An Open Letter to Canon

I love Canon cameras and lenses. I’ve been shooting Canon for almost ten years, starting with the Rebel XT. I currently have a 5D MKIII, 60D, two L lenses, flashes, and various Canon accessories. They get the job done, and I enjoy using them, but I’m not sure I’ll stick with Canon if they don’t start improving their products.

Here’s the thing — any modern DSLR will take great photographs. All major manufacturers have great cameras and lenses. At this point, mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X-T1 are set to take a huge chunk out of DSLR sales, and video-focused cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and the BlackMagic Pocket Cinema Camera are taking the video world by storm. Through it all, the two leading camera makers, Canon and Nikon, have made several stumbles and have conceded market share to companies once thought to be out of the game. So if any camera can take a great photo, why choose Nikon or Canon?

Nikon and Canon have the most mature product lines, with lens lineups that cannot be matched. The vast amount of accessories made for these two brands, coupled with their reliability and support, make many hobbyists and professionals remain loyal. Most people seeking a great DSLR stick with Nikon and Canon, and that’s what I’ve done. I essentially put my whole crop-sensor kit for sale (50D, 15–85mm, 18–55mm, 18–135mm, 55–250mm) and I was ready to buy whichever camera stole my heart. At that time, it was the Canon 5D MKIII, and I still love using it. But lately, with all the advancements other companies are coming up, my eye has been wandering.

The Name of the Game is Dynamic Range

Nikon has made a few mistakes in the past few years. The D600 oil issue should have been taken care of immediately. The Df fell a bit flat. The D800 was very quickly replaced by the D810 after the D610 was released to fix the oil issue. The D750 was recalled due to a strange flare issue. They still lag behind in video features. And there are still a few holes in their lens lineup. However, they’ve been doing one thing right, and consistently so — dynamic range.

1*RM4utZIqfyTG__5j5n0byAWhen I see friends editing files from their D800, D810, and D750s, I get jealous. Nikon cameras, mostly using SONY sensors, just have more dynamic range. There is so much more detail in the shadows, with much less noise. There is more detail in the highlights. There is so much more latitude for editing. While I still prefer Canon’s skin tones, Nikon files just have more information in them. And I want to Canon to do something about it.

Canon’s recent cameras like the 70D and the 7D MKII have offered some great improvements over their predecessors, but they still do not offer the increase in dynamic range and the decrease in sensor noise that their main competitor is offering. And then there’s SONY itself, with incredible cameras that see in the dark with little noise.

I could be in the market for a new camera next year, and if not, I will definitely be in the market in 2016. In that time, it is rumoured that Canon will release the 5D MKIV, as well as a yet-unnamed camera with a lot of megapixels. A 50mp 3D, perhaps? And maybe a 1DX successor. But what will these new cameras bring besides the possibility of more megapixels?

Things Canon is Doing Well:

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIncredible autofocus system, starting with the 1Dx, then 5D MKII, and now the 7D MKII. 65 points, and now all cross-type on the 7D MKII.
  • Weather sealing. The 7D MKII is currently known as the camera with the best weather sealing.
  • Ergonomics. At least for me. My hands just seem to fit nicely with Canon cameras, and not so much with Nikon. This is completely personal and many folks very much prefer Nikons.
  • The thumb scroll wheel on the back of xxD and xD cameras. It’s a godsend when scrolling through photos.
  • Lenses. They’ve got a few clunkers, and many that are in desperate need of an upgrade, but there is no denying the increidble quality and sharpness of the 70–200mm f/2.8L IS II, 135mm f/2L, 24–70mm f/2.8L II, and the new 16–35mm f/4L IS.
  • Video. Canon is still the go-to brand for DSLR video. Though that is now questionable with the excellent Panasonic GH4 and the SONY A7s having better video-specific features and excellent sensors.

What I’d Like to See

  • 5D MKIV with vastly improved dynamic range and shadow noise. Sure, more megapixels would be okay, but I really don’t care about that. I’d rather have the same megapixel count with better dynamic range and noise handling than more megapixels of the same quality. But I have a feeling we will see a jump to 36mp.
  • 6D MKII with the exact same type of improvements.
  • Better video-focused features. Focus peaking, 4K, higher frame rates, built-in intervalometer, wifi control, and so on. So many other cameras have these features and the only way to get them on Canon cameras is with Magic Lantern, if at all.
  • Replacements for the 50mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.2. The f/1.4 is very old. Its autofocus mechanism is iffy at best. Sigma has already destroyed them with their new 50mm f/1.4 Art. The f/1.2 has focus issues as well. I don’t see any reason to buy either when the Sigma exists.
  • A new lens: 85mm f/1.4. The f/1.8 version is great, especially for the price, but it’s not an L lens. No weather sealing. And the focus isn’t crazy fast. No IS. The f/1.2 version is a beautiful piece of glass, but it’s slow to focus and it weighs a tonne. Canon needs an 85mm lens in between those two, which retail for $400 and $2600, respectively. How about an 85mm f/1.4L IS USM for, say, $1500? Maybe with IS that price is pushing it, so they can leave that out, but there needs to be another option here. Otherwise, Sigma will sneak in there and release an 85mm f/1.4 for $900 and there will be no reason to buy either of the Canons. And at this point, I don’t care who makes it. Whoever gets there first has my money.

In The End

Canon needs to improve its sensor technology. They’re riding on reputation at this point. Though they are the largest camera maker by sales, that can quickly change. And with the proliferation of excellent alternatives, I think that’s exactly what will happen if Canon doesn’t catch up to its competitors.

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