Canon Admits to Slow Innovation, Pledges to Focus on 'Cutting Edge' Technology

Canon Admits to Slow Innovation, Pledges to Focus on 'Cutting Edge' Technology

Though Canon is atop the camera industry in market share, many photographers complain about the company's seemingly glacial pace of innovation, particularly as compared to the quickly charging likes of Sony and Fuji. In a recent interview, Canon's CEO has pledged to focus on innovation, how much of that will be directed at consumer cameras and lenses remains to be seen.

In an interview with Nikkei Asian Review, Canon Chairman and CEO Fujio Mitarai detailed the company's current state and future plans. The first thing to remember, of course, is that Canon is a company whose interests extend far beyond consumer cameras and lenses, and Mitarai's comments can be read to be inclusive, exclusive, or specific (unlikely) to those divisions. In the interview Mitarai made the following key points:

  • After a good 2017, Canon wants to grow by focusing on their newer businesses such as healthcare, industrial equipment, and security cameras, with these new businesses generating a third of all sales (cameras are expected to contribute 30 percent).
  • The company's primary goal in 2018 is to "raise [their] antennas high toward cutting-edge companies... where [they] lag behind other companies." The company recognizes the quick gains that newer companies are making and acknowledges the pressure it places on them to innovate.

Of course, one can't help but wonder if that's an acknowledgement of companies like Sony or a comment regarding other areas Canon works in. Still, camera equipment is a big chunk of the company's overall business, and I certainly hope some of that increased innovation will be directed toward the cameras we photographers use. 

Head over to Nikkei Asian Review to read the full excerpt from the interview. 

[via Canon Rumors]

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29 Comments

Evan Kane's picture

For too long the elephant in the room has been when / how will Canon (and Nikon) respond to Sony's emerging success over the last few years. It'll be interesting to see if either decides to move towards a mirrorless option

Alex Cooke's picture

I sure hope they do! I think the really interesting thing is going to be what they do with the EF mount in regards to mirrorless.

Kirk Darling's picture

Well, I went through Canon's "nuclear option" when they dropped the FD mount. I was pissed at Canon for a decade, but I had to admit they were more right than anyone else. The fact is that the EF mount is nowhere near obsolete. The fact that it's easily adapted to Sony mirrorless cameras is proof of that.

Alex Cooke's picture

It's not that the EF mount is obsolete. The main problem is the flange distance of the EF mount, which is 44 mm, as compared to a mirrorless option like the Sony E mount, which is 18 mm. That distance can't be changed, and thus Canon would either have to design an entirely new mount or accept the physical size imposed by this distance (and perhaps use that space for some nifty feature). It's either that or they go ahead with a smaller mirrorless body and make an adapter, and maybe an adapter made by Canon for Canon lenses on Canon cameras will have top-shelf AF, but that remains to be seen.

Kirk Darling's picture

It's not an either-or. Canon could do both, keeping a major professional full-size mirrorless camera and a compact camera with an adapter. The cool thing about the EF mount is that it can easily do both.

Flange distance doesn't seem to make a difference when you compare ef to the size and weight of g-master lenses. Camera innovation is fair game but lens physics are tweaked at best.

Spy Black's picture

They would need a different mount for mirrorless. Nikon is in the same boat. Too many people will try to stick their regular lenses on the mirrorless. Either that or the cameras stick with their existing flange distance, which would make the mirrorless camera thicker. Not that it can't happen, but I suspect a new mount for the mirrorless offering from both Canon and Nikon.

For future mirrorless products Canon is ahead of Nikon since they've been using a fully electronic mount since forever and all their lenses have electronic aperture control, while at the moment only a few Nikon cameras and lenses have the same technology. Canon also has a high-end on sensor AF system, while Nikon does not.

So theoretically they could release a pro mirrorless camera without much needed innovation, but lenses become a problem. They can solve the problem temporarily with an adapter like Sony has in the beginning of e-mount but it means they will be using a new mount and they will have to redevelop every lens and the EF mount legacy of lenses slowly goes down the drain.

They could make a camera with a greater flange distance and sacrifice the smaller form factor (which might not even be as bad) but lens focusing technology is also a problem. Every mirrorless lens is focus by wire, while only the STM lenses in Canon's lineup are. Mirrorless cameras work much better with focus by wire lenses (especially for video) which means they have to update almost all of their lenses in this scenario as well.

Since both Canon and Nikon are releasing new DSLR USM lenses at quite a pace lately it makes me wonder what their plan is. It took sony almost ten years to develop the e-mount this far so this should get interesting.

Spy Black's picture

...except you forget that Nikon had a mirrorless system long before Canon did, with the features you say they don't have. While deliberately crippled, it had many groundbreaking features and they were way ahead of a lot of people at the time technologically. I'm sure much was learned with that system, so I would bet Nikon is going to have a system that will be more advanced than most people are expecting.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Nooo Canon omg

Simon Patterson's picture

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, not the rhetoric. I hope Canon does introduce something a bit more cutting edge this year, because the whole industry would likely benefit.

Dave Kavanagh's picture

Its all fine Canon admitting it. Its hardly going to shock anyone who's been paying attention to camera specs in recent years, but I don't see how they can turn it around in 2018. The camera market is typically divided into different price points and the cameras in each price points have life cycles. In their respective price points the 5D mk IV and the 6D mkII are pretty weak compared to what competitors are offering Thats not to say they aren't very capable cameras, but its a simple fact that other brands offer higher performance hardware for similar price. How are Canon going to fix that in 2018 when neither camera are due for replacement? Are they going to drastically reduce their product life cycles to release more competitive cameras? That doesn't seem likely. I'd imagine admitting their slow innovation is purely to act as a carrot on a string to Canon users who are considering switching to an alternative system. I genuinely do hope Canon do act on it, but I really don't see them making any significant progress in 2018.

Robert Nurse's picture

I don't know the engineering that goes into developing a camera. But, I know what I want and I know what I've been waiting for:

- Wider dynamic range +/-7 stops
- AF points that fill the view finder
- Metering based on selected AF point(s)
- 10 frames/sec min
- Swap crop overlays in the finder similar to how it's done in LR

That last one would be sweet IMO. I don't think any manufacturer offers that. Ok, Canon get with it.

John Pyle's picture

“The 5D4 is not the camera you are searching for” Ben Kenobi

Jonathan Brady's picture

I shot Canon for 9 years and eagerly watched product announcements for about 6 of them. I just kept waiting, and waiting, and waiting, to be blown away. Never happened. I decided to switch to Sony when they introduced the A9 because of a blackout free viewfinder, eye AF, compositional freedom offered by AF points literally everywhere, and a variety of other benefits. I'm not alone, either. In my mind, Canon didn't lose the fight. They never opted in. I bought my wife the Canon M5 because I thought it might be good enough but it's slow and clunky to move the AF point (even with the "touchpad AF") and relying on the camera to pick the AF point doesn't work well enough. The ONLY thing Canon has done with their cameras lately that's worth even lifting an eyebrow is DPAF. But that was introduced 4.5 years ago. Literally NOTHING they've done since is even mildly impressive. And with regards to lenses, the BR optics in the 35L II is noteworthy. 4.5 years... and that's it?
I'm a pharmaceutical sales rep and we look at NRx and TRx. NRx stands for "new Rx" and TRx stands for "total Rx". The difference between these is that NRx is a brand new prescription whereas TRx are all prescriptions, both new and refills. NRx are important, because it measures current uptake of your product. But market share, dominance, etc., are all measured by TRx. Canon rides the TRx wave whereas Sony is living off of NRx. Guess which of these scenarios is better for the long-term? Attrition chips away at the base of the products dependent upon refills/TRx. Without NRx, your product dies. ...The future doesn't look good for Canon, IMO. Things will change pretty drastically, I think. It's not going to happen tomorrow. Or next month. Or probably even this year. But by the time the 5D Mark IV and 6D Mark II are up for replacement (by Canon, Inc's standards, not consumer standards), Canon is going to be feeling the pinch, I think.

A while ago I read that Canon has stopped supporting second curtain sync for off camera flash. Any idea if this is for all new cameras?

Robert Nurse's picture

No, you can still do it. But, you'll pull hairs trying to figure out how. In their infinite wisdom, they buried it in the camera's menus. It's only available if you have a flash or the remote trigger in the hotshoe.

Eric Salas's picture

When Canon released the 6Dmark2, that should have been released three years ago considering the technology they put in it is atrocious, people became aware that Canon has been "Apple-ing" consumers for the past few years.

I would rather see them more follow Fuji than Sony. Speed up the life cycle a little bit, but not to the extent of what feels like every 6 months, and provide good firmware upgrades to existing products for a relevant amount of time.

As to the mount thing, there’s an easy solution. EF-M mount with great crop lenses and use an adapter for the big body. Quite literally would be the same size and wouldn’t require 2 sets of lenses for full frame peeps.

Personally, I got a Fuji because they seem to understand the point of a mirrorless is to be small, and therefore put out some excellent crop lenses. I use my canon for FF stuff as the dslr body has better ergonomics for the bigger lenses

Have you actually handled any of Sony's cameras? You do realize that cameras like the XT-2 and X-Pro2 are equal to or LARGER than Sony's FF cameras, right? And that Sony's crop cameras are considerably smaller, down to sizes that nearly match the RX100 series?

As far as releases, Sony FF seems to be following the traditional 2-year replacement standard that most companies use for their consumer line. The A9 should be the only camera that takes longer to upgrade, being a pro line (like D5/1DX II). APS-C is actually lagging since FF came around, with no successor to the A6000 or A5100, and the A6300 and A6500 due for sequels sometime this year.

william mitchell's picture

I use a canon flat bed scanner and when shooting film I considered a canon body with tilt shift lenses, for a hybrid slide/digital workflow. With a film scanner. Had some training on the EF mount when working in a camera store. To compete with mirror less Canon would need a new mount. I own and use Sony but like the fact that Fuji has firmware updates. Sony is innovative but the corp attitude at sony is a problem with hardware and firmware updates. If I was to buy again I would buy Fuji. If Canon or Nikon were to make a "pro" mirrorless who would sell them the EVF ?

Terry Poe's picture

This is a shallow article written on a basis of a very vague interview. We all know that Canon lags in innovation, beyond this rather obvious fact it does not provide any insight. I think that the future of digital camera is in software-defined camera with open SDK (https://www.marketanalysis.com/?p=152) and Canon is nowhere close.

Matthew Saville's picture

I'll just leave this here...

Robert Nurse's picture

If this is saying what I think it is, it's no surprise. I've seen this for my self. The dynamic range for a 5D and a 5DMk III isn't too much different if at all.

Robert Nurse's picture

Really? I wonder what lit a fire under them!

Diego Labrador's picture

This is great news, however how long do you think it'll take for them to develop and release something? I've heard rumours about the 7d, but other than that, is there any other camera coming?

Terry Poe's picture

Surprisingly Canon just released press release titled Canon's Focus on Innovation Once Again Lands Imaging Leader a Top Five Spot Among U.S. Patent Holders for 32nd Consecutive Year
https://www.photogallery.info/?p=1758

This is great news, Thanks for sharing this here. I would recommend https://nexter.org/category/cool-tech