Canon has an image problem and I’m not talking about photos. The company currently has a battle on three fronts when it comes to the perception of its brand: no third-party lens options, the actions of its printer division, and the company’s stance on climate change.
As far as technology is concerned, there isn’t a wide gap between competitors anymore. The playing field has effectively been evened, meaning more relies on how a consumer perceives a brand than what that brand’s products can actually do — this is especially the case on the mid- to entry-level lines.
Three Major Concerns
The issue of the closed RF-mount system looms largest and many photographers are honestly considering that lens selection is not only limited but more expensive on Canon’s mirrorless system. Canon isn’t just not licensing its RF mount — and, by the way, it’s not clear if Canon has ever licensed any of its mounts in the past; the company has been particularly vague on this issue — but it’s actively going after any company that tries to make autofocus lenses for its cameras.
Speaking to PetaPixel, Canon admits it knows there is a desire to have more lens options, it just hasn’t come up with an internal policy to address it, which isn’t particularly reassuring.
“We’re always collecting customer feedback and heard the requests for the RF mount to be licensed to third-party lens developers. Canon has been considering requests in line with our business strategies and customer needs,” the company says.
In an interview with Phototrend, Canon goes even further and says it has no “direction or policy on this matter” and that it only looks at approving third-party optics on a “case by case basis.”
Canon does point to the newly-announced Cosina lens for Canon RF as an example of an officially licensed product, but this isn’t a particularly good example of what customers want. There are plenty of manual focus RF lenses on the market already (even though Cosina’s new option does have electronic communication with the camera) and Canon isn’t suing brands that make manual focus lenses for its mirrorless system — its target is anyone adding autofocus capabilities. So Canon saying pointing to the Cosina lens as an example of good faith towards its customers is a rather empty gesture.
Canon claims it is “in talks with other manufacturers,” but provides no details.
The aggressiveness with which Canon goes after any manufacturer who has dared make autofocus lenses for the RF mount is rivaled only by how the company goes after those who it believes have violated its printer toner patents. That’s the second front, and while Canon seems proud of how many products it gets removed from Amazon and how many brands it manages to sue, its efforts here aren’t to protect consumers, but to protect the company’s bottom line. The way Canon acts toward this issue really sends out a strong message: greed.
The third issue has been Canon’s lackluster response to climate change. While its individual regional divisions may have different takes on climate, the parent company in Japan funds a think tank that regularly undermines science in this area.
Global advocacy group Action Speaks Louder is attempting to get Canon to publicly address and fix its stance on climate change, but based on how the Japanese company responded to PetaPixel’s questions on the matter last week, it doesn’t look like Canon plans to budge.
In short, Canon’s actions say it wants to squeeze every possible dollar out of its customers while funding science that actively undermines the well-being of those same customers. Look, any one of these issues alone wouldn’t necessarily turn heads. The real issue is that Canon has all three boiling over at the same time, which presents an overarching tone of a company that is greedy and uncaring. That’s not the image any company should want to convey.
Customers are Taking Notice
While not all customers will necessarily care about all of these issues, it’s hard to think of any who are willing to look past all three. It’s clear there is a real issue here, and photographers are taking notice.
“Canon just seems like a big ripoff now if you’re going for the lower-end or middle-tier stuff, in addition to their scummy practices,” one photographer writes on Reddit.
“I’m looking at buying into a new system and it 99% won’t be Canon if they’re not allowing third party lenses. I would be fine with this if Canon had a great mirrorless lens lineup that spanned all budgets, but they don’t,” another says.
“I was waffling between upgrading to Canon RF or Nikon Z systems, but this is pushing the balance back toward Nikon,” a PetaPixel reader commented.
“I feel kinda silly for not knowing about this sooner,” a third photographer adds, referencing Canon’s stance on climate change. “It isn’t going to be a drastic, immediate switch for me, but I am done with Canon products from here on out.”
Canon has been a household name in photography and has been the biggest name in the room since digital photography hit the mainstream. It’s been a very long time, and perhaps the company has forgotten what got them to that point. There are a host of factors that led to this, of course, but upsetting customers with a variety of business decisions certainly wasn’t part of that.
“I’m predominantly an amateur wildlife and landscape photographer. I moved from Olympus to Canon as they seemed to have a great focus for what I need; leading animal autofocus, and native glass that’s very focused on keeping it compact and lightweight,” one photographer writes on Reddit.
“But I want the options of other lenses, and I am also trying very hard to make increasingly ethical choices in the equipment I buy and their various behaviors are making that almost impossible for me.”
Yes, Canon makes some really good products. Its cameras and first-party lenses are quite excellent as we at PetaPixel have said in reviews of recent releases, but those devices are starting to come with a lot of undesirable baggage. Canon can continue to ignore all the signs of trouble if it wants — that seems to be the preferred strategy right now — but it’s not hard to imagine that as time passes, these pervasive issues it refuses to address are going to have a negative impact on its bottom line.
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Image credits: Background of header photo licensed via Depositphotos.