Nikon Z System News and Commentary

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Z30 Versus ZV-E10

So how does the new Nikon vlogging model (Z30) stand up to Sony's (ZV-E10)? 

Here are the big bullet points:

  • The Sony is smaller and weighs less, though that also means it's missing some buttons, controls, and grip depth.
  • The Sony uses XAVC, while the Nikon uses a more standard H.264.
  • The Sony has S-log (2 and 3) and HLG.
  • The Sony has extra contacts in the hot shoe for audio accessories.
  • The Sony has a headphone jack.
  • The Nikon has faster Wi-Fi and newer Bluetooth, the Sony newer USB.
  • The Sony has a bigger capacity battery and better battery life.
  • The Nikon is somewhat better configured and usable for still use as well as video.

Curiously, that's about it of significance. Yes, the Sony has 24mp, though with a low pass filter. I really don't think in the end I see much in the way of still or video quality difference that isn't just Sony BIONZ versus Nikon EXPEED. Both cameras are excellent at FullHD and 4K, particularly for Internet-oriented productions.

Then there's this:

  • ZV-E10 kit is US$800. This includes a very mediocre 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens and a wind screen.
  • Z30 kit is US$850. This includes an exceptionally good 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR lens, but a wind screen is an extra US$10.

I'm sure the Z30 is going to get a ton of comparisons to the ZV-E10 in upcoming reviews, and it's going to hold its own in that respect except for these things:

  • No headphone jack. Really, this was a serious omission given the target user and the competitor.
  • No N-log/HLG. Not a huge problem for vlogger-style workflows, but still an omission worth noting.
  • Wide angle lens support. Sony's recent trio of wide angle lens announcements for crop sensor is something Nikon has no answer for (buzz, buzz).

The question Nikon has to answer is this: is "nearly equal" enough to garner sales? Stay tuned.

The Canon R7 Shows Nikon Has Some Work To Do

I'm in the midst of using a Canon R7 for my eventual review in sansmirror.com. One reason why I continue to try out and use competitive brand products is to get a better sense of where the Nikon products are. 

Obviously, Nikon doesn't have an R7 competitor as I write this, though I'm reasonably sure that Nikon will eventually introduce a higher-end DX model that might be competitive. It would foolish for Nikon not to, actually, as the broad D100, D200, D300, and D500 base that Nikon spent decades building would simply all defect to a competitor if Nikon doesn't do so. Some Nikon faithful have already left, and the competitor they leave for tends to be either Fujifilm or Sony. With the R7, Canon has also introduced itself as someone the D### users might also consider when moving to mirrorless.

So what would a Z70 have to look like to keep Nikon's D### user base from converting to competitors like the R7? Oops, I have a bit more work to do before I get to my R7-triggered comments. 

I see three DX models Nikon must produce in order to round out their crop sensor lineup (and don't get me started about lenses, buzz, buzz):

  • Z50 II — Nikon really needs to move this model up a notch now that we have Zfc and Z30 variations of it. Candidates for that move are (a) new image sensor, (b) new EVF, (c) better AF system, and (d) possible sensor-VR. I'd bet that Nikon would likely opt for (a) with some (c). Basically, move the Z50 more from the D5600 side it was favoring to the D7500 side that's at a higher level (the Z50 currently straddles the D5600/D7500 model levels).
  • Z70 — The D70/D7xxx models were the base of Nikon's true enthusiast customer, and a Z70 has to pick up where those models left off. That means a particularly well specified camera that doesn't feel like it's lacking something. I'd argue that Nikon would need to do some level of (a), (b), (c), and (d) for this model. I'd also argue that this camera has to be essentially the D7500 replacement, which also means it has to go a bit beyond where the D7500 currently is if the Z50 II is moving closer to that level.
  • Z90 — Now that the X-H2S specs are known, any model with the Z90 numbering would have to be nothing short of a DX Z9: high performance in every aspect, with the most solid build of a DX camera Nikon can manage. That means state-of-the-art (a), (b), (c), and (d). In essence, this model has to replace a D500, and do that well.

Let's talk a bit about where I feel the competitors currently slot in. Sony is really in between the Z50 II and any future Z70 with their most recent A6### models, while the Canon R7 is really in between where the Z70 and Z90 would be. As noted, Fujifilm with their X-H2S is clearly targeted where a Z90 would need to be.

The Z50, Zfc, and Z30 triplets feel like they're being pushed down in the market by all the more recent competitors and the rumored coming ones. I have little complaint with the triplets as a base upon which to build out Z DX. My Z50 gets a lot of use as a backup and casual walk-around camera, and is clearly up to the job. 

The R7 is really the first APS-C mirrorless camera I've seen to date that truly puts Nikon on notice, though. Yes, I know the Fujifilm crowd is going to start barking at that comment, but as decent as the Fujifilm cameras to date have been, they've not been state-of-the-art in autofocus performance, have created their own twins and triplets in self-competition, and the zoom and telephoto lens offerings I've found to be a little on the wanting side. That was made clear to me when I kept putting the kit 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens on my Fujifilm bodies instead of the 16-50mm, 16-55mm, or 16-80mm. Moreover, I don't have an X-H2S in my hands yet ;~). So my comment is about older, existing Fujifilm bodies.

In my first outings with the R7—coupled with the budget 100-400mm f/5.6-8 lens, which makes for a compact long telephoto kit—I felt a lot more like I was back with something in the D7500 to D500 range, probably a bit closer to the D500 than D7500. Note the things I said Nikon needed to do for the new models I suggest, above. Well, the R7 has (a) in a 33mp sensor that's essentially state of the art. The R7 certainly has (c) in that Canon seems to have cobbled the R3 autofocus into the R7 somehow. Plus the R7 has (d) with its sensor-based IBIS. Couple all of that with 15/30 fps and no significant feature crippling I can see, and the R7 is a solid new APS-C contestant that's going to attract a lot of buyers. Buyers that used to buy a Nikon DSLR.

Don't get me wrong, the R7 isn't without faults. It has the worst mechanical shutter shock at low shutter speeds I've seen (and the electronic shutter has some clear rolling attributes to it). The buffer isn't as good as I'd like considering the other abilities. Some of the controls and customizations are a little awkward, though not ultimately problematic. The video side is a bit less than I'd expect out of a higher-end camera these days. The build quality looks cheaper than it is. The EVF experience isn't as smooth as I'd like. As you can see, I'm building up a pretty good list of things where a competitive camera could steal Canon's (current) thunder. (Are you listening, Nikon?)

But here's the thing: the Canon R7 is already out on the market with a range of RF telephoto lenses that are budget and handling friendly (though a bit low in light gathering ability). Where's Nikon? Apparently off with Ferris Bueller. And I don't expect them to return until 2023. So Canon now has a clear shot at the holiday season buyers. Former Nikon buyers. 

Nikon's Fraternal Triplets Aren't the Answer

Once again we get the "what is Nikon doing?" questions, the "Nikon is going the wrong way" statements, and, of course, more heated complaints than those. I'd have to agree, unfortunately. 

I'm not sure the Japanese companies realize it, but the old Japanese CES (consumer electronics) game plan is completely broken when it comes to cameras (and quite a few other product categories, as well). It all has to do with quantity. Simply put, you don't have the unit demand necessary to let you use the price elasticity of demand ladder across a line of products by simply de-contenting to produce the lower end products. 

The irony is that there is a significant and strong demand for entry camera products (crossover from mobile phone users). However, that demand just isn't for a feature/performance crippled version of a flagship product. There's no doubt in my mind that millions of smartphone owners would embrace a camera that had more performance and flexibility than what's in their phone. The problem is that they don't want to give up the phone's other capabilities (e.g. connectivity for sharing, on-the-fly editing for style, etc.). 

Initially the camera makers thought they could address those points by simply bolting Android onto the back of the camera. Besides the frankencamera nature that ensues with such a dual personality, there's the issue of cost: you basically just added the cost of a phone to the camera, because Android isn't powering everything in the camera (nor do we want it to, for reasons I'll go into at a later date).   

Part of Nikon's problem is their mismatched messaging. To the shareholders Nikon is saying "we'll just make higher-priced units, ignore volume, and make our usual profit or more." While Nikon doesn't define what "mid/high-end models for Pro/hobbyists" means in their shareholder presentations, it's clear that "entry-level models" are supposed to disappear. Yet, here we once again have Nikon introducing an entry-level model. Only they mask this by claiming instead it's a vlogging/video creator camera. 

Meanwhile, the Canon (R7) and Fujifilm (X-H2S) appear to be executing the plan that Nikon should be following. The plan that I enumerated several years ago. 

One problem for Nikon is their addiction to Big Box. It's not nearly as bad as it once was (at least here in the US), but the Amazon, Best Buy, Costco, and Target type outlets move a lot of product for NikonUSA, and the same thing happens in several other countries I've examined, particularly in Asia. If Nikon can just get that Tik-Tok/Instagram influencer crowd hawking Z30's, then they could get their Big Box engine restarted. Yes, we all dream ;~).

Tech products need fast inventory turns probably more so than a "regular" product does, in that the cash generated is needed to fund serious R&D downstream. The Big Boxes can generate those turns (and cash) faster than a network of small, local camera dealers. 

My bigger problem is this, though: the Z30, Z50, and Zfc are basically the same camera in three different skins. Nikon's trying a bit too hard to differentiate the same basic image quality and capability experience at a range of price points with differing UX and target audience. And ultimately fails at that, in my opinion. Moreover, the few available DX lenses available don't "handle" the same on these three models. For instance, the 50-250mm telephoto zoom is not a lens I'll use on the grip-less Zfc. Even with the SmallRig grip/plate installed, 250mm is a bit of a stretch for good handling. 

