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Insights & Thoughts

Poll: Is the Nikon/Sony Sensor Partnership A Help or Hindrance To Nikon Now?

By Anthony Thurston on March 17th 2015

It is no secret, to anyone who researches their camera purchases even a little bit, that Nikon buys Sony sensors for most of their cameras. It is an arrangement that has suited both companies well, allowing Nikon to focus/invest in other areas and allowing Sony to make use of their sensor factories during a time when their cameras were not the most popular.

sony-sensor

But times have changed, or are changing, and I have a question to pose to you. The explosion of popularity surrounding Sony’s mirrorless cameras – not just their FF series, but their crop bodies as well – has become a big negative for Nikon. It now seems like every time Nikon or Sony releases a camera, we hear one of two things: ‘This is the same sensor as in the Nikon, blah blah” or ‘This is the same sensor as in the Sony, blah blah’.

So my question is this: Is it more of a detriment now to Nikon that they use Sony sensors? In the past, Sony cameras were not a big deal, so the comparisons were never drawn, but now the dynamic is different. Sony’s camera division is on the rise, and Nikon is struggling to keep its spot at #2. Regardless of how awesome everyone knows Sony sensors to be, it can’t be good for your marketing when everyone talks about another brand’s camera whenever you release a new one.

[REWIND: Initial Impressions on Nikon’s New D7200]

It would be like if Ford made Chevy’s engines, and every time Chevy made a new car, all the press and fans said, “It’s the same engine as in the Ford…” It’s just not something that I would consider to be an ideal situation, regardless of performance. Marketing is about perception, and the perception is that Nikon sensors are secondhand or hand-me-down Sony sensors. Any consumer seeing this would have to wonder why they should go with a Nikon camera over a Sony.

That is not to say that sensors are the end all be all of a camera, but they are an integral part, and when you farm out its production in such a public way, it’s risky.

Is the Nikon/Sony Sensor Partnership A Help or Hindrance To Nikon now?

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What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that the Sony/Nikon sensor deal is still good for both companies? Should Nikon try to start producing their own sensors? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think!

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Gregory Varano

    Nikon has never really recovered from the earthquake that hit northern japan in March of 2011. this was the official statement from Nikon posted on March 14th 2011.

     http://nikonrumors.com/2011/03/14/nikons-official-statement-on-the-disaster-in-japan.aspx/

    Add to the companies troubles the flooding of their plants in Thailand.  they have been in the red, lost over 400 million US dollars last year. The arrangement with Sony has helped them stay ahead of the competition as the D5 is the benchmark in pro DSLRs and the  D500 in the DX armature market.  D800, D810, D810e are all stellar and have rivaled the medium pro  backs like Phase One or Leaf at a fraction of the cost. All Sony sensors.
    Hopefully they can get the company back in the black as it has made changes in upper and lower management. It has committed to producing more professional products.
     

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  2. Greg Geis

    The underlying assumption being that Nikon could make a sensor better than Sony. Canon is a giant, if they could pull those extra couple stops out of the shadows without violating intellectual property patents they would. Sensor R&D is a completely different field than focus systems/lenses etc. Nikon is better off buying the best chips out there be it Sony, Samsung or whoever and focus their efforts on making the rest of their camera system beat out their respective counterparts.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Nikon has made their own sensors from time to time, and still does. These sensors ALSO beat the competition, or match it.

      Sure, if you crank a D4s / Df image up four stops, it has a little more banding than a D800 image. But the sensor is still a high ISO image quality champ. It actually roughly matches the Sony A7S for RAW image recording, too, BTW. (Sony has always over-processed its images, both RAW and JPG, and the A7S is simply the pinnacle of that amazing processing ability, not so much the result of an earth-shatteringly superior sensor.)

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    • Greg Geis

      Touché, but still the same answer. I think most people and sales are going to be based on price and performance at the level that people know who manufactures what sensor. Optimizing that ratio is more important than keeping it all in house.

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  3. Dave Haynie

    I don’t see it as a huge problem, Nikon buying Sony sensors. For one, Sony sells sensors to practically everyone. They have 80% of the smartphone market, and a pretty high percentage among all digital cameras. That’s actually a very profitable business, in an era in which Sony’s losing money or just breaking even on a bunch of other divisions. So I don’t think anyone’s at risk anytime soon of Sony going rogue and cutting off the supply of sensors. Certainly that couldn’t happen fast, as these things are usually done under contract: Nikon has an agreement to buy a certain number of sensors, Sony’s part of that contract requires them to supply those sensors.

    Is it bad for Nikon, competitively? Well, bottom line is, only if they can make better sensors on their own. Being fabless, that’s harder than for companies like Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, Canon, etc. who own their own chip fabs. Not impossible, as the D4 attests, but it may not be the best move. Now, if Sony were to, say, launch a new high-end sensor and keep it to themselves for a year or two, for say a high-end A-series camera, then Nikon would probably be hit pretty hard. But that would scare everyone else using their sensors, too. So it’s unlikely.

    Sony obviously gets the same advantage Intel had in the CPU market — with a huge volume, they’re able to maintain an advantage over nearly everyone else. Sony couldn’t have developed that kind of volume against Canon if they were just making sensors for in-house use. Now, everyone complains about Canon, but they’re doing ok, and they’ve done a few unique things, like the dual-pixel sensor (showing up in really pricey EOS C’s, not just the 70D) and now their 50Mpixel sensor. I think they just have a different strategy then fighting out DxO benchmarks against Sony. At least until it really starts to hurt, if that every happens.

    A company can also sink from the weight of their own in-house chipworks. This kind of happened when I worked at Commodore in the 80s and 90s. It wasn’t the only problem, but our chip division, which had been an asset, was sometimes a problem. We didn’t have competitive technology anymore, which means new chips took longer and left out features. But the corporate mentality was always centered around new chips, and it wasn’t until much later that they got comfortable using outside foundries. If you’re a product engineer at Canon, you’re pretty much going to be using a Canon sensor in your next camera, and no one’s getting in the door trying to sell you a better one. Nikon’s version of that guy knows he’s got some Sony sensors he can use, but he’s also got the datasheets from everyone else on his desk, because it’s a big boost for anyone else to get their chip into a Nikon camera.

