|From left to right: Tetsuji Kiyomi, Go Tokura, Yasuhiko Shiomi, Tetsushi Hibi|
At the recent CP+ expo in Japan we met with senior executives from Canon to get their thoughts on the state of the camera industry, gain insight into the future of eye-controlled autofocus, and find out what’s in store for the EF-M system.
Our interview panel included:
- Go Tokura: Managing Executive Officer, Deputy Head of Imaging Group, Chief Executive, Image Communication Business Operations
- Tetsuji Kiyomi: Unit Executive, ICB Products Unit, Image Communication Business Operations
- Tetsushi Hibi: Unit Executive, ICB Optical Business Unit, Image Communication Business Operations
- Yasuhiko Shiomi: Unit Executive, ICB Development Unit, Image Communication Business Operations
This interview was conducted with multiple people through an interpreter. As such, it has been edited for clarity and flow, and some responses have been combined.
How would you describe the overall health of the camera industry?
The shrinking of the overall market size is still continuing. However, if we consider only the interchangeable lens market it’s somewhat stable. It hasn’t changed. The market for DSLRs is gradually decreasing, it’s weakening. However, mirrorless is expanding further. I think we’re in a situation where it’s trying to seek balance between the two. I believe the market will follow the same sort of trend we have been seeing in the past.
If we look at the demands of our customers, the need for video is increasing. This increase in video may be supporting the overall market. So, if we’re able to respond properly to the customer demands we can see today, I think the mirrorless market will continue to expand.
How is the transition from DSLR to mirrorless cameras progressing? Has the adoption rate of RF-mount cameras and lenses met Canon’s expectations?
We’re seeing a similar trend to the worldwide market: the percentage of mirrorless cameras is increasing and it’s doing so with our products as well. When we look into this, we still see a steady number of customers who prefer DSLRs, and we do place importance on such customers.
Therefore, we’re continuing to produce lenses that can be used with a DSLR or with [mirrorless] camera systems using adapters. If we look at last year, mirrorless represented about 70% of the interchangeable lens market.
|The Canon EOS R3 is the first digital camera from Canon to feature it’s eye-controlled AF system. The execs told us the company intends to extend eye-controlled AF to other models, but suggested we may have to be patient.|
Many users were excited to see the return of eye-controlled autofocus on the EOS R3. Has the new eye-controlled AF met Canon’s expectations, and can we expect to see it on more bodies in the future?
It’s our mission as a camera manufacturer to figure out ways to make any camera system easier and more comfortable to operate. So, in terms of the eye control system, or eye-controlled focus, we intend to deploy this to various other models as well. At the same time, we’d like to improve the performance and usability.
It’s our mission as a camera manufacturer to figure out ways to make any camera system easier and more comfortable to operate.
However, the eye control system is something that takes a long time to develop. It’s also a costly device to develop and manufacture, so we don’t wish for customers to have overexcited expectations for immediate deployment to other models.
Canon’s subject tracking system is now among the best in the business. What was required to reach this level of performance, and what other improvements might we look forward to?
Our basic technology is based on hardware, using both our dual pixel CMOS sensor and the DIGIC engine. In terms of software, we adopt a high level of deep learning technology to improve the recognition capabilities for any type of subject. Those are the basic technologies.
In addition to that, we want to further develop the ability to recognize subjects, as well as detecting scenes, and combining that with the eye-controlled focus system. We would like to perfect our ability to recognize and capture the intention of the user, perhaps automatically.
|We’ve been impressed with subject detection and tracking on Canon’s mirrorless cameras.|
We often hear from readers who say they like Canon mirrorless cameras but want a wider selection of lenses, including third party options. How will Canon appeal to these users?
Whenever a third party presents a request to us, we’ll consider it, based on our business strategy. In fact, we have been communicating with some outside companies, and you may already be aware that here at CP+, Cosina has announced that they will be creating RF lenses of their own.
Where does Canon’s DSLR business stand today? Can we expect to see any additional DSLR products?
As I mentioned earlier, within the interchangeable lens market, mirrorless represents about 70% of the market. At the same time, DSLRs do have their own advantages. One important element is price.
DSLRs do have their own advantages. One important element is price.