Ironically, Nikon's lack of appropriate lenses for the DX trio is being solved by the Chinese, particularly Viltrox. The affordable Viltrox 13mm, 24mm, 33mm, and 56mm f/1.4 autofocus lenses are quite appropriate to the Nikon DX cameras, and grab back some of that light deficit that the crop sensor suffers versus full frame. However, note that one reason why Viltrox went the Kickstarter route with the 13mm option in a Z-mount was a fear that there wouldn't be enough demand for it. Nikon's DX mirrorless volume is not the mighty flood that their DX DSLR products were. Indeed, I'm pretty sure the D3500 still outsells the Z50 worldwide, though much of this is attempting to clear the shelves on Nikon's part via targeted final distribution. 

The component shortage and lack of fab availability isn't doing Nikon any favors. We're now nearly six years into using the same basic 20mp DX image sensor and four years into EXPEED6. We need a new DX image sensor and EXPEED7's speed to change things in the Nikon DX lineup in any meaningful way, but both require an available fab and no other parts shortages to get Nikon truly competitive again. Plus lenses (buzz, buzz). 

I'm far less worried about Nikon's full frame lineup. I can see the moves they can make—even under existing supply chain constraints—that will keep things moving well in FX, albeit a bit more slowly than the customer base is currently demanding. Moreover, the FX lens parade has been one gem after another, and starting to look more and more like a "complete set." 

No, it's in DX where Nikon is once again floundering like a fish out of water. Canon's R7 will likely get Nikon off their butt, but why they're sitting on their butt is a good question to ask.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know the answer a Nikon executive will give before I even ask the question: "The proper image sensor isn't yet ready." Like that's stopped them before...

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Bonus: I believe that the decision to finally release the Z30 is essentially due to the "newness" factor. By launching the same camera yet again Nikon is keeping their DX unit volume up. The Z50 did decently when it first came out, then significantly tapered in sales. The Zfc regenerated that volume for awhile, then it too tapered. Now the Z30 regenerates the sales with basically the same parts once again. Note that each model was marketed to audiences differently (Z50 = small Z, Zfc = casual and stylish Z, Z30 = vlogger Z). Again, these three cameras produce the same still and video quality with virtually the same features and functionalities. So, the same camera is just targeted slightly different to keep its volume up. One key clue to that is that they all use the same lens ;~). (Some of you may think "lenses," but even that's a really small set that's the same across these three cameras.)

Sarcasm: Nikon's DX Plan

Three cameras and three lenses. So...

  • Buy a 50-250mm with your Z50 and glue it on.
  • Buy an 18-140mm with your Zfc and glue it on.
  • Buy a 16-50mm with your Z30 and glue it on.

Now you have the best set of dedicated compact cameras with the largest image sensor! Take that DL!

Do I hear buzzing?

Seriously, what makes me think every Z30 buyer is going to get a Megadop adapter and mount the Sony 11mm f/1.8 on it?

Nikon Announces the Unexpected/Expected Camera

The rumors have been all over the place. No EVF, EVF. Articulating screen, fixed screen, tilting screen. No cards, single card. Z50 replacement, Z50 supplement. New image sensor, old image sensor. To be introduced in mid-2021, then late 2021, then mid-2022. EXPEED6, EXPEED7. US$500, US$800, US$1000. Yes, those are all things I heard from someone claiming they had seen or been told about the camera. From the few reliable contacts in Japan who would say anything, all I could really tell is that Nikon had a new entry camera being prepped for the Z System and it had gotten a lot of internal discussion about what it should exactly be and whether they should release it at all. So maybe some of those contradictory things were actually tested and considered.

Well, today we finally know the details, as Nikon introduced the Z30. The actual camera is pretty much as one of the more persistent rumors had suggested: essentially a Z50 II without an EVF, but Nikon's marketing is promoting that as an intentional pivot to "video content creators." I'll have more to say about that down below (as in "nope" ;~), but first let's provide the details:

  • 20mp BSI sensor, EXPEED6 (same as the Z50)
  • Articulating 3" Rear LCD (same as the Zfc)
  • No EVF (but otherwise same body/controls as the Z50)
  • Vlogging accessory pack (US$150, shown above) that cobbles things already available for Z50/Zfc
  • US$710 body only, US$850 with 16-50mm kit lens

Before we get to a fuller discussion of what tactical or strategic goals the Z30 meets, let me first answer the question "will it sell?" Yes, Nikon will sell more than enough Z30's to justify its development. Even though the price point is still a little high (you need a lens), the Z30 will almost certainly add another mediocre increment to Z-mount sales. (The Z50 has never been what I'd call a top seller, and the Zfc had a brief moment when it was a stylistic choice of some, but Nikon has not gotten the same level of DX-to-FX sales in the Z-mount that they did in the F-mount. Not even close. Thus my use of the word mediocre.) 

I'm a little surprised that Nikon didn't emphasize streaming for the Z30. The Zfc is my streaming camera, and it's excellent at that; the Z30 will replace it. Definitely a market for the new camera there. And yes, despite one glaring issue (see below), its a nice product for basic video creation, too. Plus: there are still enough folk wanting to sample the Z-mount without paying a ton of money (the Foot-in-Water group, a subset of the Samplers). There are enough Z-mount users now that an always carry, more pocketable camera is a useful addition to the gear closet. Plus Nikon has enough Big Box distribution still that having a true consumer model(s) provides a place to push the Z30. 

Thus, I expect the Z30 to sell 50-100k units annually. It would do better than that if Nikon had more DX lenses (buzz, buzz) and a high-DX camera such as a Z70 or Z90. Why? Because right now we have a dearth of options for the ILC nature of the Z30, and the Z30, Z50, and Zfc are basically just the same camera in somewhat different forms; the only true growth path from a Z30 presently would be to full frame, which is a pretty big leap. 

The glaring issue is lenses. Will Nikon's huge vlogging/video creator emphasis on the Z30—it's still a perfectly usable stills camera—those folk are going to look at it and say "where's the wide angle zoom?" Heck, where's the fast wide angle prime? (Answer: Viltrox 13mm ;~) Seriously folks, I can't say BUZZ, BUZZ loud enough. (By the way, the very first bullet in Nikon's marketing for the Z30 is "help you create soft, blurred backgrounds". Uh, with an f/3.5-6.3 lens? Have they looked at what the smartphones can do and what their kit lens does? ;~)

Nikon keeps making the same entry-level, consumer model mistake over and over (dating back to the EM film SLR and the seven E lenses), so we have to conclude that either they see entry-level products as only temporary necessities, or they have failed to recognize the mistake(s) they keep making. One problem, of course, is that Nikon rarely puts top team members managing the low-end cameras (the Nikon 1 was an exception, though the DSLR side tied that manager's hands behind his back first). Then they decide to starve their efforts with minimal lens set. I'll wager a Benjamin that Canon quickly will do better with their nascent RF-S (APS-C) lineup than Nikon does with their now nearly three year old Z-DX lineup. 

Most of the Internet posts both prior to and now after the launch of the Z30 have centered around whether or not Nikon even needs a camera like the Z30. A sub-component of that is whether or not an entry-level camera is even needed (see also my Nikon strategy comments, below). 

My answer would tend to be yes. It's a very big leap from even the best iPhone to a mid-level mirrorless camera. That's a leap in quality, performance, and in function, but particularly it's a huge jump up in complexity. And, of course, there's the issue of price. The complexity and price problems mean that it's a huge friction to get someone to make the leap from an iPhone to, say, a Z6. While a Z5 and the DX cameras help with the price issue, they don't solve the complexity friction. The Z30 is functional and approachable enough that it will attract some of those vlogger/video creators that are currently just using phones.

The customer the camera companies most need to attract into the interchangeable lens camera (ILC) world is the young person who's active in social media and creative-minded, but who is starting to realize that there are limits to a phone-based approach. That person doesn't have a lot of disposable income, and wants mostly to take a clear step forward, not a leap across the Grand Canyon. The operative question isn't how you and I—the readers of this site are on the high-end enthusiast side and quite experienced—react to the Z30, but how that potential young customer does. My long-held question is whether Nikon—or any of the other camera companies, for that matter—sees any customer clearly. 

My answer is no, they don't. 

The long-held practice by the Japanese consumer electronic companies is that to create an entry-level product you take your higher end product(s) and just de-content them. The problem with this approach today for cameras is that the consumer the camera companies needs to attract isn't exactly asking for a simpler and less expensive version of an existing pro product. Again, the operative assumption is that they instead want to move into things that their phone can't do, but they also don't want to lose the things that their phone can do. The Japanese are de-contenting downward, the customer wants to have content added upward. Those two things aren't meeting in the middle ;~).

In this sense, the Z30 is mostly a de-contented Z50 (no EVF), it fails the "user needed product" test. Of course, Nikon feels "burned" by the Nikon 1, which wasn't a de-contented camera at all. The problem there is due to the quake, tsunami, and flood, the Nikon 1 was about the only thing Nikon could make in quantity at the time, and they were overpricing it to try to keep revenues up. Remember, it had some novel features that would tend attract that young, creative-minded user, including Motion Snapshot and Smart Photo Selector (both of which should be in a low-end ILC, but aren't). It was also, by far, the cheapest camera to produce (despite the hand-painted Nikon 1 on the front). 

One final thing that's getting a lot of attention (again) is what does Nikon mean by "entry-level models" versus "mid-high-end models." Those are the words used in the Nikon business results and strategy documents that all Nikon executives are quoting from, and there's a specific chart in one of presentation slides that indicates Nikon isn't expecting to make any entry models by their FY2025 (which would be mostly in 2024, though there's some conflict in terms of what year the Nikon executives are actually referring to). 

