This Is the Worst Camera Canon Has Ever Made and Shows Why Camera Manufacturers Still Don’t Understand Smartphones

This Is the Worst Camera Canon Has Ever Made and Shows Why Camera Manufacturers Still Don’t Understand Smartphones

In 2019, Canon did something weird: they crowdfunded a camera that no-one wanted. 18 months later, the reviews are largely terrible and you can now buy it for almost one third of its original price. What happened with the Canon IVY REC?

Bizarre name, odd launch, weird camera: the IVY REC was Canon’s first (and possibly only) “activity camera,” which you might recall looks a bit like a large USB memory stick with a plastic carabiner at one end. Its main characteristics are that there’s no viewfinder, no screen, and very few buttons, but it’s waterproof, shockproof, and you can clip it to things. Quite who this was designed for is not clear, but you may recall that Canon went with bright colors and young people for its marketing, so you might assume that they were going after teenagers who don’t like smartphones. That’s a small crowd.

The choice to crowdfund was also an oddity. Normally, platforms such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe are the domain of start-ups and small companies, with the likes of Peak Design and WANDRD using it to bankroll the production of tripods, straps, and bags. Excited by the prospect of an innovative new product, people often forget that crowdfunding is effectively a form of gambling, and there have been plenty of instances in recent years of investors coming to realize that their magical new battery might be little more than a plastic box while the photo of the CEO of this energetic new company is lifted from a stock library.

Investing in Canon seemed a safe bet by comparison, but you have to ask why Canon opted to go this route. Did it not have the funds to develop the product? Or did it have so little faith in the idea to the extent that it was reluctant to put its own money behind it? The crowdfunding campaign delivered a product, but going by the reviews, it appears to have delivered something awful.

"Capture all the sights and sounds to tell your story, then play it back to relive each second again and again." A strapline you'd expect to find selling a camcorder in the late 80s, not a brand new camera in 2020.

Countless Excoriating Reviews

Comments on the IndieGoGo page are not kind. “The photo quality is garbage,” writes one frustrated recipient, adding, “This is a total scam.” Another agrees: “What a SCAM. My 1MP camera from 2001 takes better pictures than this – seriously. How about a refund for this landfill?”

Screengrab from IVY REC IndieGoGo page.

They continue: “The picture quality is in line with the cell phone I had pre-2010 and I feel like I wasted my money on a shockproof, waterproof box of electronics.” Another complains that the product description conveniently failed to mention that the video record time is limited to 10 minutes. Furthermore, the footage is not very good: “The video quality is much the same as I’d expect from a basic webcam. I can’t believe this is a Canon product.”

Others are also in disbelief that Canon is capable of producing something of such low quality. “This is the worst camera I have owned since my Phillips Key, which was released in 2004. I’m shocked Canon would release this garbage.”

The list goes on: “This is by far the worst digital camera I have ever owned.” “I have a brand new product that doesn’t work and now I have to pay to ship it off for a warranty repair?” “I love Canon. But Canon IVY is the worst camera ever.” Several customers reported finding it difficult to insert the SD card and others complained that pushing the shutter button was surprisingly difficult. “This device is cheap junk,” wrote one Amazon reviewer who purchased the device after the crowdfunding campaign had been completed. “I can’t believe that it has the Canon name on it. The memory card slot is not aligned so inserting a card is impossible.”

Trust the Brand, 60 Grand

There’s a sense from some of the comments that many were backing the project based on an existing loyalty towards Canon and trust in the brand. 30 Super Early Bird investors were able to buy one camera for $91, 70 Early Birds bought the camera at a price of $104, while 400 remaining investors picked up theirs for $120 — a saving of $9.99 over the camera’s launch price. Canon’s crowdfunding campaign appears to have generated more than $58,000.

Having launched in October 2019, the IVY REC has just been discounted to $49.99, which means that the majority of investors paid more than $70 too much for a camera that’s probably worth even less.

In Canon’s defense, they responded to criticism from backers that were struggling to contact Canon Support, and while it’s rare for investors to see their money again once they’ve received a product, it appears from the comments on the campaign page that some were able to get a refund.

Half-Hearted Risk

While you can admire many companies for taking risks on innovative products that may or may not prove popular, the IVY REC is a truly bizarre move from Canon. The product itself was a gamble: how many people need a camera like this when they can just buy a rugged housing for their smartphone? This was targeted at a young demographic and kids want to immediately upload photos and footage to social media. The idea that you would shoot on one device and transfer it to another device (very slowly, by all accounts) that you could already have shot it on (and at a higher quality) seems ludicrous. 

