A Love Letter – and Plea – to Canon

by Hugh Brownstone23 Comments

Dear Canon:

I’ve been a fanboy of yours for just about 45 years, ever since I bought my first SLR – the Canon FT/QL — at the age of 12.

Over the ensuing decades, you were my go-to company as I moved up the 35mm food chain to systems-level gear as an enthusiast (F-1) and then, once I had children of my own, to auto-exposure (AE-1); auto-focus (EOS 10s); and semi-professional (EOS3).

Never mind all the accessories and lenses, I bought, too. I was even willing to make the switch from FD to EOS lens mount because I was so smitten by you.

And although I strayed a little bit when digital first came out (I flirted with Agfa) I returned to the fold with the 10D; did professional work with the 1D (which even to this day I cannot bring myself to jettison because of the images I captured of the 9/11 light memorial); and moved to the 30D because of a noticeable improvement in resolution while still allowing me to use all of my L glass.

Then I strapped in for a rocket ride with the 5D Mk II and my conversion to video.

But even as the 5D Mk II opened my eyes wide – and eventually led me to change my life by changing careers altogether – the seeds of dissatisfaction started to root.

Why did I have to go to Magic Lantern in order to monitor my audio or record longer than 11 minutes?

Why did I have to focus manually and buy a separate magnifying loop and eventually an EVF in order to be able to focus properly?

I confess: I strayed again, this time with a Panasonic GH2.

But there’s something very comfortable about the familiar, and when you came out with the awesome and terribly underrated Rebel SL1, you had me back.

I even traded down from the 5D Mk II to buy a pair of them. They are wonderfully light and small; have better – i.e., usable – autofocus than any other DSLR body of yours except for the 70D; and their control layout remains as intuitive and comforting as a favorite old sweater.

And yet.

Dear canon image
This summer, while vacationing through the American Southwest, I took more shots with my Apple iPhone 5 than I did with the SL1 (I'd given up my G-series and S-series compacts years ago).

I now admit – it’s a matter of public record, actually — an adulterous impulse for both the Panasonic GH4 and Sony A7s.

I jealously eye the dynamic range of Nikon, Blackmagic and Sony.

But it was when I rediscovered an article from earlier this year where a Samsung Note actually shot sharper video than the 5D Mk III (yes, OK: it was broad daylight and the 5D Mk III had superior dynamic range) that it hit really hit me.

You need to go 4K. Now.

I want you to go for it. I want you to respond to the market, rather than try to stay – and price yourself – above it.

You have the competence and expertise to do it. You’ve already proven it.


And I don’t mean JUST resolution. I mean really blow out low light sensitivity and dynamic range, too.

Maybe I’m suggesting that you not pursue the path of another brilliant camera maker whom I deeply admire and yet has tried to ignore and stay above the market.

I am, of course, speaking about Leica. She was the very first 35 camera I ever used (a IIIc).

But I – like so many others — fell in love and switched to you because you were easier to live with and offered me so much more.

Just like Sony and Panasonic – even Samsung and Apple in very narrow circumstances – do now.

I’m no industry expert, and I’m only one voice. But it seems to me that the smaller form factor/crop sensor market is only going to grow, and this means YOU have an opportunity to grow with it.

To ignore it is to do so at your peril.

You can’t surf by fighting waves; you can't ski by fighting gravity.

You have to go with the flow.

Beyond giving us the sensors and functionality at price points that work in an age of new expectations, maybe you have a unique opportunity.

Give the crop sensor industry the big, maximum aperture lenses that you do so well and we’re just beginning to understand we really need.

It’s yours to own, if you really want it.

You have economies of scale that other players don’t. Expertise that they don’t. Capital and infrastructure that they don’t.

But I fear that if you don’t take these steps, you will lose the lofty perch from which you now view the industry.

