An Unsettled Time in the Nikon World

I woke up Monday morning thinking about the state of our Nikon camera world in late summer of 2013. Changes are happening, some good, some bad. Here are my thoughts.

NikonCameras

Point and Shoot Cameras

The entire entry-level point-and-shoot world is collapsing. The iPhone and Galaxy phones have seen to that. Why buy a point-and-shoot camera when your smart phone is always with you and provides excellent image quality. Take a picture with your smartphone and immediately post it to Facebook. That’s an easy and important process, with Social Media having become the standard way we all communicate. Goodbye (and a good buy) to Nikon COOLPIX cameras. In my opinion, the point-and-shoot market is basically dying or dead.

Crossover Cameras

The next step up is the crossover camera, such as the larger COOLPIX line with built-in, monster zoom lenses (up to 52x). These cameras provide more enthusiastic point-and-shooters with some of the features found in the DSLR world at a lower cost. I think they will stay around a little longer, however, in my opinion they are not really a very good value. Last year’s low-end DSLRs, such as the Nikon D3100 and D5100 are such incredible values, and they give you a real DSLR for the same amount of money as a crossover camera. Therefore, in my opinion, cross-over cameras are soon to cross over into the realm of oblivion.

Mirrorless and Compact Cameras

The mirrorless ILC or EVIL cameras, and the mirrorless prime lens compact (MPLC) cameras, are next. Nikon is currently falling short in this extremely important genre. This is the hottest segment of the camera market right now. If Nikon does not come out with some very interesting mirrorless cameras quickly, they could lose their market share to other brands. Why? The mirrorless and compact market does not depend on the huge number of people who already own Nikon’s lenses. You must buy new lenses, which means other brands may pull you away, if they have better features.

Many technology companies wait too long to enter a hot market and lose out on long term profitability. As an example, think about the iPad vs everybody else’s tablets situation. Companies, such as Microsoft, didn’t take tablet computer demand seriously, leaning on their older desktop technology, and are now struggling to get market share. Could Nikon end up the same in the mirrorless world? The DSLR, while still the most important genre in 2013, may not be soon. Is Nikon ready? Are they responding to the market with seriousness?

Nikon offers the Nikon 1 system cameras, which some adore, but most simply yawn at. The CX sensor is too small for many enthusiasts to get very excited about. The Nikon 1 feature set is great and, if it had an APS-C sensor, would probably rule the world of mirrorless cameras. With a CX imaging sensor being only a little bigger than a point-and-shoot’s sensor, Nikon dropped the ball before they even picked it up, for the mirrorless genre.

The compact Nikon COOLPIX A, with its DX (APS-C) sensor,  is a step in the right direction. The camera is a delight to use, fits in a pocket, and has impressive DSLR build and image quality. But the blasted price is simply ridiculous! Nikon having labeled the camera with the COOLPIX name was also a terrible mistake. A US$1200 COOLPIX?  C’mon Nikon! (Darrell grumbles.) There are other camera brands—such as the Fuji X100S—that cost about the same and have all the bells and whistles, such as a viewfinder. What was Nikon thinking? Having no viewfinder turns off the majority of enthusiasts who are actually willing to spend the big bucks that a prime-lens compact costs. Let’s not even mention the US$400 external viewfinder! Why so much money? Could greed be involved? Why does it cost almost as much as an AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G ED lens to have a viewfinder for my COOLPIX A, especially since the viewfinder has no electronic connection to the camera and does little but sit on top of the camera looking round and pretty.

The image quality from the tiny, pocketable Nikon COOLPIX A is so overwhelmingly good, with its lack of AA filter and Nikon D7000 sensor, that the camera could well become a cult camera, if Nikon would simply drop the price to a reasonable level. Pay attention Nikon, I have spoken with hundreds of people who would buy the camera if you drop the price. If you don’t, I’m afraid the Nikon COOLPIX A will become another Nikon D3000, a wonderful camera that died due to lack of video when every other camera on earth offered video.

DX and FX DSLR Cameras

In the DSLR world things are in pretty good shape. The cameras we have available are simply excellent. You can buy the following DX cameras, for the beginner-to-enthusiast market, new in 2013:

  • Nikon D3100
  • Nikon D3200
  • Nikon D5100
  • Nikon D5200
  • Nikon D90
  • Nikon D7000
  • Nikon D7100
  • Nikon D300S

For the FX enthusiast market, the pickings are quite a bit slimmer, with only the Nikon D600 having the enthusiast build and feature set (magnesium alloy and polycarbonate blend, with an external mode dial). The next step up enters the professional arena, with much higher costs (D800/E, D3X, D4).

A big problem for the DX world is lack of lenses. Nikon has shown a foolish attitude by not providing a full range of prime and zoom lenses for DX. After all, DX is the bread and butter for Nikon’s DSLR sales. Sure, you can buy FX lenses for your DX camera, but why should you have to do that? Why pay for larger, heavier lenses than you need and bear the significantly higher cost? It seems foolish to ignore the needs of a very strong market by not providing enough quality lenses designed specifically for the DX line of DSLRs. Wake up Nikon! Give us our Nikon D400 and some nice new DX lenses before the end of this year.

In the FX world, where Nikon seems to be trying to forcibly make you go, there is a good range of both prime and zoom lenses, along with camera bodies that are some of the best ever made. Here is a short list of cameras you can buy new today:

  • Nikon D600
  • Nikon D700
  • Nikon D800
  • Nikon D800E
  • Nikon D3X
  • Nikon D4

What Am I Trying to Say?

As I consider my choices for cameras and lenses, I have mixed feelings. Nikon has created some exceptionally nice new cameras, such as the D7100, D600, and D800, while ignoring some things we really need right now! Nikon, how about coming out with some new DX lenses and a genuine DX or FX mirrorless camera with a real viewfinder and phase-detection AF!

I am unsettled. The world is about to enter the holiday camera-lust buying season and things don’t feel exactly right in the Nikon world. I can’t entirely put my finger on it. Do you feel the same as me? Or, am I just being overly critical? I value your comments!

Keep on capturing time…

Darrell Young (Digital Darrell)

Dancing clouds on Blue Ridge Parkway

Darrell Young is an active member of the Nikonians User Community and author of 12 photography books from NikoniansPress through Rocky Nook, including Beyond Point-and-Shoot, Mastering the Nikon D600, Mastering the Nikon D800, Mastering the Nikon D7000, and the upcoming Mastering the Nikon D7100, to name a few. He’s been an avid photographer since 1968 when his mother gave him a Brownie Hawkeye camera.

His website, www.PictureAndPen.com, was created to support “the readers of my educational books, photography students, and clients.” Visitors to his website “will find articles and reviews designed to inform, teach, and help you enjoy your photographic journey.”

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Darrell. Your article about Nikon’s future was most interesting, and maded some excellent points! As a D5200 user with some very nice, sharp Nikkor optics (APS-C), I have for the most part, been quite pleased with the sharpness and overall image quality I get from my kit. I shoot primarily landscape, nature and product images for my stock site, so image sharpness and detail are my main concerns. That said, I also like reduced size/weight when traveling (hence the D5200 and not a D7000 for example), but I have also been quite intrigued by the new Nikon D610 as well as other systems like the Olympus OMD EM-1, Fuji X100S, and lately, the Sony A7r. I am a sharpness nut, and whenever I see a system with no AA (OLPF) filter, I am intrigued! I agree that Nikon has to do something to attract and keep “Enthusiasts” like myself. The new Df is interesting, but as I don’t shoot low light/high ISO, it is not a serious contender for my system. Thank you sir, and Happy Holidays to you!

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