Nikon Maps Needs to Upgrade ;~)

The top questions I've been getting are both related to what I'd call Road Map issues. Here they are:

  1. When will a "pro" camera come out? I assume those asking this mean a Z8 or a Z9, and with nothing held back from the DSLR models as happened with the Z6/Z7. The problem here is the competition. Canon clearly has decided to navigate the pro 5D DSLR over to mirrorless (the R5, with a companion R6 sharing much of everything except the megapixel count). Sony crossed the line early with the A9, now in its second generation. Moreover, the A7 models have all had multiple upgrades that took them out of the lower middle and moved them clearly upwards.

    The bigger issue here is that Nikon is making the not-particularly exciting mid-line Camry or Accord model this time. Canon and Sony are dueling with what the customers are perceiving as BMW M's and Mercedes AMG's: lots of tech to talk and brag about. All that Canony tech is making Nikon users feel anxious, and thinking that their brand of choice is no longer competitive. Thus, they're asking for a Z8 or Z9. 

    The problem is that if Nikon really does have gee-whiz tech, they're not going to let any discussion of that outside of the R&D lab until the camera is ready to announce. Frankly, that's not the market we're in any more. The market we're now in is "hold onto your legacy customer." The most likely person to buy a Nikon Z today is a Nikon film SLR or DSLR user, period. The one thing you don't want to encourage is for that user to sample, leak, or switch, which is exactly what started happening with DX DSLRs. Which brings us to...

  2. How committed is Nikon to Z-DX? Okay, I'll bear some responsibility that this question is coming up, because I've been hard on Nikon's case about their pivot away from anything but consumer DX DSLR zooms since the D3 came out. Thing is, Nikon's always made mistakes with their "consumer" camera lineup, all the way back to some of the earliest film SLRs. Back then it wasn't a surprise that Nikon wouldn't know how to distinguish a more consumer, entry line from their more sophisticated, professional line. After all, Nikon wasn't a consumer company at the time. Nikon was the geeky nerd sitting over by itself and not interacting with the consumer. Heck, Nikon didn't even have a way to sell those cameras in most of the world, they relied on distributors. 

    But you'd think that the digital revolution would have pulled them out of the corner and interacting with the customers more. To some degree, I think they tried that, but I've always gotten the impression that something about the consumer interaction freaked them out. Slowly they built higher and higher walls and deeper and deeper moats, and let dealers deal with the customer. They're "dealers" after all ;~).  

    Still, the question is an honest one and an important one for Nikon to answer. It would be nice to hear them say generally how the see DX in the Z lineup, but I suspect that it will take actions on their part to tell us. And that's exactly why the question comes up: Nikon's inaction for a number of years now with DSLR DX, and some of Nikon's baffling lapses there, such as never creating a D400 and letting the D300/D300s try to hold the fort for eight long years. 

So let me state what I think should be the answers:

  1. The Z6 and Z7 head upscale, either firmware updates or with replacement models (likely the latter). A Z8 tops the lineup within a year. The inevitable sports/PJ Z9 shows up between the 2022/2024 Olympics. I think if you see any of those things happen, then you'll see all of them happen. Nikon generally understands this part of its camera lineup the best, and they are absolutely aware of what their two main competitors are doing and know they have to match it. Well, perhaps not match exactly, but to make a Nikon FX statement that's clear.
  2. I suspect Z-DX is going to be a lot more confusing. The Z50 was one of two DX models that survived a review and modest rethink after management initially put the pause on the new mirrorless initiative. Will we see the other? Well, it would live under the Z50 in the lineup. Call it the Z30. That would confuse a lot of folk, I think, particularly coupled with the unexpected Z5. It's generally not in Nikon's nature to defend down, but rather compete up. Still, I think the Z30 will show up. And if it does, the immediate problem will be the one I've harped on for years with DSLRs: where's the lenses? The Road Map has exactly one more DX lens on it, and it's a 28-200mm equivalent superzoom. Frankly, I don't see why Nikon makes these DX models ILCs at all if the thinking is still "this user never changes lenses." I suppose Nikon thinks that the 28mm and 40mm compact primes will be enough. But both are bigger than the kit zoom lens, sort of defeating the purpose of making a smaller version of the Z system (moreover, they become an awkward 42mm and 60mm equivalent, basically straddling "normal" and not really wide or telephoto. Nope, I say Buzz, Buzz (my shorthand for buzzing around Nikon's proverbial head and bothering them like a mosquito). For Z-DX to justify its existence, it needs more appropriate lenses. That's especially true because much of Fujifilm's XF success comes from Nikon DX DSLR users who migrated when Nikon didn't give them what they wanted (the rest went to Sony). Now, that may only be a loss of half million sales a year, but uh, even a quarter million more sales would look really good in the market contraction. No, if Nikon really wants to play in crop-sensor, they need a plan, and they need to expose as much of that plan to customers as they dare. 
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