So what is this new camera? Entry-level or mid/high-level? By sleight of hand, the Z30 entry model becomes a mid-level vlogging choice ;~O. 

Another of the statements somewhat hidden in Nikon's strategic documents is that there's also an influx of young users who want video capability. It seems that Nikon is trying to grab onto those folk while there's still grabbing to be done, but eventually wanting to move those users up market. So "entry for now, but mid/high later" seems to be a thing in Nikon's planning that's not being specifically said. 

The Log Jam at 400mm

bythom bythom 400mm

With the announcement of the 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens today, Nikon has provided yet another way to get to 400mm. I think we need to deal with that before we get to the specifics of the lens:

  • 400mm f/2.8 VR S
  • 400mm f/4.5 VR S
  • 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S
  • 70-200mm f/2.8 with 2.x teleconverter

So, 400mm f/2.8, f/4.5, and f/5.6, all S: take your choice in the Z-mount. In the meantime, we have no 70-300mm lens, nor has the 200-600mm that's long been on the road map and was originally promised by April 2022 shown up. Instead, we keep getting 400mm solutions.

Not that I have a problem with 400mm. In many ways it's my preferred focal length for much of my work, as I don't want to be too close or too far from subjects. But I already have the f/2.8 and the zoom, so do I need the lens just announced?

That's a question a lot of you should be asking, but I suspect you'll be asking it a different way: "I already have the 100-400mm, so I really need two-thirds of a stop benefit?" Good question. Which brings us to the actual specifics of the new lens.

At 44 ounces (1245g) with the tripod collar attached and 9.3" (235mm) in length, once again we have a lens that's similar to the 70-200mm/100-400mm sizes and weights. Yes, the 400mm is 4 ounces lighter than the 100-400mm, but that's not enough for me to make that a clearcut thing to tilt my decision. Just as I see a lot of people opting for a compact bag with the 70-200mm and 100-400mm, I could see another group opting for the 70-200mm and 400mm. Group one is going for flexibility, while the latter group is going for aperture speed. Moreover, a 1.4x teleconverter nets you 560mm f/6.3 with the new lens, too.

Is it PF (phase fresnel) or not? One of the early pre-production videos made a specific comment about the 400mm f/4.5 not being PF, likely because the 800mm f/6.3 has the words "Phase Fresnel Lens" in yellow just under the focal length/aperture marking. The 400mm f/4.5 making the test rounds prior to announcement did not have those words and marking. Besides making a long telephoto lens lighter, the PF designs do something else: they make the lens overall shorter than the focal length. 

With traditional telephoto optical designs, when you measure from the front of the lens to the focal plane, you'll get something very close to the focal length in distance. A 400mm lens designed traditionally, will tend to be 400mm from front element to focal plane. The 100-400mm was the first recent telephoto from Nikon I've seen that didn't replicate that (it's 336mm in length when zoomed to 400mm). The new 400mm f/4.5 is about 250mm from front to focal plane. It appears that Nikon is seeing an advantage to telephoto lens design in the Z-mount, and able to shorten a lens from the generalized focal length expectation. 

So, the 400mm f/4.5 is not PF, but it's another of the "shorter than expected lenses." So yes, Nikon is starting to show off some of the design benefits that come from that large, close lens mount. 

As usual, Nikon is going with what they know in terms of the tripod collar and foot. Same style as a number of previous lenses, still no Arca-Swiss compatible plate, and still with the same removable foot feature that's triggered a lot of angst (and prompts me to put a security clip on the lens; hmm, product idea: a Kensington compatible drop prevention cable). 

Given that virtually every 70-200mm and 100-400mm user is already subbing in a third party foot, it seems that Nikon hasn't actually seen what is happening in the field, or has specifically chosen to ignore user demand. Either way is a problem. That said, the lens is small and light enough that many will be tempted to just remove the foot and photograph with it "naked." The problem with that is carrying the camera/lens combo. As light as it is, you still don't want that much weight hanging off the front of the camera supported only by straps on the camera. 

The US3299 price is a further confusion in this 400mm log-jam. Ironically, no matter how Nikon had priced the 400mm, I'm pretty sure there were going to be people who were surprised. Pre-announcement, I saw many believing it would be less than US$2000 because it's a "simpler" lens than the 100-400mm, others who thought it would be more like US$4000. (Disclosure: I was betting US$3500 from the beginning.)

Nikon now has 300mm and 500mm PF lenses (very good DX focal lengths) and 400mm PF-like and 800mm PF lenses (more FX-friendly focal lengths). So, in one sense, I'm all for the new lens: it rounds out a set of choices. Yes, I know the 300mm and 500mm require the FTZ adapter, but I haven't found that to be a problem. Indeed, the 500mm with the FTZ II seems to focus faster in some cases on my Z9 than it does on my D6. (I still hope Nikon eventually transfers the 300mm and 500mm designs over to the Z-mount, as not dealing with an adapter and having the same controls/locations would be nice.)

Next up: several of you asked me the following question in the run-up to the f/4.5 and it's time to answer it: do you really need the out of focus blur the f/2.8 lens is capable of, or is f/4.5 going to be okay? You're probably not going to like my answer ;~).

Most of us using 400mm lenses don't have a lot of control over what's in the background and how far it is from the subject we're photographing. I noticed that one introductory preview was trying to say that the background blur between the f/2.8 and f/4.5 for his baseball position didn't differ enough for him to be concerned about it. Well, his examples told a bit of a different story, IMHO, but the problem is that sometimes you're in a position where you have a nearer, busy background, sometimes you aren't. There's a pretty good variation between stadia and photography access points, particularly at the college level. His example was more what I'd call a mid-deep background (and the stadium wasn't full of people wearing distracting things and colors, either). 

The primary reason I use a 400mm f/2.8 is not simply for lower light work and higher shutter speeds, it's as much to give me an extra stop of flexibility when I need to restrict depth of field to take a background out of contention with my subject. Couple that with something I've noticed with the zooms—that mid-deep detail can get VR artifacts—and yes, Virginia, f/2.8 is for lovers. Wait. Uh... where's my metaphor book when I need it? 

The only thing I didn't like about the 100-400mm at 400mm f/5.6—which I need to add to my review since it appears I didn't get that in—is that in close-in and busy backgrounds with VR active, I sometimes saw a busy-ness that was distracting. This has more to do with the position and movement of the in-lens VR elements than the bokeh. Couple those VR artifacts with something that's not totally out of focus, and it results in a background I'd rather not have, if I could avoid it. 

So. f/2.8 is better than f/4.5 is better than f/5.6 in that respect, I believe. Of course, I don't know how the VR behaves in the 400mm f/4.5 yet, so can't say for sure how it fits into what I just wrote. The VR in the f/2.8 behaves very well, the 100-400mm considerably less so in the out of focus light rays. A lot of that has to do with the positioning of the VR element(s). 

Finally, we get to this: when will you get yours? 

Here we go again. The 400mm f/4.5 is going to be a very popular lens, and Nikon marketing is still managing to stir up plenty of pre-release interest with their pre-production loaner activity and social media teasing. If you're not at your dealer's loading dock when the UPS truck shows up from Nikon, you probably won't see one in person for quite some time. By the time your dealer checks that box in at his dock, it will be going right out the door the other direction.

So we're back to the same old, same old:

  • If you're an NPS member, put in an NPS Priority Purchase request immediately after reading this. Use the turbo feature on the NikonPro Web site. 
  • If you're not an NPS member, your reputable local dealer is your best friend. Get on their list, stat. Promise to bring them a bagel or donut of their choice when your 400mm eventually shows up. 
  • If you're a gambler, you can constantly check the Amazon or Best Buy inventory to see if they suddenly have an available unit pop up. You'll have to be faster-to-click than the other 1000 people doing this, though.

______________________

Bonus: one oddity of every new interesting Z-mount lens introduction is the "will Nikon make a Z-mount to F-mount converter" question that suddenly starts showing up in my In Box (and in online fora). The answer is still "no." It'll always be no. But the question also shows that a lot of DSLR users aren't understanding some of the benefits of mirrorless cameras and their implications. Nikon did a terrible job of describing why a new mount was necessary and what benefits it provided when they introduced the Z System, and that hasn't really ever been fixed in their marketing. So people hear about new, better lenses, and then believe that they could be converted to work on their old DSLR. This produces a friction with an existing customer who believes that Nikon is intentionally neglecting them. Well, Nikon is, but not for the reason they think. 

My position with those folk is increasingly becoming "be happy with the DSLR products available and enjoy the declining costs of adding used lenses, or get with the new Z System program if you want better products." There's absolutely nothing wrong with a D500, D780, D850, or D6, and they'll still produce excellent pictures for about as far as we can see forward clearly. Personally, I'm seeing benefits in moving to mirrorless, though I should caution anyone reading too much into that to remember that I have to live on the front edge of what's possible, or else risk becoming non-competitive with my professional peers. 

Site Updating

As part of adding the latest new Nikon Z-mount products to the zsystemuser.com site, I also too the time this past week to make a quick pass of the entire site. To that end:

  • I've added Quick Comments to all the Nikkor lenses in the Currently Available Lenses section, and added missing review links, as well. Yes, there's even a review link added that's not active yet ;~).
  • I made a slight re-arrangement of the lens section to keep the menu system from getting too out of hand: articles about lenses now have their own section.
  • I updated many (but not all yet) of the charts on some of the section landing pages.
  • I updated the FAQ pages on most of the cameras to current info.
  • I moved the Z9 in Africa Blog pages to the Camera Articles section, again to keep the top-level menus simpler and less cluttered.
  • I updated a few missing pieces of info throughout the site, and updated the SEO-related bits that help search engines with the site.
  • I split out an autofocus section for third party lenses (now there's MF lens data and AF lens data that are separate).
  • I sketched out and mostly finished writing several new pages that will appear soon. Likewise, there are five lens reviews that are pending a final proofreading and stat check. Three other lens reviews have been started, but will take longer to get to publishing.
  • Updated my assessment of the two Nikon teleconverters.

