An open letter to my beloved Canon – What happened to your innovation?

Sep 12, 2017

Jason Futrill

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

An open letter to my beloved Canon – What happened to your innovation?

Sep 12, 2017

Jason Futrill

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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Dear Canon,

You and I have had a very, very long friendship which has lasted many years and many, many generations of cameras. Ever since my first camera purchase, you have been my brand of choice. I still have my original Canon IXUS 40 and multiple generations of full frame and APS-C SLRs going back as far as the 450D which was released in March 2008. I own more Canon lenses than I know what to do with including many “L” series lenses which I firmly believe are the best lenses on the market. I have recommended your cameras and other equipment to anyone who will listen to me. I challenge you to find anyone who has been more passionate about using and promoting your products in the general photography community than I am.

But here is where things start to get a bit complicated – since the launch of the Canon 5DMK2 way back in March 2008 it has been extremely hard to be genuinely excited about any new cameras you have released. And here is why – the Canon 5DMK2 is in my opinion the last truly “innovative” camera you have developed and released. The MK2 saw professional video features introduced into a full frame SLR camera for the first time. This was a game changer for many professionals in both the photography and video community as it pushed people toward the SLR form factor in both fields, as well as allowing crossover without the need for the bulky and at the time extremely expensive video equipment.

I have always used Canon cameras although I have tried many other brands and individual models both for personal use and also to review. I truly hope to be using Canon cameras for many years to come.

Since then the models of cameras you have released have been very solid and perform well. But with each generational update has also come a substantial price rise, for not much in the way of new technology or innovative features. The 5Ds and 5DsR were the first all purpose (not taking into account the 1D series or competitors equivalents of cameras which in my opinion are not “all purpose” in terms of consumer level equipment) SLR cameras on the market to be priced over AU$5000. For the AU$5000+ investment per camera I again got a solid performing camera with a 50MP sensor. But, and here is a very big BUT – the AU$5000 camera felt exactly the same as the 5DMKIII that I had been using for three and a half years already. The dynamic range in my opinion is nowhere near as good as the MKIII, which in turn does not match competitors like the Sony A7RII or Nikon D810 (or the new D850). I basically paid $100 / MP of resolution in a camera that in many ways performs worse than the Canon 5DMKIII (purchase price AU$3500) camera that I had owned for quite some time prior to that purchase. And the body of the camera is completely indistinguishable besides the badges from that older the MKIII. Nothing about the 5Ds / 5DsR made me feel like I was holding AU$5000+ worth of camera.

So let’s get onto very latest releases in the MKIV and the 6DMKII. The MKIV is a great camera, but it again looks and feels exactly the same as the previous generation 5D range of cameras, just with the addition of a touch screen. The consumer level Canon 650D APS-C camera, released in June 2012, had a touch screen on it and just about all of the major competing brands have had this “feature” in their top level cameras for many years. We can’t exactly call the touch screen feature innovative. The low light performance and dynamic range is definitely a step up from the previous model 5DMKIII, but when you consider the price increase to AU$5000 retail as compared to the AU$3500 retail when the MKIII launched, it would want to perform better! I still struggle to understand the price increase in a camera that is essentially a generational replacement. It seems like what has happened was you realised you could hit this price point with the 5Ds and 5DsR and just bumped the price of the MKIV up to match. The 6DMKII sadly has been met with many bad reviews, especially when it comes to ISO performance and dynamic range. The previous generation 6D in many ways performs far better, and at launch was also priced anywhere from AU$800 – AU$1000 cheaper. If that price increase wasn’t there, it would be much easier to recommend the 6DMKII to anyone looking to step into the full frame market. Because of the price and performance, it is very hard to recommend it. And that makes me quite sad to say.

Touchscreens in the current generation Canon models cannot really be called “innovative”. I purchased the Canon 650D in 2012 and it was the first SLR camera I had used with a touchscreen. I used it for about a month before upgrading to a full frame 5DMKIII as soon as it was available in Australia.

You have been lacking innovation now for many years while all of your major competitors, including Nikon, have been introducing new features in camera bodies wrapped around incredible quality sensors. The recent hype with the release of the Nikon D850 is something I wish I had felt as a Canon user over the past few years. I am genuinely jealous of the feeling many Nikon users are feeling right now. The release of the D850 feels like a “niche focussed” Apple product launch that has many, many people talking in a positive way about their brand again. The Sony A9 is a camera that has essentially changed the game for many professional photographers. And the Sony A7RII, which was released over two years ago now is still the leading camera for image quality within the professional landscape photography industry. So far you have refused to enter the full frame mirrorless market, and while I understand it is hard to compromise when you have the lions share of the lens market, this is costing you in terms of overall market share as Sony and Fuji continue their upward growth. Surely there is a solution to getting your “L” series lenses natively onto an in-house built, mirrorless full frame camera?

