Canon's 4000D and the Race to the Bottom of Photographers' Hearts and Minds

Canon's 4000D and the Race to the Bottom of Photographers' Hearts and Minds

Canon’s tepid 4000D isn’t released in this country yet, but the fact that it even exists is a sad commentary on where camera manufacturers are today.

Don’t get me wrong. At about $385 pre-tax, Canon will sell tens of thousands of these cameras. They will fly off the shelves. Many will buy in to the Canon system. Then they’ll check out of the Canon system.

Management will shrug and say, “Young people don’t care about quality, they care about convenience.” That’s not true. People care about quality, it’s just that they’re not going to get it with this.

What's Wrong with It?

For starters, the camera screams cheap. It’s the first digital model with a plastic EF mount, which is fine for a kit lens, but I’d be nervous putting my 100-400mm lens on it.

Beyond the plastic mount, the buttons themselves aren’t even labeled. The writing is imprinted onto the body, and the buttons are blank. I once bought a copy of Monopoly in Bangladesh that was clearly made on someone’s inkjet printer, and it looked better than this.

It’s got a sensor that’s almost a decade old. It’s still a good sensor, but time has marched on, and when this camera can’t even competently focus in video, an iPhone starts to look even more attractive as a camera.

Cost cutting is one thing, but first impressions are another. If this is a person’s first experience with a brand, why would they come back?

What Shooters Want

While Canon has (as have other manufacturers, to be fair) been pushing bargain-basement, touchscreen-less cameras to try and capture shooters, Apple, Google and others have been trying to win market share with actual innovation. It’s just not the kind of thing that Canon views as innovation. While Canon’s solutions are hardware-based (witness the 470 EX-AI), Apple, for instance, attacks the lighting problem through software with its lighting modes on the iPhone X. Algorithms make up for physics. Think of it as a turbocharged four-cylinder car outrunning a version with a larger V6 engine. Efficiency is key.

Many parents I know want those creamy, blurred-out backgrounds they see all over professional photos on the Internet. The fact that Canon kits its 4000D with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens handicaps its ability from the get-go to do this. So when those parents run out and buy a camera to try to take a portrait with their kit lens, they’ll probably be disappointed. Then, sooner rather than later they’ll go back to their phones and push the portrait button to get the job done.

Marketing executives can scream about larger sensors and optical zoom until their faces turn blue, but if a camera doesn’t deliver the results, consumers will move on. Nobody cares one bit what DIGIC processor you’re using or what size the sensor is. Setting this camera up to fail with a so-so lens, old sensors, and a body that looks ready to break on the first drop may result in some short-term gain in profits, but a long-term loss by degrading the image of the DSLR in the minds of customers.

What to Do?

Products like these show a fundamental misunderstanding of the camera market today. Instead of lowering the bar, why not raise it with higher quality hardware and software that can beat the smartphone and convince consumers that real cameras are worth it? It’s time to make an aspirational camera. Otherwise, Canon and other camera companies will keep getting damaging headlines like this and this and this.

What’s your take on the 4000D?

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Wasim Ahmad's picture

Hard to say since it's not in the US, but everywhere I'm seeing says 380 euros for body only, which is about $460 if Google is to be believed. That's kind of insane.

Richard Kralicek's picture

Well, the new Canon 50/2.8 ts-e macro is sold for $2200 in the US, and in Europe it roughly costs €2500, so due to taxes the European prices are mostly higher. I guess it will be around $330 if I calculate backwards ;o))

Anonymous's picture

I'd consider getting this for my daughter along with the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM Lens. She'd have a blast. Learn the basic settings, play with raw files, etc...

Kevin Shoban's picture

Why not just get her a used 60D? Better value, and bang for your buck.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Hell, I'd get her a used 6D and 40mm f/2.8 STM. That would be a MONSTROUS step up from the POS in this article.

Anonymous's picture

Size and weight mostly. Smaller cameras are better for little hands.

What about a Rebel SL2 or the older SL1? At least the build quality is better and they are also not that heavy for a DSLR.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I really liked the SL1 for what it was. Used it extensively. Haven't seen the SL2 in the wild yet.

Anonymous's picture

Sure, there are lots of options. I figure this body will sell for $299 within six months and there are some merits to that price point for a true DSLR with a mechanical shutter.

I don't know about the build quality of this camera first hand (neither does anyone else), but I think it's antiquated thinking to assume just because something is made of plastic it isn't durable. Just look at the automotive industry.

Bought my 5 yo son a new camera. Until recently he had an old 1000D with the 18-55 STM v1. I considered the 200D/SL2 with the ef-s 24mm, but the few AF Points, the low-light AF (only -0,3EV) made me reconsider the whole thing; the SL2/200D would cost me around 499€ Body only, a very good used 70D only 520€, incl. 3 batteries. And these are not some entry-level cheapo batteries, these are the LP-E6. which I could use on my 5dIV and vice versa.