Back in April 2019, shortly before the crowdfunding was launched, senior executives from Canon spoke to DPReview about some of the new products it was testing that was designed to “co-exist with the smartphone.” They explained: “In addition to the ILC and the compact camera market, we believe there’s a new genre of capturing: a new casual capturing market.” 

The IVY REC is an example of how major camera manufacturers are still struggling to understand how to accommodate the impact of mobile technology into their lineup in an era when smartphones have decimated sales. Why Canon thought that the "new casual capturing market" — a.k.a., anyone with a phone in their pocket — would feel inspired by a device that cannot view — never mind upload — images is a mystery. In an era when it’s often easier to send a picture from a fridge than it is from a camera, this is another sign of how big camera companies remain completely baffled by how image-making has changed in the last 15 years. Why is it falling to Zeiss — a company that has never built a digital camera before — to come up with ideas of how to create a digital workflow that isn’t stuck in the previous decade?

The Zeiss ZX1 comes complete with Lightroom.

None of this explains why the IVY REC is such a terrible camera. Like many large Japanese companies, Canon can be incredibly conservative, and you have to wonder if this experimental, doomed-from-the-outset camera was deemed not worth risking with any decent technology. If it’s going to fail, there's little point putting expensive components inside. And perhaps the decision to crowdfund the camera was itself an experiment to gauge customers’ responses and get an idea of how the likes of Peak Design were raising insane amounts of money to bankroll production. Hopefully, Canon has learned that fundamental to a successful crowdfunding project is a product that is truly innovative.

I doubt we'll ever know the real story behind the IVY REC — never mind the Pikachu version that Canon launched just before Christmas last year (yours for $270) — and given the terrible reviews, I can see more discounts in the future. $49 still seems too much, but in time, it might have value as a collector's item as it takes its place in history as the worst camera that Canon has ever made.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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I would have actually been surprised if this camera was a success.

If I still had little kids, I would give them my old phone without the sim chip.My S9 produces good pictures, but my camera has zoom to compliment this. A Canon SL3 with a 75-300 lens.has reach that the phone does not have.It's was sub $1000 but in two different purchase times.

Sounds like Canon's marketing group got sold on this by some outside group of techno-hipster hustlers with a great PowerPoint. The Kickstarter angle was just viral marketing.

Canon's own engineering group probably got a good laugh out of this debacle.

Good shout!

This, ^^^^^^^^ spot on.

They forgot all the software that tries to make the pics look like they were shot on a real camera. They should've just copied Apple.

its rather obviously a device for both of those people who dont own cellphones but are very active and like to take pictures and edit them on their computer

I liked this because I think it is definitely sarcasm and if so, thumbs up great comment

Easy to laugh at the camera makers as they get steamrolled by phones. But maybe a bit too easy. Because what are they supposed to do?

Oh yeah - just "put Android in the camera". That means licensing from Google and building the drivers, interface, connectivity - and by the way, control the camera in real time through an OS not designed for that purpose. That's a MAJOR software effort even for a big company.

But let's say it could happen. Take out your phone and put duct tape over 2/3 of the screen. How do you like it? Can you imagine shrinking the UI down to that size and still operating it with your fat fingers? Or are you thinking it will all be on the EVF which has a fraction of that resolution?

Oh, and put a 4g cellular link in the camera. Want to pay for that every month? And get "You're Out Of Data"?

Ok, then just "pair the camera with a phone". But the wireless technology for that doesn't exist in phones. Bluetooth is too slow, wifi doesn't support multiple connections.

There's no way forward for camera makers right now. They need new technology, or full partnerships with Apple and Samsung.

I'm not so sure it's that "difficult". I just picked up my cellphone and held it like I would my camera. I imagined it two inches thick with a lens on it. The most of the back is a screen with a button on top of the camera to shoot the photo. It may or may not have a detachable lens. It's only difference to my phone would be that it has predominately camera settings but still can do what my cellphone can do without a SIM card and a SD card slot.

So, yeah, this is a Leica T.

I agree that I'm not exactly sure how they should proceed. I don't have a problem making fun of this camera though, because dozens of others have attempted products that appeal to smartphone users and none were this bad or even close to this bad.

One big issue is that many of the things that some non-photographers may want in a camera are things that photographers would NOT want. I don't want a camera that's just a big touchscreen on the back, no buttons.

So obviously they have to come up with something and create wholly different products, rather than pushing it into existing lines.

I'm happy owning both and don't see any other choice with today's technology.

Say what you will but Leica, of all manufacturers, absolutely nailed modern touch-screen UI in a consumer camera with the T series... 6-7 years ago. Such an underrated (and expensive) camera system, but it always blew my mind that THEY did such a good job at it when the big players just fumbled the ball.