May You Live in Interesting Times

Since I last posted—which wasn't very long ago, mind you—it seems that a kerfuffle over numbers arose. First it was claimed that Nikon's initial production of the Z9 would be 35k a month, then that was corrected to 3.5k a month. Which is it? (I'm going to totally dismiss the total pre-order number that was also reported, as there's no way that could have been measured accurately, and that, too, wasn't the specific number that was initially reported in every headline at the end of last week. I can only tell you that every dealer I've talked to here in the US has a historic number of pre-orders for the Z9.)

It doesn't matter which monthly production estimate is true, 3.5k, 35k, or anything else. Both the published numbers are probably insufficient to fulfill initial demand, though the corrected number definitely has no chance of fulfilling initial demand. Which means that this new camera is going to be in short supply for awhile. It's also quite probable that Nikon started production two months prior to when they'll actually ship the camera, by the way, but that still won't likely fulfill the initial demand.

You might ask yourself then, why is Nikon marketing spending so much time promoting a camera that they won't have enough to sell? Indeed, there's more promotion coming as we get closer to the actual first ship day. 

This is a good problem to have, but it is a problem. Sony still has the same problem with the A1, which sells out near instantly every time a new shipment arrives in the US, despite the fact it's been on sale for over eight months now and the initial Sony marketing campaigns have died down. Nikon's had that same problem before with several cameras, including the D800 back in 2012, which didn't clear its order backlog for six months. 

Don't forget that I'm keeping a live Q&A page open for the Z9, answering new questions about the camera as fast as I can. Bookmark that page and come back to it from time to time until I can kick of my coverage of the Z9 in actual use with my own sample of the camera.

Nikon marketing has no choice but to keep the positive energy surrounding the Z9 going. To do otherwise would be foolish. That means that they need to make sure that the first round of cameras that are delivered get into the hands of people who are likely to continue the love fest, which is one thing that the NPS Priority Purchase program is intended to do; get your most committed user base talking about the camera and demonstrating that they've moved to it. 

Indeed, many have noted that Moose Petersen, for instance, has already announced he's going all Z. Nikon needs to dislodge a lot of those pros that were still hanging onto the DSLR world and get them to fully enter the mirrorless one. It appears at first glance that Nikon is succeeding at that. But if that becomes a stampede, it makes a stronger statement about Nikon being back in the saddle again, after a long slide from production peaks and a lot of negative publicity on the Internet about that slide. 

The thing I worry about is whether the halo effect—"greatest AF system yet"—can overcome the fanboy slander—"Nikon Z's don't focus well"—and generate substantive holiday sales for the Z5, Z6, and Z7 models. Nikon can't live on Z9 sales alone, and they can't deliver to demand expectations for that camera for awhile. They need the rest of the Nikon-loyalist crowd to follow the pros from DSLR to mirrorless, but at the appropriate level for what those folk can afford and what they photograph. That means Z5s to Z7s for most of you. (I'm keeping this mostly framed on FX at the moment, because Nikon doesn't have a full lineup on the DX side; while some DX DSLR users might opt for FX mirrorless, Nikon's not going to get the bulk of the DX DSLR crowd to switch until the mirrorless DX side is fleshed out.)

What needs to happen next is a "we've got you covered" campaign. As I've outlined many times, the Z5 is currently the best entry full frame camera you can buy. The Z6 II and Z7 II are highly competitive with their peers. And now we have the seemingly remarkable Z9 at the top. That's a solid full frame camera lineup. More solid than Canon's at the moment. More diversified than Panasonic's. Capable of holding its own against Sony. 

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Bonus: I'm waiting for all the sites that posted the 35k/400k numbers—many in their headlines—to issue a correction and revise their original article so that it doesn't become one of those faux facts that live on the Internet forever. (Disclaimer: when I'm made aware of a mistake of fact in my articles I go back and correct them first chance I get.)


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