What are Canon's priorities with video? Why hasn't it put more effort into making the 5D MK 1V a better video camera for shooting video? We think we know why.
To understand Canon, it really helps to visit the company and talk to the people who work for it. We’ve done this twice recently. Both times we went to its US headquarters in Long Island.
It’s an impressive building - very modern and surprisingly large. Why surprising? Because it’s easy to forget that Canon is about more than just photography. Canon’s business extends way beyond professional and enthusiast cameras; medical and scientific imaging are important to the Japanese giant as well as printing on a large and small scale.
Image courtesy of Canon USA
We were shown round Canon’s “museum”. It’s a huge area where every important product in the company’s history is on display. I spotted all the cameras that have been important to me in the past. The AE1 was there - this was one of the first automatic still cameras and a massively popular model. Canon showcased their printing technology too: printouts from their 50 megapixel 5Ds were very impressive.
As we left our tour of Canon’s historical showroom, one thing was clear: this is a company that makes images. Every product that it makes exists to make the best possible image within technical and cost constraints.
What you don’t see at Canon’s headquarters is any indication of how many of each category of product the company sells. We can only guess at that. But we do know a few things.
Stills matter to Canon
First, Canon sells many times more still than video cameras. There are several reasons to believe this. Canon’s booth at the recent NAB show in Las Vegas is pretty big, as is their stand at Europe’s IBC. But their space at Germany’s PhotoKina is maybe ten times the size. Still photography is much more important to Canon than video in terms of volume of sales. It’s not really surprising. Professional and enthusiast photography is a huge combined market. Even though smartphones have practically obliterated compact camera sales, bigger, better cameras continue to sell to hobbyists and those who make living from photography.
This doesn’t mean that video is a second class format for Canon; the company is clearly very serious about moving images, but their priorities are different from what video practitioners might expect.
When the Canon 5D Mk II burst onto the scene in September 2008, it was eagerly embraced by the filmmaking community. This didn’t happen because it was the best way to make cinematic video on a budget: it was the only way (with an honourable mention to Nikon here for making the first video-capable DSLR in the form of the D90, announced in August 2008). The full-frame video from the Mk II looked gorgeous and started a wave of DSLR video making that launched the careers of many of today’s filmmakers.