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Canon, I don't get you (Canon Rebel XSi announced)


The Canon Rebel XSi was announced today, bringing Canon 40D features over to the Rebel line, such as a bigger LCD, highlight priority, 14-bit A/D, and live view. It also ups the megapixel count to 12.2 and switches over to SD/SDHC media. The latter seems a good prosumer move, given how much cheaper SD media is nowadays.

But I'm not sure I grok Canon's SLR strategy. This is the second time I can recall that Canon has one-upped their professional line. Six months after Canon 30D debuted at PMA, they announced the Rebel XTi. The 30D premium over the Rebel line became harder to justify when the XTi added automatic sensor cleaning, a superior megapixel count, and an equivalent autofocus sensor. Now, six months after the release of the Canon 40D, they've released the XSi, which again puts the Rebel line in the lead with megapixel count and matches some of the 40Ds biggest improvements: highlight priority and live view. The 40Ds advantages are mostly whittled down to build quality, viewfinder brightness, and +3 fps.

I understand the need to stagger their new products into the marketplace to keep the buzz alive; what I don't get is why they choose to let the Rebel line be the leader with new features and more megapixels. Perhaps they figure that consumers and semi-pros will stay in their camps and in my case they're right, but a 50% price premium hurts, Canon, it hurts. Or perhaps they are secretly using the Rebel line to debug the newer sensors so that they're rock-solid by the time they land them in the next xxD model :).

Comments (3)


Canon's strategy is to go for the mass-market entry level audience first. Hook 'em in with an entry level camera, and have them buy into the system.

Right now consumers have lots of choices when it comes to DSLRs -- while it's not a just question between Nikon and Canon, Nikon is Canon's closest competitor, and to keep pace, Canon is forced to release cameras that offer more than Nikon.

Consumers are dumb; they acknowledge just two numbers when it comes to cameras: the price and the megapixels -- and the 12.2 megapixel Rebel XSi at $900 with IS lens is made to compete with the $900 10.2 megapixel Nikon D80 with lens. To the average consumer, the Canon camera looks like a better deal.

The average consumer moving up to DSLR isn't going to have a ton of money to throw into a lens system, and while I believe there's a certain amount of techno-lust involved, when people start dropping $800+ on DSLR camera, there's usually some serious comparison shopping that happens. While not all purchasing decisions are made using a product matrix, bullet points that salespeople can use is essential, because at some point the potential customer is going to walk into store and ask "What's the difference between these two cameras?" It's a long tail strategy, and even if purchasers of their pro line are annoyed for a few months, a Canon pro owner isn't going to say "well, screw that -- I'm selling my 40D and I'm buying a Nikon D300". More commonly it's the Canon Rebel owner saying "I need to move up to the next level, let me get a new Rebel or move up to the EOS xxD series".


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