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Ilse Jurriën : February 26th 2008 - 20:45 CET

Canon interview

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CanonCanon interview at PMA : Despite a very busy schedule Bas de Meijer has interviewed some of the exhibitors during the PMA 2008 show in Las Vegas. One of the interviewees was Richard Trestain, Digital camera product specialist of Canon. Before the Photo Marketing Association 2008 kicked off, Canon introduced a number of new digital compact camera models and one new digital SLR camera for the upcoming season. Canon have been a leading brand for years in relation to worldwide sales of digital cameras. This is not something to take for granted. To apply high technical innovations or to integrate novelties into a product at the right moment is the key to successfully sell products. Richard Trestain answers a number of questions.
Canon Interview Richard Trestain

Question : It was expected that the compact camera market growth would come to a halt. However; at Canon's press conference we were told that this market is still showing clear signs of growth. Can you explain that?

Answer : I'm not sure but perhaps people are becoming keener on photography. I suppose there are many users shooting with a cam-phone now realizing that these devices are not really the best of cameras. They will switch over to a compact camera and hopefully to Canon for the best possible pictures. Besides that a large amount of users is willing to take pictures but unwilling to carry around heavy equipment. So there is a large group of users, from people who just want to take pictures on birthday parties to people who want to make almost professional pictures. I must say I don’t know why people want to make more pictures. It might be the internet age.

Question : Not only compactcamera sales numbers are increasing, this also goes for the DSLR. Do cheaper DSLRs threaten sales numbers of compact cameras?

Answer : The SLR takes up a part of the market. They will become cheaper. Compact cameras will also become cheaper but there will always be people demanding more from their cameras and they will step over to the DSLR. Canon offers some sort of overlap so we can serve both groups. But surely if you want flexibility and exchangeable lenses, you have to go for a digital SLR. If size is more important you should go for the Canon PowerShot G9. We don't want to compete with our own products, that's for sure.

Canon PowerShot

Question : A while ago we had semi-pro Megazoom cameras such as the Pro90. Why do Canon not offer more of these kinds of cameras?

Answer : We offer a Megazoom camera; the Canon PowerShot S5 IS but I know what you mean with the top class. We try to offer a choice on every level. If someone wants extreme zoom, he can purchase the Canon S5IS. If someone wants an operation similar to an SLR, he can go for the Canon G9. We have sort of divided it.

Question : So you don't suppose a semipro Megazoom would be too much of a competition for the cheaper SLR cameras?

Answer : No, I don't think so.

Question : About the PowerShot G9. When the PowerShot G7 got introduced, first thing we noticed was the lack of RAW support. You called it a compact camera for the pro, but most professionals don't want a camera without RAW. Then the Canon G9 arrived including RAW but at the same time the amount of pixels increased. There was no demand for more pixels and my experience is that it did not enhance the quality. So, why did you add more pixels?

Answer : First RAW; when the Canon G7 was developed it was a well-considered decision. Canon did a lot of market research and discovered that the target group for the PowerShot G7 did not understand or need RAW. It wasn't until sales had started the demand for RAW started. I think it is one of Canon's strongest points that we do listen to the consumer and therefore we did equip the PowerShot G9 with RAW support. Megapixels; Canon do not compromise on image quality. We do believe strongly in this policy. If we didn't find image quality that important, we would not be where we are today. The number of Megapixels is the market trend. Thorough research shows that people go for Megapixels. It's the first thing they look at. I can show you numerous studies confirming this.

Canon EOS Gallery

Question : But is it really what the consumer wants or is it what the market orders? When I talk with consumers they often ask me if they really need more pixels. They seem to think that more pixels equal more quality.

Answer : I know exactly what you mean. It's like the question of the chicken and the egg. What came first, the market or the marketing strategy? Fact is that you can do so much more with a larger amount of pixels. What we are trying to tell the consumer is that you can enlarge pictures to a great extend, that you can crop small details and print A4 sizes. However, we will not compromise. We will not just go along with the Megapixel race just for the sake of it. Our concern is image quality. We also look at the background such as the DIGIC III processor. I don't know if the demand for pixels will remain the same in the future. At the moment, there is still a demand for more and we cannot and will not ignore that.

Question : A few years ago Canon claimed that six Megapixels would be the limit. One year later no more mentioning about it and the eight Megapixel models appeared. That is kind of a contradiction. And the number of pixels makes me wonder of what to do with the large files.

