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Canon’s wobbling pedestal

Is Canon losing the plot?  A regular reader who requested their name be withheld (they play hard in North Ryde!) thinks so…

Is the seemingly-unstoppable Canon behemoth starting to wobble on its pedestal?
Industry insiders, competitors and many customers now think so.

canon_headquartersWhen you are top of the pile it can be a dangerous time which almost certainly engenders inappropriate attitudes within giant companies. A myopic view of the world can lead to poor planning, a feeling of superiority, errors of judgment about the market,  arrogance, a lack of vision for what is waiting for you just around the corner (generally a corporate mugger, or maybe two to three) and a lack of understanding of what your customers really want.

More importantly, how to reach new customers with exciting solutions is the thing – it is
much more difficult now as new stages of history unfold at a breathtaking rate – and although that seems true for just now, it has always been so to a lesser or greater degree, creating corporate and government havoc in its wake. Change can be a bitter pill or a godsend depending upon how you manage it. Just ask Kodak, PanAM, Sony, Philips, Microsoft, the orginal Apple company and dozens of other once-leading oganisations – all have suffered greatly or simply disappeared due to their inability to change by true innovation driven by customer needs, rather than taking their leading position as the ongoing state of play.

Canon has been slower to embrace mirrorless interchangeable camera technology than consumers.
Canon has been slower to embrace mirrorless interchangeable camera technology than consumers.

In the case of the new Apple, the once almost defunct company has been brilliantly re-generated. But for the reasons listed above, Apple may become vulnerable rather than impregnable, over the next decade.

All the companies mentioned were powerful leaders in their category with a brand once valued as much as some entire countries. Not so now. Change brings about constant disruption – just look at the effects of Uber around the world on taxi companies literally asleep at the wheel; companies that created an army of dissatisfied customers who migrated elsewhere when the opportunity presented itself.

It is a simple matter to measure your sales; it is damn nigh impossible to measure the
satisfaction level or the future intentions of your clients. No survey will reveal all of that
information. What they say does not indicate what they think or what they will do.

For example, if there was a real alternative to the big banks, you could easily be trampled
to death in the stampede to migrate to a better option, and yet banks measure their success only by their profits and continually refer to ‘serving the best interests of their shareholders’ but never mention the real owners of the banks – the customers.

The camera ratings (above) and lens ratings (below) from DxO 'the trusted industry standard for camera and lens image quality measurements and ratings' have the 50-meg Canon EOS 5DS at #23 on the hit parade, with the Canon camera way down.
The camera ratings (above) and lens ratings (below) from DxO ‘the trusted industry standard for camera and lens image quality measurements and ratings’ have the 50-meg Canon EOS 5DS the top rated Canon camera at #23 on the hit parade, with the recently released 35mm f1.4 the top-rated Canon lens – at #25 overall. Canon is nowhere near the Top 10 in either camera OR lens technology. 

It is not too strong a statement to say that Canon is at a critical stage in its history. They are under attack from so many quarters, it is difficult for them to have a straightfoward plan for the future. Canon’s planners totally missed the ‘Go-Pro-sports camera’ market (worth billions); they failed to address the light-duty underwater ‘knockabout’ market now controlled by Olympus, Panasonic, Ricoh, etc; and have not done enough in the burgeoning ‘bridge’ camera range (although their SX60HS is very successful).

Canon have made similar mistakes to Kodak and are now dealing with falling profits, declining SLR sales, decreasing compact sales, almost non-existent traditional amateur video camera sales, a total lack of impact in the mirrorless area, and are under serious challenge from Sigma and Tamron in lens sales.

Canon’s lens sales have not been growing to any degree in any event, due to the impact of the now-powerful mirrorless brigade – mainly Olympus, Sony and Panasonic. And what about the powerful South Korean group, Samsung – they clearly have plans for the future of imaging and if they emulate the success of Koreas’ motor vehicles in the camera industry, then some Japanese makers may well be really brought to account.


But there is a deeper reason for Canon’s worldwide malaise. Many people feel that they have done a good job over the last few years of alienating their dealerships, and at the same time have managed to create an army of disgruntled customers. The company has sold sophisticated SLRs like lollies through discount chains, to some people who will never understand or use them to the best advantage, and who remain unlikely to repeat that mistake in future camera purchases.

But worse, when they lack enthusiasm for their purchase, clients do not purchase millions of dollars worth of valuable accessories and lenses, as they might do if inspired and enthused by traditional specialists.

Many of Canon’s (and other makers) problems are built around stability – or more accurately, lack of stability in the marketplace. No one knows the value of anything anymore; Japanese marketing is a bit like a bazaar or a used car yard. Clients don’t trust the price anymore – tomorrow there will be a raft of new offers. In a stable market, a decision which might take a day or two (or less), in an unstable market it can take weeks, while the client waits for a better offer or shops around all over the world, ‘reality checking’ what they have been told.

In the meantime, a high percentage of these potential buyers go cold on the whole idea and simply revert to using their phones to record important events.

Premium quality lenses like the Art range from Sigma and the growing Tamron SP family will force downward pressure on Canon (and Nikon) lens prices.
Premium quality lenses like the Art range from Sigma and the growing Tamron SP family will force downward pressure on bloated Canon (and Nikon) lens prices.

Also, thousands of once-loyal Canon customers have deeply ingrained memories of outrageously expensive repairs: card receivers for example, or lenses with built-in factory faults, which instead of being repaired at no cost (like many cars would be) owners have been quoted up to half the price of a new lens to rectify what was a design problem in the first place. (Eg – the notorious 17-85mm Canon ‘kit’ lens, and many batches of the expensive 24-105mm L IS lens. In one reported case, the owner of a 100-400mm IS lens was quoted more than the wholesale value of the lens to repair the stabiliser and the USM system. Naturally, the lens remains unrepaired and a highly disgruntled customer failed to purchase a new Canon lens, but rather opted for a Tamron, because, ‘it was cheaper new than the repair of the 100-400.’

These owners will not only be unlikely to purchase any further Canon lenses; many will either use what they have, or continue to migrate to Sigma and Tamron. It’s a gift to these two companies.

While the giant Canon company is in no immediate danger financially , no organisation is big enough to control the outcomes of the market. And there is distinct evidence of a worrying decline which needs to be addressed urgently.

One Comment

  1. Richard Richard November 22, 2015

    such a weird article, filled with hersay, rumour .. and even not-understood DxO lens charts (DxO has tested Nikon and Sony lenses at 36Mp – they have refused so far to test canon lenses with 50MP, and therefore all canon lenses will look “lower” on score by default).

    any reasonable person that puts together such an article should have known that.

    falling behind in lens technology? even besides that.. did the author miss the widest rectilinear lens ever created (11-24/4L) or what most are calling the best 35mm lens available – the 35mm 1.4L II? or what’s considered the best prosumor 100-400?

    sounds like the author is also falling into the trap of what’s glitzy.

    About support – it’s interesting but canon (and nikon) do their own support services. Olympus, sony and others in alot of areas have sub contracted it out – most of the times the service borders on non-existent.

    Sorry but this regular reader basically wrote a bunch of unsubstantiated rumor, innuendo, and doesn’t even understand DxO plots.

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