Here's Why Canon Does Not Need to Innovate

Here's Why Canon Does Not Need to Innovate

Ever since the Canon 5D Mark II, it seems as though Canon has been dragging their feet when it comes to innovating. Their new announcements and releases tend to be met with quite a strong negative response, and although this may not be an overall consensus, it's prominent enough.

Their latest DSLRs, the 5D Mark IV and the 6D Mark II, already feel a little long in the tooth and dated, especially when considering what else is now available.

Nikon's latest addition, the Nikon D850, and Sony's a7R III both seem like they're a whole generation cycle ahead of Canon. New innovations like BSI sensors, in-built stabilization, and significantly better 4K features make them far more appealing. Not to mention they have minor but very useful features such as having a tilting screen and being compatible with newer storage solutions.

Is this an inability to keep up on Canon's part, or is it the fact that Canon simply believes that they don't need to or that they're in fact doing enough?  

Aside from Canon's flagship 1D X Mark II, which in my view is still the best DSLR currently available, Canon seem to be slipping when it comes to releasing new and exciting products. For the most part, the sentiment seems to be against Canon with what seems to be a large number of photographers leaving them for their competitors. Sony seems to be doing really well with their continued releases and frequent updates; for the most part their new cameras are generally met with a huge amount of optimism and support. The a7R III might be one of the best full-frame cameras available right now due to the fact that addresses many of its predecessor's shortcomings. This in itself demonstrates a willingness from Sony to not only listen to its customers but implement the feature their customers want. Nikon also released an incredible DSLR, and although their focusing system for video is lacking, it's a minor issue considering the overall performance and requirements it fulfills. 

Canon, on the other hand, seems to remain relatively tone deaf to the market and even after the disappointment of the 5D Mark IV they went on to release the 6D Mark II which received far worse reviews. Somehow, however, Canon seems to remain unaffected by the sentiment and still holds a very large portion of the market. In fact looking at their latest financial results from 2017, they're doing better than ever relative to the market.

Looking at the results above you can see how there is a noticeable downtrend in the market since the peak in 2012. The interesting thing, however, is the fact that Canon remains relatively level for the last three years even with the market in decline. This is actually very impressive and shows their strength when it comes to sales and potentially demonstrates their real market sentiment. Since 2012 the number of sales has effectively been halved yet Canon's sales remain strong in comparison. There has been a noticeable drop in their sales, but nothing near 50 percent. 

As you can see above, Canon has had a great year in both sales and profits. Their sales are up by nearly 20 percent and their operating profits are up by a very significant 44.8 percent. This paints an extremely different picture of Canon's position compared to how many in the industry describe them. You may have heard comparisons with Kodak and that Canon is doomed to fail, Sony and Nikon will eventually take over. The market and the sales figures definitely do not share that sentiment. Is Canon immune to the need to innovate?

What Canon Does Right

Dual Pixel Autofocus

I think we can all agree when I say that Canon's Dual Pixel autofocus is still the best on the market. This system is incredibly useful, easy to use and very effective. Sony has been trying to implement their own autofocus system into their cameras for some time and although they have improved, they're still not there yet. Nikon, on the other hand, doesn't seem like they're even trying in this area. Dual Pixel autofocus is so good that it individually makes a mediocre release like the 6D Mark II, an incredible option for so many people. When it comes to innovation for autofocus, Canon has already done it. 

The EF Mount

Canon has been making incredible lenses for a very long time and their dedication and continued innovations in this area has kept them ahead of the competition. From ultra-wide-angle lenses all the way to super-telephoto lenses, Canon has every kind of photographer pretty much covered. Almost every budget and every kind of photography can be catered for with the EF mount. From exceptional niche tilt-shift lenses to extremely niche lenses like the Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8. To add to that, the EF mount is also incredibly popular for video shooters with many high-end cinema cameras offering EF mount options.  

Color Science

There's a good chance you've heard about Canon's color science and how great it is. Although Nikon cameras do produce very good colors, Canon is more famous for theirs and for good reason. Their color science is extremely good and in stark contrast, it's one of the biggest complaints about Sony's cameras. In fact, Canon's color science is so good that in several of my own comparisons I've found it to be much better and more accurate than even some medium format cameras like the Fujifilm GFX 50s and even the Pentax 645Z. Their color science makes for a much easier and more streamlined workflow and this is especially useful for video too. Footage and images look more natural and skin tones tend to look much better than their competitors. Colors are far more important than having an extra stop of dynamic range or a slightly sharper image. Colors are a fundamental of photography and Canon just gets it right. 

