Are Camera Manufacturers Lying to Us?

It would seem as though there is a disconnect between the marketing and engineering departments for many companies. Marketing departments tend to follow trends and engineering departments are tasked with making it a reality. But what happens when it's simply not feasible for engineers to give everything the customer base wants?

Photographers (including me) are not really easy to please. It's almost impossible to release a camera and have everyone be happy with it. This is exacerbated by, let's be honest, gear reviewers (including me) who are going to have personal preferences. In this climate, I can appreciate how it's probably quite difficult for manufacturers to pique the interest of potential customers. This is where companies resort to using certain marketing strategies that one could describe as misleading. Now, I'm not suggesting that it's OK for companies to lie to us but I also appreciate that sometimes there are technicalities that companies may use. A perfect example of this is when companies describe their cameras as having the "world's fastest autofocus speeds." I doubt anyone really takes this seriously because it's mostly a useless measure of how good a camera's autofocus system is. Even still it tends to appear quite frequently as a positive point when a new camera is released. In a recent video by Tony and Chelsea Northrup they describe five points that could be described as outright lies.  

Personally, I think it's a two-way street and we both have a part to play in how the marketing is done.

What are your thoughts on certain marketing strategies that companies use? Are they little white lies or do companies need to be more responsible and honest with how they market certain features? 

Lead Image by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.

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21 Comments

Marketing hype is all thats left and all oems abuse it. Perhaps a camera that has two cards slots is a must for a professional but for the average hobbyist/amateur it is not a deal breaker. Another peeve of mine is 4K. What am I to do with that. I don't own anything to view 4K period. Most don,t. There just isn't enough marketing hype out there to get me to pay $1200.00 for an Iphone let alone $5000.00 for a camera with a kit lens. It isn,t going to happen. I might be persueded to buy a camera that just takes photos sans any video capabilities if the price is right as that is all I need or want.

As far as 4K video goes, it’s a feature I look for. I don’t have a 4K display, either, but I can shoot a two person seated interview in 4K with a single camera and get 3 angles from it for a 1080 delivery.

Jonathan Brady's picture

My day job exists on the flip side of this scenario. Everything we say has to be meticulously proven and carefully constructed. In fact, the negatives have to be stated 2x as much as the positives and many of the negatives are inapplicable to most people yet qualifying statements are not allowed.

Johnny Rico's picture

I think the only camera manufacture that has lied about megapixels was the one that had the Foveon sensors and multiplied it by 3.

I mean, do they not realize that the megapixels is a exacting measurement of the sensors pixels/photosites, not a measure of quality?

Tony Northrup's picture

"Do they not realize that the megapixels is a exacting measurement of the sensors pixels/photosites, not a measure of quality?" <- no, nobody realizes this. Consumers almost universally believe they'll be getting 24 megapixels of detail from a 24 megapixel camera. That's why we included that in the video.

Note that I'm not talking about the average person who follows fstoppers or our YT channel; those are definitely advanced camera nerds. I'm talking about typical camera buyers.

JetCity Ninja's picture

"... nobody realizes this. Consumers almost universally believe they'll be getting 24 megapixels of detail from a 24 megapixel camera."

i'm interested in the research behind this. link to where i can read about the market research that concluded this? because this is confusing as quality and detail aren't the same thing.

So, if a sensor actually has a 24-megapixel sensor the manufacturer lies because you have to put a lens in front of it?

Let’s say I have a perfect sensor and a perfect lens and I take a perfectly focused picture in a vacuum of a perfectly flat surface which has one color (let’s say red) on the entire surface, the same luminosity everywhere and the processing will not add any noise. What will be the resolution (detail) of the resulting picture?

1 pixel?
6 megapixels (only red light, so ¼ of 24 mp due to the Bayer filter)?
24 megapixels?

Actual (perceived) resolution (detail) is the result of many variables not only (crappy) lenses but that doesn’t mean a manufacturer lies when they say it’s a 24 mp sensor.

What methodology do you use to arrive at the resolution amount measured in megapixels on a camera lens convo?

Paul Monaghan's picture

Actually the first few Sigma sensors where x3 designs meaning they actually had a full red, green and blue read out.

Take the Merrill chip, it was a 15.6mp chip with three layers, you can actually get a full readout from each layer of the sensor using Sigma Photo Pro in monochrome mode so they are not lying, in color this resolution increase while not as effective as 46mp or so bayer its pretty close to 36-40mp when printing even if three image size is a total of 15.6mp.

I know this first hand as my 16mp Bayer chip printed at 45x30" required several large steps backwards to view nicely where my lowly 15.6mp Foveon image you could look close to the print.

