I have discovered that many of us web people are camera buffs as well. In the prosumer digital SLR market, there is little competition for Canon, just as here is little competition for Google in the search market. Nikon is the Yahoo!, with a loyal but shrinking following. The different between search and SLRs, however, is substantial. Searchers can switch engines in a New York Minute. Digital SLR users typically have invested substantially in their glass: the lenses cost much more than the cameras. It is not unusual for a digital SLR owner to have one or two $2000 bodies and $20,000 in dedicated glass lenses that only fit that model of camera.
Which is why reputation problems should be considered important. The more “bad things” I read about Canon, the less likely I am (as a consumer) to invest in Canon. That sort of brand-loyalty-backed-by-sunk-cost-fears is the only thing that kept Nikon alive for so long. And now Canon doesn’t seem to care.
This is the second bad experience I’ve had with Canon products needing repair, and my needing to interface with Canon’s repair services. In this case my 3 year old lens was driven to stuck-ness by either the circuitry in the lens or the circuitry in the camera. Canon doesn’t care — it just wants a $138 repair fee to fix it with a 90 day warranty on the repair. There is no physical way for me or gravity to drive the lens aperture beyond its smallest position, jamming the fins into permanent disability. It had to be the camera or the lens ciruitry. What if it is the camera? Am I putting my $1600 lenses at risk attaching them to the same camera now? And what about that broken lens. Since when does a $600 lens last less than 3 years? Welcome to today’s digital SLR market, and another near monopoly.
But my professional concern is Canon’s disregard for the impact this has on the market. When my Optura digital camcorder failed with repeated “remove cassette” errors, and refused to read used tapes, I checked the Internet and found *thousands* of reports of this problem. I even found detailed descriptions of the cause, going back several products in the Optura line. But Canon refused to address the issue without a >$200 pre-payment for repair. A barely-used $1100 camcorder, needing a $200 repair. And guess what? Less than 4 months after repair, the same problem started again and of course I went out and bought a non-Canon camcorder instead of dealing with the aggravation. And I blogged about it. And I will never forget it, especially now as my SLR lenses encounter “difficulties”.
Reputation management is not what those lawyers on the speaking panel at Pubcon say it is – a legal issue to be addressed. It is a market issue, and it is not going away. As long as the only recourse is “bitch about it publically on a blog”, Canon will suffer. With blogging more accessible to the public every day, this will only get worse. I can’t imagine prosumer level digital SLR technology becoming “throw away” because it is limited by the basic physics of light… and pushing that technology forward requires the substantial money Canon has been collecting from people like me who are willing to pay for performance. No longer. What will happen? That’s right… the market will collapse instead of advancing, and we’ll be at the mercy of things like space agency funding for our technology advances outside the “more megapixels is better” home snapshot market.
Dumbasses. They had such a good thing going.