Reliability

Canon remains consistent in their ability to make pro grade cameras that just work. From usability, build quality, and aftercare, Canon seems to nail it every single time. Even in a recent weather sealing test, the Canon 5D Mark IV performed the best compared to the Nikon D850 and the Sony a7R III. Sony cameras, on the other hand, seem to be rife with issues like overheating, slow lagging software, and weather sealing. Sony's strategy seems to be that they release cameras quickly or too soon and then rely on firmware updates for fixes and band-aids. Even Nikon over the last few years has suffered some pretty significant issues with their batteries and some prominent pro-level cameras like the D600 and D750. Canon just seems to get it right when it comes to really important features. Their cameras are so good when it comes to sheer usability and reliability that I've completely switched from the Sony to the 5D Mark IV for all of my YouTube videos. The crop factor for 4K and bloated file sizes really don't impact workflow as much as having a fast and effective camera with amazing autofocus. 

Final Thoughts

Canon makes cameras that have the most important and fundamental features right. Bells and whistles are fine and are things to get excited about, but if the core features of how a camera is supposed to operate are compromised then it's no longer practical. These are some of the reasons why Canon continues to dominate. The thing to consider here is that Canon has already innovated because they're still ahead when it comes to how their cameras perform for the majority of professionals. Their competitors just don't have the lenses, the autofocus features, or the color science they offer. Has Canon stopped innovating? Not at all if anything they have already provided the most important innovations and it's other companies that are playing catch-up. The 1D X Mark II is still quite possibly the best hybrid video and stills camera on the market. No other camera under $10,000 offers 4K at 60p with a 1.3x crop factor and with something as good as Dual Pixel autofocus. I do have my personal gripes against Canon, but ultimately I'm still using Canon and relying on their cameras for most of my professional needs. There just isn't another viable, effective alternative, especially considering the kind of work I do.

There is, however, a danger that Canon face and that is market sentiment. Canon really needs to improve how it's perceived by releasing cameras that maybe have a few more bells and whistles. Many photographers currently feel let down by Canon, supposedly because they are unwilling to compete. If Canon continues in the way they have over the last couple of years, maybe financial results like these are going to be less frequent for them in the future.

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196 Comments

Previous comments

Is this an article or an advertorial?
It seems to me this is the most biased and unashamedly fan boy article in times.
In fact it is so biased I can't even take it seriously.
Are you blind or what?

The past few months I have seen some Youtubers claiming that 4k is a joke, that Canon is fabulous and how Sony sucks. It seems to be Canon is trying to mitigate the damage by doing some PR work. Clearly you have either fallen for this joke, or did they pay you? Your article is so full of fanboyism that is really shameful that it was published.

I am not surprised that Canon is doing financially well. They don't spend a dime on innovation and as long as people like you seem willing to spend money on products that are out of date at their introduction, they will continue to do well.

Usman Dawood's picture

Ooof, a lot of claims and some almost personal attacks lol.

They make more money because they sell more, it's as simple as that. You don't need to speculate, it's there in black and white lol.

This is not sponsored nor is it paid for or an advert for anyone. You really need to read some of our other articles about Canon, man.

https://fstoppers.com/critiques/canon-6d-mark-ii-worst-camera-2017-209420

https://fstoppers.com/critiques/disappointment-after-disappointment-what...

You realise I hope that the sheet you copied is for the overall company results and not the results of the imaging division. Most of the enormous rise in sales is due to other divisions.
If you publish this kind of information, please state all the facts. And not only the parts which are favourable to your view. You left out some vital information. However, I will sketch a different picture.

The results of the imaging unit are okay but not that great. Certainly not compared to the other business units.

Their sales have gone up a bit +3,7% but their operating profit has gone up quite a bit. While their sales have gone up a bit, they did far better in operating profit.
If you explore their results a bit further down the pfd, you will see this statement:
 2017 - Achieved sales growth via launch of 6 models, most in industry.

I couldn't find anything about their operating profit.

So, their increase in sales is mainly due to industry cameras, not the type you use. Besides their imaging business unit has more products than the cameras photographer use.
The results of the imaging division and the office division are the worst for all Canon business units and the fact that they did well is mainly due to new cameras for the industry.

Furthermore the graphic image shows that Canon sold less cameras in the past few years.
Here are the figures from the sheet you uploaded:
Canon
2013: 7,75
2014: 6,36
2015: 5,57
2016: 5,67
2017: 5,51
So, their sales have dramatically decreased.

Please learn to read this kind of information. What you are telling is a load of bollocks. You don't seem to understand what you are reading.

Operating Profit = Revenue - cost of goods sold, labor, and other day-to-day expenses incurred in the normal course of business.

http://global.canon/en/ir/conference/pdf/conf2017e.pdf
https://www.the-digital-picture.com/News/Default.aspx?Cat=Canon-Financia...

Usman Dawood's picture

"Since 2012 the number of sales has effectively been halved yet Canon's sales remain strong in comparison. There has been a noticeable drop in their sales, but nothing near 50 percent."

