I totally agree that Canon should shake up its product lines now, even if it means further delaying the releases of the 5D III and 1Ds IV. The staggered release of their high-end models, and advances in tech have made things very awkward. Competition from Sony and Nikon is also going to complicate stuff because it's unclear where everyone is heading (and thus becoming hard to know where to compete and where to be unique).
Zerozeronine, I totally agree with you that competition is going to get more complicated - not only from companies but also from innovations appearing out of nowhere. Who'd ever expect the translucent mirror technology to be a potential alternative to mirror vs. mirrorless approach until Sony placed it into their alphas? I have no doubt that we'll see a fair share of wild cards appearing to test the market configuration, and that's what makes this industry so full of surprises and so fun to watch/follow.
Although many point out that Canon has official descriptions for their product lines, some of us have trouble putting faith in those because the current lineup doesn't make total sense within itself (like the 1Ds III), and we don't believe that it can remain that way with the pressure from all the competition.
Agreed, and I think that's why the product line is being shaking up quietly (at least there's no big commotions, save those who notice the gaps in the product cycles).
As much as having everyone use full-frame would simplify things, I'm pretty sure that we're actually moving away from that. APS-C-sized sensors are so much cheaper to make, and cost is the most important thing in this market. Most people don't want to pay FF prices, and the vast majority of sales are made in APS-C. APS-C sensors (especially those from Sony) are so good now, that most people (I'm including every kind of consumer here) don't even see the need to lust after FF. Sony and Nikon are seeing this in their sales (the 5D II kicked butt because of its video feature). Sony execs have even said that, although they're not planning on abandoning FF, they're going to first focus on getting all the APS-C bodies updated before focusing on FF, as that's a lower priority.
Yes, I agree that the majority of casual users - which contributes to majority of Canon's profit, no doubt - probably isn't even aware of the difference between FF and cropped bodies. Like what you've said, $$$ has the biggest say - unless they can bring the price of the FF sensor down to the same level as APS-C sensors. But coming to think of it, maybe there's a reason why Canon has been slow at producing new APS-C body lenses...
However, I guess the option is still in Canon's hand. Though I doubt the same thing could be said about Nikon who's using Sony sensors...
I hope it didn't affect their plans for the D800
I do think that Canon should still have two options for nonpro full-frame users. A fast FPS, high sensitivity, low-res sports camera 3D, and a high DR, high-res, low FPS landscape/studio 5D III. But whether that makes business sense, only Canon knows. In trying to bring in an affordable full-frame, Canon sort of "screwed up" the product lineup with the 5D II, but they ended up showing that there's a significant number of people (much bigger than the pro group) who want to get a full frame (or a good video DSLR) but don't want to pay for a 1 series. So Canon probably needs to make the 1 series A LOT more special to maintain its flagship status, and segment the consumer full-frame line because that market has expanded (partly from eating away at the pro market).
Even better would be if they'd do on-chip pixel binning so we could have the best of both worlds in a single camera body. Brute force 4-1 binning before the image processing or demosaicing, so that you could up the FPS (and/or use a crop mode). Then they could simplify the lines into one pro full-frame 1D, one consumer full-frame 5D, and a slew of APS-C cameras. Man...I'd buy that new 5D in a heartbeat!
I think the cute and cool thing about the pro product line is it's a niche thing - it's expensive enough that not many people will ever buy one, but it's important enough that none of the big name company would hesitate putting in major technology to establish itself among the ranks.
Now, I also believe the 5D series (5D2 to be specific) "broke the glass ceiling" on this one. I've seen a lot of professional jobs turned out with this little beauty, and several professional photographers choosing this one over the 1D series simply because this is "easier for their backs". I think Canon has created a Frankenstein out of the 5D2 - it messes up the border between the prosumer and pro, because pros uses this one (or prefers this one) over the flagship 1DsIII.
Once we enjoy this fruit of chance, I doubt us consumers would want to give up ground in the future. Now, would Canon answer this calling, or would they go back to setting up a solid barrier between the "prosumer" USD2,500 body and the "pro" USD7,000 body?
Like what you've said, I too agree that a simplified, logical product line on the top end would be nice. The 5D as the solid foundation (I think the new era calls for smaller bodies, so the flagships are way too big) of the flagship models, and the 1D series to be place for experimental, specialized, and durability innovations. Of course, if you want to satisfy the pro-look ego, there's always the Leica strategy - just label the flagships "limited edition" and have lots of different runs