Guess how many Canon EOS lenses have been made…

This would be a good general knowledge job interview question. Give folks these facts: Canon introduced the EF mount in 1987 with the first EOS bodies; there are 6.7 billion people on the planet; Canon is the market leader in camera systems with interchangeable lenses, but Nikon is a close second; every user of a complex camera has at least one lens (and typically bodies are sold in a kit with one (crummy) lens); the cost of a body and one lens has ranged from $300 in the primitive old film days, but thanks to advances in modern technology, prices start at around $500 these days. Even from a person with no photography experience, I think it is reasonable to expect an answer that is within one order of magnitude to the question “How many lenses has Canon produced for the EOS cameras?”

For the answer… check out this Canon press release.

9 thoughts on “Guess how many Canon EOS lenses have been made…

  1. As far as I can tell, the figure given in the press release doesn’t even include EF-S lenses, which I would guess would be the ones selling the most in recent years. (I’m basing this on the fact that the article mentions the current range being 65 lenses, and I count more than that when EF-S lenses are included.)

  2. When I read the first sentence, “This would be a good general knowledge job interview question”, my immediate reaction was: this would only be a good interview question for a photography-related job. Otherwise, how would a person have a clue?

    Ok, so I need to guess:
    a) what percentage of 6.7 billion people buy cameras?
    b) what percentage of those cameras have detachable lenses? (Mine, a Kodak, doesn’t, nor does anybody’s I know — obviously I don’t hang out with camera buffs)
    c) what percentage of people who buy such cameras buy the Canon brand?
    d) How many of those people bought more than one lens since 1987?

    For (a), almost everyone in rich countries buys cameras (though often a part of a phone), but I’m going to guess 2/3rds of the planet are too poor to buy a camera. So, let’s say 33%
    For (b), since I don’t know a single person with a “complex camera”, I’m going to guess the percentage is very small — say 1%
    For (c), all I know is that Canon is the market leader, and Nikon a close second. I’m going to guess the market leader has 20% of the market.
    For (d), since I don’t know anybody who buys this product, I really have no idea how often a person would buy a new lens. So, what the hell, let’s just say, 5 lenses since 1987.

    So, multiply it out, you get 6.7B * .33 *.01 *.2 * 5 == 22,110,000 == ~ 22 million

    Ok, let’s look at the answer.

    “Canon …announced today the achievement of a new EF lens-manufacturing milestone with the production of the company’s 50-millionth lens”.

    Well, I was *almost* within an order of magnitude — 22 million * 2 == 44 million, almost 50. I was within 1.2 orders of magnitude.

  3. Something told me to guess 26 million, although I thought the number outlandish. Kind of like when I bought my first two lenses, and I saw what some other guys had: outlandish. Now I have 15 or so EF lenses. I guess that is how they get to 50 million. Good for Canon and all the downstream wholesalers/retailers that make a buck with these products. Not to mention us photographers that create our own vision with them.

  4. Wayne: Consultancies do ask questions like this in their recruiting process. After all, this is the exact situation that newly-minted graduates will find themselves in after morphing into McKinseyites: being dropped into the client’s company with no clue at all about what they make, how they do it, who the customers are and what is important… (There is a German acronym for the quality thus required by a consultant: SABVA = “Sicheres Auftreten bei völliger Ahnungslosigkeit”, roughly: “Confident behavior under complete cluelessness”.)

    An actual example of an interview question of this type: “What is the gross weight of a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet?”

    For the Canon question, I had 100 million, building my model on Germany with around 80 million people in 30 million households, then:

    20% of households have an SLR system: 6 million
    Canon has 30% market share of those: around 2 million
    23 years of system availability allows for purchase of two systems (one lens each): 4 million

    Then I extrapolated Germany to the rest of the developed world and estimated that to have around 2 of the 6.7 billion people on the planet: 2,000/80 million, for a factor of 25. Therefore, there must be 100 million EOS lenses on the world.

    Not too bad.

  5. “For the answer… check out this Canon press release.

    Well, once you see that, you expect a nice round number. So I guessed it would be either 50M or 100M 🙂

  6. @JK: They and Nikon actually do a press release every 10 million nowadays. BTW, at current rates, this is just under every two years (for both companies)!

  7. Since I do own one of those cameras, I would have over estimated the percent of the population that owned an SLR camera.

    My figures would have been way off.

    In 2008 Canon had 41% market share while Nikon had 40%. The runners up were Sony and Olympus with 6% each.

    It’s funny, in Japan, Nikon held a 46% share while Canon captured 40%.

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