One of the Interesting things about this job is getting a new point of view on how Marketing and PR work – and applying it things I see away from work. I’ve seen Microsoft accused of spreading “Fear Uncertainty and Doubt” and I’ve seen FUD used against Microsoft too. I’ve recently seen a textbook example of the FUDer’s art in the photography world… It might be instructive to look at the main techniques away from the IT world, and show why my group in Microsoft try to stay away from FUD.
Here’s the background
Shake limits the shutter speed you can use when hand-holding a camera. Longer focal lengths amplify hand shake and need faster shutter speeds to get a sharp picture. Nikon and Canon SLR cameras have had lens based systems to reduce the effect of hand shake which for years. Nikon call theirs “Vibration Reduction” (VR) and Canon use the term “Image Stabilization” (IS); and they allowed film cameras to get 2 or 3 shutter speeds below what was otherwise possible.
Digital offers the possibility of stabilization by moving the imaging sensor. In 2006 Pentax and Sony introduced models with such systems. Sony inherited “Anti-shake” when they bought Konica Minolta’s camera business. Pentax call their system “Shake reduction” or SR, and their K100 and K110 models are identical except one has SR and one doesn’t – the price difference is $100 US.Samsung re-badge the Pentax and call the system “Optical Picture Stabilization”. The web seems to be awash at the moment with Pentax owners (including me) showing the incredible results they’re getting with SR.
Names aside, the downside with an in-body systems is that the image recording system is stabilized, but the viewfinder isn’t. However the big win is every lens is stabilized. The Canon IS system has only 16 lenses, and only a couple come in under $1000 US. The IS and Non-IS versions of their EF 70-200mm f/4L USM sell for $ 1,060 and $ 545 respectively. The difference is more than the cost of a Pentax body with SR. And with IS in the lens the customer buys stabilization again and again with each lens.
Now for the FUD
Canon recently took out an advert in “Outdoor photography” magazine, not for a new camera, but to make the case for their IS system, and its 16 lenses . Here’s my Fud-spotters 101 with examples from their Ad
- To prove you are wise make your forced actions look like smart decisions (and vice versa for your competitors)
From the Ad: “When Canon developed IS, back in the early 1990s, the engineers decided to make the stabilization system lens based, as opposed to embedding it in the camera bodies. Why? ”
You can’t move a frame of film around like a digital sensor- when it’s part of a long strip it’s a practical impossibility. There wasn’t a decision to make, but they want readers to believe the boffins rejected the other path – according to the advert “Because every lens is different. And different lenses have different IS needs.” .
- Few people will challenge a plausible assertion of a “scientific fact” by the “wise”
The ad goes on “as the lens focal length increases, so does the amount of Image Stabilization that’s needed. For example, a 300mm lens requires 6 times more stabilization than a 50mm lens” It sounds plausible, but Canon ought to know that a given amount of sensor movement gives the same gain (in terms of shutter speed steps) regardless of focal length. Why ?
Below a certain threshold shake doesn’t shift the image enough to cause noticeable blur. The twist on the camera to produce that much varies with focal length, hence a rule of thumb familiar to 35mm film users – “shoot with a shutter speed faster than 1/focal length”. Let me give a worked example. Assume blurring becomes visible above 0.02 mm of movement – and you get the that with a 50mm during a 1/50th second exposure. At 1/25th the movement is 0.04mm, by 1/12 it is 0.08mm and by 1/6th it reaches 0.16mm. With a 300mm lens we get these amounts of movement at 1/300th, 1/150th, 1/75th and 1/40th. No one claims their stabilization allows all lenses to get down to the same speed.
- You can extrapolate from asserted “pseudo-facts” to any conclusion you want
So Canon’s copywriters can now assert that any body based system ” is clearly less effective when telephoto lenses are used”. A quick tour of the web shows this isn’t so. Building on this error, they go on “This brings up the issue of responsiveness. When the IS is built into the lens, the actual movement of the optics is relatively small, whereas in body-based systems, he moving parts have to make larger adjustments to compensate, and responsiveness can be sluggish.” A sensor weighs a few grams and moves fractions of a millimeter. And responsiveness ? Both systems need a moment when powered on for their motion sensors to activate. Body-based systems only have to don’t have to do anything extra when the shutter button is pressed.
Actively spreading Fear Uncertainty and Doubt about a point where competitors are beating you on one specific feature.
- Draws attention to it.
- Makes you look rattled
- Makes people ask questions like “are they scared of losing people and begging them to keep the faith
- Raises questions about your honesty.
If you catch me doing it, then you have my permission to ridicule me.
Update: Thanks to Alain D who pointed out I must have been cross-eyed when I read the prices of Canon’s IS lenses.