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More Canon Camera Problems: The Future is Bright for Reputation Management and PR

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.

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8 Responses to “More Canon Camera Problems: The Future is Bright for Reputation Management and PR”

  1. Shane Says:

    Well that seals it for me. I had sworn off Canon products completely due to a customer “service” situation in 1997 just like you describe above, but just this week thought, “Well maybe their cameras are different.” We’re very close to buying a new digital camera, and I quite likely would have bought a Canon. Not anymore.

    I guess it wasn’t as big a deal in ‘97 before everyone had access to publish their opinion to the public, but surely now someone at Canon will have to get their head out of the sand, right? Apparently it hasn’t happened yet.

  2. Marios Alexandrou Says:

    As long as Canon provides leading edge technology, I don’t think the impact of negative blog comments is going to be significant. Most people will assume that the blogger simply received a bad part which is going to happen when there are millions of parts floating around. Canon is unlike Dell that has in recent years suffered from a bad reputation because Dell wasn’t providing anything you couldn’t get from HP, IBM, or Sony.

    What could hurt Canon is if the pros dump the brand. All of us prosumer camera owners want to take pictures like the pros and just about everyone starts off thinking that the gear is the most important aspect of good photos. So we look at what the pros like, not what the hobbyists use. The multi-photo spreads that often grace online newspapers speak more loudly than 10,000 blog posts. As long as the camera used is often a Canon, people are going to buy Canon.

  3. Shane Says:

    I don’t buy that at all, Marios. Before anyone makes a purchase of that size now, the majority of them check out what people are saying about the product. If the noise about Canon becomes loud enough, it will definitely dent their sales regardless of what the pros use.

  4. john andrews Says:

    Marios I used to think that way, but as I got more involved it mattered more what gear I needed for my own photography than what pros used (I started to understand how pros worked, how labs standardized, how lens availability, shutter speed, Bokah etc. drove adoption). For a while I knew that good-enough gear was all I needed. With sports, the-best-gear makes a big difference.

    At this stage in my photography, I seek access to making great photos, not gear. To execute on access opportunities, I need gear that won’t fail, or can be quickly and easily repaired reasonably. I agree with you that some level of consumer adoption follows public image, but I am afraid the real drivers of leading edge technology are the ones willing to drop coin on gear by choice (”end user prices”), and those people don’t want to take a risk of buying junk.

    These customer service/equipment issues leave FUD in the public perception, not just a bad rep like Dell had (where people first said the product sucks but the support is great, and then the support sucks but the product works, and then both suck). I also can’t believe liquidity in the aftermarket for barely-used lenses is good for Canon (when people start flip-flopping between Canon and Nikon with each new body).

  5. IncrediBILL Says:

    Canon is much like IBM of yesteryear in that you would never lose your job buying into IBM and people feel the same about Canon.

    I never bought into the Canon/Nikon FUD that all the other camera weenies did in the first place. A camera is just a box, the magic all happens in the lens, and you can find a lot of good lenses for a lot less than the 2 top brands and put them on a much cheaper SLR for equally as dazzling images.

    So starting with less expensive gear I never had a cow when something broke, and the only thing that has broken to date was a spare camera body that was still in warranty and they gave me a brand new one to replace it.

    Forget the pros, the camera companies would go bust if the prosumers dumped them and I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon regardless of reputation.

    We won’t see Canon lose it’s grip unless the pro’s start switching and the magazines start printing negative reviews, which I also doubt will happen anytime soon.

  6. paulie Says:

    i know what this is like, i too have a canon printer.
    it was left on my doorstep in amsterdam, the box had been vandalised and the carts and head stolen from the box.

    after spending 17 euro calling canon they apolagised and then done nothing to correct the problem, i still have the new unused printer in its vandalised box. no one answers email no one cares one bit.

    i didnt even sign for the damn thing.

    then i got a email from canon telling me i could purchase more carts and they will pay 20% of the cost.
    i feel that canon are laughing at us stupid idiots all chasing after this crap digital photography craze, it will end due to tech failure of all this third rate jap leftovers.

    i have sold 2000 euro worth of canon crap and will not ever in my life trust them again. as far as i am concerned canon are dead all we have are a few A series canon film cameras that dont have canons shutter problems of course.

    I HATE CANON WITH ALL MY STRENGTH, AND WILL RUBBISH THERE NAME UNTIL I DIE

  7. Conrado A. Advincula Says:

    the camera does not download to the computer, even the memory card has images, the camera displays NO IMAGE.

    can you help me to fix this problem?

  8. David Larsen Says:

    Canon must be making their cameras in China. I too have been a loyal customer for years, but my last Canon was so bad, I returned it and went back to a 5 year old Canon that is still working fine. I believe they sold out to the slim craze giving up all quality. Too bad. I will NEVER buy a Canon again and suggest you don’t either.

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