On the other hand, why would a company spend huge sums of money for lenses that won't sell. There will always be some new lenses, just to meet competition, or company goals which might go beyond worrying about short term profits. Canon seems to be plunging into Cinema in a big way, and you have to pay to play.
One reason is to generate profits by creating excitement and interest around the brand. Proper pricing should ensure sufficient profits on the particular lenses. With plenty of 20 year old lens designs, Canon isn't generating oodles of excitement (the 200-400L
is a nice exception). Look at the interest in the Zeiss Otus and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lenses on these forums. That does a lot to promote those brands and product lines, and increase sales on their other products. And Sigma and Zeiss will probably profit nicely on these particular lenses by setting the prices high.
While lens profits/units took a dip in 2013, the long-term growth trend is very strong (I posted camera/lens data under the topic "An Era of Mergers" in Third Party Manufacturers
). As long as we aren't seeing a major trend reversal, I expect more product releases and more competition. I also expect more luxury products. One argument for a trend reversal: the younger generation may not be as interested in cameras as stand-alone products. One argument against a trend reversal: stale product lines of the largest players has impacted camera and lens sales. Data from other consumer products would influence my evaluation of the latter argument--perhaps consumers elected to spend more money on necessities or other hobbies, for example. Or perhaps secondary products like GoPro, GigaPan, quadcopters, and StackShot are slurping up noticeable hobby cash from photo markets. My current conclusion is that I have insufficient data to evaluate the trend. But I welcome any data folks here can add.
Canon has often been a wait-and-see player. Folks here criticized their slow-'n-easy strategy on the EOS M, for example, but ultimately Canon concluded that small mirrorless cameras were not strategically good because of small pixel sizes and low profit margins. In that instance, slow-'n-easy probably paid off as they didn't create a lot of products they now would be winding down.
I don't think Canon actually has anything competitive with these nifty-fifties in the pipeline yet. I do think they might consider a new lens branding, like Sigma has, to recapture interest in their premium products but I doubt we'll see a move before 2015. That is purely speculative, as Canon could simply update a bunch of the L
line instead (and I do think their L
lenses could be at higher price points). I'm just trying to wrap my head around the question beforehand, then I'll watch to see what really happens.