A Look Into Canon's Recent Failures

A Look Into Canon's Recent Failures

Just the other day, Canon announced the 16-35mm f/4L IS lens. The general announcement was left with confusion, anger, annoyance and felt an awful lot like when Canon announced the unnecessary 24-70mm f/4 IS back in 2012. Between these announcements and others much like it, as well as general quietness on announcing an updated 50mm lens, we have to ask...What’s the problem, Canon?

Before I get too far into this post, I’d like to mention that I’m the Canon fanboy of the Fstopper’s Staff. Not only do I only own exclusively Canon L series glass, accusations have came out of the comments in the past about me being sponsored by Canon. I’m not, but perhaps my post history of me flirting with Canon suggests differently. Well, I’m here to let you know - I’m pissed.

Canon has had Nikon and the rest of its competitors on the ropes for years now. With almost 50% of the DSLR market share, and Nikon sitting in second with only about 30%, Canon seemed to be delivering exactly what its customers wanted. The Canon 5d Mark II was groundbreaking, and the Mark III announced a few years later was a nice little upgrade to the already exceptional camera system. So they've been on point with their camera bodies, but what about their lenses?

The last few years, Canon (in my opinion) has completely missed the mark with its consumers regarding the lens announcements they have made over the years. So lets look at their most notable announcements over the last couple years.

The Rise of The Mark IIs

Over the last 3 years or so, Canon has created some advancements to their already popular lenses with Version 2’s of them. Most notably, the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II have made extremely noticeable upgrades to their previous versions, however these upgrades didn't come without a step back. Both of these lenses, while a vast improvement to their predecessors, have came with a price hike.

Lens In Question Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
Introduced Price $1,699 $2,499 $1,280 $2,299
Introduced August 1, 2001 January 5, 2010 September 29, 2002 February 7, 2012
Weight 1570 g (3.46 lb) 1490 g (3.28 lb) 950 g (2.09 lb) 805 g (1.77 lb
Fstop Range f/2.8-f/32 f/2.8-f/32 f/2.8-f/22 f/2.8-f/22

The Rise of The IS

On the same page, Canon has also disappointed us all with the rise of IS in lenses that we simply do not need. First, Canon announced the painfully slow 24-70mm f/4L IS in 2012. While 24-70mm is considered one of the must have lenses for people looking for a general all-rounder for their camera bag, f/4 is simply not acceptable for a lens priced at $1,499. People questioned the purpose of this lens, since the 24-70mm f/2.8L II was announced earlier in the same year.



Lens In Question Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM
Introduced Price $1,520 $1,699 $839 $1,199
Introduced September 26, 2001 February 22, 2007 February 27, 2003 May 13, 2014
Weight 600 g (1.32 lb) 635 g (1.40 lb) 500 g (1.10 lb) 615 g (1.36 lb)
Fstop Range f/2.8-f/22 f/2.8-f/22 f/4-f/22 f/4-f/22


They then followed up with the newly announced Canon 16-35mm f/4 IS. If that focal range sounds familiar, it’s because it is. Canon made a 16-35mm f/2.8L back in 2001 and also released a Mark II of the same focal range in 2007. Prior to that, they had a 17-35mm f/2.8L that dates all the way back to 1995.

The Fall of The Fast Glass

85L II Shot Wide Open 85L II Shot Wide Open

Canon won its market share but presenting speeds and lenses unseen by the competition still to this very day. When I started photography, I bought into Canon; not because they had a better body or a better system, but because they had a 50mm and an 85mm that could be stopped down to f/1.2. Still to this day, the competition have not reached those speeds in the DSLR market, which is why the 85mm f/1.2 is still one of the most sought after lenses on the market. Released within 8 months in 07/08, the Canon 50mm f/1.2L and Canon 85mm f/1.2L II (First model was released way back in 1989) changed the way we were able to shoot, giving us insanely shallow depth of field, with sharpness on our subject when done correctly. Since those times, they haven't made any innovations to push the bounds of our current limitations on an aperture front, all while Sigma was able to produce an f/1.8 zoom lens, previously unseen prior to now.

What Do We Really Want?

All of this talk is simply complaining if we don’t express what we really expect to see with Canon. However, there has been some chatter for years on what we really want, chatter that Canon has largely ignored.

Updated 50mm

Canon has a long history of making exceptional 50mm lenses. Not only do they still maintain the fastest 50mm available for DSLRs with their f/1.2 model, but they have once made one even faster with the holy grail known as the 50mm f/1.0L. With that said, everyone seems to be excelling in 50mm lenses as of late….everyone but Canon. Nikon released their premium 58mm f/1.4 within the last year, and Zeiss promises unparalleled sharpness with their 55mm f/1.4 Otus. Then there is Sigma, who is quickly stealing the market share with their newly announced 50mm f/1.4 Art lens setup. So while all of the competitors have announced a 50mm within the last year, Canon has remained silent, and expects its faulty auto focus system in the 50mm f/1.4 to suffice with its users.

