Buying a Camera – Part 3: Whats in a name?

By Jack Berglund

I’m not a big fan of ‘marketing fluff’ naming.  Give me a nice logical set of numbers and letters any day.  Cars are a good example.  In a rush to conjure up some lifestyle association, too many manufactures put ridiculous names on their cars.  Naming your latest 4×4 after a Lake (Chevy Tahoe) or even more confusingly, the capital of an ex-French colony (Porsche Cayenne) undoubtedly makes sense in a marketing meeting. What annoys me, is deep down I know it probably works in the real world too otherwise the practice would have died out.  Ditto for the ‘lifestyle’ car ad which shows a pair of models driving through a beautiful place with giant grins and  ‘we’re better because we drive this car’ expressions but tells you nothing about the car.

What fills me with hope is the world of photography.  Here is a place where engineers come up with wonderful pieces of technology, give them logical letters and numbers and push them out to the world for all to enjoy.  Well, not quite.  It seems in both Canon and Nikon’s cases, the naming logic was devised at 2am after one too many Sake.  Both seem to have been aiming to give shorter numbers to their higher end cameras. Why not go bigger numbers for better cameras?  Well, that would be what people are expecting, but it gets worse…

Currently, the entry level Nikon is a D3000 and the top of the line, a D3.  So far so good.  Having devised this slightly backwards system, the company in all its wisdom decided to not apply it consistently.  Next range up from the D3000 sits the D90 followed by the D300 then the D3.  Getting out of this mess will be tricky because you can’t suddenly bring out a D30 to replace the D300 or a D400 to replace the D90.

Canon have done a little better and applied their backwards numbering system somewhat consistently. Entry level starts at 1000D, progresses to 550D, 50D, 5D/7D and finally the 1D series.  In the US however, Canon trumped Nikon with the naming of their entry level cameras.  Sticking to the Rebel brand we had the Rebel XT.  Then came the XTi.  What does the i stand for?  Who know but XTi sounds like a souped up XT so we’re all good.  That is until the it was replaced by the XSi, then superseded by the T1i and then T2i. Can you see the pattern?  No, me neither.

It turns out that logical numbers as names only actually help when there actually is some logic.   Even the engineering led folks at Nikon and Canon couldn’t get it right so there really is no hope.  Maybe the car manufacturers are onto something after all.  I can picture myself now, standing on a rugged coastline, wind in my hair and Nikon Superior or Canon Quebec in my hand.

  1. December 5th, 2010

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