Canon outlines the future of the DSLR

Shortly before the unveiling of Canon's Spring lineup of products, we sat down for a chat with Alessandro Stanzani, country director for the UK and Ireland, Canon Consumer Imaging, to discuss Canon's role in the digital photography market and the company's plan for the future.

Although the digital photography and imaging market has been booming for a few years now, so far there aren't many signs that it's slowing down.

Statistics show that the moment in Europe, DSLR penetration is at 4-5% of households; Canon is confident that level can rise to as much as 40%.

This prediction is partly based on the fact that a third of DSLR buyers have never owned an SLR before, so it's not just a replacement market, as had long been believed.

"This is much, much wider", says Mr Stanzani. "This is embracing also the female market, PC users and PC enthusiasts in general, as well as artists."

The growth in sales of compact cameras has somewhat slowed down; predictions are that units sold will go up to 5.7 million in the UK this year, versus 5.5 million last year.

Canon's major focus at the moment is the output of digital cameras and how they can be printed. By the end of last year, for the first time, printing digital images took over from the chemical business, in part because people are moving away from simply storing their images on disc.

The company's role in the printing market is still growing; it's at number three for sales of single-function printers in the UK, and number three also for All-in-Ones.

To explain all the additions to the EOS range announced on Thursday, Alessandro explains, "We're trying to develop and make DSLR systems more affordable. People are buying and using DSLRs much more than in the past, and they come back to buy accessories like lenses".

It seems that photography enthusiasts or amateurs are becoming more educated about digital technologies. "People are beginning to understand that megapixels aren't everything", says Alessandro.

"This is a normal evolution with products. Now they'll take notice of the imaging processor and the quality of the lens as well."

Canon's plan, then, is to concentrate on features like image stabilisation and face recognition, to make the results better without the user having to do too much.

The life cycle of digital cameras is also lengthening, so that companies like Canon have to push new technologies to make sure that the consumer understand how another investment in a new camera or printer will benefit them.

"The entry level DSLR life cycle is about 18 months", said Alessandro. "Mid-range is about 2 years, professional, maybe 3 or 4 years."

"When people buy now, for some time this will be the product, and the replacement will not double the features, but make improvements."

"That's the beauty of technology. When you have the feeling that everything has been done, there's always something more."

"I think in terms of quality there's always something to do. These products are getting easier and easier, but still scaring people."

"They have to be more even accessible in general. The next stage is to promote the whole system, which is not just to do with hardware, but also the interface and the ease-of use."

As far as professional equipment goes, Stanzani would not be drawn into a discussion about when new DSLRs and lenses would be released. He did drop a few hints about what is most important to the pros.

"They want top quality and they want many frames per second. You have to put into their hands a top computer."

"To shoot 10fps with a 10MP camera, you need to process something like 70MB a second, so this a test of a computer with huge RAM and CPU."

In addition, it looks as though Canon plans to capitalise on the perhaps unexpected bonus that releasing the 16MP 1DS Mark II brought to them.

"The 1DS entered in the professional segments where we've never been, in the studio. Canon has always been strong in sport, but now we are embracing all the ranges - fashion, reportage, and studio."

Could this have anything to do with rumours about Canon possibly entering the medium format market?


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