And while we are talking about Fuji – here is a brand that continues to innovate at a speed comparable to Sony. Don’t get me started on their new GFX50s. I could talk about that camera all day. For anyone who has the AU$12000 to spend on a camera body and a single lens, this is the camera I am currently recommending to people. This is the closest thing you will get to “medium format” performance for the money. I highly recommend every photographer try this camera out to understand what the future of digital photography performance is.

The Fuji GFX50s is a camera that every photographer should try at least once. The performance and image quality just need to be seen to be believed. This is true innovation by a camera brand.

The firmware releases Fuji deliver to their users keep their cameras feeling like new products for a very long time after purchase. If only you had noticed what Magic Lantern does for many users of Canon cameras. If you had, you would realise that there is no excuse for not unlocking features like RAW video, intervalometer (only now just become part of the factory firmware), focus peaking, zebra overlays etc etc. I don’t get why those features are not part of the factory firmware when the team at Magic Lantern have proven your cameras are capable of these features. Magic Lantern brings the features more in line with what Sony and Fuji are offering in the mirrorless cameras, but without the jump in dynamic range and sensor performance. All of the other branded cameras I have mentioned use Sony sensors. Why has Sony jumped so far ahead in performance both in image quality and dynamic range? Because it was a strategy they introduced into their business model when they restructured the business and refocused their priorities a few years ago. And it has worked. Their sensors are the best in the camera industry now. Period.

Magic Lantern unlocks many features of Canon cameras that I feel should be available within the factory firmware. You don’t need to permanently modify your camera to use it either – the firmware is copied onto the SD card and easily loaded when switching the camera on.

Based on past experience, your product cycles generally last for three and a half to four years. So by my estimates, the 5DMKIV has at least three more years to go in its cycle before it is replaced. It is the current, flagship all purpose SLR. And it is already starting to look dated when compared to what the competition are doing. It doesn’t match the Sony A7RII in dynamic range. The Nikon D850 by all accounts is going to be a huge success and an incredible camera. And we still have what is rumoured as a “A7RIII” or equivalent to hit the market sometime within the next year or so. If Sony continues on the path they are on with this camera, those three years I am estimating in your product cycle are going to be three very, very hard years. And what about that image resolution? I know that resolution is not everything, but 30MP in the MKIV compared to the 42MP+ of the competition? Really? Surely you can do better than that.

The Canon 5DMKIV is a solid camera. I do though find it hard to justify recommending it based on the price and spec comparison to competitors. New models from Nikon, Fuji and the current A7RII perform better as far as image quality goes. Yes there are other things to consider, but when it comes to innovation I can’t say it is the most innovative camera in the market.

I know there have been rumours doing the rounds about a full frame mirrorless Camera camera hitting the market sometime in Q4 of 2018. That is still over 1 year away. That’s another full year before you potentially release your first generation of full frame mirrorless cameras while the competition will be into the 3rd or 4th generation. I am likening this to GoPro entering into the drone market when DJI have been innovating and have had multiple generations of products out there in the marketplace. Let’s just hope by the time you do go mirrorless, it’s not too late. And let’s just hope we can’t draw any analogies similar to the GoPro Karma falling out of the sky when your mirrorless lineup does finally hit the shelves.

I genuinely feel quite sad to be writing this to you. But it’s something I just needed to get off my chest. Canon as a brand has been a huge part of my photography journey since the very first time I ever picked up a digital camera. And I truly hope you are part of that journey for many more years to come. There are many photographers in the industry who don’t have the brand loyalty and allegiance that I have who jumped ship to brands like Sony quite some time ago. There are temptations out there like the Fuji GFX50s that are making many people dream of other camera brands. I don’t understand what happened to your product innovation. I don’t understand why as the biggest camera brand in the industry you aren’t making people feel excited about your latest products in the same way that Nikon, Sony and Fuji are.

Please, please make the photography community feel excited about your future product launches. Make us feel proud to use your cameras for many more years to come. I want to stop looking at the competition with temptation, envy and jealousy. I know you can do it.

Yours sincerely,

Passionate Canon camera user & brand advocate.