I went with the 70D/EFS24mm combo and he absolutely loves it. It's not quite as small and lightweight as the 200D/SL2 option, but it's okay. And even I can use it as a backup camera on location, put it in my cheap chinese "underwater bag" without beeing afraid of losing thousends of dollars (5dIV+24-70 2.8/16-35 4.0 f.e. while snorkeling). I can use it as a 2nd angle while filming, we can take it with us on smaller family trips instead of the 5dIV+35mm.

I would not buy this 4000D, the frustration would come pretty fast I think, the first time when the kid tries to focus in low light.

But otherwise, I may be a gearhead and a photosnob. I don't know, but I dont want my son to lose his interest in photography just because the bloody thing does not work like expected. And no, I don't want him to bother with manual focus, I want him to have fun. And he wants a camara like daddy.

Gabriele Correddu's picture

You bought a 70D to give to a 5-yo? I'm baffled ahah

Better a 70d than any of this glorified toys like the 200D or the 4000D. Something that will focus in lower light, something I could use too.

Just checked KEH. You can get an EX+ rated SL1 for $100 less than this piece of garbage.

Aleksey Eltsov's picture

I suppose the old Canon EOS 50D would much better. No video (only with Magic Lantern hack). It is a crop version of 5D mark II.

Ryan Davis's picture

I keep my 30d around precisely for this purpose. 8 MP is more than enough when you want to print no bigger than 12x15. They cost 100-125 euros with the kit lens on ebay Germany. I want my daughter to learn on a quality camera, not junk.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I started teaching my son (almost 4) how to take pictures using an old Powershot SD camera. He's still working on not putting his finger in front of the lens. Eventually I'll move him to my old Rebel XTI.

I'm also struggling with that. How did my fingerprint end up on the front element AGAIN?

why not get her a M100 or M3? It'll be smaller, have touchscreen, decent liveview AND all the manual controls. Not sure why anyone should be introduced to photography using a optical mirror-driven viewfinder for a digital camera.

Anonymous's picture

Part of it is to pass on the way I learned photography. I was taught to see a photograph with my eyes before I ever touched a camera which can be really useful once you get good at it for scouting scenes, etc... I also have a lot of film bodies she would be an easier transition from a DSLR.

With something like the M3, you're forced to compose on a screen which wouldn't be much different that her smartphone, which she already knows how to use. A DSLR provides a different interface that I think has its benefits. I think it's good to use everything.

Makes sense to teach them something you love and hope they want to share it with you, but as a 1st step from phone photos, DSLRs look like ancient foreign tools that don't show you what the camera shoots. They may be way more willing to learn to compose, DOF, long exposure, ISO noise by using something they can easily relate to. If they get hooked, then a full-frame DSLR with tons of features becomes a worthy tool to share with them.
You wouldn't be very successful introducing someone to film photography by giving them a 4x5 camera. You'd start by giving them something they're familiar with first, be it a 90's pns or SLR, depending if they've shot DSLRs before or not.

Anonymous's picture

I'm reminded of the quote from the director Andrei Tarkovsky when he was told the beginning to one of his films was too slow:

"The film needs to be slower and duller at the start so that the viewers who walked into the wrong theatre have time to leave before the main action starts."

No wrong answers here.

William Van Spanje's picture

How many mirrorless cameras did you see at the Super Bowl or the Olympics?

Jeff Morris's picture

Really, you're bitching about the quality of a $450 body? You act like the 5DSR doesn't exist, or that you have a better grasp of the camera market than Canon. Yeah, you show them who's boss by not buying a student camera body!

Wasim Ahmad's picture

If the first Ford you bought was the three cylinder model which the questionable "Powershift" dual-clutch automatic transmission, would you buy a Ford ever again? Probably not.

This piece is more about how cameras like this will degrade the perception of interchangeable lens cameras amongst consumers and thus, hasten their demise. I think that's in the interest of every photographer, no?

Jeff Morris's picture

That's a pretty weak argument. My first lights were Yongnuo flashes that crapped out after the first year of use, but it certainly didn't degrade my perception of off-camera lighting. My first car was a shitty Mazda hatchback that also died after a year of use, but it didn't degrade my perception of a stick shift automobile. And I read this stinker of an article but it didn't degrade my perception of photography opinion pieces.

You were, presumably, already aware of the benefits of off-camera flash as well as performance automobiles. You just couldn't afford either at the time. That's a bit different.

Jeff Morris's picture

Yeah, that's my point but thanks for your input.

Sergio Tello's picture

You must be aware that most people around the world can't afford high priced cameras. I was at a wedding in Mexico late last year, the photographer was a using a 20D to take pictures. I'm sure there are thousands of photographers just like him.

William Howell's picture

Hey I don’t think the article is talking low prices on cameras, but cheaply made stuff. I mean come on a plastic mount! That is insane for a prestigious company like Canon to make something like this let alone sell it.

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