Why I Still Would Not Buy a Canon Camera

Why I Still Would Not Buy a Canon Camera

Nearly two years ago, I wrote an article pointing out that most of the biggest brands' camera designs are uninspiring.

On the Attack

It was clear that most hadn’t read or understood the article but were just reacting to the title. Soon after, my opinion of the manufacturer was further tarnished by two more people. I was involved in a project that promoted and encouraged mainly beginner photographers, introducing them to quite a wide audience. Two photographers, both carrying Canons, recognized me when I was out shooting in public and came to chastise me for what I was doing, saying I should, instead, be publicizing the work of more accomplished photographers, i.e. them and those like them. I’m not saying all Canon users are like that. Indeed, most aren’t. I know some very good people who use all brands of cameras, including Canon. 

How My Original Point Was Proven

Since then, it seems that the main point of my article has been proven to be true. Despite the title and the ire, my criticism was aimed at all three major manufacturers. I thought then, and with one exception now, still think now, they make ugly cameras. Many of the negative comments were aimed at the article’s main premise: the designs of DSLRs and most mirrorless cameras from the three biggest brands, not just Canon, were uninspiring to look at.

I proposed that photographers, like all artists and hobbyists, should surround themselves with equipment with great aesthetic appeal that will inspire them. However, most digital cameras are utilitarian, with some even lacking the utility of ergonomics.

I still stand by that argument: using any object of beauty is inspiring to a creator. Although there have been brief exceptions over the last century, throughout history, design has dominated by the pursuit of beauty of form alongside functionality. The Bauhaus ideal of solely form following function has little regard for the ornate having an impact on the user's soul. I would rather work at a Victorian writing desk than an Ikea table, or use my vintage fountain pen than a ballpoint. Likewise, I prefer visiting an 11th century castle to a 1950s Brutalist shopping mall. Furthermore, I would far rather use a camera that is a work of art than a shapeless lump of metal and plastic.

So, it was with some amusement that the best part of a year after I wrote the article was that Nikon brought out the smashingly designed Zf camera. Then, I read that Canon was surveying its users as to whether they would like a retro-looking camera, and there are rumors that something is in the pipeline.

I’m not claiming credit for this change in direction. It’s more likely to be driven by the resurgence of (great-looking) film cameras and the success of better-looking retro digital cameras. For example, it’s just been reported that the fixed lens Fuji X100VI is selling better than any recently released Sony camera. Of course, the cameras I use have designs and lines that hark back to a camera released in the 1960s, and they have been hugely popular.

Let’s face it, most photographers are middle-aged and older and appreciate the stylings of their youth.

The Fujifilm isn’t the only successful retro-looking camera out there. Eight years ago, the Olympus PEN-F was released with styling that matched its legendary namesake from the 1960s. This 20-megapixel camera is highly sought after on the secondhand market, and you can rarely find it, and when you can, it fetches top dollar. It has the advantage over the Fujifilm of being an interchangeable lens camera. When I owned an EM-5 Mark II, people regularly approached me asking me about the camera because of its looks, and its up-to-date sibling, the OM-5, has similar lines to my 35mm OM 2 film camera.

Similarly, the hugely successful Lumix GX880 also has a retro feel to it as does, of course, the Leica CL. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the Nikon Zf is a sleek-looking ILC camera, reminiscent of the design of their film cameras in the 1970s and 80s, such as the Nikon FM.

As yet, there is nothing stylish from Canon or, come to that, Sony camps.

Canon Is Lagging Once Again

It seems to be a pattern with Canon that, instead of being trendsetters, they pick up on movements within photography and arrive late to the game. They were well behind the race with the introduction of mirrorless cameras, and then put all their might into dominating the market. However, the cameras lack innovative features.

Too Much Choice

One common historical criticism of Canon and Nikon was their race to produce a bewildering array of low-functioning cameras with the sole purpose of hooking people onto the brand. Where there used to be a webpage or two of beginners’ cameras per brand, there is a much smaller choice because, thankfully, they have all slimmed down their productions somewhat. However, there is still too much choice.

