They make good cameras. But I won't buy a Canon.
That was the advice given to me by my photography mentor many years ago. My opinion is that it still holds true today.
Why Won't I Buy a Canon?
Are They Bad Cameras?
All the known brands make great cameras, Canon included. Held against a good eye, they are all capable of taking great pictures. That notwithstanding, just like any mass-produced item, they can have their faults.
Google search: the mirror falling out of the 5D Mark II, the 70D motherboard burning out, the EOS R5 overheating, the chemical reaction of the Rebel 4Ti (650D) rubber grips that changes the grips from black to white, resulting in a risk of skin irritation.
But that’s not my reasoning. I am sure you can find a long history of common faults with most other cameras too. Look online, and you’ll find issues with Nikon, Sony, and any other product too.
Is It the Ergonomics?
Several years ago, I had my heart set on buying a 5D Mark III. It seemed a good choice. Several friends, all accomplished photographers, owned them. Indeed, it has since become regarded a classic digital camera and for good reason. With my big hands, I thought it would be perfect for me. However, in the camera shop, I found it heavy and unwieldy, and my fingers could not comfortably reach the buttons.
I’m always advising my clients to buy cameras based on ergonomics, because any model made by the known brands can produce great results once you learn to use them. So, making sure the camera is comfortable to carry and shoot with is one of the most important considerations when choosing your purchase.
But what doesn’t fit my hands might be quite comfortable in yours. So, that isn’t the reason why I suggest you should not buy a Canon.
Is It Their Attitude?
Nor is my advice not to buy Canon based upon the bad-mouthing of other companies by its supporters. That seems to be the modus operandi of various Canon users in online forums and blogs. Of course, that behavior is not limited to their fans; other brand flag-wavers do it too. However, if there is one thing that will make me turn my back on a business, it is when they put down their competitors to make themselves look good.
In January, Canon’s CEO, Fujio Mitarai, reportedly took a snipe at JIP’s ability to turn the Olympus Cameras business around, despite JIP having successes at transforming other businesses in its portfolio. For me, that is dishonorable behavior and would turn me off any business.
How About the Environment?
Is it to do with the environmental impact of the business?
Company-wide, Canon claims their environmental impact is low, They do indeed have far-reaching environmental policies with targets. And they claim to have met their CO2 emissions reduction of each product of 3%, with a total reduction of 40% over eleven years. Nevertheless, this does not mean the company is carbon-neutral. In their last report of 2019, they declared they were still producing 7.1 million tons of CO2 per annum. To put that into perspective, over a hundred years, a tree would absorb one toe of CO2; it would therefore take over 700,000,000 trees to absorb Canon's emissions each year.
Canon makes a lot of noise for having met CDP’s A list for water and climate change, but if you look at the other big brands like Nikon, Olympus, and Sony, they achieved this last year too.
Lots of major companies have environmental policies where they pay lip service to conservation, climate change, modern slavery, and shunning extreme politics. According to the camera industry's last Ethical Consumer report, looking at the environment, people, animals, and politics, Canon is near the bottom of their table with a score of just 4.5 out of 20.
Saying that, the entire industry isn’t squeaky clean. Fujifilm also scores 4.5 out of 20. Sony, Nikon, and Olympus all score only slightly better at 5.5. Meanwhile, Leica, Pentax, and Hasselblad score 7.5, and Sigma scored 9 out of 20. Right at the bottom of the current manufacturers is Lumix, scoring an abysmal 4 out of 20. Nikon and Leica were singled out for both actively promoting trophy hunting.
Ethical Consumer says that no camera company was eligible for their Best Buy label and recommended purchasing a secondhand camera instead:
To avoid companies with links to either surveillance or trophy hunting, we would recommend buying from Sigma, Hasselblad, or Olympus (some cheaper options) for DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
Is the Canon Range Too Big?
A large range of similar products is environmentally bad, using more resources, producing more carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process, and making recycling more difficult. Canon currently has 26 models of interchangeable lens cameras, second only to Sony’s bewildering range of 28. Having lots of models is clearly good for sales, but it’s bad for the planet. Additionally, having too much consumer choice is bad for our mental health.
Three Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Canon
Despite all of those good and bad points about the brand that equally apply to its closest competitors, I have three reasons why you really shouldn’t buy a Canon: they are commonplace, boring, and ugly.
Last time you visited an event with lots of photographers, did any single Canon camera jump out as being unique? The only thing that makes them noticeable is their ubiquity. Everyone’s got one. They are to photography what Opel Vectras were to the automotive industry: a car that sold loads, won lots of awards, and was as exciting as a lunchtime conversation at the annual bus-spotters convention. You have a Canon around your neck, it says you are a sheep following the crowd.
If you place a Canon side by side with an equivalent Nikon or Sony, there’s not much to choose from in their designs. Just as many cars now look the same, their cameras are boringly similar. Visualize spray-painting their bodies beige, and that would make them less mundane. Please don’t try doing it for real; you’ll damage the camera!
Let’s face it, most popular or top cameras are not things of beauty. I wonder whether Canon, Sony, and Nikon thwack their cameras with the ugly stick during manufacturing? Sorry, Panasonic Lumix, your cameras are not exactly beautiful either, although you are a long way from the pug-ugly old Sony NEX range. Pentax, you won’t win second prize in a beauty contest and collect $10 either.
Compare the design of Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras with those of Fuji, Leica, or Olympus. The latter three manufacturers produce models that stand out from the crowd. They are works of art themselves.
Is that important? Absolutely! Artists should surround themselves with beautiful things that inspire. There is nothing inspiring about the generic shapelessness of most modern cameras. Compare the blobby lump of the 5D Mark IV with the beguiling shapes of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III, a thing of beauty. Even Olympus' professional-end OM-D E-M1 Mark III, which although a bit more utilitarian in design, oozes sexiness when paired with the 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro. These are fabulous-looking cameras. When I use them, I get accosted in the street and asked about them as much as I much as I did when I carried my baby son. If you've ever carried a baby in public, you will understand that.
That's my opinion why you shouldn't buy a Canon. What's yours?
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