What's Needed to Stay Competitive?

Some of you are misinterpreting my articles from last week (urgently needed, room for). So let me state things a different way. Here is the ranked order in which I would be tackling new mirrorless bodies if I were in charge of the Nikon line. In order of importance, from most to least:

  1. Z6 III — This needs to happen later this year (2022), and the result needs to move the platform to a higher resolution sensor (probably the same 33mp one as the Sony A7 IV, perhaps with some Nikon tweaking again). This nets you a 6K+ video capability and an extra 1000 pixels horizontally in stills, without really losing anything else (frame rate is likely to be the same as the current model, but...) The big changes need to come at the EVF (no more slide slow at 10 fps), and the focus system, both of which would be hand-me-down things from the Z9. That's important because many of the agency-type photographers are opting for the Z6 level of camera, if not as their primary camera, than as their supplemental camera. The Z6 is a product Nikon can't afford to let slip behind the competition. Goal: as close to a Z9 Junior as possible.
  2. Z70/Z90 — Assuming the Z6 III happens as I just suggested, then this model should probably be a Z70. If the Z6 III doesn't happen or comes up lame, then this model really needs to be a Z90 and all that implies. Nikon needs to prove they can get beyond 20mp in DX, as well as deliver something at or above the D7500 level (the Z50 is in between D5600 and D7500, in my opinion, and closer to the D5600). The risk to Nikon is that the Canon (R7) and Fujifilm (X-H2S) simply divert the serious crop-sensor buyer to another mount. Fujifilm already got a big nibble from the Nikon D### crowd with their previous X-T# models, and that's still impacting Nikon sales. Nikon can't afford another full round of this type of customer erosion. Nikon has (most of) the lenses to compete in the high-tier APS-C world, they just don't have the crop sensor mirrorless camera to mount them on. "Too late" or "not enough" with this product is Nikon playing with fire. If late or not enough comes to fruition, Nikon would be better off just dropping DX and concentrating on making sure that they don't make any mistakes with the FX line. The Z70/Z90, by the way, is the camera I'm most worried that Nikon development doesn't see correctly. And it's my #2 need for them to do! Goal: as close to a mirrorless D500 as possible. Price isn't as important as getting close to or better than the D500.
  3. High Pixel CountI'm not giving this camera a name, because it could be done either at the Z7 or Z8 level. Nikon likes making the same mistakes (if they didn't, then they're just oblivious to the fact that they're making mistakes, or failing to correct them). Nikon had the DSLR world locked up early on, but then Canon came along and out-pixeled Nikon with key customers (1D, 1Ds). Nikon's response actually went the wrong way (D2h and the delayed and one-note D2x). Doh! When you "stall" like that, you rarely get a chance to win those customers back. Here we are again with a similar situation in mirrorless with the 61mp Sony A7R Mark IV and a rumored Canon 100mp whopper supposedly coming in early 2023. Nikon needs to show they can play this game and win (though the fact that they're already late means best case is probably second place in terms of unit volume, not an outright win; that's another repeat of a past mistake). One thing that has hurt Sony is that they are totally stuck on the hybrid use case. A high megapixel camera doesn't make for a great video camera, but instead of making it a far better stills camera, Sony (and everyone else) thinks they have to layer in video, too. Heck, even Fujifilm spent too much time with video on the medium format GFX models (I know of no one actually using that ability in conjunction with their 50mp/100mp need). Fortunately, Sony didn't make their 61mp camera clearly better than the 45-50mp cameras, so there's currently room to leap-frog. Goal: re-establish a position and get above the 61mp of the primary competitor with a well-focused model.
  4. Unique Camera — Right now, Nikon really doesn't have a product category that they can call their own other than perhaps the Zfc, and even that some might say is just a Fujifilm clone of some sort. Z9? A1 and R3 (and eventual R1). Z6? (A7 and R6). Pretty much every current Nikon mirrorless camera is "what you'd expect" and similar to competitor's offerings. Yet Sony has the vlogging focused ZV and AC cameras, Canon has the Eos Cinema line, while Fujifilm has the GFX line, all of which are (mostly) lacking direct competition. Each of Nikon's three biggest competitors thus has more than one product they can point to that's pretty uniquely theirs. Again, Nikon just has that lonely Zfc. Heck the kit lens for the Zfc was really just a 28mm with a metal band on it to hint at retro, or a silverized kit zoom. Mailed in, Nikkor group. Faux unique. Meanwhile, plenty of categories are still wide open in mirrorless. Don't believe me? Tough. Pocketable. Social. All AI simple UX. True, not faux, retro. There's basically nothing where Nikon's engineering has stuck a stake in the ground and said "try to match that, Canfujony." Seriously, in tech, you need to "own" something, otherwise you're just perceived as a follower. What is it that Nikon owns? Goal: Find a Nikon-owns-it niche and lock it down.

No, I don't see a Z30, Z50 II, Z5 II, Z7 III, or Zf as being critical to Nikon's competitiveness. All should probably exist at some point, but none are an urgent need that's going to shore up Nikon's market position and bring them new glory. 

Meanwhile, some of you want #2 or #3, but I'm actually seeing more of you wanting something not on my numbered list. Unfortunately, it appears that Nikon is about to announce something else that isn't on my list and you aren't asking for. 

Messaging is important, particularly in stagnant markets such as interchangeable lens cameras. The Z9 sent almost too good a message—people are trying to buy it that probably shouldn't—but the Z9 needs to be quickly backed up with other products that send similar, strong competitive messages. A Z30 or Zf wouldn't do that. A Z50 II, Z5 II, Z6 III, or Z7 III that's your basic iteration doesn't do it, either. It takes something truly new, truly pushing the envelope forward, truly answering the gaps being revealed by competitor's products. Which is why my new model importance list is short and to the point. 

DSLR versus Mirrorless Focus Differences

bythom int bots kalihari April2022 Z9 21760

Mirrorless: Z9 and 400mm f/2.8

bythom US CO Boulder WSU-versus-CO D500 07220

DSLR: D500 and 500mm f/4

Particularly now that we have the Z9, it's time to go back and make some points about autofocus and how it differs between the Nikon DSLRs and the Z System cameras. The Z9, in particular, starts to eradicate the last remaining DSLR advantages, but isn't without some disadvantages.

So let's examine a series of focus traits and see where we stand:

  • Focus precision — A slightly mixed story. On static subjects, the Z cameras focus more precisely than the DSLRs, and particularly so as you move from f/4 lenses to faster lenses (especially true of f/1.4 and f/1.8 primes). That said, the geometry of the DSLR system's math is a little more precise, though the DSLR focus system doesn't always take advantage of that. With moving subjects, the DSLR cameras long held the advantage on focus precision. At least until face/eye detect—and now the Z9's subject detect—came along. The Z9 I'd now say is slightly better than the D6 for many (but not all) moving subjects, but those two cameras are both in a category that almost no other cameras match to start with. (No, a Sony A7 Mark IV doesn’t match a D6 in focus precision, as much as some will insist. However, to get the best of both the Nikon and Sony, you'd need to learn how their focus system works, which not everyone does.)
  • Focus speed — Nikon has always been dinged on focus speed. Technically, Nikon cameras do tend to think just a little more about where to put focus before doing so than do Canon cameras (and to lesser degree, also Sony). This gets talked about often as "focus acquisition" speed, though there are other variables in that general category (e.g. lens motor performance). Here, I see a lot of variability across cameras and lenses, even within Nikon's lineup. The D5/D6 distinguish themselves from the D500/D850 in getting to initial focus, probably because they have a faster, dedicated focus CPU to do the work. All the Nikon cameras, DSLR or mirrorless, do have a tendency to miss initial focus if the lens is far off the actual focus distance when you press the shutter release (which is why I've always suggested keeping your lens pre-focused at about the distance you expect to be photographing). The Z9 is better at this than the Z6/Z7 cameras, but more like a D850 than a D6. In some cases, I can see the exact way the Z9 is thinking when subject recognition is turned on: recognized human, now see upper body, now face, now eyes, let’s stick with the eyes. In good light with well distinguished subjects, that sequence is near instantaneous, but in poor light with partially disguised/turned subjects and poor exposure, not so much. In terms of the camera part of focus speed, the D6 and Z9 and nearly equal in most cases, though those cameras are ever so slightly slower to initial focus than the Canon R3/R5/R6/1DX. So slightly that it's extremely difficult to measure, but it's a real thing that's different between Canon and Nikon. Finally, a curiosity: many of us have discovered that the Z9 using the FTZ adapter and F-mount lens is slightly faster to focus with a teleconverter mounted than virtually any other Nikon body with the same combination lens/converter. 
  • Focus tracking — When Nikon added 3D-tracking to the DSLRs with color and pattern awareness, tracking objects—even ones that went outside the focus region briefly—became uncanny. Initial attempts on the Z cameras (called Subject tracking, which derived from a Nikon 1 tech) didn't really provide the same level of assurance. All the pre-Z9 cameras significantly lag the DSLRs in tracking. 3D-tracking on the Z9, however, brings mirrorless much closer to the DSLRs in this respect, though not perfectly so. I see "tracking drift" on occasions with the Z9 that I don't see with my D6, which either tracks or doesn't. Also, the CSM #A3 options have a real impact with some AF-area modes on the Z9, but not for 3D-tracking. Finally, on a Z9 if you start 3D-tracking on an out-of-focus subject, it doesn't track as well (probably because the color/pattern it noted aren't the same in focus as they are out of focus).
  • Dynamic and Group focusing — Most Nikon users don't fully understand these two AF-area modes, so let me cut to the chase: mirrorless and DSLRs seem about equivalent with their Dynamic-area focus choices these days, but the DSLRs still have the advantage of Group focus. What's that advantage? A real guarantee of closest subject priority within the focus constraint box (and a wide choice of those boxes on a D6). Nikon has confused the closest subject priority on the Z system cameras: if a subject is found, it won’t use close focus as a priority. If a subject is not found, it will often use close focus as a priority, but not always (bright backgrounds are a distraction).
  • Short axis focus discrimination — Another DSLR win, particularly on cameras such as the D6 where all focus detection is bidirectional (both the horizontal and vertical axis are covered equally). All of Nikon's mirrorless cameras use the old Nikon 1-derived system: rows of focus-aware photosites, and those rows are spread apart by 12 pixels. That—coupled with the way the separator lenses are created in the microlens layer means that focus information on the mirrorless cameras is mostly discriminating on the long axis. The problem is this: if you try to focus on part of a subject that doesn't have much long axis detail but has significant short axis detail, the Z cameras don't focus as well, if at all. The top DSLRs don't have this issue. 
  • Focus in low light — A tricky question (see also Focus Precision, above). The DSLRs often seem to focus fast in low light, but certainly not precisely with truly fast aperture lenses. This has a lot to do with the outer image circle areas that influence the focus decision: the fast DSLR primes have a lot of spherical aberration and other traits that provide false clues to the focus system (and if you’re not using the fastest aperture, a lot of the DSLR primes have focus shift in them). (Aside: Bill Claff has just re-published Marianne Oelund's technical breakdown of Nikon phase detect. Note the figure "Projections by Field Lenses onto Plane of Separator Mask": this is one of the main problems with fast lenses on DSLRs). The fast Z-mount lenses tend to have much better behaved outer image circle optics, and the on-sensor geometry (no mirrors and alignment) also favors them. A Z system camera with a fast lens set properly tends to focus in situations where my eyes can't. I can't really say that with my DSLRs. However, here's a caveat: the Z system cameras need to have the exposure at the focus point set right. Underexposure at the focus point makes them focus more poorly than the DSLRs.
  • Focus region — Because of the DSLR phase detect system geometry, accurate focus is restricted to a narrower region of the frame on full frame cameras than on mirrorless cameras. The D6 expands that out to almost the entire area described by the rule of thirds points, but that still means that you're only covering about the central 11% of the frame. All the Z cameras cover about 90% of the frame, a decided advantage (assuming you can move the focus sensor to your subject fast enough ;~).
  • Focus magnification — A clear mirrorless win. You can magnify the viewfinder instantly while composing with the Z cameras—at the expense of slowing the viewfinder frame rate down—but you can only magnify images you've already taken with the DSLR. (Technically, you could use a physical magnifier accessory on the viewfinder with a DSLR, but those are a clumsy option and not very practical except for perhaps, macro photography.) Mirrorless gets another bonus: on a Z9 you can both magnify the area in the viewfinder and use focus peaking simultaneously.
  • Focus aperture(Before we drop into this subject, I need to point out that most phase detect systems are "best" at around f/4, for reasons I won't go into here. The phase detect "sweet spot" tends to be from f/2.8 to f/5.6, with apertures outside that range starting to add complications that impact focus.) This is a clear win for Nikon mirrorless (not all camera makers do the same thing as Nikon does here). DSLRs always focus at maximum aperture, which is fine until you start adding teleconverters to slow lenses, or try to use a really fast lens. The DSLR approach is not so fine if the lens has any focus shift to it (different focus achieved at different apertures with the same focus element position). The Z cameras focus at the aperture you set up to f/5.6, so focus shift influencing your results would only happen at apertures above f/5.6. But the Z cameras also aren't filtering the light through a partially silvered mirror, so they also tend to work for focus at incredibly small apertures. Most DSLRs stop focusing around f/8 as a maximum aperture because enough light doesn’t get to the focus sensors via the separators. I've used f/16 lens (equivalent via teleconverters) and still had my Z camera acquire focus with no trouble (note that this intersects with low light, though; you can't expect f/16 to find focus with the light at -6EV ;~)
  • DOF viewing — With DSLRs we had a DOF Preview function, but this dims the viewfinder incredibly in order to show you that, and that's distracting and problematic for some. The Z's give you precise DOF viewing (with Apply settings to live view set) up to f/5.6. Above that, you have to resort to a different tactic to see the DOF, but you can still see it in the viewfinder without dimming.
  • Flash support — The DSLRs allow use of the red focus assist lamps on the flash units, the mirrorless cameras do not. This has to do with color receptivity. The mirrorless cameras have their focus sensors on the blue/green rows of the image sensor, so aren't as good at seeing the deep red light of the assist. 

So, The Z's are doing quite well compared to the DSLRs post Z9 (and firmware updates for the other models). I look at things a bit differently than this point-by-point view of the world, though. I have a D6 (best Nikon DSLR) and a Z9 (best Nikon mirrorless). Do I feel one is clearly better than the other at focus? No, they're just somewhat different, and I have to set and manage them differently. For the sports and wildlife photography that I mostly do, both cameras work exceptionally well for me once I've got them set properly. For landscape and macro photography, I'm preferring the Z7 II to the D850 these days, mostly because of focus precision and focus magnification. Your mileage may vary.

Of course most of you just want to "set autofocus" and forget it. While it's true that the latest cameras—DSLR or mirrorless—often work okay for all of you that use the "one and done" approach to settings, you simply won't get the best results that are possible without learning the nuances of autofocus and taking some control back from the camera. That applies to the Z9 as well as every other camera I've used, and from any camera manufacturer. 

One of the reasons why I keep coming back from sports and wildlife sessions with well-focused images even under extreme motion and speeds, is that I've learned to "play my instrument" at least at the level of a master craftsman, if not virtuoso. The only way you get to that level is to learn and practice. 

So if anything in the above struck you as something you didn't know or weren't approaching right, consider yourself in the learning stage. No go out and practice!

Z9 Bits and Pieces

  1. I've long had a back and forth with some about how well the Z9 focuses in low light. My results seem better than their experience. When it finally sunk into my head that the focus decision wasn't coming from a pre-Picture Control data stream, a little Aha! moment happened: what's your Picture Control? Since then I've surveyed the folk I was debating with. They're all using the Auto Picture Control and haven't really changed any parameters. I'm using the Neutral Picture Control with one parameter changed: Sharpening. While it's really difficult to get any repeatable, controlled evidence that this creates a difference, it sure seems like a clear difference when I change between Auto (at defaults) and Neutral (sharpened considerably) in a low contrast scene of 1/40, f/2.8, ISO 3200. 
  2. There's a new battery in town that seems to work fine in both the Z9 and the MH-33 charger: the Power2000 ACD-800 (available at this site's exclusive advertiser, B&H). Curiously, it's listed at 3800mAh (the EN-EL18D is 3300mAh). So far, the Power2000 is the only third party battery I've found that reliably works in the camera, in the camera during USB-C charging, and in the MH-33 battery charger. I did find it curious that my EN-EL18D battery suddenly asked to be calibrated after using the Power2000 for one session, but I'm finding that the EN-EL18D is asking to be calibrated much more often than the earlier EN-EL18's. That's been true of both my experience and that of all the other Z9 users I know.

Here's a question that came up that needs to be answered: "If I record raw 12-bit 8K video at 60 fps, I'd be getting the same thing as if the camera were set to NEF 12-bit and had a 60 fps mode, right? I can just extract a video frame to get a still."

Probably not, for a number of reasons. First, 8K video is 16:9 aspect ratio and can have a bit of a crop with certain settings (e.g. Electronic VR), so you wouldn't be getting 8256x5504 pixel images. Best case is that you get 8256x4644 pixels. Second, if you set N-Log, which you probably should, the "data" is no longer linear, but now sports a non-linear curve to try to preserve dynamic range. Third, autofocus works differently in video as the camera tries to avoid abrupt changes that are jarring in video (though you can "tune" this some with Custom Settings #G6 and #G7). You'll certainly end up with some frames that aren't in focus. Next, if you also want to use the video as video, you'd probably be keeping the shutter speed down near 1/60 in order to get the frame-to-frame blur we associate with most film/video work. The minute you start cranking the shutter speed up to, say, BIF-necessary levels (1/2000+), the video looks artificial and is probably no longer usable when cut into normal video. Meanwhile, you can't extract a still from the raw video recording methods (at least with current firmware), so you'd have to frame extraction with a third party video editor, which at this point is mostly DaVinci Resolve (the only one that really understands Nikon's NEV files at the moment).

In short, you've got a lot of hassles approaching "fast stills" via the video method. I prefer the C30 approach (full frame JPEG at 30 fps), as it's both simpler, uses the still aspects of the camera, and if set right, generates better looking images. 

What Cameras Are There Room For?

Product lines are always malleable things that tend to shape shift over time. Sometimes that's because the producing company doesn't quite get their targeting right, sometimes the anomalies are due to availability of the right components, sometimes it's just short-term (easy pickings) targeting to grab a few extra sales. Nikon's been guilty of all three at times in the past.