The biggest manufacturers still offer a bewilderingly excessive array of cameras, often with only slight variations between models. We get confused by the excessive choice, which brain science has shown leads to cognitive impairment. Experiments showed that having too many options results in us losing our ability to decide upon a good outcome. Those forced to choose will be less satisfied with their decisions. This is known by psychologists as choice overload.

Inevitably, a beginner photographer faced with a vast array of models will make the wrong choice, which is good news for the manufacturer, because once hooked on a gateway model, it’s hard to swap.

Excessive choice is a deliberate and arguably immoral and manipulative marketing practice that is not only bad for the buyer’s wallet but also for the planet. Any company that sells more than two of the same format (DSLR, mirrorless, rangefinder, bridge, etc.) cameras at any level (beginner, mid-range, and professional) deserves shunning.

I Didn't Make a Bad Decision

Of course, nothing is going to change. All the big brands are fighting to have the biggest crushing hold on the mirrorless market. But any company having that monopolistic position can never be a good thing for photographers. We don’t want to be stuck with one company that lacks innovation or another brand whose autofocus is poor, and so on. We need to be able to choose the best system for our needs. That doesn’t necessarily mean going for the most popular brand.

Ivor Rackham's picture

Earning a living as a photographer, website developer, and writer and Based in the North East of England, much of Ivor's work is training others; helping people become better photographers. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being through photography. In 2023 he became a brand ambassador for the OM System

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I couldn't care less what my camera looks like

totally agree ..... the photos are the things whose looks matter, not the tool that creates them ..... I buy a tool for the job it does, not for what it looks like

Whilst I agree in principle - I still wish my Sony A75 and Olympus OM1 looked more like the Nikon ZF or Oly Pen F. I've no objection to having form AND function !

Yeah, my Z9 isn't gorgeous, but it's functional; and that is what empowers me to make photographs - having a highly functional and flexible tool that doesn't get in my way as I venture out. It's what I see when I'm out that inspires me, not the tool.

I put a camera wrap on mine.

So I was right to mortgage my house to get the new Hasselblad. ;)

Seriously, I own Rollie and Hasselblad film cameras and they are works of art. Even if they stopped working I would keep them as art.


For me, function over form. To this day, I'm still very motivated to pick up my cameras (Sony) and shoot even just random and trivial stuff around the house. Like while I'm preheating the oven. Click click. Click click.

When you make your whole personality clickbait traffic articles. Real photographers who hold a camera 8 hours a day don’t want retro dials and bad ergonomics. At all. I own a Q3 and an X100VI btw and would never shoot “work” with them.

Correct.. My Canon bodies don't excite me to look at but they are brilliant work tools.

I think you're missing the point to a degree here. The vast majority of people buying cameras aren't pros so don't care about whether they are function over form. They can work at a slower pace. Even then, it seems like even you like to pick up a form over function camera in your spare time since you have the Fuji and Q. Using the correct tool for one job doesn't mean there isn't a (huge) market for a superior looking camera for another.

I also take objection to your supercilious 'real photographers' throwaway. Many pros are far inferior to many amateurs, they just happen to shoot for a living, that doesn't make them better which is what your comment infers.

where to begin? “missing the point” i think the OP is missing the point, performative tool ownership over outstanding results- like the guys who buy the fancy Bianchi racing bike WITH matching spandex and never go out more than 20 miles-
as for many pros being inferior to amateurs? what precisely are your metrics here? income? client base? or that the amateur without a deadline can take 3-4x the time to get a shot that is paid for with “likes”
you’re not making a cogent point, but i’m curious about your metrics here

I don't think anybody has mentioned cameras which don't perform, just that they should look good (or look better than they do in they rather utilitarian form) whilst performing to the exact level they do now. So the Bianchi exemplar is rather whimsical.