With respect and admiration,

Hugh Brownstone, Canon Fan
Since 1969

(cover photo credit: snap from Hugh Brownstone)


  1. Thank you Hugh. Someone finally had the guts to write it out… Let’s just hope they listen. Bring on 4K Canon, love my C100 and my Canon 5D MKIII, but also fell in love with my GH4 and recent purchase of the Sony A7S.

  2. This is what I’ve been feeling the past while.

    Canon needs badly to rework their attitude towards if they want to react to the market or lead the market. 
    They keep saying that they don’t think we don’t need this or that. 
    Let us worry about what we want, you focus on pushing innovation and technology to new levels.

  3. Thanks for this.  I’m a newbie, about to purchase my first DSLR and have been holding out for the 7D Mark ii (which might be a unicorn for all we know) and am just realizing I might end up buying a GH4.  Step up to the plate Canon or you’ll be left in the dust.

  4. Hugh
    My first camera was the Canon FT/QL as well. Great piece of work from them.
    Agree totally. Canon is currently behind everyone else, but that’s always been the case. They always played catch-up with Nikon, when those two were the only real game in town.
    Now, though, they’re so far behind. Still, I think Canon will play some aces this year. It’s looking like the 7D2 (for lack of a better name) will be a game changer. I’m betting on 4K or even 5K with no additional crop, that rumored new sensor with its IQ, and new 1D body design.
    I think we’ll also get a bunch of new normal lenses from Canon this year, or perhaps early next.
    Still, the GH4 and A7s currently represent the new standard. If Canon doesn’t bring it soon, I’ll have no choice but to use what’s available from other makers. If Canon does bring it, it’ll be just like the old days.

  5. It really is strange how Canon is just looking at the competition taking over the market and doing nothing to prevent it. I mean, the C series are nice, but they need something to compete in lower price segment. I have invested in Canon glass and to tell you the truth, the only thing that’s stopping me now from purchasing gh4 are those lenses, sitting around collecting dust. I did buy the BMPCC since that small camera is just a slap in the face of major dslr manufacturers and a sign which way they should go. But it will never be my A camera.
    Here’s what I would like to see from Canon:
    – get rid of h264, avchd and similar highly compressed 8 bit codecs for good! Nobody wants that any more. I mean, even ancient DV was superior to them. Give us a sharp image, not that washed out mess.
    – give us a dslr with sound levels, peaking, zebra, headphones out… normal stuff for any video shooter.
    – give us raw video.
    – In fact, make a new firmware for old cameras (7d, 5dII, rebel series) that enables clean and sharp hdmi output (10bit perhaps?), so that I can use them with ninja star or similar recorder.
    – stop working on AF, I’m focusing manually and always will do it that way. Focus on 4k in lower priced cameras.
    – I remember how I was amazed by 550d when it came out. Give us a new groundbreaking 7dII, 750d, 5dIV, not just an cosmetic update.
    I hope that they are aware of this urgent need to react and finally put out  a decent camera.

  6. It’s like I was reading about myself.
    I saved and saved and the ripe old age of 15 I bought an A1. Stayed with Canon for years. Collected a lot of mostly L Glass to go with my 5DMK2.
    The best thing I ever did for myself lately was buy a GH4 and i LOVE it. I can’t wait for MetaBones to come out with an intelligent adapter to control aperture and focus, but I do feel sad about Canon not stepping up. My P&S camera is a Sony RX100, my GH4 gets used more often than the 5D and the only thing keeping me is my investment in lenses…..  
    Great Post… Sad story

  7. ljubex Forgive me for asking (I’m a newbie), but can’t you use Canon glass on a GH4 with an adapter?  I just purchased a Takuma vintage lens and have held off on buying the adapter since I haven’t purchased a body yet but there are adapters for it for the Canon and the GH4.

  8. cameragirl5000 ljubex Sure you can, but if you buy passive adapter you would not be able to change your aperture on canon lens and you will loose some with because of the crop factor. The answer is active adapter (one from MetaBones), which will resolve many issues but it will be pricey.