About the Author

Jason Futrill is a photographer based in Tasmania, Australia, who specializes in aerial photography and long exposure landscapes. He’s one half the Project RAWcast podcast team. You can find more of his work on his websiteInstagramFacebook, and Twitter. This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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38 responses to “An open letter to my beloved Canon – What happened to your innovation?”

  1. Chris Chinnock Avatar
    Chris Chinnock

    After lugging my two canon DSLRs around for 12 hours at a wedding this weekend I’m seriously contemplating going mirrorless…. dear Canon, Gimme an EOS compatible pro spec mirrorless camera NOW!! Pleeeeeez! :)

    1. AliHood02 Avatar

      Go man…i was die hard Canon like the OP, but man after waiting on the Canon 5DM4, I saw little to jusitfy getting it while owning the mark iii. The only true thing I really wanted was dual-pixel AF, and while it had it, it lacked in many other places considering the price. Decided at that time to dive over to Sony because what they are doing in the same price point is insane! Picked up the A6500 on pre-order (waiting on the 6DmarkII because i wanted to keep Canon for photos) and haven’t been disappointed with it (The Sony A6500). I do alot more video now a days, but even in photos on it are decent if you know how to shoot. At this point, i’m waiting for the A7Siii and think at that time I’m fully gone from Canon until they decide to step up and compete. Never thought I’d see the day I left Canon considered how invested i am in their system, but Sony really has my attention right now.

  2. Ahmet Avatar

    My first camera was EOS300 (no D!), now I own a 5DMkII. And I want to replace it but I don’t know what with. 6DMkII? I feel like that would be the same I have now. 5DMkIV? A bit too expensive compared to the plus I get… So I agree with the author. I keep waiting. Maybe the next one.

    1. Van Gelis Avatar
      Van Gelis

      go 5D3

      1. Ahmet Avatar

        I’m considering that…

  3. eddiepearson Avatar

    This letter also goes to, Apple.

  4. Clinton Blackburn Avatar
    Clinton Blackburn

    I agree. The Sony A9 seems to offer the performance (or better) of the 5D Mark III in a smaller body. I’m in a state where I recognize the 5D Mark III meets my needs; however, if those needs change and Canon hasn’t stepped up to at least match the A9—mirrorless full-frame—I will consider switching.

  5. Marcus Sundman Avatar
    Marcus Sundman

    Canon makes about 1 innovation per decade, nothing has changed in this regard. It’s been behind the competition in almost all aspects since the digital era started. Nothing new there..

    1. Shark Avatar

      that´s not true. the 5D MK2 was a fantastic camera for it´s time.
      ahead of everything.

  6. Andy Marquis Avatar
    Andy Marquis

    Totally agree with all that he says. I just don’t know what to switch into just yet. M4/3 or just go Sony, hell even nikon might be the way, but I love my canon 500f4, or do I just need to use one of the competition to see its not just that great bit of glass but thw whole package.

    1. Marcus Weinhold Avatar
      Marcus Weinhold

      I went from canon to sony recently and don’t regret it one bit. I got the $150 sigma adapter and use all my old glass, autofocus works great!

    2. Andy Marquis Avatar
      Andy Marquis

      Is that the metabones one? Which Sony? A72? Thank!

    3. Marcus Weinhold Avatar
      Marcus Weinhold

      Sorry, it was $250, not $150 but still cheaper than the $400 metabones. I’m using it on a sony a7rII

  7. Craig Johnson Avatar
    Craig Johnson

    I love my 5 mkIII and I’ll be sticking by it for the foreseeable yet- and their L series lenses are amazing…. but they are lagging behind others in dynamic range and low light photography stakes now. I’m not interested in 50, 60…… hell 70 mp sensors, nor 4k video. I just wish they’d catch up with low light hand held capabilities.

  8. Sandro Alencar Mrowinski Avatar
    Sandro Alencar Mrowinski

    Milenium generation watches a full season of series in one day,but forgets that takes years to make. Same with eletronic industry. We need all in one for yesterday. ‘but takes time’,one would say. ‘i m entitle to’,others would reply. Innovation does not comes from equipment.comes from criativity an that comes from ppl,not companies.

    1. Clinton Blackburn Avatar
      Clinton Blackburn

      A season of television takes months to make, not years.

    2. Shark Avatar

      enjoy your TUBE TV then…..

  9. Viggo Næss Avatar
    Viggo Næss

    Lol? It’s just ridiculous to claim?

    If this was even remotely true Canon wouldn’t be were they are, at the top.

