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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131 Comments

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.

Q Hasl's picture

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.

C H's picture

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

C H's picture

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.

Matt Nikkel's picture

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.

Philipp Schmid's picture

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

Mihnea Stoian's picture

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.

Mihnea Stoian's picture

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.

Deleted Account's picture

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.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Exactly.

Sergio Tello's picture

hmm, you need cheap stuff to make cheap cameras. I'm sure some people will find it helpful. Even Tesla is building budget cars.

Simon Patterson's picture

"cameras like this will degrade the perception of interchangeable lens cameras amongst consumers". Canon has been making such cameras for many years, so if this was true, consumers would have figured it out years ago.

If this camera is so much worse than previous Camera offerings, then that will hasten the demise of this model, not the whole ILC market.

So your suggestion seems far fetched to me, that a new $450 camera will hasten the demise of the public's perception of all interchangeable lens cameras.

Robert Nurse's picture

A while back, I read that smartphones were eating into the share of DSLR's. Maybe convenience is more at play in this regard. But, I agree with the author here. I remember when I was moving up from my 5D. I was waiting to see what Canon was going to offer in the 5D Mk IV. There were great bargains to be had in Mk III's. But, I wanted to see if Canon would wow me. They didn't. So I went with a Mk III. Hence, Canon lost some $1000+. These underwhelming offerings will be problematic for Canon.

Simon Patterson's picture

Yeah, Canon clearly has a problem with their higher end cameras, as they keep on offering underwhelming updates that frustrate existing Canon users who want to upgrade but discover the upgrade path contains models that have inferior specs to the competitors.

It is interesting to see the stats on camera sales. Sales of non-ILC cameras has plummeted since the influence of smartphone cameras really started to bite. ILC camera sales have declined somewhat too, but nothing like at the rate of the point-and-shoots and bridge cameras. So smartphone cameras appear to have mainly hit the point-and-shoot market, much more than the ILC/DSLR market.

Canon, however, seems to have maintained its sales levels, even increasing its market share in camera sales. They're doing something right, in the short to medium term at least.

I agree with you that their poor offerings in the higher specced cameras will likely bite them soon, and probably already is. But I'm not so sure that their lack of improvement in cheap, entry level cameras such as this 4000D we're discussing will hurt them. I think that beginners who want a "proper" camera are content to spend <$500 to see if photography is for them, and if they discover it is not, then the cost was not so great that they feel bad for leaving the "proper camera" in the cupboard and returning to their smart phone.

John Sevigny's picture

If you've never tried steak, you'll have no idea what you're missing with a Big Mac. Nobody who has shot with high grade gear will buy this camera. Plenty of people who want to move up from iphones to a "real camera" will. There is no reason to think this camera can't take great pictures. I started with a K1000 and a 50mm lens. I was 11. 37 years later I'm still taking pictures.

Chris Terrell's picture

It’s funny how much hate canon gets here

Deleted Account's picture

And always from Canon shooters. Hmmm....

Paulo Macedo's picture

Canon user here, with a 6D, 135 f2, 50 1.4, 28 1.8 and so on. I am tired of Canon as a Canon shooter. Specially when I look at the fellow photographers who use Sony. How many Canon cameras came out after 5D II and then 6D? A LOT!
Nikon launched a D600 that putted 5D's to shame, then D800, then Sony came along with their a7 lineup. What did Canon do? Did they adress the crippling issues from Canon sensors? Nope!
What they did? Dual Pixel AF for us to shoot on crippled 4K and 1080p 30.
Why is it that Nikon and Sony have now 1080p 120, full sensor 4K? And please don't mention video lineup, Sony has it too, yet the a7 lineup comes with decent 4K, IBIS, Log, 10bit video yada yada, not to mention the almost 15EV Dynamic Range from those RAW files.
I need to upgrade my 6D, my AF is bad, my sensor never looks crisp even with the 135 f2 lens. Do i have a good choice? Hell no, because even the 6D iteration is worse than the original 6D.

Paulo Macedo's picture

I highly doubt it. They are aware of it, but as long as they have the highest market share, then nothing will happen. Pretty much what happens with other brands on privileged positions.

Francisco Eduardo de Camargo's picture

Yes, Paulo Macedo.
You're absolutely right. Canon is looking for profit mapenas in its products. He has practically deceived his faithful owners. Canon sells more than has been around for years. Some of the blame is on people talking and talking about cameras. When it comes to talking Canon they are afraid because it is giant and has most of the market. This way, we get a lot of people being cheated and continuing to follow Canon. This is really a lie in the current market.

Paulo Macedo's picture

I usually say that Giants take time to move, but this giant is sleeping.
The only giants i fear are the ones in Skyrim.

Simon Patterson's picture

A lot of Canon shooters are saying this. Surely Blind Freddy could notice the fact they are underwhelming so many of their existing users like this. And surely this problem must be eating into Canon's sales of the higher end cameras.

Paulo Macedo's picture

Well, thing is, a lot of professional sports photographers rely on Canon. You can see all those white lenses at soccer matches here in Europe, you can see it at the Olympics. Damn, even Pro Evolution Soccer photographers have white lenses lol.
So, as for the pro segment, they must be comfortable, at prosumer level they are losing market. It's us, the wedding photographers with small businesses who are ditching Canon and there will be hole in that segment. But, as long as they keep the cash flowing and newbies buy rebels they won't change this.
So, it is us, the ones who are start looking at video and photo at the same time, who now have the technology to create cinema like video and pro photography, who are leaving the bandwagon, we need more and others offer more.

chrisrdi's picture

that 135 is soft even at f4 shot on a 6D???

Paulo Macedo's picture

Well, unless i use a studio light, on real world usage i feel that my 6D raws allways look muddy, without crisp details like the ones I see coming out of D750's and so on. I have already sent all my glass to calibration at CPS, but all i got was focus on spot, but never a lot of detail like for example crisp eyes. The 135 at f4 will not differ much from f2, as this lens is supposed to be crisp as hell, on the 500D i get crisp results...yeah right?

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I started my career with Canon. I'm out and about with my Canon 6D right now. (I also shoot Nikon, Fuji and Panasonic - and much of what I wrote here applies to all of them, though the 4000D seems to be the most cheapening I've seen). So no hate here. Just worried about what it means for real cameras when it comes to photography.

Simon Patterson's picture

I'm intrigued with the term "real camera". Usually it is used by non-photographers or film camera officionados. But you're the second person I've seen in the comments to distinguish this beginner's DSLR with a "real camera". What qualifies a camera as a "real camera" to you? Is your 6D a "real camera"?

Wasim Ahmad's picture

A camera that doesn’t ring or make phone calls.

Simon Patterson's picture

Ah, gotcha, that makes sense. Thanks.

David Moore's picture

Yay more negative whiney posts, just what this place needs!

Deleted Account's picture

Negative? Yes. Whiney? I guess that depends on your point of view.

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