Canon sensors meet the needs of many photographers better than you or I will ever be
There are two different questions at work, and both are valid. (1) whether it "meets the needs;" (2) whether a different sensor would better meet the needs. By analogy, a 1D4 shooting 10fps met the needs of high-end sports photographers at the time, but a 1DX shooting 12fps better meets their needs. I don't recall reading whether you've said you've tried any camera with a current-gen Sony sensor. I have not, so I don't know the answer to (2) for myself.
Please propose a test protocol that you would find fair and meaningful.
For the point I was making, the distinction between 'meets' and 'better meets' is irrelevant. I don't think photographers – award winning or not – list 'poor IQ' among their needs.
I have no doubt that for some, the Exmor sensors better meet their needs...just as for others, an ultrawide tilt-shift lens better meets their needs. Everyone's needs differ, there's no 'test protocol' for that. There are market research tools that help determine the needs of the majority, Canon and other manufacturers obviously invest in such research.
I get that, but I think you're missing another important point: sometimes people don't know what they're missing. There are cognitive biases that prevent people from believing information which would change their minds. Since you're in the pharma industry I'll risk a pharma analogy: consider medications to treat a particular condition, one of which is 10% cheaper, 10% more effective and has 10% lower risk of side effects. Suppose the physician is not aware of this; s/he may prescribe the less desirable medication because it meets the needs, which it certainly does. Now suppose a major trade journal publishes a large-scale study demonstrating the superiority of the alternative. Most physicians will now be aware, and will likely change their prescription practices.
How this applies to photography: I agree with you on the whole "system" thing -- I really do get that. However, if there were reasonable tests which demonstrated a significant difference to the few hundred(?) high-end loyalist photographers who work with Canon on product development, Canon might start feeling some pressure to improve that one component of their system.
I agree with you about how things are today (system, personal choice, market, business choices, etc). I disagree that it needs to remain so. The first question is whether there really is significant difference that we'd like to see in our next Canon purchase. If the answer is yes, then the next question is whether there's a way to bring that to the attention of people who have some influence. It should go without saying that all the voices on all the photo blogs in the world would not have the power to influence, but a few hundred key professionals might.
I'd also like to see good tests just to satisfy my nerd curiosity.
The point is that the Exmor can't actually meet the demands of a discerning / professional ( insert what you want ) photographer in the vast majority of challenging light situations in one exposure. Yes you can underexpose more, yes you can push more but you will not equal the technical quality of someone who has blended exposures correctly.
that is the point. Yes you can try and artificially create a situation to give the Exmor an advantage in one exposure, but it is just that: artificial.
You are correct in saying many working pros may not 'know what they are missing' but don't underestimate the professional 'grapevine', and one of the reasons some don't know is because the Exmor sensor has not taken the professional work by storm, because, as has been very clearly demonstrated in this thread, the advantages are limited, primarily to those who are happy with poor tonality / saturation from heavily pushed data.
A good example of this was the link I made to a friend of mine, international automobile photographer David Burgess. Jrista made a comment about his interest in what the likes of this pro (having seen his work ) would make of the D810. However he must have missed the fact that all David's work is lit
by an army of lights and lighting crew, even outside !