It looks like everywhere you look on the Internet, you come across messages from various users complaining about their Canon photography gear. The forums at DPreview for example are filled with posts about camera bodies giving the ERR 99 error message, dying very soon after purchase, can’t focus correctly out of the box and have to be sent in for calibration etc. Similarly for their lenses, there are so many instances of lenses front or back focusing, producing soft images, misalignment, too much chromatic aberration and flare. And these are the more expensive bodies and professional L lenses! They cost a fortune. At prices between $4000 and $8000 for a professional 1D body, and prices between $1400 and $2500 for a professional L lens, you would expect the hardware to perform really well. But apparently not if it’s made by Canon.

I can’t imagine spending $8000 on a 1Ds Mark III body and notice that it doesn’t work well within a few days of getting it. And yet, this is a situation many people have found themselves in. Just search on the Internet. It’s simply incredible. And Canon seems to get away with it too.

Take the autofocus fiasco with the 1D Mark III camera for example. That is just an excellent example of the bad quality control, or the complete lack of something resembling quality control at Canon. It took them months to fix it and a complete recall of all 1D Mark III bodies sold. And then, you find out that it is still not fixed. What a mess.

With such bad quality control, it doesn’t matter what products you deliver and specs that make you look better than the competition don’t matter either. What’s the use of being the only one with a 21 megapixel camera, when it looks like more than half of them don’t function correctly out of the box? When you buy a body or lens from Canon, these days you have to pray that you get a good (enough) copy.

The 40D body doesn’t even have the micro adjust feature so you can adjust the autofocus of lenses that front or back focus slightly. So the only option you have is send the body and lenses back to Canon for calibration. In my opinion, even the consumer level DSLR has to have micro adjust capability for lenses, especially if you can’t seem to make your lenses autofocus correctly out of the box, like is the case with Canon.

And now they are rumored to be working on the 5D mark II body. If that body doesn’t have as much focus points as the Nikon D3/300 (or very close), if it doesn’t have micro adjust for lenses and if it doesn’t have weather sealing comparable to the 1D bodies, they don’t have to release it at all in my opinion. Because Nikon is going to be a much better alternative, as it already is right now. Weather sealing on the Canon EOS 40D is laughable. It’s incredible that Canon even claims that the 40D body is weather sealed. That is simply a big lie.

Canon needs to get their act together ASAP in order not to further damage their reputation, or what remains of it at this point.

Update: Also, do NOT buy the Canon UV Haze Filters. Save your money. They claim that it prevents haziness, but forget to tell you that it also causes some really beautiful internal reflections  in high contrast situations and bright light. In certain situations it also causes loss of contrast in images. Totally unacceptable. And this even when used with L lenses. Most people claim to buy them to protect their lenses, but protecting your lenses can’t happen at the expense of image quality. To this day I wonder why Canon even sells them.

Update 2: Just in case you think I have something against Canon, you should know that I currently own close to $20,000 worth of Canon photography gear. I do however think that they should deliver more quality than they currently do.

Update 3: I also forgot to mention the many instances of camera bodies arriving with dirt, dust and even oil on the sensor or in the mirror box. I actually had one 40D myself that arrived with a big black piece of dirt on the sensor. Way to go Canon!

Update 4 (April, 21 2008): Photographer Lloyd Chambers posted a comment below that is certainly worth reading. The link he provides is further evidence that you cannot seem to trust lenses from Canon and even Nikon these days (Also check this related thread on DPReview.) I like his conclusion:

Don’t assume that your brand-new lens (or one you’ve banged around) is optically good. Test it and see for yourself. Today’s modern lens designs are outstanding, but real lenses must be manufactured and transported, offering many possibilities for theoretical performance to drop considerably.

If you find that your new lens is optically out of whack, you might be able to exchange it for another copy—one good reason to work with a reputable vendor. Or you can send it in for service, which nearly always resolves the problem (in the author’s experience). Both approaches require retesting the lens; there is no guarantee with either approach. The risk in sending it in for service is exceeding the return period of the vendor. Be sure to be as specific as possible about the problem, including photographs that show it clearly. This will help ensure that the problem is fixed.

Lloyd also sent along some more interesting links:

And here’s his take on the Canon 16-35mm f2.8L II:

In my view, images from the 16-35 II which have not been corrected for color fringing are unacceptable at 16mm, at least with some subjects, such as the white birches in the test image. I am sorely disappointed at Canon’s assertion that chromatic aberration has been “virtually eliminated”. The claim is so much at odds with the rendered images that one can only marvel at Canon’s brazenness. While we can’t expect too much from an ultra-wide zoom lens, we can expect realistic assessments of imaging performance from the manufacturer.

Owning a copy of that lens myself, I can only confirm this, and I was equally surprised when I saw the first results when using the lens. Finally, I want to add that this part of Lloyd’s comment below:

I would estimate based on my own experience that somewhere between 30-50% of brand new pro-grade lenses have at least mild optical issues, and some, like the 70-200/4 have moderate to severe ones-. Fortunately, in most cases these are correctable with a trip to the service center.

roughly matches with what I’ve seen so far online. Lloyd gives some good tips in this article for when you purchase a new lens.