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Each of us has our own personal equation, a complex mix of requirements, preferences and just plain opinions that colors our view of any product, cameras included.  These include financial situation, use cases, range of available system products and services (bodies, lenses, accessories, support) and other factors such as ergonomics, robustness, weight, size, etc. -- as well as our subjective expectations, reality-based or otherwise. 

While it would be ideal if a single manufacturer provided the exact products designed to match an individual’s wants, needs and financial ability, unfortunately each maker differs in various aspects.  One must eventually make a selection from among imperfect choices, and inevitably the chosen pick will involve compromises given that these products are manufactured on a large scale for a broad audience rather than custom built to one’s exact specifications.  (Of course, one can also buy into multiple brands.)

When I decided to concentrate on bird photography and moved on from Minolta a couple of decades ago, Canon was an easy choice over Nikon, at least in part because of their image stabilized supertelephotos.  Now, my investment in gear is such that I’m unlikely to switch again given that my habits and uses have long since stabilized.  Further, the quality and capability of the gear available today has risen to a level where the value gained is less often worth the cost of upgrade than it once was -- the "last camera" phenomenon.

But, if I were starting from scratch today the choice would be far less one-sided, as something closer to parity has evolved since the world went digital, especially in the last decade.  For me personally, I could make more than adequate use of any of the big three product lines, Canon, Nikon or Sony, adapting to differing compromises for each brand.

Given all that, one still can be disappointed that one’s chosen product line falls short of the mark in personally important areas.  Canon, in particular, has an outstanding lens lineup, an important aspect to me.  But, viewing the situation from outside, they appear to have failed to devote adequate R&D to sensor technology and the image processing pipeline over the last decade.  Sony early on went to on-chip column parallel ADCs, and the first backside illuminated Exmor was announced in 2008.  Further, Sony has moved rapidly to ever smaller process sizes, enabling increased feature density and thus enhanced processing power.

Those offerings should have been a shot across Canon’s bow, but Canon’s R&D pace appears, once again viewed from the outside and in retrospect, to have been far too leisurely given the subsequent evolution of the market place.  The reason(s) remain murky to an outsider.  Lack of market foresight?  Lack of requisite technical acumen? Insufficient resources (Sony sells billions of smart phone sensors)?  Simple corporate greed and profit taking?  I don’t know.  (For a more detailed discussion, visit Sensor Wars.)

Whatever the explanation, the market impact was not immediately evident, but as time passed it became ever more so.  Now, Canon is faced with “catching up"? in a declining camera gear market, with diminished R&D resources to work with.  It will be interesting to see how it shakes out in the coming years -- and whether Canon can come closer to meeting all the parameters of my personal equation.

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