Updated 135mm

135L Wide Open 135L Wide Open

While 135mm may fall under the ruse of a specialty focal range for some of us, many more of us swear that it is the absolute best focal range for portrait work, assuming you have enough room for it. Canon makes an exceptional 135mm f/2L, and with it’s price point sitting around $1,000, it makes an easy purchase for those looking to have incredible depth of field while maintaining sharpness. However, this lusted at, and well respected lens now sits at 18 years old. That is right, the 135L is now able to fight in a war, and help vote for our elected officials. Surely in the 18 years of production, there has been some advancements to auto focus speed, or sharpness within the glass - so why haven't we seen an update?

14-24mm f/2.8L

Back in 2007, Nikon announced a lens that had a lot of landscape photographers and some of us crazy portrait photographers drooling, it was the 14-24mm f/2.8G. While this lens has a short focal range, it was in a focal range that many of us haven’t really seen before. At this point in time, Canon shooters can only do 16mm on full frame cameras (unless ofcourse you’re willing to spend $2,300 for the 14mm f/2.8L from Canon). Since the announcement of this lens, I have heard rumors buzzing and patients filed by Canon for a competing lens in the same focal range. Seven years later, we've all but given up hope.


Perhaps Canon has different motives than what I (and seemingly the community) wants. Some people say that with their focus in video, Image Stabilization feels much more important than razor thin depth of field (Though I'd argue that a 16-35mm is easily hand-holdable and needs no IS features for video or photo). Or perhaps it'll take more of an effort from the innovators like Sigma to take the market share on lenses until Canon will finally start listening again. Regardless of the case, Canon hasn't been delivering, and it's client base is starting to look elsewhere. Feel free to vent your frustrations, or tell us what you'd like to see from Canon in the comments below - maybe, with enough fuss, they'll finally listen.

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Kyle Ford's picture

I as another Canon fan boy have been peeking over the fence for the first time ever... Not a good feeling as a customer.

Zach Sutton's picture

The amount of people I've seen selling their 35Ls for the Sigma version and the amount selling their 50Ls for the Sigma 50mm Art must be concerning. Certainly Canon has to have their fingers on the pulse of this as well.

yeah, i like the sigmas better than canons as well. hoping their new standard primes will be competitive. as it stands, those lenses do not have a contemporary look and cost too much

right now, waiting for the sigma 24 art

Same here, looking forward for the Sigma 24mm

I love my 35L, but I started thinking to sell it and get the Sigma one, and by selling the 50mm f/1.4 I could get the Sigma 50mm as well.
I totally agree with this article, I just don't see why I should pay those prices when I can get better lenses for less.
I always wanted a 24mm f/1.4 as well, but I prefer to wait for Sigma rather than spend 1600 euro for the Canon one, which is not even that great.

Graham Marley's picture

Just a quick comment, the 24 1.4 from Canon is actually a pretty amazing lens. The AF could be better, but it might be my favorite lens of the primes that I have. (35L, 85L, 135L, 17-TSE)

I think Sigma is doing some really exciting stuff, I'm not knocking your comment, but the 24 from Canon shouldn't be filed in the "not even that great" category.

Well, it's a good lens, but for that price it could have better performance, and Photozone does agree with me http://www.photozone.de/canon_eos_ff/514-canon24f14mk2ff?start=2

Graham Marley's picture

I mean, not to sound like a punk, but I've taken tens of thousands of shots with that lens, so an online review isn't really going to change my mind. I can't imagine shooting a wedding reception dance floor without that lens. From a purely technical standpoint, sure, there is probably room for improvement when I want to view something at 100%, but 90% of what I need a lens like this for is its intangibles: presence, color, subtle contrast and the way this lens handles those things makes it an exceptional piece of equipment.

Dean Gray's picture

As far as I'm aware, Canon's got a fairly decent lens lineup and this is just page view trash.

They could do with some updates but they're releasing new stuff on a fairly decent clip these days. It feels to me like it'd probably be a decent shout just to wait it out. If not, go with whatever works for you. They're definitely not holding anyone at gunpoint.

Zach Sutton's picture

If you had read, the lens lineup they have is great, and I make a point to mention that. But that great lens lineup they have is old. And when virtually every brand of lens manufacturers has a sharper 50mm than Canon, you run into some problems - given that that is the standard and most used focal length in existence.

Many of us have been waiting for years, watching rumors dissolve into nothing. Frankly, I think we're tired of it.