"Please learn to read this kind of information."

Are you having trouble getting corrected?
Your article was your opinion, and most of your facts were bullshit because they were taken out of context and mostly not understood by you.
You quote results of the entire Canon group and pretend like it is about camera sales which it wasn't. I correct you and you seem upset because someone called your bluff.

You cite sales figures but you didn't understand most of it.
It was more of an advertorial than an article. It is a damned shame that a great site like this condones such a lousy article. It had nothing to do with journalism.

Next time, do a better job.
Like, tell us how many cameras Sony and the other manufacturers sold in the past few years and compare that to Canon.
In that case, you would have a balanced and interesting article instead of just giving your biased opinion based on mostly hot air.

Usman Dawood's picture

Quotes? Evidence? Point out where and why from the article.

You make a bunch of unfounded claims regularly.

The EF Mount: mostly true.
Canon has an enormous choice in lenses.

Color Science: a matter of personal taste. I don't like Canon colours because they are far too yellow. This might be cultural bias. US citizens seem to like Canon colours better than Europeans. Most movies made for the US market also look really yellow and ugly in our eyes.
The older Sony cameras had colours that weren't too good but the latest iterations are as good as any other brand.

Reliability: debatable. May I remind you of the following issues with Canon cameras.

Canon 5kd mk4 some cameras had weird stripes on them.
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Oil-Spatter on the Sensor Problems
The same for the 760d/750d.
The original 5d had problems with the mirror getting loose.
The 5dmk4 has an antique codec which makes for huge files while the quality is easily outperformed by a much cheaper Sony a6300/a6500.
In fact the 5dmk4's 4k is about the worst compared to most 4k capable cameras.
Canon has learned that some EOS-1D Mark III and EOS-1Ds Mark III cameras may suffer from problems in the accuracy of the AF (autofocusing) feature and is now offering free accuracy checks and adjustments for any affected products.
Canon issues service notice for EF 50mm F1.4 focus issue.
The newest iteration of the Canon 6d is actually worse in lots of aspects compared to its predecessor.

So, Canon had/has her fair share of problems.
You seem to be a fanboy and rather blind.
I repeat. What you are writing is for the most part not factual but a personal opinion and your article seems to be more paid content that a journalistic approach to uncover facts. There is nothing wrong with stating your opinion unless, as you do, pretend to give facts.

Usman Dawood's picture

Fanboy? Sponsored? Really? Come on man at least try.

I guess false claims, and personal comments are easier than actually having a discussion right?

Colour Science:

Canon is famous for it, more people prefer theirs than they do colours from other cameras. If it's a battle in subjectivity then Canon wins.

Reliability.

I didn't say perfect I discussed it as being consistently better.
Codecs and quality are not discussions around reliability

You haven't actually refuted my article you've just given some of your thoughts which is of course fine for a discussion but it's not how you initiated this.

"Your article was your opinion, and most of your facts were bullshit because they were taken out of context and mostly not understood by you."

Want to try again?

Hey Usman. I think it is great that we all can have a good discussion even if we disagree. I also think that we are all entitled to our own biases, opinions and preferences. I just wish people weren't so mean, are more respectful and would just be kind to each other in the comments section. There's enough hate in the world. I mean, I don't think being kind is difficult. So I'd just like to point out that you've retained a position of strength and professionalism in a challenging situation. Cheers to you, Mate.

Usman Dawood's picture

Ah man that’s so nice of you to say thank you I really appreciate it.

Reginald Walton's picture

But isn't that's what it's about, making money for the company? You don't need to buy a new camera every year or every time one gets released. It's more about you as the photographer/artist and what you can produce. Yes gear helps, but it's not going to make you the best in the industry if you don't know how to use it.

They don't need to innovate mainly because the photography customers are mostly conservatives. They don't change brand quickly, they keep going with the 2 big names no matter the quality and value for money of their products.

Once customers will show more openness and flexibility, especially towards new comers (Give them advise not necessarily matches our current camp) things will change.

Competition in the market doesn't depend solely on the companies but also on the customers behavior and their willingness to compensate those who really struggle to get better products out there.

Reginald Walton's picture

Customers care about what their final product looks like, not what brand of gear you're using. Most don't even know or care what brand you use, if you can produce what they like.

Of course they do.
This is the reason for Apple supremacy :-).

Talking seriously, as always, being part of a group plays enormous role in the choices we made.
So while you may believe in what you wrote and may even act by it, looking at the photography market it is clearly not the the real picture.

Tony Northrup's picture

If you like the 1DX II try out the Sony a9. No viewfinder blackout, silent shooting for weddings and events, way better image quality, histogram and exposure preview in the viewfinder, faster FPS, tilty screen... Seriously it's amazing.

