2023 Wishlist

2019 through 2022 felt, well, sluggish (see previous article). Nikon (and other camera companies) tried to run full speed into the pandemic, but that proved far harder than they thought, and then coming out the other end—are we actually out?—has proven just as difficult, as pretty much everything in the supply and distribution chains still has some form of disruption to it. It feels like Nikon has been dragging the shutter… [intentional pun]

That has left us in a position of wanting more from Nikon than they've managed to give us. Not that they haven't given us anything. Those of you who weren't paying close attention probably didn't realize that from the Z System rollout in August 2018 to the end of 2022 Nikon has produced 9 cameras and 29 lenses (31 if you count a silver ring and retro design as being new). Those range from entry level to state-of-the-art pro. While some of you say it felt slow, it really has been a surge. Add in the third-party lenses, and we’re at 155+.

However, that surge has gaps and weak points. For instance, the gap from Z50 to Z5 is pretty large, mostly in features/performance, not in price. There's a weakness at the wide angle end of lenses, particularly in primes. And, of course, now that the Z9 and the exotics have appeared, everyone wants the same features, performance, and attributes, but at affordable prices (tip: the 400mm f/4.5 VR S is the lens you want). 

I'm not going to write further at predicting what Nikon will do next. I've already written plenty on that subject. No, today it's time to say what I hope for in 2023 from Nikon. 

I'm going to put some limits on my list, because Nikon isn't infinite in resources. So I'm just going to wish for three cameras, six lenses, and maybe some accessories. Even with those restrictions I have a problem: Nikon already has eight upcoming lenses on their Road Map. But I'm going to stick to my wishes here, not my predictions about what Nikon will do, or what's known that Nikon will do.

The Three Cameras I Wish For

I have two primary wishes when looking at the current model lineup: (1) give me a better walk-around DX camera and (2) see how far we can push pixels. 

Let me back up a moment. For my work (and much of my aspirational stuff) I'm set with a pair of Z9's. I don't need an exact Z9 clone in a smaller body (though that would be nice), or in DX form (though again that would also be nice). So, here's my wish list for new Z cameras in 2023:

  • Z70 — While the Z50 is a decent walk-around camera, it has issues I have to work around, particularly when I'm using it as a second camera on safari or on the sidelines. Moreover, we've been stuck at 20mp forever (2016, which is forever in camera years) while Canon and Fujifilm have been moving upward with aplomb. I don't need 40mp, but it would be nice to be in the 24-33mp range somewhere. With much more focus performance. Don't make silly design decisions, such as on-LCD touch buttons. Don't make it bigger, but do add sensor-based VR. Think D70, which was an awesome camera for its time. Svelte but capable at a mid-range price.
  • Z7 III — 80 or 100mp, though, not 61mp. You might be surprised to see me ask for more pixels in the Z7 body, but I think that's where "more pixels" should be done. We don't need fast, we don't need buttons on every surface, we don't need a lot of bulk. What we need is a light backcountry Medium Format competitor, particularly with the Medium Format cameras having gone on a weight loss program. Given with what I saw out of the Sony A7R Mark IV, I don't think 61mp provides enough of a bump and advantage over the current 45mp (though pixel shift done right helps). I'l like to see Nikon take their careful sensor tuning as far as they can take it, producing the next D800-like surprise. 
  • Z9 II — Say what?!?! Here's the thing: the more I use the Z9, the more I see clear ways it could be improved, without really changing the key chip ingredients or body design. To Nikon's credit, they've seen the same thing, and we've gotten two major firmware upgrades that moved the camera forward. But there's still plenty that can (and should) be done. Moreover, it's important to Nikon to show that they know what a top camera can really be, so this is something they definitely should consider sooner rather than later. I’d settle for firmware 4.0 doing the same thing.

Will we get any of these cameras in 2023? Difficult to say, but note that Z6/Z7 updates and a higher-end DX camera really should be on the 2023 list for Nikon to launch. If not, they would appear to have missed a turn somewhere.

The Six Lenses I Wish For

Okay, first off, let's outline what we're pretty sure we'll get, probably in 2023, as it's already on Nikon's Road Map:

  • 12-28mm DX power zoom wide angle lens
  • 24mm fast aperture DX prime
  • 26mm full frame pancake
  • 35mm f/1.2 S
  • 70-180mm f/2.8 Tamron rebadge
  • 85mm f/1.2 S
  • 135mm f/1.8 S
  • 200-600mm f/4.5-6.3 or f/5.6-8 VR

Do I need any of those? No. Do I want any of those? The 85mm or 135mm might prove useful to me, though I’m not really wishing for them. That's about it for me on Nikon’s Road Map. A not-greatly-wide, power zoom doesn't help in my use of DX, while the rest of the Road Map lenses I either wouldn't use or already have something I use that works just fine.

Nikon only really has the capacity to produce eight new lenses a year, and that list above is eight. Tamron does appear to be sub-manufacturing things for Nikon, so perhaps we’ll see more than eight in 2023, but I wouldn’t put a bet on this. Thus, I'm going to guess that nothing on my wish list will happen. Nevertheless, here is my wish list:

  • For that Z70 I need (and thus wish for) two lenses: minimum of a 10-20mm f/4 DX and a compact 16-50mm f2.8 DX. My wished-for wide angle lens is wider than the one on Nikon’s Road Map, and it isn’t a power zoom, either, which I don’t really want. One might argue that at least the wide angle should have VR, since it would then also be useful on Zfc, Z30, and Z50 bodies. Any fast mid-range zoom has to be significantly compact, or else we're not getting any real advantage over using something like a Z6 II with the 24-70mm f/4 S. 
  • For that Z7 III I need (and thus wish for) two lenses: 14mm f/2.8 S and a compact 20mm f/4 S. They have to be S because, well, I also want 80-100mp. 
  • I want two F-mount lenses to be remade in the Z-mount: the 8-15mm f/3.5-4.5E and the 120-300mm f/2.8E. Both do things that I can't do otherwise in the Z mount right now, and thus hang off FTZ adapters when I borrow one. In particular, that 120-300mm is King of the Sidelines in sports. Imagine if it were 120-300mm f/2.8 TC VR S! That would give me 120-420mm f/2.8-4. I'd be happy. Very happy.

Yep, I'm only wishing for six lenses, two of which I can already use in adapted form. 

Accessories

Remember that Z9 II I asked for? It should have an WR-R10 built in. Nikon really needs to double down on the accessories they have that work, and they need to extend what they can work with. So at the other end of the spectrum, we need an SB-500 replacement with the WR wireless tech built in. We need better and more thoughtful controls in the camera to use the radio remotes, too. Heck, that MC-N10 Remote Grip should have been both wired and wireless in terms of its connection.  

My actual wish, though, is that the accessories guys, whoever they are, get better integrated into the camera group and executing in the same time frame. Tough to do, I know from experience, but it's the very thing that adds value to your accessories and options versus those from third parties. 

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text and images © 2023 Thom Hogan — All Rights Reserved


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