Canon and Mirrorless : Two Roads Seemingly Doomed Not to Meet

 The Uninspired Canon M10

The Uninspired Canon M10

The saga of Canon mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras is a sad one.  The M1 was not successful.  The M2 never came to North America.  The M3 made it here after long delays.  On October 13th, Canon announced the M10.  After looking at the specifications, and Canon's state target market, I really think that they have to stop dropping acid.

This isn't a fanboy rant.  I use cameras from many manufacturers.  They are tools for me, not religions.  I own and shoot Canon products amongst others.  As a Canon user, it would be nice to see Canon competing in the ILC space with the likes of Olympus, Sony and Panasonic.  Even the oft-maligned Nikon 1 line is more successful.  Canon touts the M10, that sells for around $600 as the ultimate selfie camera.  Whether you believe that selfies are the sign of the end times or not, this is delusion at its finest.  Canon should know that anyone committed to selfies is not going to drop $600 on a dedicated camera, they likely already have a capable smartphone to do this, or could spend a lot less than $600 to upgrade their smartphone to one well suited to this outcome.

 Oooh selfie!  

Oooh selfie!  

The M10 uses an 18MP APS-C sensor (sounds like an old Rebel sensor) with an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 12800.  No high ISO samples were available at the time of writing, but if other Canon sensors are indicative, expect severe digital noise after 3200 and poor to moderate dynamic range.  Neither of these things matter to selfie shooters of course.  The M10 does take interchangeable M lenses, but Canon spends more time talking about how the lens collapses to a small size than the image quality it delivers.  Again, marketing for the selfie shooter.  One place where Canon does get the selfie market the M10 is that there is no viewfinder, all composition is done on the flippable LCD panel.  Even the "serious" (my quotes) M3 doesn't have a built in viewfinder.  There's nothing serious about trying to hold a camera stable at arm's length.

The camera has many picture effects, just like smartphone apps, and is NFC capable with Android and WiFi capable with Android and iOS.  Seems like more work for the selfie crowd, so not sure how that wins out.  It also connects to the Canon CS100 hub.  I think that both people who bought one might still use it.

When you can shoot surprisingly good 4K video on the smartphone, why would anyone spend extra money on a camera that maxes out at 1080p and no faster than 30fps video?  That's not innovation, heck it's not even keeping pace.

I'm worried for Canon.  Their recent DSLRs are staid and are getting blown out of the water in terms of both high ISO performance and dynamic range by Sony as well as Nikon (who use a number of Sony sensors).  Their interchangeable lens compact offerings have been a series of train wrecks.  Canon has reinitiated the pointless megapixel wars, but what if you held a war and no one else came?  The 5Ds and 5Dsr are expensive, slow and difficult to shoot well.  The latest Rebels are barely evolutionary and the Nikon D5500 will beat them up every day after school.  Canon used to lead the DSLR space in video, but not any more.  Panasonic and Sony have this area locked up at the moment.  Canon L glass is still killer, but the low end EF-S and EF-M lenses are not winning prizes for distortion or vignetting control.  Perhaps Canon thinks that they no longer need to innovate, that their mass will maintain their success.  Yes, it's my opinion, but I think that they are wrong.  In my perspective, Canon needs to lock up the marketing staff and unleash the engineers to build products that kick butt in dynamic range, low light, optical quality and next generation photography and videography.  Kodak was unstoppable too, right up until they disappeared.  

I don't have a particular vendor alignment.  We as photographers and videographers are best served when every player is working hard to outdo their competitors.  It should be that every vendor is in first place in some market for some period.  Canon, for reasons I cannot fathom, keeps following the mantra of fire, ready, aim lately and it's going to kill them if they don't smarten up.  The holiday season is nearly upon us, the biggest selling season for photo and video products, and Canon doesn't have a market leading offering in any common space.  Not in entry DSLRs, not in entry 4K video, not in semi-pro DSLR, not in pro 4K and certainly not in ILCs.  Yes, their 1Dx still compares favourably with Nikon's D4s, but both cameras are only months away from a version upgrade and don't exactly scream their way off the sales floor.  One might argue that Canon still ranks in point and shoot, but I'd say that Lumix and Sony wipe the floor with them in that space and if you read the financial data, the point and shoot market died a while ago, and the only agitation there happens when someone hits the corpse with a defibrillator.