    Their lens lineup is the best on the planet and people completely forget what the 1dx2 for example is compared to a9 and the D5. I would rather have the most epic workhorse than a gadget …

    1. Van Gelis Avatar
      Van Gelis

      I have a canon 50mm 1.8, not sharp!

    2. Shark Avatar

      golf sell more than mercedes.. you have no clue why canon is the marketshare leader… to be honest.

      canon is not on top anymore when it comes to technology.
      and i am a photographer not a shareholder… so that counts for me.

  10. Tim Evans Avatar
    Tim Evans

    I recently purchased the 6D Mark II. I don’t regret that purchase because my prior camera was a 650D (T4i here in the States), and the difference in image quality is very dramatic (at least to me). However, most of the time, I feel that it will be my last Canon camera.

    From the days of film, to my first digital point-and-shoot, and to this latest body, I have always used Canon. The menus, controls, and ergonomics are all second nature to me. I have spent much more than I care to admit on accessories that only work on Canon bodies.

    Nevertheless, since I first “really got into” photography in 2012, Canon has been trailing behind Nikon, Sony, and in some respect, Fuji. I keep feeling like I bet on the losing horse in a race.

    I realize that Canon is a business and there are basically, in the camera business, two ways to make money. First, you can be so innovative that people really want your new camera models. Second, you can keep features limited and reduce production costs, relying on brand loyalty (or reluctance to switch systems) to keep driving sales. This latter method seems to be Canon’s business model, and I’m simply tired of feeling like the company I’m fond of (I know, “brand loyalty is for suckers”) is purposefully limiting me and customers like me.

    1. Sanjeed Quazi Avatar
      Sanjeed Quazi

      “Brand loyalty” is an unrealistic calculation by manufacturers. We buy our gears on full payment of the price. Obviously we decide what to get and what to abandon.

  11. Hugh Mobley Avatar
    Hugh Mobley

    Canon has gone completely complacent and their last few cameras are extremely disappointing!! The last “GOOD” upgrade camera was the 7D MK II, it actually had improvements, however, most or all the firmware updates for the 7D MK II have been CRAP!! The new Nikon 850 is putting Canon to SHAME as well as FUJI FILM already doing that! All my Canon gear is FOR SALE!

  12. david carnes Avatar
    david carnes

    I love my Canon gear. I have a Fuji X kit too. I use them for different things. I love them both. I replaced my 5DMkII with the MkIV and it does every single thing I want it to do. I replaced my 7D with a 7DMKII and I love it as well. I really don’t care at all what Sony or Nikon do.
    Here is an anecdote. Several years ago I had an electronic salesman leaning hard on my to buy a 40″ Sony flat panel TV which at the time was $300 more than the 37″ Panasonic I ended up with. He said “look at the picture, there is no comparison”. My replay to him was,”yeah, but they both look much better than my CRT and I won’t have a wall of TV’s in my house!”.
    This is to say, what profit is there in comparing all of these systems? Get the one you like and go make art. You will find another large group of people that will swear that they will go sell all of their Nikon gear tomorrow and buy something else. And you know what? Sony and Fuji who seem to have the tiger by the tail today will let you down in a couple of years. Know why, because they are just electronics manufacturers like everybody else. Their success at product development will be cyclic just like everybody else too.
    I’d say hold on to what you have and spend your money on gas or plane tickets and go make some nice photos.

  13. Renee Woo Avatar
    Renee Woo

    Nikonian is passing by and say hi! ?

  14. Margaritas Ante Porcos Avatar
    Margaritas Ante Porcos

    Canon, are you depressed? It feels like you are suicidal. So sad. If I had couple bucks now, I’d switch teams in blink of an eye. Competitors offer so many good things. Please, Canon, wake up, the train has left the station.

  15. Scott Lightner Avatar
    Scott Lightner

    An open letter to Togs –

    If you can’t make amazing images today, don’t point your finger at the gear maker…

    1. Shark Avatar

      open letter to mr platituide repeater: that´s not the point here you clown!

  16. Justin Minns Avatar
    Justin Minns

    I’d rather get excited about the images I’m making than the gear I’m using and if anyone can’t get results with a camera like the 5D mkIV then I suspect the gear isn’t the problem.

    1. Ahmet Avatar

      Cameras do not last forever. I bought mine in 2009 so I’m considering replacing it because of its age. For the mkII + 24-105 I paid 2500 GBP, now the mkIV body only (!) is 3100 GBP. So for this extra money I expect some developement. But there isn’t much.
      But I guess you use a point&shoot since you make miracles whit anything. Probably you paid thousands for that gear since it does not matter to you, your pics make tons on money.