Just look at the work of many amateurs (forums are a good start - try Fred Miranda) or international competitions / winners. There are hordes of superb and very knowledgeable amateur photographers.
Contrary to that I often look at some of the work of professional wedding / sports / travel / photojournalists and wonder how on earth they are still in business, though business acumen, opportunity & determination is likely more valuable to a business than actual photographic skill.

Obviously I'm not putting all photographers, amateur or professional, in either bracket but I find supercilious Pro togs who believe they are superior or more knowledgeable than amateurs, simply by virtue of their work generating an income, irksome. And I've worked professionally so I'm not some jealous amateur. Just someone who recognises true ability when I see it.

Mr. Rackham has joined and is anointing himself leader of the Canon Trolls. I cannot understand all the online and published dislike and even hate for one camera manufacturer when are many competitors out there with different degrees of quality- some excellent, some not so much. If you don't prefer Canon gear, go elsewhere. But you don't need to trash Canon (or anyone else) because you don't use or like their equipment. Everyday you see posts about how awful Canon is because they as yet do not allow 3rd parties from making cheaper RF lenses using intellectual property Canon owns and will not give away. Who cares? If people spent more time enhancing their photographic skill with what they have and enjoy their endeavor, they would be much more satisfied. Discussions trashing camera makers is more than childish. Oh and yes, I own a Canon digital camera, but I also own a Nikon digital, and an older Olympus SLR film camera that I dearly love and still use. If I ever do get new gear, it would be most likely medium format as it really interests me, but it might take awhile to get due to cost.

I really don't get the Brand Wars(tm). There are a lot of different makers of fine cameras and gear; people can and should pick what best meets their needs. I have friends who shoot pretty much every brand and nobody cares. We just make photographs and enjoy one anothers' work.

Perfect comment.

I personally love the inspiring looks of Canon cameras . The pathetic Nikon Zfc and Zf are totally uninspired in looks and were beat up with a big cripple hammer as far as capabilities are concerned.
I salut Canon for thinking of the beginners and novices with cameras that they can actually afford. And the kit lenses will serve very well without having to invest in other lenses for some time.
That's why Canon is domonating the market while Nikon snd crippled niche cameras struggles to keep ahead of Olympus and Pentax with a huge 18% market share with products no one really wants.

Actually, Nikon is producing more compelling products and making bolder moves than either of its two major competitors right now. Full stop.

I've heard it said that Sony's global shutter has changed photography FOREVER.

In reality, the "innovation crown" shifts hands regularly, which I think is a sign of a healthy industry.

And it is Canon trolls like this one who are responsible for the plethora of Canon-haters, which has little to do with the brand itself but rather more to do the superiority complex demonstrated here.

"As yet, there is nothing stylish from Canon or, come to that, Sony camps."

So what? There's a reason these two companies dominate the industry. Looks are meaningless and meant to attract millennial yuppie dorks who lack skill and just want something perceived as cool to do with their time; wearing their cameras like jewelry instead of using them as tools.

Photographers overwhelmingly choose Sony and Canon because they are featured rich and powerful systems with professional features even in their less expensive models. They could make their cameras pretty to look at. But why bother?

If looks is the reason you still won't buy a Canon or Sony, you are a moron.

I put a cage on my Sony a7rIIIa to protect it since I'm clumsy. People think it looks awesome. It is indeed awesome, which is why Sony still sells the a7rIII, now with a USB C port (the additional 'a' in the model name). They struck a wonderful balance with that model and just needed some firmware and a USB-C port to improve it. 'Looks' was never a metric under consideration for improvement because Sony makes cameras, not neckties.

Their newest stuff is even better. But lots of pros still use the a7rIIIa because it is rather perfectly balanced. Good MP, nice sensor, excellent AF, great build quality... If I see someone with a pretty camera, they get a sarcastic smirk from me because I know I outclass them.

You are as shallow as the people you smirk at.

I wonder how concerned Picasso was about the aesthetics of his paintbrushes and easel? I’m guess not very.


