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Canon EOS 5D Mark II – The Autofocus Lie

The Jump

The Jump

In the picture above you can see two skydivers jumping out of a CASA 212 airplane at high altitude about to freefall down to earth at high speed. This is roughly what Canon’s Director and Chief Executive of Image Communication Products Operations, Masaya Maeda, did recently in an interview with DPreview. The only difference is that Mr. Maeda forgot his parachute inside the airplane.

I read the interview and immediately understood why Canon has failed to deliver with their latest products. I have recently written about the EOS 50D and EOS 5D Mark II and a load of other problems with Canon’s DSLR division. And it appears we now have a reasonably certain cause of all these problems. And it is a problem Nikon is certainly familiar with, namely, bad and clueless management. A few years ago, Nikon had to change their management to get the company on track again, and the company has since improved bringing some absolutely killer products on the market starting in 2007. And now, it appears that Canon suffers from a similar problem.

If you read the interview, you can see for yourself how clueless the management at Canon is right now. And to be honest, the interview wasn’t even a good one since it was filled with softball questions. For example, there were surprisingly no questions about the 1D Mark III autofocus fiasco. And still, Mr. Maeda managed to screw it up.

One of the most obvious cases of cluelessness or blatant lying can be seen in this part of the interview:

One of the most common complaints we’ve seen about the 5D Mark II is that it still has the same AF system as the original 5D. Why is this?

“Firstly the market’s evaluation of the 5D’s AF system has been very positive; there have been no complaints from users, with everyone saying it’s very good. Given that, to a certain extent, we think we shouldn’t change it. And also there’s some limitation with size; the AF sensor in the 50D is very big; the one in the 5D is much smaller. If we wanted to have all cross-sensors in the 5D Mark II, it would mean we might have to sacrifice the compactness of the body. It’s all a question of balance of features and benefits.”

This answer is simply a serious insult to our intelligence. Nothing more. It looks like Canon, in all its arrogance, thinks its users are so stupid they can tell them anything they want to. First take note of the fact that the DPReview question started by telling Mr. Maeda that “one of the most common complaints we’ve seen about the 5D Mark II is that it still has the same AF system as the original 5D.” If the 5D Mark II AF system was so good, as Mr. Maeda wants us to believe, then why would people be complaining about it not being improved in the 5D Mark II? This doesn’t make sense, ofcourse, but Mr. Maeda seems to be lacking the intelligence to understand this.

Maybe Mr. Maeda would care to explain to us how it is that the EOS 50D, which is roughly the same size as the EOS 5D Mark II, is still able to hold the “very big” AF sensor which can’t fit in the 5D Mark II. Maybe Mr. Maeda would care to explain to us, how it is that Nikon was able to include a 51-point AF sensor in the D700 an D300 cameras, which are roughly the same size as the EOS 5D Mark II. Maybe Mr. Maeda would care to explain to us, how much more room Canon would need to put an AF sensor like the one in the 50D in the 5D Mark II. 2cm? 3cm? Would it have hurt to make the 5D Mark II body 2cm wider to house a better AF sensor? Perhaps Mr. Maeda would also like to explain how it is that he heard no complaints from users, when the Internet is literally filled with complaints about the old 5D autofocus inaccuracy, especially of the outer focus points. The level of cluelessness and arrogance here reaches astounding levels.

Allow me to help Mr. Maeda with some examples of people “not complaining” about the “very good” autofocus in the 5D. All he has to do is merely check the reaction to the interview in this thread on DPReview:

So there you have it. They gave us a lame AF sensor to keep the size down. I wonder how Nikon managed to get a 51-point, 15 cross-type AF sensor into the D700…

It’s a lie, of course. The true reason is to be searched in marketing strategies.

He showed so much skill in dancing around the questions posed to him. “No complaints” about the AF in the 5D? No room in the body of a 5D mkII, which is larger than the 50D, for the 50D’s AF sensor? His answers on the G10’s subsequent sensor development path took a limberness that is unexpected, even in an executive of his position. Sheesh.

They certainly did not ask me. One shot AF is fine as long as you do not try to use one of the outer AF points with fast primes.

You know, if Mr Masaya Maeda would just give me an honest answer and say “we had to cripple the 5D a little to protect the 1Ds market” then I would stop complaining and probably just go buy either a 5D MkII or 1Ds MkIII. But it is all these lies and deception that is what makes me want to sell all my Canon stuff and switch.

only makes sense when the consumer has no where else to go. With the Nikon d700, there is a viable route. So instead of keeping Canon users in the family, they will lose them to the d700 because not everyone who wants pro AF wants a brick of a camera.

I want the camera for IQ with stills, good AF, durability, ….. I don’t want to waste my time with OOF or lose irreplacable shots. While price tends to seperate the camera’s user groups, their are plenty of ‘amatuers’ using some very fine equipment, taking outstsnding photos, and conversly some ‘pros’ using 40D’s and 20D’s (I personally know them). The point… a lot of pros use the 5D. Don’t scrimp on AF. While I don’t necessarily expect 1D AF, I DO EXPECT better than a xxD series, especially when the new 5D is released after the 50D!

I shot 5D’s for 2 seasons – beautiful files, fine body, lousy AF. Lived with it because there was no alternative for the money. That’s not the case anymore and therein lies the source of the complaints you here. The 5D has 3 things that cost me shots:

1) Poor AF off-centre
2) Shutter lag
3) Mirror-blackout

Over at DWF those are repeated time and time again and have been for a long time now. Chuck Westfall is a member, so we have access to a senior Canon source and Canon are well aware of the complaints.

The three issue appear to remain so with the MkII.

I vote with my wallet. I have two 1D series cameras, got rid of my 5D and went with a D700 because of the AF issue.

well, now you know why Canon stumbles Always suspected it was top management, now we know for sure.

The response speaks for itself: Canon are either clueless or disingenuous.

I hope Mr. Maeda reads all of these posts and can get in touch with reality soon. What is going to make all of this even worse, is when Canon will be releasing the 5D Mark III in the future, or a similar sized body, with a much better AF sensor, something that is bound to happen. In hindsight, Mr. Maeda’s answer is going to look even more ridiculous.

At this point you may also be interested to read my previous post on the 5D Mark II autofocus shortcomings. There certainly are people at Canon who have a clue, and let’s hope that they will be able to get a hold on things soon. It looks like the 5D Mark II is not going to be able to go up against the Nikon D700, especially not if Nikon drop their prices once general availability of the 5D Mark II becomes a fact. Sit back and watch it happen.

Update 10/05/2008: Also check this comment. And if you happen to have Mr. Maeda’s email address, send it to me so I can get in touch with him personally.

IMPORTANT Update 12/22/2008: Read my latest post on the 5D Mark II, especially before you buy!


  1. Thank you Maeda! « Fake Chuck Westfall (07/10/2008)
  2. M2 propuesta..Links y previews de la 5D MarkII <-- AQUI - P (10/10/2008)
  3. Karel Donk » Blog Archive » Canon has lost it (03/12/2008)
  4. Karel Donk's Blog » Thoughts on the Canon EOS 1DX (26/01/2012)
  5. Karel Donk's Blog » Canon EOS 5D Mark III Review (13/07/2012)


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