DPReview posted that Canon built their 30 millionth EF lens. This is quite a feat since they only introduced the mount in 1987 (a new mount to go along with a new “EOS” body which added Minolta’s auto-focusing ideas into their previous auto-exposure (AE) design), just under twenty years ago. This is great stuff!
For reference, Nikon built their 30 millionth in 2001 and introduced that mount in 1959, or just over forty years. (They have sold 35 million as of December 2004, but that number includes non-F mount lenses.)
I’ll take a couple exceptions to the press release (I glossed over it, so I may have missed others):
Canon implies that that the EF lenses introduced electrical contacts between lens and body, but Nikon introduced “CPU” lenses a year before Canon to the F mount (I think Canon has CPU contacts in their AE series back in 1976). I guess if I wanted to know how Nikon has done relative to Canon, I should ask how many F-mount Nikkor lenses have been sold with CPU contacts on them, but I guess we’ll never know.
Canon says “First introduction of fluorite, UD (Ultra-dispersion) and Super UD lens elements in interchangeable SLR lenses in order to correct chromatic aberrations.” That’s a clever semantic because Nikon never needed flourite and since they had a better material for their “ED” (Extra-low dispersion) glass which they have used from 1972 to today. You may have recognized them by their distinctive gold ring on the barrel.
Something to crow about
But I don’t object to them crowing about introducing piezoelectric motors and optical image stabilization to SLR photography. That’s some great stuff, as I’ve said before.
Piezoelectric motors are called USM (Ultrasonic Motor) by Canon and SWM (Silent Wave Motor) by Nikon. I used them in my optics lab in college. The advantage of a traveling wave motor is in quieter and more accurate focusing than the traditional screw motors. They’re also a lot easier to turn after focusing is complete. They actually have little to do with focusing speed—that’s more a function of how good the internal focusing is. Originally added to lenses to distinguish the Canon EOS-system from their competitors in 1987, it is such a powerful advance that we now take these for granted: I read all the time about a new digital photographer who thinks their 50mm f/1.8D is broken because of the “funny sound” it makes when auto-focusing.
I don’t know where optical image stabilization came from but I suspect it is from video-cameras. Canon calls it IS (Image Stabilization), while Nikon calls it VR (Vibration Reduction). I never understand why so many Nikon photographers were adamant against this technology, when it is so obviously works, I guess it was the “anti-Canon streak among them. Basically if you shoot hand-held, then it works. It doesn’t work 100%, nor does it stop movement. So what?
It is because of those two advances, this Nikon photographer at least, says, “Thanks, Canon.”