The current Z System camera lineup is not particularly well rationalized. Consider:

  • Z50 vs. Zfc — Basically the same camera with different UI, and without a lot of price differentiation. Perhaps that picks up a few extra sales at the US$900-1000 price point, but I'll bet that a truly differentiated DX camera would have picked up more. 
  • Z5 vs. Z6 — Keeping the original Z6 in the lineup tends to hurt the Z5 sales. US$1300 (Z5 current price) versus US$1600 (Z6 current price) really isn't a lot of pricing difference for some clear performance and feature benefits. But without the Z6 in the lineup, the price differential from the Z5 to the Z6 II at US$2000 would tend to be too high to generate any up sells. This is one of the areas where things get really tricky. Leaving older cameras in the lineup—Sony's leaving three generations in their lineup—does help dealers in trying to extract the most money from customers walking in the door. The one-on-one up sell is the go-to tactic of good sales people.
  • Z7 vs Z7 II — Again we have a pricing gap (US$400), though this time it doesn't really support a decision one direction or the other. For the more likely users of this camera level—the Z7 models are not the all-around equivalent of a D850, they do far less well on motion subjects—I think I'd just opt for the extra dollars in my pocket over the bigger buffer and added focus modes/performance. 

Then we have the gap to the Z9. Nikon has a lot of features and performance they now need to roll downward in the lineup. But they don't want to do that too aggressively lest they just move Z9 sales to Z7 III (or Z8) sales. Moreover, we have some image sensor issues. Nikon's stuck on 20mp DX, and 24mp and 45mp FX, and has been for going on five years or so, which is a lifetime in the ever-moving technology businesses. 

So what cameras does Nikon have room for?

My first answer comes in that stuck image sensor statement: Nikon quite obviously has an opportunity in 24-32mp DX, and in 60-100mp FX. Assuming we keep all the current models, a 26mp Z70 and an 80mp Z8 actually would broaden the product line nicely without competing with the other models. Push the stacked sensor idea down to the Z6 III while keeping that body lagging the Z9 in some meaningful ways, and then add the EXPEED7 processor to the Z7 III and build in something like pixel shift shooting, and you've got a modern, well-rounded product line. 

Will Nikon do that?

No.

So I need a second answer ;~).

The fear a lot of us have is this: Nikon will in the near term (1) modestly iterate the Z50 so that it narrowly is better than the Zfc; (2) just push EXPEED7 into the Z6 III and Z7 III, which will improve buffer and focus performance some, but not really address everything that needs to be addressed; (3) use the Z5 underpinnings to come up with a Zf instead of a Z5 II (the Z50->Zfc cycle all over again); (4) not build any additional pro-level body (e.g. Z8 in any form); and (5) despite everything they've said that contraindicates it, launch a Z30. To me, that type of development would continue to leave the Z System product line not very well rationalized. 

Thus, I need a third answer ;~).

The most likely answer is a hybrid of my two previous answers. The lineup becomes:

  • 20mp Zfc DX
  • 26m+ Z50 II DX (or possibly 26mp+ Z70)
  • 24mp Z5 and Zf FX
  • 24mp+ EXPEED7 Z6 III
  • 45mp EXPEED7 Z7 III
  • 45mp Z9

If the above lineup turns out to be the near term answer, it means Nikon is not being particularly aggressive. Truly aggressive would be:

  • A full, competitive DX line starting with the Zfc at the bottom, multiple cameras above it, and with many more DX lenses
  • Z6 III and Z7 III updates that bring the stacked sensor design down to them with all the benefits shown in the Z9
  • A 100mp Z8 in a pro-caliber body, and centered on studio and high resolution work
  • A video-only camera, and Nikon's first video-oriented Z Nikkors

Here are the problem spots for Nikon:

  • In DX (APS-C), Canon and Fujifilm are pushing higher specified products than Nikon, and more likely to pull over the remaining DSLR APS-C users.
  • In DX (APS-C), Sony is pushing the vlogging/video side aggressively, opening a new category in which Nikon doesn't really play.
  • Nikon DX starts at basically US$900 for a body, US$1000 for a kit. Competitors have lower-priced options.
  • In FX (full frame), Sony is ahead in high pixel count and Canon is also rumored to be entering with 100mp soon. Nikon has no answer.
  • In video, Canon and Sony have dedicated product lines using their mirrorless lens mount, and lenses to support those cameras.

However, playing devil's advocate, one could say that Nikon's 700k unit volume is actually relatively modest, and doesn't need a broad, deep product line. The right Z70, Z6 III, Z7 III, Z8, and Z9 should be able to accomplish most of such a volume and meet Nikon's only pro/hobbyist goal. Nikon still has a huge DSLR base from which to draw new mirrorless users over time, so getting a few cameras "right" could be construed as a better option than filling out the product line and rationalizing it more.

To answer the question in the headline, then, there's a split verdict: (a) Nikon doesn't need to add much in the way of models (a Z70 is a Z50 repositioning, and a Z8 is the sole new model); or (b) there's clearly room for at least four new models if Nikon really wants to go broad (Z70, Zf, Z8, video). This, of course, is not what the long-term rumors have suggested. Those rumors say the next Z camera will be a Z30. 

With EXPEED7 now in the bag and obviously able to perform at state-of-the-art levels out through 8K/60P, I'd say that image sensors are the real decider for what Nikon shows us next, and how the product line evolves. The problem with that, of course, is that every sensor fab in the world is basically at or over capacity at the moment, so launching new sensors in new products has taken the entire industry longer than they thought it would. 

What is Urgently Needed?

As a corollary to my other article today (What Cameras Are There Room For?), there's the notion of what cameras does Nikon urgently need to produce. The two things ("room for" versus "needed") are not the same thing, and to understand where Nikon might go next you need to resolve the differences.

First up, let's look at potential updates to the existing lineup:

  • Z50 II — Overdue, but not exactly an urgent need (see below).
  • Zfc II — Not needed at all, let alone urgently.
  • Z5 II — Not needed urgently.
  • Z6 III — Needs to happen within a year, and show a lot of Z9 technology when it appears.
  • Z7 III — Needs to happen within two years, and show some Z9 technology when it appears, along with higher resolution EVF.
  • Z9 II — Not needed; serious firmware updates can hold it up for the time being.

Some of you may disagree with my assessment there, particularly the Z6/Z7 III update timing. I say the Z7 III update isn't as urgently needed because it's already 45mp and Nikon isn't going to position it as an inexpensive Z9 in any update soon. If Nikon were to iterate the Z7 III this year, it would be a little too close to the Z9 for much less money, or Nikon would have to neuter it in some way to keep the Z9 selling. 

On the other hand, the Z6 III has to compete against the Sony A7 Mark IV, which pushed the bar forward in sensor and capability, though Nikon should be able to match that progress in most ways. The Z6 model is more important for building up the Z System user base than the Z7 model, so I assess the need to update it as being more urgent.

If you agree with me, you can see there's not a lot of urgency in iterating the existing models. That brings me to:

  • Z70 — With the Canon R7/R10, Fujifilm X-H2s, and the need for a better Z50, if Nikon is going to play in the DX ballpark, the real need is to introduce a DX camera at a higher level (and price point). That would be a Z70 (or potentially a Z90 and all that implies, but let's just establish the base level of what's urgently needed, and that's going to be a Z70). 7 has always been a good number for Nikon (D70, D7xxx, Z7), as the models in that numbering scheme have always been right at the center of the true enthusiast and low professional realm. Not too pricey, but highly capable. Nikon needs a DX model with a 7 in its name ;~). That's US$1300-1600, double the current fps, as close to the Z9 focusing experience as possible, with anything in the 20-32mp DX sensor size (and with sensor VR).

    Why do I think a Z70 is an urgent need? Well, the emails have already started flooding in from angst-driven customers asking if it's time to abandon Nikon because they have no commitment to DX, which is really all they can really afford. And lest you say "but the Z5 is affordable," you have to think complete system, not camera body. Look at how many D500 owners use the 200-500mm f/5.6 or the 300mm f/4E PF: the demand is for "not too expensive, but capable of the full range of photographic things I want to do in a smaller, lighter package". A Z70 with the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S lens would satisfy quite a few of those folks.

Yeah, that's only one urgently needed model that doesn't currently exist. But wait, you say, what about the other possibilities? Here's my take:

  • Z30 — Prototyped, developed, and held off the market for some reason (over a year). The backroom buzz is that Nikon decided it needed a different image sensor and that postponed the launch. I both see the reason why Nikon might launch an entry mirrorless camera (the Z50 body is a US$900 body, which isn't exactly an entry price point), and the reason they shouldn't: it simply doesn't move the marker for them. No matter how I evaluate it, a Z30 is going to sell fewer copies than any of the D3xxx models did, and the lack of DX lenses coupled with how much crop-sensor competition there is in mirrorless is going to make a Z30 a tough sell to start with. "Consumer" is exactly where Nikon always ends up failing. Happened with film SLRs, happened with compacts, happened with their first mirrorless entry (Nikon 1), eventually happened with DSLRs. But most important: the perception of Nikon that's hurting them is at the Z5 to Z7 level (compared to Sony A7 models). No matter how good an entry camera might be, it doesn't address the part of the lineup that Nikon needs more strength in. Finally: I'm of the belief that any entry consumer camera now will ultimately fail unless it 100% solves the social network image sharing problem simply, elegantly, and completely (more on that in a coming article). A Z30 isn't an urgent need.
  • Zf — Yes, there's probably some room for an FX sensor Zf model in the lineup, especially if we get more compact primes. But it's not an urgent need in the market. There's a subset of the customer base that thinks they want a "dials" camera again, but I think Nikon already has plenty of evidence that this is mostly a one-off opportunity (Df and Zfc) that doesn't generate long-term model lines that expand their user base. I see a Zf as a way to scrape some more money from some of the loyal customers in the short term, not something that establishes an on-going product that gets regular updates. Not an urgent need.
  • Z8 — One problem here is that everyone disagrees on what a Z8 should be. A number of you want a Z8 to be a Z9, but in a smaller body without the vertical grip. Some of you want a Z8 to be a high megapixel count camera in a "pro" body. Others want a Z9-like camera, but with a 24mp image sensor tweaked more towards low light work. If I'm reading the surveys right, whatever Nikon eventually puts in the Z8 naming slot is going to disappoint 60-70% of you ;~). Personally, I'd argue that Nikon needs a Z90 that's a DX version of the Z9 (ala the D3/D300 and D5/D500 pairings) and the Z8 slot should go to a high megapixel count camera. But is this an urgent problem to solve? Not really. Continuing to iterate the current lineup correctly and bringing out a Z70 are both more urgent needs.
  • Video camera — Ironically, Nikon went there once already with their GoPro imitation, the KeyMission 170. That wasn't really the right target. As good as the KeyMission was, it also wasn't differentiated from the competition. Nikon has no urgent need to create a video-oriented camera until (1) they can identify exactly where it should be targeted; and (2) they can differentiate it from the competition. I'm not sensing they're ready to do either. 