"I only paint with Wizzo D-Luxe Pro brushes. Their classic styling inspires me!"
-- Pablo Picasso, "The Apocryphal Diaries of Pablo Picasso"

This gets my vote for reply of the year! Nicely done Gordon.. nicely done.

Thanks, Bee!

What a poser! If he was a real painter who cared about the roots of the craft he'd be finger painting with berries on a cave wall. That's true retro! 😂

To be honest I don't even read this article. I checked title and went straight to your website and quickly realised that I'm wasting my time here.
It's like going back to good old 90s.
Please don't take it personally and jump on it as soon as possible. Get rid of outdated work and bring design back to 21st century.

Give me a functional tool over a pretty tool all day every day.

Sure there are some "creators" who get inspired by all kinds of silly things that don't make their tools work better but that stuff that isn't even slightly inspiring to other people. At the core of it, this article is really pretty insulting. This is the kind of thinking that has given us generations of beautiful but shallow celebrities.

My camera of choice feels right in my hands. The controls are intuitive and in the right places for me. The menus are intuitive to me. I will ALWAYS take that over some inane and non-functional fashion statement.

Ansel Adams, Clyde Butcher and other masters run circles around the crowd who cares how pretty their cameras are.

Exactly what I would expect from someone stuck on the most dead end brand, Olympus.

Fstoppers is desparate if they are letting this sort of stuff see the light of day.

Canon, Nikon, Sony Panasonic, fuji , whatever they are all great and capable. If looks are important to you buy whatever suits your wallet and your specific needs. The rest are waste of breath.

This was written by someone who probably takes a lot of selfies. Shallow and narcissistic. Only looks matter. Can't possibly understand what makes photography real. A good writer, though.
Stick to that...

A couple of comments.

You said "Soon after, my opinion of the manufacturer was further tarnished by two more people". Step back for a second and consider how incredibly ridiculous that statement is. If someone gets arrested for driving a Subaru Outback while drunk, by extension, your image of that vehicle is somehow lessened. The very premise boggles the mind.

Drawing inspiration from your camera equipment is just about as nuts. Do you honestly think Ansel Adams drew inspiration from that massive, heavy, clunky view camera? Where you should be drawing inspiration from is your surroundings, the people, things that surround you. For me, a camera is simply a tool, as long as the tool works to achieve my goals, that sufficient. I've been doing photography for 60+ years and in that time never once did I pick up a camera and suddenly become struck with inspiration. I've never once had a photographer friend said his equipment inspired him.

While you may draw inspiration from your equipment, and it's great if that's what it takes, for you to conclude that many/most/all photographers should do the same, well, is just arrogant.

There's an old adage : "a good carpenter never blames his tools" I think it applies here as well.

Exactly. Why was this article even published.

For money. People are more likely to click on and respond to things that make them upset than to things that do not.

I think I'm done with F-stoppers if this is what passes for journalism

Promises, promises!

I dont know about Subaru, but have you ever heard about the "BMW drivers are jerks" phenomenon ? It's all over the interwebs. That being said I ride a BMW motorbike, shoot Canon but I liked the article and will be happy to read more from Ivor Rackham in the future.

yeah, I agree with you ... overall I like Ivor and many of his articles, but that leap that he made there just doesn't make any sense at all.

The people who use something do NOT in any way make any kind of statement about that thing that they are using.

Certain camera companies do NOT tend to attract certain kinds of people with certain levels of ego. Thinking that way is just indulging in a farcical myth.

At a time when Nikon were losing their grip, I was enchanted by the Olympus EM5 and the dinky Panasonic 2.8 zooms. M43 served me well for four or five years. But one day whilst buying something else, I tried my dealers demo Z7. Not the prettiest of cameras,but Jesus, how well it functioned ergonomically. How better laid out was the menu, and so on and so forth.

Cameras are far more than looks. How they handle and how well the menues function play a huge role.

It really is time though, that we got away from the faux prism and other SLR styling tropes that the fake Nikon FM2 and the Olympus OM series seem to love. I understand they are aimed at the nostalgia market that is gripping the market right now, as evidenced by the resurgence of film and the hilarious rebirth of the vinyl LP.