Dean Gray's picture

I think they'll release something when they feel like it makes sense to them. If you're anxious about their lineup, there's never been a better time to buy third party. If you want a sharper 50mm, I think you guys have been shouting about that new Sigma f/1.4. That'll work on a Canon and is available (albeit in small quantities) now.

Always treat rumours as vapourware. It's real when it's announced. You'll be a lot less disappointed.

To me, the entire article reads like a kid stamping around because the latest Mario game isn't available on their Xbox.

Zach Sutton's picture

No doubt am I frustrated... I haven't tried to hide that in any of my last few posts and comments in these last few days. And I address that this post is pretty reactionary with it's tone. But from the people I've talked to who are also Canon loyalist, I'm not alone in my frustration and assessment.

It seems like Canon doesn't have a pulse on what their consumers want. When working trade shows for photography, I meet with many brands, and all of them seem genuinely interested in what we have to say and to use us as a pulse to the photography community. Something we try to utilize as often as possible with objective posts and polling. Dare I say that Canon doesn't seem as interested - and that's frustrating to all of us.

Dean Gray's picture

There's no way they'll ever be as nimble as a smaller company like Sigma/Sony(imaging), they sell a hell of a lot more product so they're going to be slower to react to market forces. Also, they exist to make a profit, unlike Sony imaging. I'd imagine if I was running a company I wouldn't give them an unlimited R&D budget. They're releasing new stuff at a pretty decent clip. Just give them some time, and if you're getting antsy, go third party or swap systems.

It never pays to be loyal to a brand in this day and age.

The problem with "objective posts" and polling on a website like this is that any sample is so narrow that the results are simply not representative of anything. They're only representative of people who read your blog or stumble upon the highly SEO'd terms in the headlines.

Zach Sutton's picture

It's not nearly as narrow as you may think. With an average of 4-5 million hits a month, Fstoppers does a pretty good job of getting a representation of the market (I'm not trying to toot our own horn here). We have a lot of companies that rely on our analytics to determine what the market wants and needs.

Sony is hardly a nimble company. Look at THEIR lens line-up before commenting on Canon's "dearth" of lenses. Psh.

Dean Gray's picture

I was going more for their constant push into new markets with their mirrorless cameras and sensors, but yeah, they've not been too fast at releasing lenses.

David Vaughn's picture

But isn't Canon kind of an every-man in the imaging market? They sell everything from printers to projectors to cameras? I'm sure they care, but unlike Sigma whose pot of gold is specifically the photo market, Canon has their hand in several pots and they're trying to maintain all of them.

Not trying to excuse their recent wth equipment releases, but I think it makes a difference that a company like Sigma has to either listen very intently to the market or die is a good indicator of why they're probably pushing their R&D and engineering so hard to make them a large player. I mean,up until a couple years ago Sigma was like "Oh, you have one of *those* lenses."

The only thing I wish Canon would freakin work on is a camera sensor that doesn't have a painful amount of color noise in the shadows even at ISO 100. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK, CANON!?

That's the silly thing about brand loyalty (and it's true outside the photography world). It stirs up emotions for no good reasons and skews rationality. I mean it's just a friggin' company and there's a bunch of others to choose from. If it's not making you lose jobs why even bother? Don't mean to insult you but I've just never understood this phenomenon. I'm loyal towards people, to hell with the rest!

marc osborne jr's picture

If you're opinion is hard to contain on simple product announcements.

...maybe you should let one of the other writers take care of that.

It really bothers me to read something that should be an announcement with a layer of venom under it.

What you wrote today is an opinion piece - which is fine (although I don't agree with your opinion). But I'd rather not read your disdain for a new lens during the announcement. You represent Fstoppers poorly when you write stuff like that on a simple lens announcement. And it makes the people (most filmmakers) who are into the IS think: "Hmm maybe I Fstoppers isn't for me anymore."

I think maybe you should do a better job separating yourself from the hive-mind of the Fstoppers brand.

Maybe a better title for this post should be: New Canon Lenses: One Photographers Perspective.

Attacking people in the comments isn't really a very good way to represent yourself or Fstoppers. Calling people's photography skills out.. even if they initiated the pissing contest, well - that comes across very petty on both ends.

I'd love to see a working filmmakers perspective on the new Canon lenses on Fstoppers. I'm willing to be Phillip Bloom is excited about at least one of the new lenses. He's certainly an advocate for the 35mm f2 IS

Zach Sutton's picture

Both the original announcement and this article have been marked as Opinion from the get go. And generally, when shooting something, to avoid motion blur, you want to at least match your shutter speed with the focal length. At 16mm, you're around 1/15th of a second, which is very handhold-able for most photographers and videographers.

