Canon today officially launched a new initiative including a pilot location in Calgary, Alberta, Canada that follows the experience of physical retail projects like Apple Stores and Microsoft’s recent brick-and-mortar locations, giving consumers opportunities for hands-on experiences in a space not shared with other brands. Canon’s new “Image Square” isn’t a store per se, but it is a showroom and learning center that sounds like it borrows a lot from the Apple model. Canon first piloted the Image Square idea in India last year, and it appears to have been successful enough to merit further expansion.
The store that isn’t a store will be located in downtown Calgary, and offers hands-on experiences with Canon products including sculptural exhibits for testing point-and-shoots, DSLRs, lenses and accessories all on interesting visual subjects. The idea is to give a try-before-you-buy experience, but one that actually involves flexing those photographic muscles on something other than other cameras or boring electronics displays, as you might find in your average camera shop or Best Buy. Staff on hand can provide advice and give demos, and there’s a fully functional photo studio on site with access to pro photo software. All purchases are still made through Canon’s retail partners, however; this is just about show, not sell.
One of the more interesting elements involved in the Image Square is a photo gallery curated by 500px, the Toronto-based photo sharing website that’s popular among professional and enthusiast photographers. In the Calgary location, it’ll display works from Alberta-based photographers using Canon kit to show what’s possible using their gear.
The partnership is significant for 500px, since it gives it a place of prominence with an established player in the photography world, right alongside big players like Adobe and others. Canon also seems to be keen on rolling more of these out over time, which means this could become a good way to get the photo sharing network in front of even more active and practicing photographers all around the world. And for Canon, it means a possible answer to the question of how to keep consumers buying cameras in a world where the smartphone is taking over much of that market.