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July 05, 2012

Does Canon have a problem with Independent Voters?

Once upon a time, Canon looked as close to invincible as one could look in the world of DSLRs. Almost everything with the Canon logo was an instant success. Other manufacturers made valiant efforts, but could not shake off Canon. Then we had the Nikon insurrection, led by the D3/D300 that balanced things more, taking away Canon's aura of invincibility...

This is a long post, more after the break...

But that didn't stop Canon, they continued to have successful DSLR models. One of their biggest "super hits" came with the 5D Mark II over three years ago. This was a camera that made photographers jump over cliffs to become cinematographers. Then, hot on the heels of the 5DMk2, Canon released an APS-C flagship DSLR, the 7D, another camera that gave Canon a "super hit". And shortly after that, the Digital Rebel T2i/550D came out, a D-Rebel that was greeted as a liberator among photographers.

What all three cameras had in common is that they generated a lot of excitement among photographers who were not solidly in the Canon camp. To borrow a phrase from the world of politics, a lot of Independent and Persuadable Voters. Photographers of all mounts were tempted by the 5DMk2, swayed to switch systems by the 7D, and encouraged to jump on the T2i/550D. All three were greeted as digital liberators.


And just like that, the "super hits" ended. The 60D did not generate a lot of excitement, the T3i/600D was a sequential update that did not generate T2i/550D-caliber excitement. The 5DMk3 was priced beyond the reach of many, despite a worsened world economy since the 5DMk2 launch. The 1D X is still not here. The T4i/650D reception is so far even worse among Independent voters than the T3i/600D.

Even the G1x is having problems becoming a hit. A 1.5" sensor with a glued-in zoom lens were wild fantasies of G-series fans and fixed-lens-with-RAW photographers for many years. The camera arrived, but the excitement was not on the train.

This is not to say that Canon is going down in flames. Far from it. There are plenty of Canon camp users who are sequential upgraders or will always go Canon when it is time for the next purchase. And the mythical average consumer is slow to adjust and adapt. The current success and momentum of Canon and Nikon guarantees them a certain percentage of sales for many many years to come. That big is the power of incumbency.

However, Canon appears to be losing the all important Independent and Persuadable voters. Often times, these are seeds and roots that may spread and spread if left unattended. But such a thing is not guaranteed. Canon's problem with this demographic will become a bigger problem if other manufacturers are able to capitalize on it. Breakaway hits like the Fuji X-Pro 1 and the Olympus E-M5 and potentially the Sony RX100 are the type of cameras that could do the most damage for Canon among "Independent Voters".

From here, we look to the future: where does the next Canon "super hit" come from given that they updated most of their line-up already? A 7D Mark II? A mythical 3D? A more affordable 35mm full frame DSLR? How about the rumored and upcoming Canon mirrorless system? - as Ranger9 pointed out in the comments.

Notes and Footnotes
Please note, the comments in this post refer mostly to the reception and perceptions of the cameras in and by the market. This does not necessary mean a camera is technically better or worse. The reception of a camera by the market depends on a variety of factors, including current photographic trends, current economic environment, expectations, comparisons to the previous models, market saturation, demand, etc, etc, etc.

Please also note the comments on this post are based on a variety of measurable and not-measurable observations, but they are not undisputed truths!

And as always, typos, errors and confusions are always a possibility!

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