Canon’s 2018

Canon and Nikon are probably the most predictable of the camera companies. At least in DSLRs. Both have long-established patterns of updating products and launching new products. 

In looking at Canon’s digital past, you can see a number of interesting things.

First, the Kiss/Rebel and most of the other APS-C cameras were on a pretty annual update pattern from 2004 to 2012. Since then, the cycles have been two years. The biggest exception has been the 7D, which really only has two data points so far. Still, even that’s predictive given how Canon has been in the past. 

So let’s go through the APS-C lineup for a moment, starting at the top:

  • The 7D Mark III should venture its way into the market in 2018. This camera has had one four-year update cycle, and 2018 is the next four year mark. Moreover, Canon really can’t let Nikon have all the excitement with the D500 the 7D is competing with. Canon must and will update the 7D Mark III in 2018.
  • The 80D would be due for its update in 2018 if we look at the 60D to 80D schedules (prior to that, this line was also on a nearly annual update schedule). Nikon didn’t make a big splash with the D7500, so it’s possible that Canon will see that as a reason to back off on the 90D, essentially pushing out the upgrade cycle for this camera another year. But I’d have to bet that Canon will stick to its schedule and produce a 90D in 2018.
  • The T7i and 800D aren’t going to get an update in 2018. They’re on a two-year update cycle at the moment, and that would predict 2019. 
  • Below that things get muddled. Canon appears to have been moving slightly upscale with the APS-C line, so the low end Rebel/Kiss have now morphed a bit. We’ve still got the 77D in the lineup, and we still have the basic entry models in there. The SL just got an update and isn’t likely to get another soon. I’m betting that Canon probably wants to remove some of the DSLR APS-C models at this point. Even though a 1400D would be predicted in 2018, I’m not thinking that it's in the queue for updates. Technically, Canon has eight “models” in the APS-C DSLR line, plus three in the APS-C mirrorless line (and a fourth to be added soon). My guess is that we’ll see more action in the mirrorless side now and we’ll get another longer break in the low-end DSLR update cycles, if some of those models continue iterating at all.
  • Finally, it’s a good question as to what the established upgrade cycle is for the EOS M models. I’m betting that the M5 waits until 2019 to iterate, and that the other models will follow that in a trickle down pattern. We do have a known low-end model about to appear (M50), which gives us a staggered release pattern from M5 to M6 to M100 to M50 with each stripping things down some. So the big question is that M5 and when it iterates. Again, given everything else that’s going on and Canon going to fill out the M line in 2018 with that M50, I’ll bet an M5 Mark II in 2019.

In the full frame side, things are actually much harder to predict. First, Canon has lost a model along the way (1D) and split another model (5D). Meanwhile, the top end camera seems to be on a really long cycle. But here goes:

  • The 1DX Mark III won’t come until just before the Tokyo Olympics. Whether that’s the year-earlier point as we used to get (2019) or the just-in-time schedule that we’re seeming to get now (early 2020) is difficult to predict. But I just don’t see Canon changing the 1Dx in 2018.
  • The 5D line is a mixed bag. I’ll bet you that Canon really wanted to move on four year boundaries with this line. Given that we’re only 18 months into the 5D Mark IV, we won’t be getting an upgrade of that for awhile. But the 5Ds/r started feeling pretty anemic even before it hit the three year mark. Nikon and Sony have launched new high-end pixel counting cameras, and frankly, my experience is I’d rather have the A7R3 or D850 pixels than the extra pixels from the 5Ds cameras. Canon has to know that. 2018 will see a new 5Ds, probably one model without AA to try to keep up with their Tokyo competitors.
  • The 6D just got its update. Don’t expect another in the coming three years unless something radically changes.
  • There’s currently no mirrorless full frame. But rumors out of Japan says that will change by Photokina time. This is the best place for Canon to make a splash, as it won’t be an iterative product, but something new that can reveal new and potentially exciting Canon technology. 

Note that when I write about “annual” or “two year” or “four year” update cycles, this is the goal point for the camera companies. Sometimes everything goes smoothly and the teams easily make those goals. Sometimes something slows them down a bit. So “year” can stretch into 14, 16, or 18 months depending upon how big those hurdles are. This gets tricky because each company has preferred launch points during the year. This year, early March and late September are two critical targets (CP+ and Photokina, respectively), as those big shows give launches press leverage. 

Nikon's likely 2018 will be dealt with next week.

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