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!

PPS - 

© 2014 Danny Kay - All Rights Reserved

No comments:

Post a Comment