It’s Still a Canon World

Canonites and non-Canonites alike may deplore Canon’s lack of innovation. World’s market leader in cameras and imaging technology churns out serious gear at snail’s pace while the likes of Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus keep on innovating to gain new market share. For Canon, it seems, photography is not so much about innovation. It’s more about reliability, brand recognition and legacy, so all Canon really has to do is offering proven, reliable tools that just do the job without adding much excitement to doing the job. Who cares if a camera is beautiful, feels great and enriches the experience of photographing. Canon chooses a completely pragmatic approach — and not that it’s leader position is endangered:

This widely circulated, self-explanatory infographic by Spanish-language photography site on the cameras used for the World Press Photo 2014 awards does show one thing clearly: world’s leading photojournalists mostly use Canon. Mirrorless? Keep on dreaming.

Mirror mirror on the wall, Canon's still the most popular of the all... |
Mirror mirror on the wall, Canon’s still the most popular of the all… |

Alright, the infographic might not be entirely representative. Nearly 100,000 photos were submitted. Only 42 of the 55 winning photographs offer gear data, showing the Canon EOS 1D X is the model most commonly used by winning reporters. Of the 42 photos that information is offered, eight of them are made with this bulky, nearly $7k pro DSLR.

What else?

  • 58% of the winning photographs are shot with a Canon.
  • 86% of the winners work with Canon or Nikon (28%).
  • Leica achieves a respectable 7% share. To be fair, in terms of real market share that’s a dramatic achievement.
  • And it doesn’t always have to be the latest and greatest camera to shoot great imagery. The Canon 5D Mark II is as popular as the 5D Mark III successor in this list, and even veteran cameras such as the cheapo Canon Rebel T3/1100D, Nikon D80 and Sony NEX-5N made it into the awards.
  • There’s the occasional Sony RX1 and Olympus OM-D EM-5. Occasional.

The moral of the story? Canons still rule. Albeit statistically a Canon therefore might improve one’s photography, even redundant gear still delivers.

Oops, and which camera maker again sponsors the World Press Photo awards? Take a wild guess. I don’t suggest they have any influence on the judging. They just sponsor what they do best. A World Fashion Photo or World Art Photo award would have a different sponsor.

Fact is, world’s best photojournalists do care what gear they’re using. Still, most cameras could have taken the winning photographs. But not most photographers.

  • Gary

    First off, this sample seems kind of small…only 42 photos with information.

    Second, these are photos taken by photojournalists. So even if this is representative of the market of photojournalists, that is not the same market as the broad consumer market. Witness the 7% for Leica; there is no way that Leica is getting 7% of the mass consumer market.

    That being said, there is no doubt that Canon is still #1 in overall camera sales. They have held the top spot for a while now.

    It is interesting, isn’t it? The top seller seems complacent in its spot, while everyone else is trying to innovate like mad to make some inroads. What’s that old marketing line…we’re #2 so we try harder?

    Of course, Canon may not be interesting in the way of coming out with a lot of new stuff lately, but they still make top quality equipment that gets the job done and then some. That has to count for something.

    The problem is that none of the companies doing the innovation heavy lifting in the camera market these days has the marketing heft to significantly shift the market. It would take someone like Apple to really create a disruption in the market.

    If and when mirrorless starts to take off, Canon will just swoop in with a viable product line and claim the largest share of the market.

  • Interestingly Canon’s (and Nikon’s) first shots at mirrorless with the EOS M and V/J systems are rather popular in Japan and widely ignored in the rest of the world. It’s all about timing. They got their products ready once the established products sag. And the new huge emerging consumer markets of China, India, Brazil and even Africa aren’t sagging a bit — while the saturated traditional markets fortify Canon’s leader position. People don’t like experiments and surprises. Canon delivers, that’s all that matters.

  • Gary

    I think also that the perception of the camera market for most consumers is different then let’s say the perception of the smartphone or tablet market, where things can and do move and change very rapidly. In general terms, the world of modern computing, whether it be smartphones or social networks or apps, things can and often do shift quickly. I think that’s because so many people use these products and pay attention to the market.

    For most consumers, at least in the US, it seems the camera market is largely a niche that most people do not pay much attention to. It’s treated like any other hobbyist market: golfing, fishing, etc, where you have a relatively small group of devoted enthusiasts and the rest are casual participants at best. So most consumers when they choose a camera are going on the faintest amount of information possible, and naturally gravitate to the best known brand.

    I think one reason why mirrorless is catching on quicker in Japan is simply because the Japanese market informs itself more on the technology of cameras.

  • Gary

    As a humorous aside, I noticed on the satire site New Camera News, (which you’ve written about), they have a “review” of the new Canon T5 camera, and their summary consists of “It’s a Canon – 5stars, It’s a Canon – 5 stars, It’s not one of those other brands – 5 stars.”

    Like all satire, there is a lot of truth in what is written.