Sunday, May 25, 2014

Anatomy of a Flop

How to Make a Good Product Fail
The Canon EOS-M (white version)

Today’s topic is the Canon EOS M, Canon's first entry into the growing Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC) market. 

Released back in 2012, the EOS M uses an APS-C sensor (larger than competing Micro Four Thirds cameras) and provides a comfortable 18 megapixels of information. 

Canon's Big Fail

When the EOS M was released, it had one horrible, glaring horrendous defect. One which, at the very least, should have caused Canon to delay its launch until it was fixed. The autofocus was s-l-o-w. We're talking glacial, snail-like slow when compared to competing cameras. 

But Canon, late to the Mirrorless party was in a hurry to bring the EOS M to market so they chose to release it as it was. 

Bad move. Building on the poor AF, reviewers gleefully dissected the newcomer and found more and more reasons that it came up short of the competition. If had no electronic viewfinder nor any means of adding one. The control interface was new and unfamiliar. Critics complained about the complexity of accessing certain functions. They complained about the lack of a tilting LCD screen, and the relatively short battery life.

A few cautiously optimistic reviewers pointed out some of its stand-out features: Great image quality and strong low light performance. Some even lauded what they called the “excellent UI” with a big, bright responsive touchscreen interface, and the compatibility with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses (with an optional adapter), great video quality and continuous active focus. 

But sales were anemic and never recovered. 

A firmware patch that belatedly triaged the AF problem was released months later, but it was far too little far too late. 

The EOS M had become the Edsel of Mirrorless cameras. 

The Sequel

Canon released a modest upgrade, the EOS M2, but understandably leery, it was sold only in Japan. 

Speculation is that they're waiting to announce something in the US/European markets until they can get it "right."

My .2¢

Honestly, Canon did a lot right with the EOS M. They spent a respectable amount on marketing and created some really gorgeous sample videos shot with the EOS M by a professional video team, showing off its compatibility with the wider family of Canon lenses. (Although why you'd want to use five or ten grand worth of glass on a camera like this escapes me.)

They included some really nice features in a solidly built camera. There have actually been side by side comparisons between the EOS M and the top of the line 5d Mark iii. And the M made a surprisingly good showing, especially in good lighting. Is it the best? Not compared to the latest and greatest. But it's certainly not the worst. And with the firmware-improved AF, it doesn't deserve the trashing it's gotten. 

When I saw how cheap they were, I got myself an EOS M, and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

I had no problem shooting fast moving objects, or shooting from a moving car. (No, I wasn't driving!)
AutoFocus, while not on par with my big DSLR, was more than adequate.

Here's a shot of my 5-year old on a carousel in poor lighting.
The auto-setting did a fine job, and it could easily be enhanced in Photoshop.

The touchscreen is gorgeous, and it uses iPhone-like swiping and pinching gestures to scroll through and enlarge photos. Yeah it's different. But with a little patience and fortitude you can learn it. And you know what? It works pretty well.

I also discovered that switching the camera to Continuous Shooting instead of Single Shot makes picture taking much quicker and more responsive, although you do get an occasional extra frame or two in that you didn't intend.

All in all, it's not nearly as bad as it sounded based on the reviews that I've read.

Where Canon Went Wrong

Major Error #1: They released a product with a bad defect (poor auto focus)

Major Errors #2-6: They pretty much followed the Five Steps of Grieving. 

1) Denial - "Hey. There's nothing wrong with our camera. It's worth every penny of the Suggested Retail Price. If you don't like the AF, use Manual Focus (if you can find it).”

2) Anger - "Who the flip are YOU to tell US what's wrong with our products?"

3) Bargaining - "C'mon, we'll fix the AF and slash the price (repeatedly). Will you buy it now? Please?"

4) Despair - "We've failed. We're horrible. We know nothing. We can't risk releasing any Mirrorless products in the U.S. or Europe ever again."

5) Acceptance - "We must learn from our troubled, dysfunctional past and move on. We can be better than this. We can produce great products. We are good people. We deserve to be loved."


The “best” Mirrorless camera available now is arguably the Sony A6000. For the body alone you’ll pay about $640 on eBay. Then you’ll need lenses and accessories, unless you have them from earlier models. Sony E-Mount lenses range in price from $250 to over $1000, and the recommended Sony flash is about $150. So a complete A6000 package could easily set you back $1500-$2000.

You can still find the EOS M for sale (and I do mean SALE) on eBay and through retailers like B&H Photo. The price for just the body has dropped to about $250, which is an incredible bargain. You can add lenses and accessories on-the-cheap as well, if you don’t mind buying used. has used lenses and flashes at substantial discounts. For under $500 you can have a great little Mirrorless ILC to add to your toolbox. And in my book that’s no flop - at least for us cash-strapped photo-enthusiasts.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website,, or at

PS - This blog is now featured on, your source for all the top stories!

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© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's Madness - Madness I Tell You!

Amazon Patents the Photograph 


You may have missed it, but a bizarre, almost otherworldly article appeared in the news last week. 

Amazon patented the photograph. 