      1. Justin Minns Avatar
        Justin Minns

        Since the 5D mkII they have improved just about every aspect of the camera, so if you’re looking to upgrade your 5D mkII and want development, you wouldn’t be dissapointed with the mkIV, it is a very good camera.

        1. Shark Avatar

          but not as much as other companys. that is the point you seem to ignore.

          canon is going from leader in sensor performance and video (5D MK2) to a mediocre product.

          canon cameras are better than 8 years ago (wow!) but not TOP NOTCH anymore.

          1. Justin Minns Avatar
            Justin Minns

            No my point was that (to me) it doesn’t matter. Cameras are tools, the bells and whistles are for marketing.

            Using the 5D mkIV as an example, it is a superb camera, far from mediocre, ok it might not be as impressive on paper as the D850, but would owning a D850 make my photos any better? No, that part is down to the photographer.

            Just my opinion, not everyone will agree but that’s fair enough.

  17. Ion Avatar

    I agree with Justin, too much wasted time discussing the sensors, dynamic range, piping, etc. Please focus on what matters and you will succeed, meaning you will have great results in your photography, photorgaphy is not about the camera, reference please see this blog

    1. Shark Avatar

      you miss the point kiddo.

      i can make great photos with my 5D MK2.. but that is not the point here.
      so stop repeating platitudes.

      this is about canon offerning innovative new products to their customers WILLING to pay money for it.

      you can still drive in a golf 1 from A to B (even at the same time given the speed limits)…. i still like my mercedes better.

  18. Shark Avatar

    i can only agree. canon user since 1984 here.

    i don´t buy new canon gear because canon is falling behind a lot.

    the 6D Mk2 offers me nothing.

    i had the money ready for a 5D MK4 but it was lackluster.
    bought a A7R2 for traveling instead. had a A6000 and loved it for traveling.

    a bigger DSLR has to offer me more than a smaller mirrorless camera.. or it makes no sense for me.

    my money goes since 2012 to sony.. why…. becaue canon does not offer me innovations i would want to spend my money on.

    canon need to improve on sensor performance to take teh lead again.
    but people say that since 2010 and nothing happens.

    now they fall behind in the video department too… not good!

    it seems canon management has no big interest in photography anymore.

  19. Sanjeed Quazi Avatar
    Sanjeed Quazi

    I can only wish Canon listened! They enjoyed more than 50% market share in global DSLR sales for many years. That complacency inspired them embark on a long hibernation. When they woke up; others are far ahead – a gap seemingly impossible to bridge.

    It’s not only in the bodies they are lagging behind; the lens department has also become handicapped. Nikon offered a great prosumer super telephoto zoom in 200-500mm range long ago and recently a 500mm f/5.6 prime. Canon has nothing to offer in this range; not even thinking about it!

    I am also a Canon user like you for the last 11 years. Now, I’m compelled to think otherwise actively and checking reviews on Nikon products of my required specs. Perhaps I would purchase a good Nikon DX body to pair with the exciting 500mm f/5.6 prime for my bird and wildlife photography needs. And also might go for the D750 to use with Nikon 16-35mm f/4 for my landscape shots. The sad reality is; this will strike crushing blows to my bank account.

    BTW, I’m not excited by the mirrorless hype, IMO it’s not a game changer. It simply doesn’t offer anything significantly superior to DSLRs. Rather, it suffers from some permanent limitations in some areas.

    Sorry, Canon I’m unable to waste my time on a dying brand. You can only blame yourself for the collapse. Big names have a tendency to collapse as we saw in the cases of KODAK films or Compac PCs. RIP Canon.

  20. Robin Avatar

    Disappointed in the number of faults my 5D MK IV has displayed since I bought it around 2 years ago! Main dial is the main problem, not always switching to the next shutter speed when turning it or can go in opposite direction than selected. Also fails to alter item on the menu or goes backwards when dialling forwards. Inaccurate/inconsistent exposures – not a lens problem as it happens on all of my EF ‘L’ lenses..and additionally it doesn’t happen on my 5D MK II. In a burst of say 5 exposures, 1 or 2 will occasionally appear lighter or darker than the others. Also missed focus shots occasionally occurs for no apparent reason – again on all lenses (displaying focus point in DPP shows it on the subject, but subject OoF?) Did I buy a ‘pup’ or a ‘Friday’ made camera – I’m sure I did, unless others have had similar problems?