1 bayer pixel requires data from 3 ajacent pixels to guess its true color, this reduces the amount if color data by alot vs Foveon which is evident if you compare images shit side by side. The luminence data doesnt seem to shift as fast either as the bayer filter blurs the image slightly.

So while a Bayer chip might have the correct pixel width and height to match its MP rating the about of detail in the image is less than it should be, the Pentax and Sony pixel shift mode that captures full color per pixel but at the same image size proves this.

I shot Bayer for years and still do for some things but anything where I can use iso 100 I always grab my crop Sigma and have done for years now.. my full frame sony sits at home most if the time.

imagecolorado's picture

I don't concern myself with the "marketing" the camera makers do. Certain specifications are what draw my attention, and in that regard I think the manufacturers give fairly accurate descriptions. I leave all the rest of the hyperbole to the internet review sites.

Tony and Chelsea Northrup are trying to hard to make a point. If they spend some time reading the specifications it isn't as bad as they try to make it. Canon had a "silent" mode where the mirror didn't returned until you released the shutter. Tone demonstrated that mode with continuous shooting. Not fair!

I read the specs for the Fujifilm camera. Depending on shooting condition you get from 30 fps down to 5.7 fps. Tony, read the manual before you're fishing for likes. To meet marketing BS with bad consumer reviews doesn't help at all.

Tony Northrup's picture

1) The mode I demonstrated is clearly labeled "Silent mode". 2) The other version of "Silent" mode just delays the second clap by a bit, but is no more silent. You think I'm the one who's being unfair, and not Canon who used the word "Silent" to advertise that mode?

Re: The Fuji's 30 FPS, nowhere on their product pages can I find any reference to 5.7 FPS... but an unqualified "30 FPS" is front-and-center.

Kirk Darling's picture

Back when they first marketed "silent shutter" capability, it really was a way to release the shutter with a whole lot less noise than other SLR and DSLR cameras at that time.

"Silent Shutter" was marketing hype, but it said more about the capacity than simply "much quieter."

Ivan Lantsov's picture

They sell cameras, be smart and not buy!

Kirk Darling's picture

We're photographers. We use cameras.

Well, when I was a kid I did make a pinhole camera out of an oatmeal box.

But generally, sooner or later a photographer winds up buying a camera.

JetCity Ninja's picture

"Personally, I think it's a two-way street and we both have a part to play in how the marketing is done."

how is it a "two-way street?"

all we can do is vote with our wallets, but that rarely affects how a product is marketed. in fact, it's safe to assume that it only results in products being marketed even more outrageously to drum up more sales until engineers and designers can create a replacement product.

if it were a two way street, ads for prescription drugs would have disappeared long ago.

what am i missing?

Usman Dawood's picture

Essentially it's market sentiment and preferences. How we react to certain features over others have an impact on how companies will market to us. Companies don't market in a vacuum they understand their customer base and what they want (for the most part).

"How are customers reacting to higher megapixel count, is this still working or should we switch up strategies? Have they moved on to dynamic range? Should we mention dynamic range more in the information or the AF speeds"?

Past sales are not a perfect measure for future predictions. If anything they could be unreliable. Just because something sold really well last year doesn't mean it will next. It's not a solid measure to determine a whole marketing campaign and it's a narrow view. Marketing generally happens before sales start to generate and wallet votes can only really be looked at in hindsight.

Also just because someone hasn't bought something from a company doesn't mean they are immediately a detractor.
"How does that individual feel about the company how does that person feel about certain features? What's the potential of this individual making a purchase in the future if not now and what feature would entice this individual"?

"What if we marketed X to this individual in X manner, would that work"? Our reactions to companies play a huge part in how companies market to us and this is why so much research is done.

Wallet votes are only one facet because trends change, preferences change.

Patrick Rosenbalm's picture

Manufacturers advertising, review sites and personal reviews at retailers help but don't always make it easy.

In the end it's up to the consumer to use common sense and research the products they are interested in purchasing. Read the reviews and weed out the BS and hype and buy what works best for them based on the features, performance and price of the product. And remember that there is NO Perfect Camera. ;-)

I try to avoid their videos and certainly won't spend 25 minutes on this one. They manufacture "lies" that they can then discredit. Like their 2014 video titled "Crop Factor with ISO & Aperture: How Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Canon, Nikon & Fuji Cheat You". But if you watch that video, you realize the video is deceptively titled and the manufacturers don't in fact cheat you. So this new video just repeats their pattern of deceptively titled videos.

EL PIC's picture

Yes but .. Its more cleaver marketing spec-manship for an audience that is too easy to persuade ..
Weasel words !!
The problem is not camera manufactures but the low IQ of the typical photographer.
They believe what they want to hear like believing in politicians.

Usman Dawood's picture

Ignorance is not the same stupidity. We're all ignorant (including you and me) about most things, that doesn't mean we have a low IQ.