Nikon's "hidden" urgent need is more important to think about. The Z9 made that visible to everyone: (1) state-of-the-art image sensors; (2) state-of-the-art Image Processors; and (3) rethought and better engineered focus abilities. 

Nikon's success has always been inside the body: it's the engineering teams that discovered and mastered matrix metering, vibration reduction, autofocus tracking, and much, much more (remember, for instance, that Nikon was the first to put video in a DSLR with the D90). Frankly, Nikon let engineering lower the urgency on the new technologies to drive their products and dialed in quite a few cameras, while taking odd deviations (Nikon 1, DL, KeyMission, even the Coolpix Pzoom000 models). I was happy to see the Z9 bring back the "let's put the future in the camera" design ethic in Nikon's engineering once again. We need more of that. Urgently. 

Great new Nikon Inside engineering will drive the cameras forward fast enough if Nikon can keep the urgency up that created the Z9. 

Learn, Practice, and Master

As good as the Nikon Z9 is, I'm discovering something I haven't seen since the D1h/D1x appeared at the beginning of the century: a lot of people are in over their head. Put another way, I'm finding that I'm having to hand-hold quite a few folk through many things that probably should have been known before they bought into a high-level flagship camera. 

Exposure. Focus. Timing. Video. I keep getting what I'd regard as novice questions about advanced capabilities that center on those four things when it comes to the Z9. Moreover, I keep encountering people who buy a US$5500 camera and then cheap out on the things they put in front of it.

Ironically, I have to blame this on Nikon marketing. You remember, that very same group within Nikon I've been criticizing for decades for not doing a good enough job ;~). With the Z9, somehow Nikon has locked onto some marketing messages that are bringing consumers out of the woodwork to purchase a top-end camera. 

In particular, it's all the videos that show the focus system just locking onto a subject and holding it, whether it be a human, bird, or vehicle. Phrases like "Best. Fast. First." and "Unstoppable" set up an expectation that you just pick up the camera and get instant winning shots. Well, not really. I can't just get into a Toyota GR010 Hybrid and win Le Mans. It just might take a bit of study and practice first ;~). 

It's not as if the previous Z's are pathetic cameras that can't accomplish much. As I proved in 2019: I can go to Africa and come back with images that equal those of my best DSLRs, and that is using the original Z6 and Z7 with the original firmware. I've done so several times since, with newer Z's and newer firmware. Most recently I took a Z50 and Z9 into Botswana for over a month and, yes, the Z50 came back with plenty of photos that made my portfolio over the Z9. 

So we have to talk about expectations versus learning. To expect to get perfect photos without learning anything beforehand is just not going to work. And there's a lot of learning needed to fully master a Z9 and get everything out of it that it's capable of. I know that to be true because I'm still extracting more from the camera the more I use it. 

So first things first: removing a new camera out of its box, sticking a lens on it, and taking a few quick images is not going to win you any photo awards. Mastering and optimizing your use of said camera might. 

Here are just a few of the things I've been grappling with as thousands of Z9 users flood me with questions:

  • The dreaded UV filter. You just bought a US$5500 camera and you stuck a US$10 off-brand UV filter on the front? First of all, a UV filter isn't needed on digital cameras; they all have a UV filter sitting over the image sensor. Second, I've not seen a single UV filter that doesn't compromise image results in some way, even expensive filters do this. But the cheap ones are notorious for severe veiling flare and destruction of acuity. Both those will affect an autofocus system, too. And let's remember that the entire Z-mount lens set Nikon has produced to date is at an image quality and acuity level pretty much not reached by any but the most expensive and recent DSLR lenses. Putting a Z-mount 50mm Nikkor on any Z camera is a bit like going to the optometrist and getting a new and correct glasses prescription when compared to any 50mm lens Nikon ever made for the F-mount. Why would you want to take any of that sharpness and contrast away? This problem isn't restricted to just UV filters. I've seen cheap polarizers and low-cost ND filters take away much of what Z9 users paid to get, too. Ditch the filters as you start to learn how to maximize your use of a Z9.
  • Exposure. Someone just shared a bird image with me they thought the Z9 should have gotten right, but didn't. The bird in question was 1% of the frame, and severely underexposed. Yeah, that's not likely to produce a sharp, usable image. One of the things I keep having to point out to people who find the Z9's (or any Z's, or even any Sony Alpha's) focus system lacking is if you don't give the focus sensor area enough exposure, things go south fast. That's particularly true with low contrast or dark subjects (think crow in dark shade). If the exposure under the focus sensor is in the bottom couple of stops the camera is recording, I'll bet the focus system isn't snapping to attention for you. Double that if a dark, underexposed bird is sitting in a complex and dark foliage or in front of a bright, detailed background. 
  • Exposure Redux. "The Z9 is too noisy." Nope. You underexposed and then pixel peeped. You also probably didn't use a decent noise reduction technique. Oh, wait, you also set Auto ISO with a max of 51200 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/2500? This brings up one of the key problems I've been dealing with: an over reliance on automated features. If you want optimal results—the best possible pixel values for your photo in every way—you're going to have to exert some control over what the camera is doing. Did you know that the matrix metering of the Z9 over-emphasizes what's under the focus position being used? And how does that intersect with the Auto ISO settings you just set? Did you know that the Auto Picture Control that's the default automatically tries to adjust contrast in a scene, further impacting exposure? All those "auto" controls add up to "close, but not what you wanted." 
  • Lens. Yes, the FTZ adapter means you can use your old F-mount lenses. No, it doesn't necessarily mean you should (or that you shouldn't). Of the current 26 available Z-mount lenses, the number of Z-mount lenses that are worse than their closest equivalent F-mount is...wait for it...wait for it...zero. Yes, zero. I've published reviews of 21 of those Z-mount lenses, and will be adding to that shortly, so, yes, I know of which I just wrote. In some cases, the difference isn't even close (see my comment on 50mm lenses, above). But on top of the lens quality differential, we have another mount in the way and older motors to deal with if you put a DSLR lens on your mirrorless body. While I've not yet decided to AF Fine Tune any Z-mount lens—because I haven't found any to be "off"—I can't say the same thing for DSLR lenses on the FTZ adapter. My experience is that the older the F-mount lens, the more likely it will need AF Fine Tuning when used on an FTZ. Many years ago, when AF Fine Tuning first became available, I wrote about something I noticed with the F-mount Nikkors: they didn't follow an expected bell curve in terms of where they positioned focus. I would see one sample of a lens that needed -10 and the next sample I'd test was at +3. As I plotted the results out for multiple samples, the "curve" of results was broad, not centered on 0, and unpredictable. Many of you are trying to use those lenses on an FTZ, and you really need to look at whether they need AF Fine Tuning. Some time in the teens Nikon suddenly started producing new F-mount lenses with more predictability in terms of AF Fine Tuning. It's clear that someone had woken them up and pointed out that there was something wrong with their production tolerances and Q&A testing. FWIW, I've had enough experience with four Z-mount Nikkors to plot reasonable tuning results: centered on zero, really narrow bell curve, and highly predictable across samples.
  • AF-Area modes. Most of Nikon's marketing examples are all "Auto-area AF, see it just works." In my experience, close examination shows that isn't the way to get the best set of focused pixels exactly where you want them. The popular YouTube variant is "Auto-area AF on the shutter release, 3D-tracking on the AF-ON button." Okay, generally better results in most cases, but still not best possible practice. Some of you may have noticed that I didn't give the 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens a Highly Recommended rating because of handling. Specifically, handling where it comes to optimize the focus capabilities of the combined camera and lens. The best focus practice on a Z9 is a hybrid area mode approach coupled with Back Button Focus coupled with manual override with Focus Peaking coupled with occasional magnification for verification. All of which can be done easily with the Z9 and 100-400mm without changing hand position or having to slow down, but not on a 400mm f/2.8 that has more on-lens controls! If Auto-area AF is a kazoo where the notes just sort of come out somewhat right as you hum, my technique is a six-string Spanish guitar dance that requires precision and practice to pull off. 
  • Old computers. If you bought your computer back when 6mp and 12mp images were de rigueur and you never bothered to keep your memory, storage, and software up to date, you're going to have to dip back into your wallet and spend some more money. You need new cards, a new card reader at a minimum, and 45mp stills and 8K video start chewing up storage space quickly. Photoshop CS4 isn't going to understand Z9 NEF, let alone High Efficiency NEF. 4MB of RAM with no state-of-the-art GPU isn't going to edit 8k video. Let's be clear: a US$5500 camera (and expensive lenses) just don't play well with a US$200 Chromebook or a vintage PC signed personally by Bill Gates and running Windows 98. 

I could go on with my list, but the generalization is what I really want to emphasize today: take the time to learn, practice, and master what your sophisticated equipment can do. Support it with the right accessories. If you don't, you won't get optimal results and you'll wonder why you're not seeing "Best" out of your US$5500 purchase. 