There are markets where people are price sensitive. Emerging markets would fall into that category. They’re price sensitive and keen about low-priced products, and demand is still strong there. As long as this demand continues to be strong in any market, we intend to continue to support them.
With the addition of APS-C cameras to RF-mount, can we expect to see more lenses designed specifically for APS-C users?
As you may already know, we have a third lens for APS-C already being announced, the RF 55-210mm F5-7.1 IS STM , and we intend to further expand in this area. There are also full-frame lenses that are accessible, in terms of price, that can be attached to APS-C cameras.
What do APS-C cameras in RF-mount mean for the future of the EF-M system?
The concept of the R50 is to be compact and light. If we look at the M system, the mount itself is small, therefore the structure is even smaller and lighter.
There are customers who wish to have their camera smaller and lighter, and that demand is still strong. As long as these demands persist in the market, we will continue to support and intend to continue the M system.
|Canon says that as long as demand persists for smaller lighter cameras, it will continue to support, and intends to continue, it’s EF-M system.|
Many pros continue to use Canon DLSRs, like the 1D series. What will be required for these users to convert to mirrorless?
In terms of autofocus, we believe that mirrorless has higher performance. However, users may be considering the performance difference between optical and electronic viewfinders. In other words, the way things appear in terms of resolution, delay, or maybe dynamic range.
If we can solve these problems and achieve a shooting experience that may be equivalent to an optical finder, that’s one solution.
We understand that many professionals are still using DSLRs. However, conversion to mirrorless is proceeding among professionals, and once these people start to use mirrorless, they say they can never go back.
The biggest competitor for camera companies today might be the smartphone. How does a company like Canon engage with users who have never purchased a dedicated camera?
First of all, let me answer that by saying that we never thought that smartphone users, or smartphones, are a rival to the interchangeable lens market, in terms of the role they play. So, we don’t intend to try to take share from the same market. What we intend to do is [focus] on the appeal, the capabilities, and the performance of the larger sensors in dedicated cameras.
Even in the past there was competition, head-to-head, between compact digital cameras and SLRs, but it never reached the point where customers would be satisfied only with compact digital cameras. There was always demand for higher megapixels.
However, the hurdle is high for the cost of a camera system. What we need to do is come up with a range of prices for products so that customers can more easily purchase a large sensor camera system.
|Canon tells us DSLRs still have some advantages, such as price, which is important in regions where users have more price sensitivity like emerging markets. Above: The EOS Rebel T8i|
Canon cameras can capture high quality video. In addition to improvements in video quality, can we also expect to see improved video tools, like video waveforms, in Canon cameras?
Whatever we have developed for Cinema EOS, we will continue to deploy across our various product lineups. For customers who place importance on video or motion picture, it’s important for them to see that information being displayed. So, we do intend to come up with products as such, so I think you should be expecting that.
In terms of video, we have a professional lineup as well as a consumer lineup. For professional or B2B usage, that will be represented by Cinema EOS. What we aim for is a more seamless kind of functionality between professional and consumer use, having less of a wall between professionals and consumers. One way of achieving that seamlessness between professionals and consumers will be to have accessories that can be shared across the two product lines.
What are your priorities for sensor development? Speed, pixel count, dynamic range, video?
In terms of performance, it depends on whether you place more focus on still images or video, and that will determine the requirements.
We optimize or prioritize based on what the need is, or what requirement is highest.
There are various elements of performance, whether it’s resolution, dynamic range or sensitivity. If we try to satisfy every single element it will use more power, and at the same time the cost will be higher. So, we optimize or prioritize based on what the need is, or what requirement is highest.
2023 is DPReview’s 25th year of operation. What you think are the most important changes to the world of photography in the past 25 years?
The greatest change is digitalization. When you think about entry-level products alone, there’s the compact digital camera, which was even earlier than the year 2000, and at Canon we started creating DSLRs in 2003.
This is becoming like the history of digital cameras… but when we think about SLRs, autofocus arrived in 1985, so there was another milestone there. Then it changed to digital from film. Now, video and still images are fused and encompassed in a single device.
In addition to the hardware improvements, the way you enjoy the deliverables, like editing or sharing, has changed the way you enjoy photography. That entire process has changed, so it’s the software or service that has changed drastically.