What's Wrong With the R's?

An interesting way of looking at a new camera is how potential customers perceive what's "wrong" with the product. I collect perceived-as-wrong lists whenever a new camera is launched because it helps me define things I need to look for when reviewing the product, as people will expect me to address them. 

So what's wrong with the Canon R5 according to early commentary?

  • The price is too high. Higher than the Nikon Z7 and Sony A7R Mark IV.
  • It overheats in video. Some are referring to the R5 as the Arctic-capable 8K.
  • It has an AA filter. True, but it uses Canon's new, better approach.
  • There's no pixel shift. Canon's careful to only say highest resolving Canon.
  • Low battery life. Though CIPA ratings aren't reality.
  • DSLR sized. That's not exactly true, but "bigger than Sony" is the complaint.
  • No built-in GPS. Wherever did I take that photo?

Meanwhile, for the Canon R6 we get this very similar list:

  • Only 20mp. Hmm, isn't that we pros have been using?
  • No focus stacking. A curious doesn't-cost-anything omission.
  • The price is too high. Again, the Nikon Z6 and Sony A7 Mark III undercut Canon.
  • Low battery life. Though CIPA ratings aren't reality.
  • DSLR sized. That's not exactly true, but "bigger than Sony" is the complaint.
  • No built-in GPS. Wherever did I take that photo?

We also get the usual "don't need video" responses for both cameras. Still, the overall don't like lists I'm seeing early on for the new Canon cameras are relatively short. As it probably should be for being the last company to these product points.

Of course, a short perceived-as-wrong list also means that folk with older cameras from a competitor start to go into panic mode because their cameras don't have some of the things the new one does. Then again, the Nikon Z6/Z7 pair was introduced almost exactly two years ago. Maybe Nikon will have something new of their own to announce in the next six months or so with this camera pair? Always carry a towel, folks. 

Meanwhile, the Sony FE folk are concentrating on overheating issues of a camera they'll never own (Canon R5), trying to convince themselves of video superiority despite the fact that their own cameras overheat, and also don't do things like shoot raw video or 10-bit 4:2:2. But then again, the A7 Mark III was launched over two years ago and the video-oriented model A7s Mark II almost five. I pretty sure that they can wipe their brows with their towel and stop panicking, too, as Sony will have something new soon, too.

My initial take is this: Canon got the relaunch of RF mostly right. Nicely done in almost all respects, and there will always be small things that people complain about no matter how well you created your product. The camera market is a game of leap frog, and because lenses establish some form of lock-in, it's always played for the long term. 

That's where we are today: Frog C leaped. Both Frog N and Frog S seem to tightening their leg muscles. I think we'll see some more leaps.

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Bonus: Beware the sine wave. By launching online with Canon loyalists doing all the describing, the marketing hype factor started well above the reality line. Next, we'll see the YouTubers and the influencers rebel and go all negative, because that's the only story that would stand out from the initial hype that they can tell, having mostly been denied early hands on with the products. And thus the Internet narrative on the R5/R6 will turn negative and drop below the reality line next. Towards the end of July cameras will begin to find their way into users' hands and the sine wave will (hopefully) reverse back.

The reality line is almost always different than the Internet Barometer is saying about a product. Good and bad points exist for every product. It's the blend of things in actual use that tell us whether a product is actually worthwhile or not. That's why long-form reviews done after long-term usage are the ones to watch for. 

Most of the early statements about new products are all driven by dollars. The camera maker wants hype, because that means more early sales at full price. The influencers want plenty of attention, because that means they can charge more to whoever is paying them. And even brand loyalists are in it for the dollars. Either they've got a real monetary link to the brand (e.g. Ambassadors), or they want to convince themselves that they made their brand choice wisely and didn't waste their money.

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Bonus bonus: Canon just showed all the other camera makers how to launch products without a big physical event or trade show. Some of that was by necessity, given the virus that has us all socially distancing. But in reality, it's been inevitable, and a long time coming. Note how many folk also said that Apple's online-only WDDC announcements were "better" than the usual everyone-gather-at-the-Jobs-theater ones. 

A tightly scripted online launch with proper pacing and the right build-up to it can work just fine. It's probably a better choice than the way things have been done, and cheaper to do. It's also a proper way to use your Ambassadors (early access in return for help with launch). Another point not noticed by many was that Canon made these all localized presentations (e.g. from the regional subsidiaries), which is more engaging than putting Japanese Mastodons on a stage holding up their little metal and plastic bundles of joy and reading stats off Powerpoint slides. 

The thing that's still missing from both the Apple and Canon launches is hands-on outside the organization. I can't help but think that events like Sony Kando are probably the best way to augment that. Online launch just prior to a Kando, let the Kando folk shoot with the product(s) for a few days and reward them for posting with the proper hashtags on social media. Stick an influencer day or two in between and you should have bang, Bang, BANG.

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