  9. The great news is that this is a defining moment. Canon has a huge, but short window, opportunity to truly own the market if they can “Bring It”, as their slogan goes. Their temporary saving grace is that the A7s doesn’t shoot 4K internally, and the GH4, while mind blowing in so many ways, the low light performance isn’t ideal.

    If I were in their shoes I would create a small, mirrorless, full frame, low light, internal 4K, beast with a built in intervalometer, peaking, articulating LCD, and 5 Axis in body stabilization and 1080p slow-mo.

    We’re all ready, and chomping at the bit to spend our money! So Bring it!

  10. Stoker Rising The FT/QL really was!  And all the brouhaha about Sony’s pellicle mirror when Canon did that decades ago, right?  I agree with all of your points. Thanks for the post!

  11. swifstudios Thank YOU for taking the time to respond in such a positive way!

  12. surftom I’m with you.  Eyeing the third gen RX100 and the GH4 — but I want the low light performance of the A7s!

  13. CharlesMaring I think you’re right, Charles.  The ball is in Canon’s court!

  14. But canon just like 3 monkeys that close their eyes, Mouth and ear…

  15. This speaks for many Canon users… unfortunatly I am leaving Canon for the newly reduced BMPCC, I will turn in all three of my crop sensor DSLRs to own 3 BMPCC for less…. and I will get so much more! I understand there is a bit more work with the BM than DSLR but I feel with the release of the new codecs and my already painstaking experience with magic lantern working and not working, and grading limited dynamic range in a bad codec, that I will transition just fine to BM. I am prepared to except the use of multiple batteries and bad low light performance.. in my 4 years.. canon has not been keeping up… I am a HUGE canon fanboy, and if i had the cash and wanted to spend it…I would own a 1DC.. but thats not my case.
    If canon does not answer the call for the range of gear that is needed it will lose out on a huge and still goring market. 

  16. Entertaining, thorough, and I couldn’t agree more.  I have two 70D’s and a MKIII.  This is obvious, but the fact that the MKIII has a full frame and a headphone jack is fabulous.  The fact that the 70D’s have amazing STM video focus options (truly remarkable), and a flip screen with a touch interface that frankly I’m now addicted to for video shooting…but no headphone jack?  Really?  AYFKM?  Just do it…couple these features together with 4K and let’s enjoy the closet full of lenses we’ve spent years acquiring.  So to be specific: Full Frame Sensor, Flip Screen, Touch Screen, 4K, STM focus, 120 FPS (if an iPhone can do it!!) and a freakin’ headphone jack.  I’ll take three of them and STFU for the next 5 years I swear.

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  18. The only reason i ever went and update my 5dII for the 5DIII was just because of ML RAW

    I really doubt that canon will give us 4k in their DSLR cameras anytime soon. They might implement 4k into the c100mkII and c300mkII but definitely not 7dII.
    They might give us 4k in the 5DIV, but only when it gets updated in about 2yrs time.
    Best we can expect from a 7DII is 1080p slow-mo (or 720p 96fps), auto focus, headphone jack etc. No way they’ll add 4k to the 7DII to cripple the c100 (thats doing pretty well by the way) or 1Dc thats selling for over 10,000.
    I personally have giving up hope in canon and beginning to look to BMPCC or Sony A7s. Will be buying one in a few months.

    I really hope and pray canon proves me WRONG because once i jump ship, i ain’t coming back

  19. As much fun as these rants are, I think it needs a little perspective. Wasn’t it only recently recently a canon rep casually mentioned that only 10% of users of the best selling 5D MKIII ever use it for video. Ten. Percent. So yes, canon need to immediately implement a feature that few if it’s customers will use.
    Wait, what?
    The GH4 and Sony are interesting. But I look forward to seeing what all the switchers do when canon do release something 4k and lush. Will they make as a big a deal of moving back?

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