff, so this rant is a long time coming.]
What the hell is Canon doing?  Do they have blinders on?  Are they watching where the industry is going?  Can someone help me understand what the hell they're doing?

(I almost didn't post this rant.  I wrote this the other day after Canon announced 32 (a slight exaggeration, but just only) new point and shoots that are already dead on arrival. Then yesterday an article comes out where Canon says its getting into the surveillance market due to poor DSLR sales....ummm, duh?  So here it is.  Please continue...)

The reason for this post is due to the slew of "new" cameras that Canon announced last night.  Their "new flagship" is the G16, a brick of a point and shoot with a whopping...yes, 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor.  Say what?!  Why?  Why is every other camera manufacturer on earth putting M4/3 or APS sized sensors in all their new cameras besides Canon?  Don't they see what's going on?  It's all about the sensor!  There is no place for point and shoots in this 41-megapixel cell phone camera world we live in now.  

Hey man, calm down, it has faster autofocus and WiFi!  You can upload your pics staight to Facebook!  Who the hell cares?!?!  I can do that with my phone.  The point and shoot market is dead.  They should have straight up named the G16 the Gsoccermom.  There is not one new feature on this camera that hasn't been around for a long time.

And hey, I understand that there might be a semblance of a point and shoot market left, somewhere, release one point and shoot with a big fat Facebook button.  Not thirty eight. 
They also released the specs on the new S120.  As usual, it has the same sensor and identical insides as the G16, except in a much slicker package that you can fit in your pocket.  Why the hell would you choose a brick of a camera over much sleeker version of the same thing?  But wait...the G16 has a hotshoe mount and an "optical viewfinder"!  HAHAHAHAHAHA!   Have you ever put your eye up to one of those "viewfinders"?  They're a joke...a dusty, foggy looking into the wrong end of a microscope.  Why ever bother?  

And the hotshoe!  If I ever saw someone at a party with a big speedlight mounted to this thing I would just laugh.  Which brings me to my next point...  If you're at the level where you have a speedlight and use it, you are far beyond what this camera is capable of.  Again, I just don't get it.  
Which one would you use today?  Oh right, probably neither.

Canon used to be exciting, and revolutionary
I got the S95 not long after it came out and loved it.  Like everyone else, I was looking for a smaller alternative to my 7D.  This was right before the mirrorless explosion.  This was when a 1/1.7-inch sensor was HUGE in the game of sensors.  That camera put every other point and shoot to shame.  Pros were buying it in droves.  Once again, Canon was ahead.  But not for long.  This is when the industry started to turn, leaving Canon lost on the horizon.  

The micro four thirds/mirrorless camera was born.  Slowly but surely they started gaining market share.  Then the Fuji X100 came out of nowhere, increasing the size of the sensor in a smaller awesomely styled retro body.  Then came Olympus, Panasonic, Sony.  Boom.  Game changed forever.  See a trend here?  Bigger sensors, smaller cameras?  Yea, Canon still hasn't caught on.  

And yes, I know Canon has the M, and they are supposedly even coming out with a new one.  But seriously, the entire system was/is the most half-assed attempt I've ever seen by a company struggling to remain relevant.  Canon fan boys don't even like it.  Canon is clearly not fully invested it, pretty much making it known that they want no part of this booming market.  What a waste of a captive audience.

This is why I have such a problem.  Canon used to be revolutionary.  They were ahead of everyone else in the game.  The 5D Mark II was an absolute game changer.  Everyone wanted it, every other camera wanted to be it.  The sensor, the high ISO capabilities, and the truly remarkable video...that video!  The industry that we know today is largely due in thanks to this one camera.  And Canon had it- they started it.  They have been on cruise control ever since.  

I can remember first reading about the 7D when it first came out.  Holy smokes was I excited.  An insane sensor (compared to the 30D, my first camera), the same video modes as the 5DII, a weather sealed pro body, and a host of other awesome features.  For a crop sensor camera it had it all.  Not to mention it was tough.  (You could drop it down stairs, freeze it, and light it on fire and it would still work.)  You know when that was announced?  Yep, 2009.  Four years have gone by without a successor.  That is an eternity in the camera world.  They keep teasing us with a new model but to no avail.  Four years and counting.  

The industry now belongs to Fuji, Sony, Olympus and to a smaller degree Panasonic.  They are all coming out with insane cameras on a daily basis.  Huge sensors.  Small retro bodies.  Great optics.  Hell, even Nikon released a pocket camera with an APS sized sensor.  It's been getting stellar reviews.  Where the hell is Canon?  Do they think they would be cannibalizing their own line up if they released such a camera?  Are they paying attention?  The answer is simply no.  If they were, they'd see that pros aren't going to give up their DSLR's just yet.  These pro's still have two or more full frame bodies, but they want a smaller retro package with the same image capabilities as a DSLR.  Every other manufacturer has figured this out.

A dream camera. Literally.

Could you imagine if Canon came out with a slick retro styled camera?  I would have jumped right on board., and it wouldn't have made me give up my 5DIII.  But its too late now...I'm a Fuji fan for life.  The X100 is probably my favorite camera I have ever owned.  That's not to say its the best, just that its my favorite.  I'm with Zack Arias on this one...I feel an emotional connection to it.  It has a soul.  A camera is much more than a box with a lens attached to it.  The look and feel matter.  I wish Canon would realize this.  

The Fujis and Sonys and Olympus' know their market and they serve it well.  They are serving the pros that want a smaller walkaround camera.  They are serving the amateurs wanting to step up from the point and shoot game.  If Canon is going after the soccer moms (and that is all they seem to be going after), then great job.  Congrats.  But you are steadily loosing loyal photographers everyday.  I'm one of them.  I'm heavily invested in the 5DIII system, but hell, if Fuji released a full frame camera I'd most likely jump ship.  I'm scared for Canon.  I like Canon.  I love my 5DIII.  But it seems as though they're perfectly fine sitting back and letting everyone else pass them up.  They're getting lapped around the track.

The recent announcement from Canon saying that they're getting into the surveillance camera market shows how utterly clueless they are.  DSLR sales are down.  You don't say?!  So instead of coming out with a stellar mirrorless system you get cameras?  Who is running this place?

Look, I do not want to come off as some camera snob.  I am anything but.  I do stay updated on the latest and greatest cameras, but I hardly think that all matters.  The greatest camera is the one you have with you.  I still have my S95, and its a great alternative if I'm going to a club and want better pictures than my cell phone offers.  The reason for this rant post is that Canon actually seems to be taking a step backwards, and as I company that I used to think could do no wrong, I'm kinda upset about it.  It's embarrassing for them.  Everything they just released is already dead on arrival.

There is no doubt that Canon and Nikon remain the kings of the DSLR.  But that is a dying industry...smaller cameras are getting so good that pretty soon they only people left buying these beasts will be the pros.  If Canon doesn't change course soon in a decade we will be reading about them with the same wonder as we did when Kodak announced bankruptcy.  That's not good.  

Perhaps Kai of DigitalRev fame said it best, "How do you encourage people to buy your DSLRs?  You make everything else in the range shit."

Who knows.  Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe they're working on something right now that will make me regret this post.  But seeing what they've done lately, I highly, highly doubt it.  

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