The recent news of Nikon’s “financial projection shortcomings” (click here!) might be alarming to many readers, however, it also reminded me of another story in Nikon’s recent history. To be precise, this sentence from their official press release caught my attention:
Nikon Corporation (Makoto Kimura, President, Tokyo) today announced a reorganization of its corporate structure to build a foundation designed to support sustainable growth and establish a more robust corporate culture.
Why did this catch my attention? Because in 2005, allegedly, a very similar thing happened and it led to a complete revolution at Nikon, one which catapulted them away from past DSLR-related doldrums and towards a very successful line of FX DSLR bodies. Details and press releases are harder to find than this most recent one, but here’s a quote from Wikipedia:
Then, 2005 management changes at Nikon led to new camera designs such as the full-frame Nikon D3 in late 2007, the Nikon D700 a few months later, and mid-range SLRs.
What does this tell me? Possibly, at least, it tells me that Nikon has the ability to recognize when it is in trouble, and to take drastic action if necessary.
Before 2007 and the D3, many Nikon fans may remember how Nikon’s official “line” was that DX was the way to go, and that 35mm was nothing more than a popular film format. Well, with cameras like the Canon 1Ds Mk2 and Canon 5D hitting the market in 2004 & 2005 (respectively), Nikon’s fate was becoming more and more apparent. From what I remember (admittedly according to hearsay, speculation, and un-official sources such as Thom Hogan etc.), it sounded as if the existing Nikon higher-ups were being stubborn, and so they were somehow ousted, or at least “fresh thinking” types were brought onboard in order to turn things around.
I’d bet that a few people got a very stern, matter-of-fact lecture about how the D2X (and even its wildest dream of a successor) were simply not going to cut it, and that a camera like the D3 was absolutely critical to the company’s survival. Sure enough, the D3 (and the D700, and the D800) were all so popular that Nikon’s factories could barely keep up with production demands for at least the first year each camera was on shelves, sometimes more.
So, what is next from Nikon? The bad news is that even now they’re predicting that a decline will continue until March 2015. Maybe they’re actually not doing well, but maybe they’re just trimming the fat. All I know is that this whole situation reminds me of the DX-to-FX transition a whole lot. They realized things weren’t going well, they made some tough decisions, listened to their customers, and produced a winning lineup that the market gobbled up. Maybe we’re ~1-2 years away from that happening again?
Hopefully by then, it won’t be too late. If Sony has a leg up on Nikon in just one respect, it is in the fact that consumer electronics, Sony’s bread and butter, are on a far faster release cycle than cameras have ever been. So this means that Sony might even be another 2-3 cameras into their A7 full-frame series and A6000 series before Nikon joins in that game with any competition.
Nikon 2014 Predictions
For the remainder of this year, I don’t think we’ll see much of a difference in the status quo at Nikon. Maybe, by the end of the year, we’ll start seeing more rumors about Nikon making an A7R type camera with their D800E sensor, and/or a DX sensor sized mirrorless camera with the D5300 etc. sensor. Unfortunately I doubt we’ll see more than that. The only other telltale sign might be a continued dwindling of availability of Nikon’s current 2.7x crop mirrorless cameras. Also quite inevitable, in my opinion, will be more under-whelming reviews of that system.
So until 2015, I won’t feel too worried about this seemingly un-responsive behavior. People talk a lot of trash on Nikon, as if they’re failing miserably and are falling far behind their competition. In reality, each of their current DSLR is at the top of its respective game, from the D4s and the D800E, to the D610, D7100, D5300, and D3300, Nikon’s image quality is fantastic. Feature-wise, Nikon is still ahead of Canon with respect to things like putting dual card slots in more affordable bodies, flagship or near-flagship AF in affordable bodies and even crop bodies. Oh and almost the entire line now offers AA-filter-less sensors, too. What does Canon have? Better video, (in some respects) and a couple cameras with touchscreens.
But I digress. My point is that Nikon doesn’t have to worry about their DSLR game for another year or two. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see a D400 (D9300) by the end of this year, maybe even at Photokina 2014.
Nikon 2015 Predictions
Both this year and next, I think we’ll see at least two or three exciting new lenses from Nikon, as well. A 135mm f/2 VR, maybe, or a 180mm f/2.8 VR, would both be very welcomed. Another classic Nikon lens that hasn’t been updated in forever is the legendary 200mm f/4 Macro. (Micro)
Considering that Sigma offers both a 150mm f/2.8 OS Macro and a 180mm f/2.8 OS macro, I think Nikon might consider combining their efforts and create just one telephoto prime, maybe a 180mm f/2.8 VR Macro, or a 200mm f/4 VR Macro. I’d be very interested in either one, if it could compete with the prices of the Sigma tele macros!
A Nikon D300s replacement in 2014 or 2015 is, in my opinion, very likely. However that is highly debatable, and many people (on the infamous interwebs, at least) argue that the D7100 is “all we’re gonna get” and that pros who want such a heavy-duty flagship body should just pony up for full-frame. Personally, I believe this just isn’t true, as Nikon has had a strong history offering its flagship body styling & functionality for under $2K. (D100, D200, D300, D300s) So, anybody wanna place a bet?
On the other hand, I’ve almost given up on seeing a D4 / D4s sensor show up in a D800 body, unfortunately. However, there is hope yet! For 2015, or maybe for 2016 at the latest, we ought to see the results of Nikon’s upper management changes. My bet? A D4s / Df sensor in a mirrorless camera body. If they can match the quality of the EVF and hybrid AF that I’ve been seeing lately in the Sony A6000, they’ll have a camera that I might consider to be worthy of replacing my pair of D700’s.
Either way, the bottom line is that I’m not worried about the immediate future, and I expect to see some serious results from Nikon (and hopefully Canon too) in the next year or two. What do you think? Is this doomsday, and time to jump ship? Or business as usual?