Converge or die

Tim Grey
16 July, 2011
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Canon invited Macworld Australia to attend its annual press event (set in
fancier surrounds than those to which journos are usually accustomed) a few months ago.

The usual cameras and printers were on parade but, unlike previous years, Canon’s focus was no longer on spruiking the technical superiority of any given camera; gone was any discussion of pixels, shutter speed or 1200mm zoom. Instead, the guys only wanted to talk about ease of use, and ‘TruCapture’ – a buzzword that basically translates as ‘it makes a nice picture’.

The rationale for this change of tack must be due to the fact the megapixel race, previously the sole technical specification consumers would use to evaluate quality, has reached its physical threshold.

Camera companies seem to have all tacitly agreed that cramming more megapixels in tiny sensors was only making for worse photographs. So, for Canon, and others, the point of difference must now be ease of use.

This approach mirrors the strategy of another successful company: Apple. Unlike other computer makers, it doesn’t talk up the advance in componentry specs responsible for a product’s improvement. It markets its gadgets on what they do, rather than how they do it.

Taking a leaf from this book, Canon is now excited about things like creative filters, self-editing movies and the aforementioned TruCapture.

“In the long term, we see that companies will come to offer consumers the best experience in a far more integrated way,” Canon Australia head of marketing Darren Ryan told me. “People will blend their products in a much more seamless way.”

Certainly, Canon’s already got some experience on this front. Its decision to include 1080p HD video capabilities in its groundbreaking 5D Mark II, which shattered the concept of videography and photography being unique domains, was a textbook example of convergence.

The only problem with consolidating devices is that, as the products are branded more as smart devices, they open up a new front on a battleground with Apple.
Photographers took umbrage against the iPhone 3G and 3GS because of their terrible cameras, but seem to have been won over by the iPhone 4. Certainly, a Flickr scan sees the iPhone 3GS as the most consistently popular camera, with the iPhone 4 gaining ground. Combined, the iPhone is undoubtedly king.

Publically, at least, Canon doesn’t seem concerned about the smartphone horning in on the traditional camera.

Ryan believes that the iPhone’s popularity is merely increasing the number of photos taken overall, increasing consumption, not stealing a limited supply of image-makers.

“There’s been a lot of talk about consolidation and convergence as a practice, but all the behaviours we’re seeing from consumers say that that’s not necessarily the way they see it. They use the right product for the right time in their life,” he explains.

“For some people, buying a dSLR is not something they’re thinking of doing. So convergence will work with some of the segments, but not in others. That’s why we’ll continue to exist side by side.”

However, it’s difficult to imagine that some users who’d have previously bought a point-and- shoot will now just use their iPhone. Certainly, at this stage Canon’s clear superiority in imaging technology gives it the edge, but maybe, just maybe, it had better start thinking about how to make calls on a 5D.

See the full video interview with Canon here.

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