I have to say, this is one of the most exciting patents I’ve seen in a long time.  Even if it never comes to fruition, it still proves to me once again that Nikon is thinking the same things as I am.  Researching and developing the same kinds of prototype cameras that I would love to also take out for a spin…

The concept is old-  Since all 35mm film SLR’s have detachable backs, which allow easy access to the image plane.  Why not MacGyver a digital sensor into position?  It’s been done before, with very Frankenstein-looking results from the late 80’s and early 90’s… Check out more on this awesome historical MIR.com Nikon DSLR page!


Anyways, Nikon’s latest patent was just approved less than  two weeks ago, and once again describes a system in which a regular film SLR has the back plate removed, and a digital sensor plate is mounted.

One of the notable aspects of this particular patent is some sort of micro-adjustment screw that allows the user to adjust the sensor position, for fine tuning of the “film plane” match-up.

So, the question is, why on earth would Nikon do this?  Doesn’t everybody want the latest bells, whistles, and high-performance features in a digital camera?  Well, sort of.

Some photographers, especially Nikon aficionados,  have  a passion for tradition, history, and the continued practice of older methods or classic cameras.  So first and foremost, Nikon would be able to count on plenty of sales to collectors, hobbyists with money to spend, and similar types.  Similar to the “gold-plated, limited edition” type products that have been offered over the years.

Next, there are the more practical users who do plan to use a camera very heavily, and want the full-frame advantages, however they also are either on an extremely tight budget, or have specific needs that require more mechanical camera controls, …who knows!  It is possible for example that such a “sensor back only” could offer photographers a D800 or D800E sensor for less than the cost of an entire D800, with potentially better battery life.

However my main fear is that a ton of controls would be given up, controls that we have in fact come to appreciate.  Not just autofocus, which a landscape photographer can live without, but things like the built-in intervalometer / time-lapse creation, and the plethora of other menu and customization features that are included in already “affordable” DSLR’s such as the  Nikon D700 and Nikon D600.  So I don’t know if I would purchase a sensor-only camera back from Nikon at this point.  It would depend very heavily on of course the price, but also the abundance (or lack) of features and customizations that I have come to “need” on my current Nikon DSLR’s.  I’m not a bells-and-whistles kind of guy, but I do appreciate how deeply customizable my DSLR menus and controls are.  So maybe I’ll stick to shooting regular film when I’m nostalgic, and shooting my regular DSLR when I need digital results.

Until next time!