Aside from that, I marked my disdain for the lens, and as a result, I'll be getting the copy for the review. Not only do many of our readers interested in objective opinions on things, but the brands that supply us with gear are as well. So while I do have low expectations for the 16-35mm f/4 IS, I am reserving my true judgement on the lens until I am able to actually use it in a practical sense. At this point in time, I've only made comments on my confusion of such a lens being announced....I haven't made any comments about the quality of the lens.

Also, I never at any point called someones photography skills out in this comment stream or anywhere else. If anything, I encourage people to improve their skills through learning (I both teach workshops, and works as a writer and editor for this website and a few others in the industry). By asking someone to present their work, I wasn't doing it with disdain or mistrust in what they do, but as an interest in seeing what their work is about.

Nor do I feel that I've attacked anyone in the comments. While some comments (like all internet streams these days) show hate or abusive language and tone, I've ignored those and saved my time for those who were interested in having a discussion about various topics discussed in the article - such as this comment stream you're commenting on.

marc osborne jr's picture

You and Spy Black had a pretty ridiculous back and forth.

I don't read Fstoppers for a writer's snarky opinion on lenses during an announcement. But hey - maybe that is just me. Losing one regular reader isn't that big of a deal. I'm pretty sure there are others, less vocal who agree with me.

I think if you talk to more filmmakers you may get a better understanding of the power of Image Stabilization. Its VERY important for lightweight, small camera body. If you are showing something on a large screen you can really see the difference. Newsshooter is a great example of a blog with relevant filmmaking content from high-caliber working professionals.

Because Fstoppers seems to enjoy writing about filmmaking - I think it might be a good idea to try to be open-minded about the gear you announce and review in the perspective of filmmakers, as well as the old photography-based audience.

Zach Sutton's picture

@spy_black:disqus comments on this website more than any other user, and moreso than 95% of the staff of Fstoppers. Him and I have had many discussions in the past and have a pretty decent rapport with eachother. So if it seemed that our discussion back and forth was ridiculous, it may have been misread as something it's not. In reality, I have a lot of respect for the information and content he often brings into discussion in the comments of Fstoppers.

I'm sorry to hear you're no longer choosing to read Fstoppers due to an opinion interjected into a lens announcement, as I believe we provide a lot of exceptional content for both photographers and videographers - content behind simple announcements of new products. As a company, we all work very hard to create and find valuable content for our readers, and essentially get paid in peanuts for it.

Upon receiving the 16-35L f/4 IS, I intend on giving it the entire rundown of it's features and testing, as well as doing an IS comparison for video footage. I think the findings will be valuable to everyone, regardless of the outcome of my findings. But at this point, I'm a skeptic intrigued on the idea of being proven wrong.

I'm not sure what you're finding ridiculous about our "back and forth". We're merely discussing our perspectives on the subject at hand, and (hopefully) better understanding each others perspective.

I don't understand why the age of the lens matters if it delivers. No doubt there's always room for improvement, but if something works, it works. It doesn't matter how "old" it is.

I don't think anyone was surprised that canon jacked up the prices of the 24-70 and 70-200 mark ii. It was expected to be honest. I do agree that the 50mm for Canon needs a upgrade, I really like my 55mm 1.8 Zeiss for my Sony A7 a lot more then the 50mm 1.2 that I had and sold from Canon. As a Canon user I don't feel like the lenses have been lacking at all, I like the current telephotos out right now, 85mm 1.2, 100mm 2.8macro is , 135mm f2, 70-200mm f2.8 is mark ii. I think these lenses are perfect already and don't need any upgrades. I feel like the only lacking is from 14mm - 50mm lenses in that range for Canon is lackluster though. I also feel like the sensors for Canon are falling behind a little bit. The Canon 6d, and 5d mark iii didn't really improve image quality over the 5d mark ii that much. At least not that noticeable.

Canon Rumors is hyping a 2.8L wide zoom in development currently so we might be jumping the gun on the criticisms a bit.

Zach Sutton's picture

Canon Rumors has been hyping a f/2.8 ultra wide zoom since 2012. Sadly, I get NDAs about Canon gear, and I've heard nothing...


Yeah I know but it seems like their post today was somewhat MORE reassuring.

Zach Sutton's picture

I'm not discrediting Canon Rumors by any means, cause sometimes they're right on their rumors, predictions and leaks. I'm simply saying I take it with a grain of salt, as they've also been talking about this Canon 3D for years now, something I mentioned to the Technical Advisor of Canon at WPPI - He damn near had to hold back the laughter.

Also, the rumor post from them says it's not close to being announced --
"It was stressed that the lens was “not close” to being announced..."

This one is a CR2 though. If you go by past CR2 histories, a good majority of those have come true. Some in a few months, some in a couple years. We might have to wait until 2016, but a wide f/2.8 is coming.