    Of course, it is better, still, when there’s a choice. Olympus moving from Panasonic to Sony sensors was a big win, but if Panasonic comes up with something better and makes the offer, they can leap over the Sony offerings, thus putting Sony on the spot to get that business back (which was, until 2014, larger than Sony’s business… Sony seems to have taken the #1 spot, at least in Japan, in 2014, among mirrorless).

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  4. Paul Nguyen

    Sony intrigues me. I don’t genuinely believe that they have a large interest in consumer stills photography. People are going to “switch to Sony” all the time, that seems to be the trend these days – “going mirrorless”, despite the advantages that Sony might provide, it’s a bit of a fad at the moment and whatever Nikon produces is still far superior to Sony.

    If anyone really thinks that Sony is committed to providing a working and stable platform for professional use, just look at their A-mount. They bought it off Minolta, never really did anything with it, got a couple of consumers hooked in and now it’s a dead platform. I genuinely feel bad for people who bought an A99 or lenses for A-mount. With no new A-mount lenses or bodies on the horizon, looks like all those people are now dead in the water.

    Same thing will happen with E-mount, I reckon. Sony are just releasing bodies for fun. A5000, A5100, A6000, A7 this, A7 that…etc. Last time I looked, the only lenses that were available on E-mount were either cheap, slow zooms, rebranded Zeiss lenses (which aren’t even Zeiss, as they’re made in Japan by Cosina) and a couple of good, decent lenses.

    They’ve got a long way to go to even catch up with Olympus and Panasonic on the M4/3 system which actually has decent lenses and a wide selection of great, professional class lenses. Canon and Nikon are miles ahead of Sony.

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    • Dave Haynie

      I think “everyone’s going mirrorless” is far more of an internet meme than a real thing. That said, I did buy mirrorless gear in 2014 and 2015, I didn’t buy any new Canon gear in those years, and this year I got rid of all my APS Canon stuff. But the hype and interest on the net over mirrorless has always outstripped actual sales.

      But I do think Sony’s in it for the long haul. Not so much the A-Mount … there was probably always an element of NIH there, and even with the SLTs, they were still seen as going directly after Nikon and Canon. They didn’t sell very well, which of course it the main problem.

      But an ILC system is important to Sony just as it’s important to Panasonic, because that’s where pro video is going. And, along with Canon and JVC (who recently announced support for micro four-thirds, though video-only), they’re the pillars of the camcorder market. They can’t afford to not have an ILC camcorder line, and so E-Mount is and will be critical if Sony’s going to be in any prosumer/pro camcorder business. And E-Mount did pretty well in 2014… for the first time, Sony sold more ILCs in Japan than Olympus or Panasonic. And the market did grow a bit, too, particularly for more expensive gear.

      And sure, I do think Sony’s gone a bit nuts with body releases, three A7 models a year it seems. On the other hand, they definitely hit on a good strategy there: one sensor does not necessarily fit all needs. Now Canon’s doing the same basic thing in the 5D line. They can make the whole line more appealing, and even if they don’t grow the market by customer numbers, even if consumers don’t need to replace bodies as often, they’re now giving you a better reason than ever before to own more bodies.

      And yeah, Sony’s weakness is lenses, which is particularly mystifying given their close relationship with Zeiss. Micro four-thirds has more glass than any other CSC system, and the tie-in with video, plus both Olympus and Panasonic being more aggressive on new releases, that’s probably not going away (I actually have a wider range of focal lengths in my m43 bag .. 8mm to 300mm, than in my much, much older Canon bag, which runs from 12mm to 300mm, and most of the m43 are f/2.8 or better). Sony doesn’t have to beat Canon or Nikon or even m43 to keep going. But they have to at least seem serious about it.

      Too many bodies and too few lenses seems to suggest a lack of understanding of the market. Then again, they also needed to get some bodies out there that would sell, which explains the aggression on the A7 series. That does seem to be working. And yeah, sure, you can use Nikon or whatever lenses on the A7… but I can do that on my Canons, too. Canon didn’t get to first place by using Nikon lenses with adapters.

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  5. Jeff Forbes

    In reality, I don’t think who makes the sensors really matters to most people.

    I’ll make a more proper analogy:

    When someone is buying a car, there are so many brands that share engine designs that most people don’t even realize. The starting point would be the related brands – nobody cares that the engine in a Sonata is the same as the one in an Optima. What most people don’t know is that the same engine design that Mitsubishi and Chrysler uses too.

    Did you know that the engine from a Lotus Evora is the same as a Toyota Camry?

    If everyone ever actually read the internet, do you think Canon would still be selling the most cameras? Their sensors are behind the curve in some ways, and on many sites on the internet, you will never, ever see a Canon product recommended by some of these sites, because they’re so busy looking at the DxO numbers to compare “quality” that they completely discount any other advantages, where in reality, they make the most complete system on the planet, and are only significantly behind in low ISO dynamic range. Are they losing customers because they aren’t very innovative? Yes. Are they losing customers because their image quality isn’t top notch? Yes. But you can’t put the cart before the horse. The whole industry is struggling (IMO, because good enough is good enough, so people will keep their cameras much longer).

    In due time, the SLR + system camera market will shrink to be somewhat larger than it was for film, many years ago. Film cameras themselves didn’t affect much – certainly not image quality. The body was a box with some controls on it and a place to stick a lens and film on to. 8 years ago, what body you used made a very significant difference. Today, it does not. Advancement is slowing. The release/replace cycle isn’t coming to an end, but it too is slowing down.

    And with the slowing down, there’s going to be some consolidation. Some of the players will fall out of the market (Olympus? Leica? Hasselblad?). Others will need to adapt (Canon, Nikon). The innovators will need to hold off the competition once their innovation advantage comes to an end (Sony, Fuji).

    And you know what the last thing people will be thinking about? The Mitsubishi/Chrysler/Hyundai engine in their Kia.

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    • Dave Haynie

      I think a better analogy is trucks, not cars… particularly given the heat of these discussions. You’re not going to find a Chevy enthusiast who spends any respectable time bashing Ford pickups (aluminum body!) to not know every detail of his truck. Sure, “regular people” may not know what’s under the hood (though back when I had my Eagle Talon AWD TSi, I knew very well it was made in the same factors, in Normal, IL, as the Mitsubishi Eclipse)… but we’re not talking about normal people here. If we’re debating the technical features of various gear, we’re geeks and gearheads. And this happens around ANY technology. Camera people are, as a whole, far more civilized in my experience than some other people. Try being the only non-Macintosh person in the room — and a computer engineer as well — sometime.

      Ok, maybe that second part may be hard for some people. But it’s pretty much human nature that when you spend lots of money on Brand X rather than Brand Y, you’re more or less joining a club. And for some people, it’s a slippery slope from there to discovering they’re in a cult instead.

      It will certainly be an interesting next five years. Will Canon, Nikon, or even Pentax (who outsold Sony on “traditional” ILCs last year — DSLR or DSLT) get serious about mirrorless, or will they continue to sell many, many more cameras without the need for mirrorless? Sony seems to be dropping the A-Mount, but they haven’t stated that yet. They’ve had most of their success, until recently, by undercutting everyone on price. But both Olympus and Fujifilm did the reverse — they went from losses to profits in the last couple of years by going upscale. Which is the direction of the market for non-smartphone cameras, anyway. Sony’s imaging division did much better in 2014, but the company in total lost several billion — so they may be more sensitive than Fujifilm or Olympus about not just making a profit, but the magnitude of that profit. We’ll see…

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  6. Daniel Lee

    I personally think it’s a great help to Nikon. Being that I shoot Canon, I may not hear as many opinions as a Sony/Nikon shooter. Despite that I shoot Canon, I always see people go on about how much better Nikon sensors are than Canon but in reality, it’s acrually Sony they should be crediting not Nikon.
    From my end Nikon get a lot of credit for Sony’s work so I don’t think it is hindering them.
    I don’t feel I’m biased against Nikon either, I feel they give better attention to the fast primes than Canon which I guess is a benefit of not worrying about sensor development.

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    • Dave Lyons

      Nikon uses sensors from different people so it’s not just sony… the toshiba sensors destroy canons too as well as the others. The sensor only collects the data but the camera has to process it into something useable and Nikon smokes Sony with Sony’s own sensor so don’t go giving sony all the credit but yet they make the best sensors.

      So when you buy your new canon and probably pay more for it than say a nikon does it bother you that you’re paying more for a sensor thats 6-8 years behind?

      Given that you’re getting on average 20-30% less IQ than everyone else how are you going to feel in a few years when image editing will have greater capabilities and everyone who’s using the good sensors today will have massive improvements in processing because of all the extra image data but your canon shots will be helpless because you can’t go back and add data that isn’t there. Thats the thing canon users don’t think about. It’s like when I go back and try to edit my 30D shots.. Its like trying to edit a Polaroid, its that bad. If you like it thats great but like it with the understanding of what you’re losing in the process.

      The question isn’t whether is it because of sony or not it’s the fact that Nikons trying to give its users the best possible Images that it can… while canon is too busy trying to unload its old inventory in “new” models.

      In 5 years I’m going to be curious to what canon users excuses are when they still are trying to milk their current sensor tech lol

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    • Raoni Franco

      Lyons, the amount of time and effort you spend mumbling about how shitty Canon cameras are is way way way way beyond my comprehension. I would say that you sound like a silly child, but children are not THAT boring. By the way, that “awesome” hdr in your portfolio surely couldn’t have been made with a Canon camera……that is such a high profile photograph. Crap, now I´m the silly child……blame on you.

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    • Daniel Lee

      Perfectly said Raoni, although if you’ve offended Lyons he might not share his ‘spectacular’ HDR technique with you now…

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    • Dave Lyons

      RAONI FRANCO.. welcome to childhood 101… yes you may not like that “awesome” HDR just as i “enjoy” your desaturated, over-blackpointed images with tons of grain and debris filters added on top… the out of focus ones are even more special lol

      The thing with a current sensor is with 14-15 stops of DR you can make “HDR” of out of a single image or take a sunset shot at the beach without a graduated neutral density filter as you can raise the shadows and still retain gobs of detail and data which for some people is a major bonus. You can’t do that on your precious canons, while sure you “can” do the hdr’s on canon like that the fact is that you HAVE to because you surely don’t have the dynamic range to do it any other way. Or take the beach sunset.. you and your canon will have to either get filters out or take two shots to try and even come close. Or interior architecture where your canon will need 2-3 shots and a current nikon would need one… hence that right there might save you 30-60 minutes for each pic in post.

      If you want to attack my photos thats fine… your photos would look better coming off an iPhone and a few free apps and if thats your style then great… you don’t need a current camera and you’d be fine with an old kodak disk… at the end of the day your canons sensor is still lagging.

      FYI~ I haven’t said canons cameras are shitty, i’ve said their sensors are shitty and they are… at least compared to everyone else current offerings. I personally like the 5dm3 but would I pay more for it then a d810… hell no

      The fact that you’re a silly child explains why you don’t understand that there are a lot of types of photography that greatly benefit from having a current sensor…

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    • Dave Lyons

      DANIEL LEE.. glad you can speak for yourself… the HDR technique was simple.. shot with a d7000 with a single shot and edited… I realize you can’t do that on your canon but don’t blame that on me… while people always try and and get out of this argument with the “HDR” excuse it doesn’t change the fact of the argument.

      And fyi… I’ll do “HDR” like that because they sell about 8-1 over regular photos. That particular set of photos was taken and requested (for home listing)to be done at sunset but still be able to see the details of the horse corrals and field and that “spectacular HDR technique” is what ended up attracting the buyers (who ended up buying the set from me) who bought the house… needless to say the client was more than happy and so your point is migrated to just making you look stupid and I’ll take and use photos for the clients not to try and please some nimrod photographers on the web.

      Since you’re a canon guy why are you even on a nikon thread? Your whole response was to basically try and discredit nikon and give it to sony… like the reasons not transparent.

      I just went “back” to a d700 which has comparable IQ to a 5dm3 just with less mp and while yes I do love it the question is at 12.1 DR can i tell the difference between it and my old D7000 at 13.9 DR… or even my lil D3300… hell yes.. the d7000 & D3300 absolutely smoke it in edibility and versatility overall. If i need a big dynamic range shot I’ll gladly pull out the D3300 and get it and I’d take that bottom of the line offering over anything from canon for that purpose because it’s the tool that’ll get the job done better.

      I started with canon and ran into its limitations right away… I didn’t and still don’t care what what the name on the camera says as long as it gets the shots I want without having to make excuses for why it can’t…

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    • Raoni Franco

      XD Lyons, you really have time to write stuff here my friend…..good use of our little time on this world man.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Personally speaking, the only reason I put any effort into grumbling about Canon is that I actually want to see them do better and improve.

      I’d hate to see Canon go the way of Kodak because they mis-calculated their users’ loyalty while they take their time to 1.) upgrade their sensor technology to match the Sony / Nikon monopoly, and 2.) bring a good mirrorless system to market before Sony gets too many more generations into theirs.

      I’ve talked with plenty of folks who better understand how these large corporations work, and simply put, they (the corporations, not the people I talk to) are slow-moving beasts, they make very long-term decisions, and most dangerous of all, they don’t disturb a status quo unless they actually hear more than just a few people complain on the internet. It takes a whole lot of people, putting their voices together and agreeing with each other, expressing their dissatisfaction, etc…

      So, if Canon does eventually climb back on top and deliver a sensor in the 5D mk4 that blows the D810 out of the water, or delivers a mirrorless system that makes Sony converts jealous, well then,

      …YOU’RE WELCOME. ;-)

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    • Dave Lyons

      RAONI FRANCO… i’ve added plenty to this discussion… you’ve done nothing but throw a tantrum because the truth was told about the status of canons sensors. Is it my fault that canon haven’t done much improving to their sensors for the last 8 years? of course not… i’m just stating the obvious.

      At this point you can do either:
      1. show some actual proof or otherwise that would disprove anything I’ve said. I’ve already shown on here that when I am wrong I have no problem admitting it.
      2. Simple say “my canon is good enough for me so it doesn’t bother me”.. in which case I have no issue with that statement as its all personal preference but don’t go pouting because someone says something about your brand that you don’t like.

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    • Dave Lyons

      MATTHEW…
      I agree with you and always have in this regard… canon has a lot of great things but their weak link is their sensors which IMO is probably the most important part of the camera.

      IF canon came out with a competitive sensor then I wouldn’t bitch about them and would give them a fair shot at my business just like I do with everyone. I don’t need a brand to try and make me look cool, i need a brand that I know will give me the shots I need. For some people canon does that and thats great.. got no issue with that if it works for them but these people who bury their heads in the sand pretending the issue isn’t there are nuts.

      When I got the D700 at least I knew the limitations that would come with it and had the new d3300 sitting around and until I get a used d7100 I’ll use the best tool for the job which is how it should be IMO.

      As far as the 5dm4 goes I just don’t see it getting a better sensor, maybe faster and better iso but if they had a sensor to compete with Sonys then it’d surely be going into the 5ds. IF they release the 5ds with the crap sensor it’s lining up to be and then not long after release the 5dm4 with a better sensor then there’s going to be a lot of pissed off canon users. The 5ds is a knee jerk reaction to try and stop the hemmoraging that the d8xx line is inflicting but after this long if they had an answer for a better sensor it would have been in the 7dm2 as well.

      Of course canon people hate dxo and its rigged and blah blah blah but to me one of the telling things about it is if you go back and track camera models as they progress that regardless of its final score that you can see if the Image Quality of the camera is improving over time and to me that much more important. When you look at nikon models their scores are shooting up and canons are staying level and not improving.

      Looks like Nikons IQ over the last 8 years have gone up 20-30%. If I look at the canon I had the 30d and compare it to todays 70d the IQ went up like a super duper whooping 2% if i recall correctly… 2% in 8 years… I just don’t see how canon people can justify that as canon being the “best”.

      Personally, I want to put my money in a company thats quite clearly showing that they are improving IQ

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    • Daniel Lee

      Dave – I sincerely apologize for not replying to you personally, I hope your little feelings aren’t too hurt. Sadly, many of us are too busy to constantly reply to every single person who’s fanboy habits get in the way of logic.
      You ask why I being a Canon shooter, comment on a Nikon article? Well that seems stupid of you since as you say, this is a Nikon/Sony article yet you constantly talk shit about Canon in every comment when this article is not about them!
      I wasn’t discrediting Nikon, Sony make their sensors and that’s a fact. I actually credited Nikon on their great work with the range of lenses they have available compared to Canon. Unlike you, I can actually view another company in a unbiased way.
      When it comes to your photos, congratulations on selling your oversaturated HDR ‘images’. If anyone ever says stupid people have no use on this earth, we can prove them wrong by introducing them to you and your ‘customers’.

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    • Dave Lyons

      DANIEL..
      If you were actually to read some of this you’d clearly see that I am unbiased towards other companies… That unbiasedness is what makes canons sensors stick out so much as being lacking to the degree that they are. Canons produce beautiful images we all know that but most people also agree that that they are way behind in the sensor department. if you actually would have read the 50 comments above yours you’d have clearly seen the answers to your comments before posting.

      Yes you complimented Nikons glass but the rest comes off as uneducated nonsense about how sony’s sensors are what make Nikons what they are.. You would have seen that Nikon uses sensors from many companies and everyone of them seems to be far ahead of canons offering.

      I apologize for hurting your feeling by mentioning canon by name but most people are already aware of canons shortcomings in the sensor department, its no secret at this point.

      As for overcooking images and peoples tastes… who are you to tell people what to like? Thats the most stupid and idiotic nonsense you can possibly post! People are allowed to have their own tastes but god forbid if it’s against your taste lol. As for myself I’ll shoot what I want and certainly won’t let some numbnut on a forum dictate what i can shoot or edit, I shoot all kinds of things, some for business/clients and some for myself and quite frankly it’s none of your business and the fact that you two can only attack photo styles and not actually contribute anything to this thread shows just how impetitent you are to the subject and instead of crying about it maybe read and learn how and why things are what they are and how it affects how you can shoot.

      Maybe you should reread your initial post..
      ” it’s acrually Sony they should be crediting not Nikon.
      From my end Nikon get a lot of credit for Sony’s work”

      Thats completely condescending from the explanation you just gave and shows how little you know about how image processing works.

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    • J. Dennis Thomas

      I know you guys disagree about the Canon/Nikon/Sony thing, but can we keep the personal comments out of it? One of the reasons I quit going to the DPReview site is all of the negativity and attacking people on a personal level.

      I’ve not seen a lot of this type of behavior on SLR Lounge, which is one of the major draws of this website to me.

      I don’t like HDR photos or photos with faux-film filters and what-not, but I don’t see why you two feel the need to bring each other’s style into this discussion. For the record, I haven’t looked at either of your images so I can’t judge them to be good or bad in any case.

      Calling people stupid and telling them how bad they suck isn’t adding to this discussion, it’s just making it unbearable for the rest of us to read through and it doesn’t seem to make either of you feel better either.

      As members of this community can’t we all just agree that we aren’t always going to agree and dispense with the negative attacks so that visiting a photography website isn’t an unpleasant experience as it has grown to be over the last few years on just about every other site?

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  7. Matthew Saville

    Every single sensor that Sony has made for NIkon, or given to Nikon, or whatever, Nikon has pulled better images from it than Sony’s own cameras were able to. This has been the case since long before Sony had a mirrorless system, and it seems to continue to be the case now even with the absolute latest cameras coming out right around the same time as each other.

    So, I can’t see how this hurts Nikon. The real poll is, are CANON sensors actually getting so far behind the entire rest of the pack that it’s actually an issue, OR are Canon sensors still “good enough in some areas, great in others.”???

    =Matt=

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    • Dave Lyons

      i hate to tell ya this but… we generally think a like ;)~

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    • Dave Lyons

      well my opinion there is that if you just shoot jpgs then a canons fine but if you’re going to edit and especially things like sunsets and landscapes then canons sensors aren’t not even in the discussion.

      Of course theres the (canon) DR limitations, the IQ limitations, how they handle ISO by destructively smudging pixels, raising megapixels but not IQ… and of course charging more for it… i just don’t get it

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    • Daniel Lee

      You have to remember Matt, it’s the photographer behind the camera that pulls the detail out of that sensor.
      It’s like if you gave some D4’s to a bunch of people who had no idea about photography they would produce better quality images than pros with 700D’s.
      Sony are doing a great job but from what I read, the AF on Mirrorless bodies aren’t as good as DSLR’s yet (this is from user feedback I’ve seen so may be wrong) although with Nikon you have a larger, more loyal user base with an amazing sensor and more advanced AF.

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    • Dave Lyons

      DANIEL LEE…
      Thats not really accurate. It doesn’t matter if you give your 700D to god he’s not going to be able to get as much detail out of it as a d4… hell a bottom of the line d3300 is gunna smoke it!

      Case in point if I go back to when I had both a canon 30D and a Nikon d200 and had no idea what I was doing the d200 absolutely destroys that canon… i mean its literally staggering and to that point the current version of the 30d (70d) doesn’t really have any better IQ 8 years later.

      The whole “it’s the photographer” it mostly BS and only relative to the meaning. Here you are comparing beginners on a d4 to pros on 700d, thats completely flawed. Compare pros on a d4s to pros on a 700d on a wide array of images and settings and the d4 will crush it.

      Somewhere I even made a video comparing a lowly D90 with kit lens vs a 5dm2 with L glass and the d90 made that 5d look awful.

      Now if you were to say “you can take a great photographer with anything even a shoebox pinhole camera” where you’r talking about a compelling image then yes you don’t need the better sensor but when you’re talking about IQ… sorry but your canon is 20-30% behind the curve… pixel peep a 700d and d4 and see for yourself, its not “opinion” its pretty much a fact

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  8. Duy-Khang Hoang

    Sony is a very large corporation. The Sony that makes the sensors is not the same as the Sony that makes the cameras. The Sony that makes the sensors (semiconductor division) sells sensors to anyone willing to buy (including the Sony’s camera division, mobile division etc.). In the past, given the volume advantage that Nikon had over Sony, it may have been possible that Nikon got a better price on the sensor than Sony’s camera division did (don’t quote me on this one). Pentax, Fuji, Olympus also buy sensors from Sony semiconductor. These companies differentiate mainly in how they spec the optical stack and CFA above the CMOS sensor and also in the processing that takes place after the RAW data is captured. e.g. Fuji will employ an X-trans CFA instead of the common Bayer CFA, I believe Olympus has a slightly thicker optical stack on it’s sensors, Sony does a different kind of RAW compression on it’s files (and does not offer an uncompressed RAW option) etc. etc. Bottom line, the Sony that makes the sensors is interested in their bottom line so won’t stop selling to Nikon unless it was not beneficial for THEM to do so, they won’t stop selling just because Sony’s camera division wanted them to. Off the top of my head, Nikon buys sensors from Sony, Aptina (Nikon 1), Toshiba (D7100), Renesas (D3/D4). If Sony semiconductor stopped selling to Nikon for some reason, I’m sure they could also make arrangements with any of the above manufacturers, or even buy from Panasonic or Samsung if those companies are open to selling.

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  9. Trey Mortensen

    I feel like one big factor to bring into the equation is how all of the companies make money. For both Canon and Sony, their photography departments are just pieces to the entire company (Sony even does life insurance in Japan). Nikon, however, is only invested into photography. If they have a bad year, they can’t rely on over divisions. You can see this thinking in Canon’s current technology: Maintain the status quo. Sony has done the opposite and have used their funds into a large R&D (observation on what’s been coming out). Nikon can’t compete with the size of those companies so they pull an Apple and use tech from their biggest competitor (my Macbook Pro has a Samsung screen) and it has seemingly helped their products. The D750 has converted a few of my Canon friends already. I don’t know how the sales are actually adding, but it seems that Nikon needs Sony to survive right now.

    As for who is hindered, I think all of this is just simply helping Sony. Nikon is indirectly advertising Sony products and giving Sony the money to continue to advance and potentially hold the best stuff for themselves.

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    • Dave Lyons

      Actually Nikon sells more than just photography gear… I’m not all sure of what but I have a rifle with a nikon scope and I know canons newest industrial camera only comes in a nikon mount… granted they aren’t as big as canon and sony but the point is they do sell other things

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    • Trey Mortensen

      Dave, I should have said optics. I knew about the scopes (basically manual lenses if you think about it) but I don’t know entirely all their aspects. I guess saying that they are an optics and imaging company is probably more accurate than just photography.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Nikon is big in scanners and steppers for semiconductor lithography… about 1/3 of their business. Like Olympus, they started in optics and sell lots of microscopes and other special-purpose optical gear. Like Zeiss and other German optical companies, they got into camera lenses before they made any cameras, shifting what they had learned in microscopes to a new business. They’re currently owned by Mitsubishi.

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  10. Ben Perrin

    I just worry for Nikon that if they have some sort of dispute with Sony that Sony will pull the plug on their sensors leaving Nikon in a bad place. Or that Sony will use their position to screw Nikon over. That being said I think it’s worked well so far but I don’t want to see many other manufacturers using Sony sensors. We need other companies to start improving on the advancements that Sony have already made.

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    • Dave Lyons

      The nikon and sony marriage is seemingly getting closer these days and I wouldn’t be surprised if sony is being setup for a nikon buyout as just last week i believe Sony announce it was spinning that section away from the rest.

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  11. Austin Swenson

    Sony has indeed killed it with their sensors, but unfortunately even as a Sony shooter, I will admit that I wish I had the lenses from Nikon to back up the awesome sony sensors and make the best resoved and the most sharp looking images but the lens department just needs to keep churning out good stuff like they have been doing and then Sony shooters are really going to have something going for them…

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    • Dave Lyons

      It’ll take more than lenses…. Nikon has decades of image processing experience which is why they can milk better pix out of the same sensors. Nikon even made the first lenses for canon way back when.

      In the same vein fuji has always been able to milk the best skin tones out of the same base sensors.

      After just seriously looking at going to sony I realized that Sony is trying to get you all with bells and whistles but the biggest missing piece for them right now is image processing.

      I just “upgraded” to a d700 and not having all the bells and whistles lets me just take pix and feel like a real photographer again and I’m ok with that lol

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  12. Peter Nord

    Anyone who thinks like this, “the perception is that Nikon sensors are secondhand or hand-me-down Sony sensors. Any consumer seeing this would have to wonder why they should go with a Nikon camera over a Sony.” isn’t smart enough to use a modern digital camera. Do you think all the semiconductors, optical glass, and other components used in the cameras are made by the camera manufacturers? Reading out the sensor data to make a photograph is part of the secret sauce that Nikon has. I would imagine the contracts Nikon has with Sony have strict clauses about quality. Hand-me-downs – indeed!

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    • Dave Lyons

      I’ve never seen that presented but what i do see is “oh I’m getting a canon rebel because they are the most advances and best cameras out there”… people are clueless

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  13. Dave Lyons

    1. the D4s is a nikon sensor and just might be the best overall sensor… yes the newer sony’s seem “better” but the d4 does have better high iso noise and constant dr at higher iso’s so it’s not like nikon can’t make their own.

    2. eric.. I’m pretty sure my D7000 had a toshiba sensor.

    3. Even though Nikon and Sony are using the same sensors Nikons experience vastly helps them “tweek” what resulting images much better than Sony currently can.

    4. Nikons lens and accessories are light years in front of Sony. I remember back when I got my D200 that fuji was using Nikon bodies but their own sensors and I’m sure that was the reason as well.

    5. I’m sure both Sony and Nikon enjoy the occasional “fist bump” at absolutely destroying canons IQ… Its not much but at least a little joy to the continual head scratching about why on gods green earth do people buy all these rebels thinking they’re getting “current” tech…

    6. Sony is spinning its sensors off into a separate entity… might be a good move for Nikon to buy it because it’s obvious canon has no intentions of making a competing sensor any time soon and it surely wouldn’t hurt to get sonys team and mirrors products.

    7. We don’t know the arrangement that sony and Nikon have so it’s hard to speculate but obviously nikon is greatly benefiting using the sony sensors so it’s neither here nor there as for our speculation

    8. I see a lot of people sell their nikon/canon gear to go mirrorless… then pronounce mirrorless is the greatest thing ever… then sell it all and go back to a dslr because after the honeymoons over they realize the dslr is just better… those aren’t my words just those of friends who have done it.

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    • Eric Sharpe

      Chipworks did a teardown in 2011. I remember wondering why they would destroy the awesome camera that I had to save up so long to get. Anyway, they pulled a Sony sensor out of the D7000. The sensor in the D7100 was “confirmed” to be made by Toshiba. Mediocre photos are confirmed to be made by me.

      https://chipworks.secure.force.com/catalog/ProductDetails?sku=NIK-D7000_Pri-Camera&viewState=DetailView&cartID=&g=&parentCategory=&navigationStr=CatalogSearchInc&searchText=d7000

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    • Dave Lyons

      eric… I very well could be wrong but I coulda sworn i saw it in metadata somewhere but more than likely I am wrong there ;)… hey I can admit when I’m wrong lol

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    • Eric Sharpe

      No worries, everything found on the net is believable anyway, right? LOL! Anyway, I think given the fact that we already didn’t give much thought about the sensor manufacture in the first place, it just further mootens the point. Wait, is mootens a word? :D

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    • Dave Lyons

      Eric… i know right! lol but its on the internet… Although it wasn’t something I read. Well actually I read it wasn’t a sony and was a bit shocked and theres a code somewhere that tells you but I can’t recall where and I swore I looked it up and it was a toshiba.

      Anyways.. like others have said.. I could care less about who makes it as long as it’s meeting current specs… none of this canon bs where my nikons from 2008 still have better IQ then the new ones. I love watching my friends faces when they buy their new canons the discover they just paid more for the same thing they just had and sold for nothing to get the new one which isn’t any better lol but as long as they enjoy it…

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    • Dave Lyons

      just fyi from old nikon posts… i’d assume that it’s just a lot cheaper to buy them then to make them.

      “We have a longstanding relationship with Sony. If the sensors for Nikon D3s, D3 and D700 are designed by Nikon, Nikon D3x and those of the small APS-C sensors are from Sony. We want to use our own sensors in SLRs most popular [small sensor APS-C, Ed], as the performance of our sensors are better. However, it will take some time as it takes to achieve economies of scale.”

      “Nikon have announced that they designed the sensor. Nikon has no wafer fabrication capability so they outsource the sensor production, but they are keeping the foundry close to their chests, so close that we must speculate to identify the source. The obvious choice would be Sony, who build the sensor used in the Nikon D2X, however there are no Sony markings on the device, and the device structure is markedly different from the other Sony CIS we have analyzed. We considered Matsushita/Panasonic the device structure has similarities to the Panasonic CIS we have seen, but it is sufficiently different that we have doubts that it is theirs. Thus we are speculating who else could be the manufacturing source. I believe Nikon would stick with a Japanese foundry. An interesting possibility is Renesas, they have close ties with Nikon, supplying several imager processor chipsets, they have a patent portfolio in image sensors indicating they have active r+d in this field, and they have the fab capabilities.”

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  14. Rafael Steffen

    Thanks for sharing this discussion on the benefits and pros on Nikon using Sony Sensors.

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  15. Graham Curran

    Ultimately it’s the final package rather than one particular components that really matters.

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  16. Eric Sharpe

    There was another answer on the poll that should’ve been included which is, “neither”. As a Nikon shooter, it doesn’t matter to me that the sensor is made by Sony. My Nikon D7000 has a Sony sensor in it, but I think the Nikon D7100 (with Toshiba sensor) blows it away. Regardless of who makes the sensor in the D7000 series cameras, It’s a great series of cameras. I don’t really think much about it.

    The way the Sony sensors are talked about, as being a part of Nikon cameras, is in such a way that people want to make seems as if Nikon cameras are now just re-branded Sony cameras. Only to a lesser degree, because they have mirrors, and well, they’re not Sonys. This seems odd to me, given that this type of thing goes on everywhere in manufacturing. Is an Audi R8 just a re-badged Lamborghini Gallardo? Same engine, same platform. Same performance? Same prestige? Same enigineering, aside from engine and platform?

    My point is, being that I’m invested in the Nikon system, I can appreciate that Nikon is going to put the better sensor in their camera bodies. If it’s from Nikon, Sony, or Toshiba, I’m good with knowing that the better sensor technology will end up in my camera.

    It mostly comes up as a point of contention, like rooting for a team. Canon users probably get tired of hearing about less dynamic range, and older sensor technology, blah blah blah. So, to poke back at Nikon, the argument is mostly, yeah, but they use Sony sensors. There was a rumor a while back about Canon working with Sony, which was thought to be what the 5Dr and 5Ds 50 MP sensors would be. I remember lots of people being excited about that. At the end of the day, I’m not sure that it matters that much, to me and my photography, that Nikon make their own sensors. I just need the thing to work, and be awesome. I wouldn’t care if Canon made the sensor in it.

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    • Michael Young

      I’m with you on this one. I still to this day don’t know how the licensing agreement went. I don’t know if Nikon told Sony to spec it a certain way, if it was Nikon’s design, and Sony’s production, if Nikon just bought rights to use the chips, or if they developed the tech together.

      However, I do know that people talk about Nikon sensors as if they were trash before Sony came along. As if somehow the D3/D700, D3s, D4, and D4s chips are worthless. Sony has a hand in the D5100/D7000, D600/610/750, and D800/810. Yet if you listen to the internet talk, it was every Nikon camera ever made. I say it’s mostly a hindrance b/c it’s becoming a marketing tool for Sony shooters, “Sony is the best b/c they make sensor for everyone else anyway, so you should shoot Sony.”

      What is interesting is that it seems Nikon gets more out of those sensor than Sony does – e.g. ISO 64 with D810, higher native ISO with D750, etc. The big issue for Nikon is the same big issue for Canon, they haven’t developed a strong enough of a mirrorless system that they’re allowing room for the competition to do it. It seems like they’ve been so concerned with trying to avoid cannibalism in its own line, that they’re allowing other manufactures to just come in and steal larger chunks of the market share.

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    • Stephen Jennings

      Sony is an absolute monster in the sensor department, they are everywhere.. your iphone even has a Sony sensor I believe.

      From what I’ve read in the past, Sony has an exclusivity pact with Nikon, that Sony cannot sell these sensors that Nikon uses to other camera companies (ahem, Canon).

      You also have to remember that the sensor alone is not the camera.. the d810 is still the superior camera over anything that Sony has made, even if they share the same sensor. Other things, especially the processor (expeed4) come into play.

      Nikon does make decent sensors.. the D4s is an amazing camera. I think they were perhaps struggling in the affordable pro-sumer line of cameras, and it simply cost them too much to make these sensors, especially the R&D, to keep these cameras affordable.

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    • Dave Lyons

      MICHAEL YOUNG…my favorite nikon camera so far (out of d200, d90, d7000, d3300, d700) is the amazing D90 and it was a sony… noisy but man i love the images off that camera

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  17. Jerry Jackson

    As far as I know, multiple third-party sources confirmed the image sensors inside the Nikon D5200, D7200 and D5300 are Toshiba image sensors and NOT image sensors manufactured by Sony. Nikon “could” switch to exclusively buying sensors fabricated by Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, Panasonic, STMicroelectronics or even smaller sensor fab plants/foundries … but an “exclusive” deal with a partner is probably a bad idea for Nikon.

    At the end of the day, there are MANY companies that would be happy to take Nikon’s money. Right now Nikon is in a good spot from a business standpoint. Nikon buys some sensors from Sony (like the D810 and D750) and some sensors from Toshiba, so Nikon gets to benefit from the massive R&D spending of two other companies and gets to leverage competitor pricing during negotiations. Likewise, if Nikon continues to buy sensors from at least two partners then Nikon won’t have to worry about supply problems from just one manufacturer … Nikon can temporarily switch to using sensors from one partner if the other partner has production problems (or terminates a contract) simply by placing a new order with the second partner.