More accurately, they were granted a patent on the specific method they use to shoot objects on a white background for their website. In fact they go into painstaking detail to describe that method in the patent. They include particulars such as positions of lights, background and subject, settings for lights and camera, and even the specific order in which the photographer should do his stuff. 

So what's the problem?

The problem is people have been taking photos in exactly this way since, like, forever. 

Their are literally millions of similar images representing prior art on the web and in print. In my other identity as a commercial photographer I have personally created innumerable product shots using similar methods. Oh no! Does that mean I'm retroactively in violation of Amazon's patent?

On the other hand, the methodology they lay down is so comically precise that it's doubtful if they themselves actually follow it to the letter. So how could they ever prove infringement?

All some evil patent thief would have to do is use a different lens or camera setting, and there would technically be no violation. 

And BTW, you better believe that this is a HUGE BLARING WAKE-UP CALL that our patent system is royally messed up

But really, what was Amazon thinking?

And what was Amazon looking to gain with this, anyway? The right to say their photography methods are patented? Did they think everyone would just stop creating images on white backgrounds once the news got around?

"Uh, boss, it looks like we have to switch the website and the catalog to a Reflex Blue background. Amazon patented white."

"What?! Those dirty @&$?!  Let's call legal and do a patent search on the whole freakin' Pantone library! We won't get caught off guard like that again!"

In the mean time, if you're looking to break into the photography biz, there's a great new "how-to" guide for budding product photographers, also known as US Patent No. 8676045 It's a little wordy in places, but it'll get you started. 

Just make sure Amazon's lawyers don't find you. And whatever you do, don't try to patent that method. It's been done. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website,, or at

PS - This blog is now featured on, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

Don’t Let This Happen to You

I got an official looking notice in the mail the other day. The outside envelope was colored “parking ticket orange” and there was a bunch of semi-official lingo printed there along with a return address of “The Offices of Records of Declaration/Disbursements Division.”

Junk mail? You betcha. It was a direct mail piece trying to get me to shop for a new car. It promised me an auto loan of up to $39,000.

But that’s not what surprised me. Believe it or not, there was something in the accompanying letter that surprised and shocked me enough to want to write about it.

The letter was personalized - extremely personalized. They knew that I had purchased a car pretty recently, what my payments are, and even at what rate. But that still didn’t shock me.

What got me was when they wrote that they knew I was paying an estimated rate of 1.89% rate, but they were offering me the opportunity to lower my payments by reducing my interest rate to as low as 3.99% APR.

So they’ll save me money by raising my rate! In other words, they didn’t even bother qualifying their leads! They spent money designing a piece and obtaining a list with significant personal data, and didn’t bother checking that data to see who would be a likely prospect!

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

How much time would it have taken them to check? The time necessary to do a lookup and sort in Excel? They might have saved hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on how many pieces were mailed out.

Obviously it wasn’t that important to them to fine tune their marketing or they would have done it. But it might have increased their response rate if they’d bothered to expend a little thought and effort on their mailing list.

Very often it’s the little things that make all the difference in how something is perceived. I heard that if you’re trying to sell your home, the color you paint the front door can make a huge difference in the success of finding a buyer. We’re talking double digit percentages - just from painting a door. (It's even better than having bread baking in the oven!)

If you have a business, then you know the importance of small gestures in building relationships with customers. A smiled greeting, helpful, responsive and knowledgeable staff, a clean and pleasant environment - these all build loyalty and good will. 

But going the extra little bit to make a customer feel special - well that's a whole different ball game. 

Achy, Stinky Feet - or - DO Sweat the Small Stuff

There's a certain type of gel insert I use in my shoes, sold at

There are two experiences I've had with them that illustrate "Sweating the Small Stuff."

Story #1:
I first met them years ago at a trade show at New York's Javitz Center. 

They had a booth showing their products. As I walked by, one of the extremely pleasant staff stopped me and asked if I ever had problems with my feet or back (which I did).

She then proceeded to ask me to take off my shoes and hand 'em over. I was a little surprised. I mean, I don't have especially stinky feet, but I had been walking around Manhattan and the Javitz Center for hours and said as much. She just smiled and said it was no problem. She then removed my old inner soles (yuck) and popped in a pair of their incredible inserts and told me to try them out. 

They felt amazing and I bought them on the spot. (And no, I haven’t received samples or renumeration for mentioning their product.)

Story #2. 
I recently ordered a new pair online. They have a running promotion for repeat customers - if you enter a promo code you get $10 off. But I didn't have my code and I needed the inserts so I placed the order without it. 
One of their great reps contacted me and said they had overcharged me. As an existing customer I was entitled to my discount! Since the order was placed through an automated system, I had to contact them for refund. So I did! You can bet they'll get more business from me in the future. 

Take away lessons:

1) Do you believe in your product or business enough to handle the smelly shoes of thousands of convention goers?

2) If someone overpaid you, would you return the difference as a matter of customer service?

Little things - those small touches of professionalism, sparkle and polish - will set you apart from the pack. 

But only if you remember to do them. 

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website,, or at

PS - This blog is now featured on, your source for all the top stories!

PPS - 

© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved