Last week Canon slashed their prices yet again on the C100 and C500, making both cameras more affordable than ever. This is great news for anyone in the market for a new cinema camera from Canon, and very well may also indicate a shift in the company’s overall strategy.
I’ve been a fan of Canon’s cinema cameras for a little while now, although it took me some time to come around to the lineup. Initially I was not impressed by the price point of any of the C-series cameras, especially considering their limited feature set… But If you’ve seen my video review of the C100, you know that after shooting with the camera I really started to understand that the specs on paper didn’t tell the full story. While I knew it wouldn’t likely be my camera of choice for a narrative film over let’s say a Blackmagic Cinema Camera or RED Epic/Dragon, it did serve a purpose that neither of those cameras did, and ultimately it became my workhorse. And even still I ended up using it for a small narrative film I shot this past summer.
When the C100 MK II was announced, again I was let down by the specs. As I mentioned in this blog post, I decided not to upgrade the camera as the current C100 was still working well for my needs, and the added features of the MK II simply didn’t justify the upgrade. That said though, if I didn’t already own an original C100, I would certainly consider the MK II as it is the more feature rich camera.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of Canon’s cinema cameras, there is no denying that they have made their mark on the industry and aren’t going down without a fight. The C100 has become a great budget all rounder – especially great for docs, events, and low budget narratives. The C300 became the go-to for many lifestyle/reality shows, and was even used on some feature films including the 2013 Palm d’Or winner “Blue Is The Warmest Color”. And finally. the C500 has proven to be an exceptionally capable cinema camera, having been employed on major Hollywood productions including “Need For Speed”.
The problem with the Canon cinema lineup really has never been their feature set or the image quality for that matter, but rather the price point. Take the original C100 for instance. If it was initially released at $3k instead of $7k, I would imagine that a huge amount of the complaints surrounding it would have disappeared. The fact that 60p wasn’t available on a camera that cost 4 – 5 times the price of GH3 (which could record beautiful 1080/60p footage) was disconcerting to say the least. But I truly believe that 90% of the complaints surrounding the C100 would have been mitigated if the camera wasn’t so expensive. The same notion applies to both the C300 and the C500 which were priced around $16,000 and $30,000 respectively when they were first released.
But now, everything is changing pretty rapidly at Canon – at least as far as their pricing is concerned. Take a look at the current prices of their cinema lineup at B & H:
There’s no denying that these prices are getting far more competitive than they once were, with each camera costing practically half of what they did when they were first released. And although they are by no means the cheapest option on the block, they are priced much closer to where most users felt they should have been in the first place.
What Does This Mean For Canon?
Canon must have been feeling pressure from their fleeting user base to drop the prices on these cameras for some time now, but unfortunately for them it wasn’t that easy. They couldn’t simply slash the prices of their cameras in half right away as that would cause all sorts of issues. Owners of cinema cameras that recently purchased them would be outraged with a huge price cut, and potential future owners of C-series cameras might start to feel that Canon’s lineup just isn’t stable. Not to mention, it would likely have a direct impact on the sales of their DSLR offerings, and that’s a tough pill to swallow.
So in the end, it seems (to me at least) that Canon has wanted to drop the prices on these cameras for some time now, but had no other choice than to do it in stages, as opposed to one massive drop. Regardless, the situation still begs the question – Where is Canon heading with all this?
There are two ways you can look at this.
On one hand, NAB is around the corner and it’s possible that Canon is simply trying to sell off as many of their older model cameras as they can before introducing newer models (at higher price points again). But on the other hand, that may not be the case at all. Canon may in fact be shifting their pricing model to one that is more competitive with other manufacturers in an effort to gain back some of their lost customers. Personally, I like to think that the latter may be the case.
Canon must be feeling the heat right now after Sony and Panasonic completely stole the spotlight with regards to their video offerings in 2014. It used to be that you couldn’t find an indie set that wasn’t shooting on some iteration of a 5D/7D or C-series camera, but now the opposite is becoming true. Shooters have been very hard on Canon (myself included), and for good reason… But when you take into account what a massive undertaking it is for company as large as Canon to make a dramatic shift in their technology and pricing structure, maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Could it be that Canon is moving in the right direction, but we just haven’t seen the results yet? Who knows, but this year should be a big indication one way or another.
At one point, Canon had the luxury of resting on their laurels after the initial 5D became the go-to indie filmmaking camera. Even a couple years after the release of the MK II, when the buzz had worn off, many shooters/filmmakers had invested in so much Canon glass that they didn’t want to jump ship to another brand as it would mean selling their lens kit, or dealing with clunky adapters. Now however, so many major cinema camera manufacturers (including RED, Blackmagic, and many more) have EF mounts offered natively on their cameras, making jumping ship from Canon easier than ever. Canon is clearly aware of all of this, but the question is how they are going to handle things moving forward.
In my opinion, 2015 is going to be the year that makes or breaks Canon as far as the video market is concerned. Sure, there will always be those shooters that are still making great images with their old 5D MKII’s, and other current Canon users that just don’t want to jump ship. But there has been somewhat of a sea change in the last year with regards to cost-effective high end cinema cameras, and Canon needs to answer to that. It isn’t too late either… If they can start to deliver cinema cameras with 4K capability, compressed raw, and much better price points – they can take the market back over. But if they don’t act soon, it’s going to be too late.