I think Canon sales continue to do well because basic consumers don't buy as many new cameras now and they're the ones who are able to freely switch camera brands. The rest of us own a bunch of lenses already and find it really hard to switch. That will work for a couple more years.

Usman Dawood's picture

Some very fair points I have to agree. Having said that I was looking at the Canon as more of a hybrid solution. It's the best in terms of both video and stills, but, I do agree with you.

In regards to brand and consumers. When I first started out in photography not knowing anything at all, I bought Canon because my friend had Canon. Many people follow a similar path. They either know someone or they saw X photographer in some studio using a particular brand. Many YouTubers and even extremely popular YouTubers like Mckinnon and Neistat are consistently using Canon too and I think due to that, Canon's position may persist.

Perhaps, but entry-level consumers won't really be a thing in a few years if current market trends keep progressing (and if smartphones keep getting better cameras, that seems likely), which means Canon will have to contend with ever more skeptical buyers in the enthusiast and pro segment. Likewise, even people like Casey Neistat seem brand agnostic at best, using a GH5 one week, Sony the next, Canon the next... I'm not sure if that helps it hurts Canon.

Usman Dawood's picture

Casey is relatively brand agnostic however he has remained a Canon user for most of his YouTube career and has returned to Canon recently.

I think the entry-level DSLR market may remain because pro-level DSLRs cost too much for many aspiring photographers.

Kawika Lopez's picture

Great article. I for one started with a Canon 5D mark III in 2013.

Today I am the proud owner of a Sony a7R mark III. It has so many features and incredible image quality. I love it.

However, if I am hired for a gig where there are high stakes, I’m going to grab my 5D. From a reliability standpoint and ease of use, I just know that if I have a 5D in my hands, then the camera won’t be the reason I don’t get the job done.

I am blown away by everything about my a7R, but when it comes down to it, I am working harder to get each shot. Ultimately that means I have less mental resources to be creative.

Because of that, I’m not sure I’ll ever get rid of my 5D.

Adrian Pocea's picture

Best comment so far. But are you referring to the 5diii as an experience , or 5div? Between the two of them is a night and day difference in image quality(especially noise and dr) and speed of use(the touch screen-not only touch screen,may camera manufacturer have it, but the absolute perfection of it-smartphone quality) make also a lot of difference. The plus in resolution helps a lot(for me 30 mpx is the sweet spot, being big enough to crop and get details and not too big to clutter my drives with 50 mb files shoot in burst when I import in Lightroom). Many Canon users got turned off by the trolling about 5div(who cared about the video, with all it's limitations, video is still miles better than on the 5dii) and didn't buy it. If you just buy it, you will see that is such an workhorse, most user friendly and the difference in image quality versus the best in class becomes so insignificant in real life that is not worth sacrificing the usability and solidity for that.

Kawika Lopez's picture

I’m referring to the 5D mark III I still own. The usability still trumps the image quality for me at this point. My business partner and I have a 5D mark IV in the arsenal as well, but we keep it at at the studio.

Canon is like how American car manufacturers used to be. Proud, unwaivering, and propped up by legacy customers. Don't worry, it'll all come crashing down on them sooner or later, as it did with those car manufacturers. But who will be there to bail Canon out?

Reginald Walton's picture

I think it’s just easy to pick on the “big boys” (leaders) in the industry, like Canon, Adobe, Apple, etc. No they don’t always lead the way in innovation, but their products are top notch, otherwise, they wouldn’t be in the position they are in. And not that it matter, but for full disclosure, I do shoot Canon (1DX II and Nikon D850). So I have them both and they are both great cameras. And of course Sony has great cameras, as do others, but there’s something out there for everyone type of photographer. I still prefer the Canon glass, but the Nikon glass I have is fabulous too. However, Canon still does lead the market and will it continue to be that way, who knows, but they are very well built. And one last thing, I would be put good money ($1) up and venture to say that probably most of your clients would not be able to tell you what kind of camera/lens combo or how many megapixels were used for their photographs.

Shyama Prasad Mishra's picture

No offense, but have you ever heard of Nokia?

Usman Dawood's picture

I know right, Nikon need to start paying attention :P.

Shyama Prasad Mishra's picture

To me that statement exactly echos what Nokia was thinking couple of years back.

We are too big to fail.

Usman Dawood's picture

Nokia were not thinking they were too big to fail, they were scrambling for new ideas and innovations but internal fighting and internal competition caused them to produce things at an extremely slow rate.

They thought they had more time, but not that they were too big to fail.

Shyama Prasad Mishra's picture

In short they were too slow to adapt to the changing market.

Being a canon fan, I do not want them to repeat history.

Glad atleast they acknowledged that they are slow with innovations lately. To me that is a step in right direction.

Would you have brought a sony system, if Canon offered you everything you need?

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