I figure the last minute stuff they might do is not in the hardware but in the firmware. And it may be putting in limitations, not adding features. Say Canon has created a 7DII that has 14 fps. Before Canon announces the camera, Nikon announces a comparable camera that has 10 fps. Canon can now change the firmware to support only 12 fps, still top Nikon, and save some performance for an easy update (new body or new firmware) later if they need it.
Obviously, changing firmware can go either way, but simple things like reducing fps or buffer size are very easy - much easier than improving them if you've already created the "best" firmware you can write at the time. I used fps in the example because the numbers are easy to work with and the change could be minimal.
And this works if you switch "Canon" and "Nikon" above or change them to any other manufacturer. You can make your product as good as it needs to be to compete but not better.
Of course, I am looking forward to what Canon has come up with for the 7DII although I'm still very happy with my 7D (preordered when they announced it (I wanted 8 fps ) and just passed 100k images).
Even if it was as simple as changing one variable in one line of code in the firmware, they could not do it in a month,
even if everything else was ready to "pull the trigger"
Nikon releases product....
Canon executives discuss Nikon release.....
Decision is made to change from 14 to 12 frames per second....
30 seconds later, line of code is changed....
manual is edited.... order goes out to print new ones
box graphics are edited, order goes out to print new ones
new boxes and manuals are printed and arrive back at factory.
cameras and manuals are packed into new boxes....
stock is shipped worldwide.....
product is released.....
No way could that be done in a month....
I agree with Don here, but that may be because I have a similar background of Electronics. I designed integrated circuits for 16 years.
V&V will very quickly also take more than a month. Software is quite tricky and sometimes "dead simple things" just trip up stuff. But I work in the medical device industry (hearing aids), and there V&V is required.
As for doing plastic injection molding, design can take 3-9 months, then tooling is designed (the big metal box that contains the cavity that makes the actual part), tooling manufacture and then V&V on the samples - did the snaps turn out OK, are the dimensions within spec, is Marketing happy. It all takes time. Lots of time.
I think people are missing my point. All I was saying is that there are some things that can be changed much closer to the release of the product than others. I never said anything about changing hardware (electronic or otherwise).
I don't believe reducing the fps of the camera will typically require retooling the molds (increasing it, maybe, but not reducing it).
If they have any freedom in modifying the design when they get close to release (again, before printing manuals, boxes, etc.) it is in the firmware. And I still believe it is easier to dial back some functionality (like fps) than it is to improve it.
I do not have a problem with management saying "reduce the fps from 14 to 12 and get it tested in the next month while we print the manuals and boxes." That may not be ideal, but I can certainly see it happening.
In fact, I will not be surprised if they already built some of this into the coding and testing process, just to give them the flexibility to change closer to the "last minute."
And since we are specifying backgrounds, while I have never developed firmware for a commercial product, I have been involved professionally in software development for 18+ years, as a hobby for a lot longer, and I've written plenty of low-level code and firmware for microcontrollers as a hobby (while nothing close to a camera's firmware, I know the effects small changes can have).
[Edit] And regarding manuals, with the move to PDF manuals instead of printed ones, who's to say that the manual can't be changed the night before I walk into B&H to buy my camera. They have the potential to update them whenever they want - that can easily be extended to controlling the initial release of the manual until they want to, even if they've already shipped the product.
Companies have been moving away from print manuals and just including CDs with PDFs. Now, some are starting to include only a quick-start sheet or PDF on CD. To get the full manual you need to download it.
There's less and less of a need to include a print manual in the box.
Also, as far as printing boxes goes, does Canon include that much of a description of the camera features on the box? I don't have a clue what's on my 7D box (and I don't keep it with me at all times
). I don't remember the EOS-M box having too much written on it. These are not boxes that are typically sitting on retail shelves for potential buyers to pick up and read. They don't have all of the information that other retail products have. I don't think I've ever seen store where I could walk in and pick up a 7D box and start reading it - you usually don't see the boxes at all. The only place I might expect this would be Costco, maybe, for some cameras. But Canon definitely doesn't design boxes that are screaming out the features of the contents to consumers.
You could probably change something like fps even after the boxes were printed and nobody would know the difference. You just couldn't change a 7D mkII to a 3D without reprinting - I'd be wary of buying a camera in a box with a sticker over the camera name.