    Honestly, Sony has more to gain by “eventually” cutting off Nikon … even if it would mean a MASSIVE loss of revenue for Sony. Sony’s latest FE-mount and E-mount cameras are AMAZING and an increasing number of casual, enthusiast, and professional photographers are moving to Sony. As long as Sony allows Nikon to buy sensors Sony is allowing one of its biggest competitors to offer similar/identical image quality.

    Sony is likewise on the losing end of the deal as long as Nikon continues to work with at least one other image sensor fab because Sony doesn’t have the leverage to overprice sensors … if Sony charges too much for sensors the next time Nikon and Sony make a deal, Nikon can just threaten to order all sensors from Toshiba instead (or vice versa if Toshiba’s sensor prices are too high).

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    • robert garfinkle

      would this be an accurate statement –

      your at a baseball / football / soccer game – nikon / canon cameras are on the field / sidelines; sony is in the stands…

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  18. robert garfinkle

    I think by virtue of dependency it is a hindrance – where it sounds like Sony is, in control… at any time they can turn the screws, and it’s a different game for Nikon at that point, one that can affect it’s marketplace position…

    However, for right now, sentiments are that Nikon “rules”, but I still am puzzled as to why – how come using a Sony sensor Nikon leads the way in image quality… is it the lenses? or is it better math behind the madness – or a combination of both? You’d think Sony would have a similar / matched piece of hardware which contends with Nikon / Canon etc… actually, using DXO as a base, sensor-wise – Nikon seems to lead the way, followed by Sony, then Canon – Am I accurate in this observation? Nikon seems to be clustered at the top – nice grouping, followed by a trail of Sony units intermixed with other medium formatted camera’s and some Leica etc, and Canon is peppered throughout etc…

    Personally, I think Nikon should cook up it’s own sensors, break the dependency, and go for broke…

    I like Nikon, although fairly I have no basis for critiquing others – never owned them…

    and so it goes…

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    • Dave Lyons

      The sensor is just capturing the data… nikon is cooking the data. If doing so saves them money …which saves you money… I don’t care because the data that’s collected still needs to be processed and as everyone can see Sony isn’t as good of a cook as Nikon. You’re just thinking about how it works all wrong.

      Look at all these Nikon models over the years.. they all look like “nikon” yet theres quite a few different sensors being used.

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  19. Stephen Jennings

    It does help Nikon … beat Canon. I think that was their primary goal anyways. Sony is the largest producer of these sensors, their advancements and ability to spend on R&D is second to none.. Canon has to really struggle to keep up. But it doesn’t really help Nikon is Sony is suddenly trying to take over the market? I think Nikon is really held hostage here.

    Everyone knows Nikon is using Sony sensors.. and they can’t shop elsewhere, or use another sensor because Sony is making the best. Sony knows that everyone knows this.. so they can use Nikons reputation and their own sensor reputation to move into the high end digital camera market. It also helps they partnered with Zeiss while Nikon and Canon snub them.

    Nikon is still “better” than Sony, aside from the mirrorless bit (and that’s really all opinion). Even the A7r doesn’t compete with the d810, and Sony can’t touch Nikon’s lens collection. So I don’t know how much it really hurts Nikon that Sony is moving into this market. Then there’s the fact that Nikon is by far Sony’s largest purchaser of sensors. So it seems more like they both need each other, but they are kicking Canon’s ass.

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  20. Barry Cunningham

    If Nikon doesn’t have a better sensor, then the downsides are far outweighed by the positives.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      A fair point, but isn’t it at least an incentive to try to develop their own?

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    • Holger Foysi

      @A. Thurston: Why isn’t Apple developing their own screens or sensors? http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/09/23/samsung-still-reportedly-supplying-40-of-apple-a8-chips-for-iphone-6-6-plus shows they use Samsung chips. For a smaller company it is hard to do cutting edge research in many different fields, especially if the whole market shrinks. And still, the market share of Nikon, Canon and Sony is approximately the same since quite some time.

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    • Dave Lyons

      Anthony… it’s about money… say (just throwing numbers down NOT actual numbers) but say if it costs Nikon say $75 to make a sensor or $25 to buy one from Sony then it’s a no brainer.

      It’s a common known fact that making 500,000 sensors (or anything) is by farrrrrrr cheaper than doing a run of 100,000

      Right now Nikon is pretty much the IQ ruler of the land so not sure why this is even a discussion… I think a better discussion is the more obvious one of why canon isn’t improving they’re sensor offerings… If I was in the canon camp that would have me more worried then what sensor nikon chooses to use.

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  21. Walid Isar

    Did the people at Nikon know that every time they talk about their “Sony sensor”, they actually advertise for Sony?

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    • Dave Lyons

      Yet the customers who make these giants all the money will never see, never know, never even hear of such a thing… hell they think canon rebels are state of the art

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    • Matthew Saville

      No, they don’t advertise for Sony, they remind Nikon users that they have one (BIG) less reason to switch to Sony- we already have the best sensors!

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  22. Greg Silver

    I think a Nikon/Sony partnership helps Nikon but other than some licensing deals with Sony technology how else would this help Sony?

    I couldn’t see Sony sharing ALL of their great sensor technology. Would it make more sense for Nikon to create there own sensors?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Greg, this is nothing new. Nikon already, and has for some time, been using Sony sensors.

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    • Greg Silver

      Correct but I was just thinking it’s risky as a company depending on competitors technology to make a product. Even though Nikon benefits from Sony’s sensor technology, i think it would be wiser for them to create their own.

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    • Dave Lyons

      not if the costs involved with it far outweigh the costs of buying them and potentially losing a few people. But lets be real here… most people have no clue of sonys mirrorless offerings. I even have a friend who shoots sony and spends a ton on Zeiss glass and I asked him the other day if he’d gone mirrorless and he had no idea what i was talking about.

      You got to remember that even though it may seem like a “mass herd” migrating to sony that in the real word its a very very very very small number and I really can’t see that small number losing nikon more revenue then what they save buying the sensors for a lot cheaper.

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