RED Sues Nikon Over Z9 RAW Video Patent

Actually, RED—the video camera company started by Oakley Sunglasses founder Jim Jannard—appears to be suing Nikon not just for the Z9, but for any camera Nikon might be making that infringes the RED US-only patents, which seems a bit on the overly paranoid side of things. Maybe RED thinks Nikon will release more cameras soon with the same capability. The intoPIX engine that performs the video work is built into EXPEED7, which suggests that, but I think RED is clearly worried about Nikon as a competitor. Amazing (see last paragraph for reason why I say that).

But this suit is actually a longer and much bigger story than most of the photo sites are presenting. Many of us who've been involved with video technology for decades feel that the RED patents in the US should never have been granted in the first place due to previous work, vagueness, as well as obviousness. Apple felt that way and tried to get the patent thrown out, but the way the US courts work with patents is nebulous, as many judges simply don't understand tech and dependencies, particularly when you get down in the weeds and a patent (and lawyers) obfuscates what it actually is trying to protect. Apple didn't try very hard, and didn't win their case, but obviously found some way to settle with RED, otherwise we wouldn't have ProRes RAW (which is also supported in the Nikon Z9). Oh, and we have ProRes compression supported in the RED cameras themselves, so RED is obviously licensing Apple technology (probably through MPEG LA). 

REDs legal team has been very active trying to protect their vague US patents. They've sued DJI, Kinefinity, Sony, and others, though they've settled out of court in several cases. They might find Nikon a more formidable opponent, in that Nikon, like Sony, has a body of their own patents that predate RED's and probably has IP that RED uses without license. Nikon also has a formidable law firm here in the US that has taken on far bigger problems than the RED patent suit. I'd say the likelihood is that Nikon will countersue, and the case will eventually be settled out of court. Again. Just as it was with Sony.

However, a lot of folk are missing a key point here: RED's sue-happy trigger is a sign of weakness on RED's part. RED's big worry is that they can't keep the technology parade of the big Japanese companies from eventually rendering the RED products less competitive and appearing overpriced. Indeed, RED's bigger complaint is probably this: the Nikon Z9 at US$5500 produces 8K video—at least up to 60P (the current RED products go to 120P)—that is effectively as good as RED's US$24,000+ one (typically US$35,000 fully configured).  

Curiously, RED does not include intoPIX in their suit. I have no idea why they don't, as intoPIX has been marketing video raw capabilities for years (and remember, if you're going to defend intellectual property in court, you can't be found to playing "favorites" in who you go after). The intoPIX TicoRAW engine that is embedded in hardware that Nikon licensed is doing virtually all the work here. Nikon's contribution seems to be primarily the written file format itself, and file formats would pull up a whole host of other previous patent property.

Finally there's the issue of whether RED is still trying to defend the basket when the ball's already left the court. Although I can't say for certain, it seems clear that the reason why Canon has raw video recording capabilities and hasn't been sued by RED is that Canon and RED cross licensed intellectual property at some point (otherwise Canon would be suing RED). That appears to also be how Sony settled out of court with RED, as well. Meanwhile we have Blackmagic Design BRAW and Apple ProRes RAW video formats already establishing themselves in the market. If this is a royalty grab by RED, I'm not sure why that isn't simply an issue for MPEG LA to add to its pile of IP and address. If it's an attempt to stave off Nikon as an 8K competitor, I don't see how that works outside the US, and again, I perceive the suit as a sign of weakness on RED's part.

In the technology world, once companies get locked down in patent fights, that usually indicates that they're spending too much time on defending the past as opposed to inventing the future. There's a common misconception by many that we wouldn't have innovation without patents. That line of thinking goes like this: big companies would just steal any idea and put the innovator out of business. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but big, near-monopolistic companies often simply just ignore patents and let the courts later decide whether any compensation is due. And given that those big companies have more lawyers and more stamina than the innovator, they often win. In my career in Silicon Valley I rarely worried about taking the time to patent all the unique things we were inventing—and that list is a pretty substantial one, by the way—because it took our eyes off the ball, which we needed to keep moving forward to stay ahead of competitors. I actually take it as a point of personal pride that Apple has incorporated multiple patentable ideas that I was a part of helping invent. It took them years to do so ;~).

Personally, RED's real claim to fame is modularity and robustness, both things that are really needed in Hollywood-style productions. I really don't see a Z9 as likely to steal RED business at that level. Perhaps the one-man band videographers would opt for a mirrorless camera because of price and portability, but even there you quickly run up against barriers. Netflix's camera requirements list shows no Nikon-made cameras as approved, while virtually all of the RED lineup is. So what exactly is it that RED thinks they're protecting?

Canon R7 Envy

It happens every time a camera company announces a new product: users of competitive products start to moan about what they don't have that the new product does. 

Canon's R7 (and R10) announcement brings APS-C to Canon's RF mount. With two DSLR-style cameras that check a lot of marketing boxes that Nikon Z DX users are now envious of. Is this the end of the world for Nikon? 

No.

(Come on, you saw that answer coming, right?)

Let's do the closest we can do with side by side comparison. That means a Canon R10 and the Nikon Z50.

Canon R10 Nikon Z50
24mp 6000x4000 pixels 20mp 5568x3712 pixels
1.6x crop 1.5x crop
RF mount (EF w/ adapter) Z mount (F w/ adapter)
ISO 100-32000 (+51200) ISO 100-51200 (+204800)
651 selectable AF points 209 selectable AF points
30s to 1/4000 mechanical 30s to 1/4000 mechanical
30s to 1/16000 electronic 30s to 1/2000 electronic
15 fps max mechanical 11 fps max mechanical
Flash built in (GN 6m) Flash built in (GN 7m)
15 ounce (426g) 15.9 ounces (450


At this body level, I'm not seeing a lot of Canon advantage, though arguably a few of the specs do tilt towards the Canon (though the price goes up, too: the Canon body is US$120 more expensive at list prices).  

So most of the complaints noise in the Z-mount world seems to center around the R7 and the missing D500 mirrorless update. In particular, the following features of the R7 are what are provoking the most wailing in the Nikon camp: 33mp sensor, 30 fps max frame rate with a 0.5s pre-buffer available, better focus subject detection, a fully articulating Rear LCD, a 120Hz viewfinder, accessory power/data pins in the hot shoe, USB 3.2 Gen 2, a bigger battery pack, and dual card slots.

That's not quite as many things as the complaints forum discussions might suggest need to be addressed. Could Nikon do something that creates a Z70 or Z90 model that catches things back up? Sure. Nikon's options range from making the current image sensor and EXPEED chip faster (which probably would pick up three of those R7 specs), to going all out with a new image sensor and body, and potentially playing leap frog with Canon. 

The question, of course, is how committed to Z DX Nikon really is. That's difficult to predict with only 1.x camera datapoint (the two current Z DX bodies are essentially the same body with different UIs and ergonomics), and only 3 lenses (with one necessary lens completely missing [wide angle zoom]). I know Nikon has prototyped other Z DX bodies and lenses, but we won't know just how committed Nikon is to the format until we see any of those products make it to market. I think the lack of a wide-angle zoom for the format is a hint: it's likely not coming until another body gets introduced. 

The Z9 and its success actually made Nikon's choices more difficult short term. Nikon absolutely must roll the Z9 tech down into the lower levels, but that seems to suggest the Z6 III and Z7 III first, not a Z90. (Note that Nikon disclosed they planned to push Z9 tech downward in the lineup in their Interim Management plan, so the only real question is where does this tech show up next.)

It bodes well that Nikon has upped their R&D budget for this year in Imaging. Nikon seems to clearly understand that time is of the essence at the moment, and the advantages they just saw with the Z9 can and should be pushed across the entire lineup as quickly as possible. That has been the Nikon engineering modus operandi for decades (reveal with top product, distribute to rest of line as quickly as possible), and I've not seen anything that indicates they've changed that. 

So personally, I'm not particularly worried about where the R7 and R10 are vis-a-vis Z DX. Indeed, I think Sony is probably the one that should be worried, as Canon's R10 takes on the A6400 and the R7 the A6600 pretty darned well (well, if you can ignore all the missing crop sensor lenses ;~). And Canon and Sony are playing a market share game now. 

________________________

Updated: it seems clear that Nikon mislabeled their slides. I've adjusted the dates to match the actual figures.

Meanwhile, Nikon published material from their IR Day (May 26) that reveals a bit more about their strategy moving forward. A number of things were repeated from earlier presentations (50+ Z lenses, deploy the Z9 features across the lineup, etc.). However, relevant to the above, Nikon specifically noted several things:

  1. Nikon will go from about 30% "entry models" in the 2022 fiscal year to 0% "entry models" in the fiscal year 2026 (which ends March 31, 2026). Now what Nikon means by entry models is not really specified or known, but it seems unlikely now that Nikon would introduce a model below the Z50. Much more likely that all subsequent models will be above the Z50.
  2. Revenue from the Z-mount products was just above 50% in fiscal 2022 and will increase to above 80% by fiscal 2026 (~98b yen to 160b yen). Overall, the size of the Imaging Group's sales will likely remain flat from fiscal year 2023 through 2026. What that means is that F-mount (DSLR) sales go from something like ~53b yen down to something closer to 10b yen during that same period. Nikon's targeting profit to remain flat during that period, and about 10-11% of sales. 

I'm still trying to evaluate everything that was said (early this morning my time), but the gist of everything is consistent with what Nikon has been saying for a while now: they are not targeting a market share improvement, they are targeting pro/hobbyists only with high value-added products. They claim to want to "meet expectations" of that group, and if they see the same expectations from you that I do, that means that a Z70/Z90 is likely inevitable and a Z30 isn't.  

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