To be fair, that faux prism bump does provide a handy place to put the EVF while leaving the rest of the camera back free for the LCD and controls.

Consumer experts say almost half of all vinyl buyers <b>don't even own a turntable!</b>

Basically an article say that his opinion matters most, his preferences matter most, choices outside of these parameters are a "deliberate and arguably immoral and manipulative marketing practice that is not only bad for the buyer’s wallet but also for the planet. Any company that sells more than two of the same format (DSLR, mirrorless, rangefinder, bridge, etc.) cameras at any level (beginner, mid-range, and professional) deserves shunning."

Being this type of person is probably one of the most miserable ways of living I can imagine. Second only with having to live with someone like this.

I think Mr. Rackham could use a good bit of self realization work. F-Stoppers, do you even read and approve articles prior to publishing them? This one does np useful work, and gives this often excellent website a very bad look. OM Systems is this the kind of thing you want your brand associated with? Really?

By the way, I don't shoot Canon so I am not an upset brand loyalist regarding this article. And no, the look of my camera has nothing to do with the images I shoot. I shoot Leica M, and Sony A1 currently, so seem to have a broad tolerance for look, form factor, and workflow.

Never cared for Canon (Nikon fanboy myself) but c'mon, this is such a pointless article. Canon makes "ugly" cameras?

If you want to complain about Canon, talk about the fact they have been coasting for a while and are now playing catch-up to Sony and Nikon in the mirrorless world now and have embarked on a terrible anti-third party lens policy.

Whining because their camera are designed for ergonomic function and not being a "conversation" starter makes you sound less like a photographer and more like gearhead collector.

A camera is a tool. If it looks good, that's a bonus. I liked the look of the Fuji retro cameras, then picked one up. It made me nostalgic for my old Canon. How's that for irony given this article. What's interesting is how the newish R10 looks like a slightly smaller film Rebel. I know as I still have my ancient Sii. And for me, the R10 is still easier to use brand new than the Sony a6000 owned for years. But Canon really needs to make some more RF S glass and allow 3rd party lenses. At least I can adapt EF glass 😊

what a nonsense

It is all about the images that are captured and what system works for us. I've shot Canon, Nikon in the past and both make great cameras. I currently shoot Olympus and contrary to some negative comments, OM Digital's OM-1 ll is a technical masterpiece! OM Digital also has one of the best zooms on the market, the 150-400 F 4.5. Perfect for Wildlife and Sports!

Only people who has nothing to say needs to be inspired by their tools lol.

I liked using my old Canon, and had a good selection of lenses. What I dislike about Canon is that the low light white balance is just poor. Mrs S has a pocket Canon and the mushy brown jpegs it produces in low light are just wrong, same as its big brother. As the camera has no RAW output it should be producing better.

Other camera makers manage ok.

Here's the thing... as I note also from the post directly below, most photographers could not care less what their camera looks like, or at least it's not their primary concern. Things like ergonomics trump it easily. Reason for that is that good ergonomics really helps you achieve better photos. Now the Nikon Zf is a good example of a camera that while aesthetically pleasing, it has a poor grip, people are buying 3rd party add-ons just so they can hold their camera for a longer period, most reviews have pointed out that this old school design makes handling somewhat awkward, meaning that you give up some ergonomics for aesthetics. Now also consider the Zf dials can misrepresent the settings of the camera, they can lie essentially, as they can be overridden in various ways, this is again not ideal and can lead to confusion when shooting and loss of a shot. Personally I took the decision to go for the z8, which whilst being a bit ugly, has really good ergonomics, controls that do not lie to me, and can handle almost every shooting situation I can possibly dream up.

I think that's incorrect to a degree. Of course it is, people do consider the cosmetics of anything they buy from houses to cars to stereo equipment (valve decks anyone) to bicycles, phones whatever. Cameras (and lenses) are no different. However most of us will land on function over form. However I'd be very happy with function AND form and better looking cameras (personal taste) !

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