Answer : A large group of the most dedicated users does not want more Megapixels; they just want to keep it simple. But as I said, the market demands more. And all we can do is offer it to them and ensure excellent image quality. Ensuring large prints and crops for users, which is the only thing we can do.

Question : More pixels on a sensor usually happens at the cost of the quality. Why do Canon not start using larger sensors?

Answer : I cannot comment on future products. But if you take a look at the Canon PowerShot G9 and PowerShot G7, the pixel sizes do not differ that much. It's not that pixels are getting gradually smaller. And yes, one of the advantages of the DSLR is the larger sensor, offering better quality. But we would not be selling compact cameras if the image quality weren't good.

Question : Compact cameras still disappoint when using high ISO. Using a higher sensitivity than ISO 400 is not advisable. What is your opinion?

Answer : The only thing we can do is offer a choice. Maybe a consumer is determined to take a picture of an object and we offer that possibility. It all has to do with physics. Higher ISO causes more noise, no way of preventing it. So you can select a lower ISO value. We limit ISO sensitivity to 800 at motion detection on purpose. So for those who want more, they will have to make a conscious choice. Of course it affects the image quality. We are still trying to improve the quality. The limitation is merely found in physics. And you have to keep in the back of your mind what it is people want to do with their pictures. ISO 1600 can look good on a 10 x 15 cm print.

Question : You don't offer a real wide angle in your series. One manufacturer, originally into electronics, offers and promotes wide angle. Many users request it too. Why didn't Canon equip the PowerShot series standard with wide angle?

Answer : It has to do with image quality. We have a long tradition concerning optics. And it is vital that light beams fall straight onto the sensor. We don't want to compromise; not on the field of optics either. We want to equip a camera with a lens that works perfectly.

Canon Face Detection

Question : Face detection is nearly standard nowadays. What are the developments on face detection? Because at the moment also the white balance is taken into account. Do you think we can expect a slideshow in the near future of all the pictures on the memory card with a certain face, for example my daughter's face?

Answer : In my opinion that is very well possible in the future. But it is not something our models are offering just yet. We offer perfect face detection and we also have face tracking now. I cannot say anything about future features but it sounds good.

Question : What are the limitations of innovations in cameras, such as face detection, cropping etc.? Is it the hardware or the software?

Answer : Hardware is more important in our cameras. Our face detection is entirely placed on the chip and calculations mainly happen through the DIGIC III. We are convinced that this is the only way it works fast. Most of these kinds of processes work through the DIGIC III. It is a fast processor. And we are very proud of it; that is why we keep on mentioning it. You cannot expect to pack more features in a processor without it slowing down. We are always developing processors. Yes, I think it is mainly the hardware. The software plays a small role too, but then again, in combination with the hardware.

Canon EOS system

Question : DSLR cameras are more and more equipped with Live View and a vari-angle monitor where as they disappear from compact cameras.

Answer : We wanted the Canon PowerShot G9 first and for all to be a compact camera. A vari-angle monitor influences the design a great deal. Instead we chose the PureColor LCD which is a quite impressive monitor.

Question : They are less flexible. You offer only a few models with vari-angle monitors.

Answer : That's correct; we don't offer it on DSLR cameras and not on all models. It is a well-considered decision. If we develop other models and we find it useful to apply a vari-angle monitor, we will do so. It's not that we waved them goodbye, it is just a matter of applying them strategically.

Question : Geo-tagging is becoming more popular every day. A separate GPS will do the trick but is rather complicated. Can we expect a built-in GPS?

Answer : I have seen many GPS ideas. But I cannot say if we are planning to integrate it. We have done some market research and we think GPS is very new. We follow the market developments very closely and we will respond accordingly. If there are not many of such cameras available, we decide if there is a demand for them. An additional functionality might increase sales of course. And although GPS is already quite small, it is not sufficiently small to be integrated in a camera.

Question : I have seen a very small module that can be integrated.

Answer : Oh, really? How big is it? This is interesting. Every addition adds to the size of the camera. And if it is possible why not, I cannot comment on it. It sounds really cool. And it seems an interesting future technique.

Question : You have gotten rid of WiFi? Why?

Answer : After the release we have studied how it worked and how users used it and then we decided the consumer wasn't ready for it yet.

Question : But consumers need time to get used to it. There might not be a large market for it now, but that can change in weeks. And someone has to take the initiative. You are a huge company and there should be room for innovations.

Answer : We were certainly innovative with Canon IXUS wireless. It was one of the first cameras with built-in WiFi. However we always rely on market research to see where we are heading.

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