Oh No, the Zf is Cute

I wander around the net as much as I do the world, which is to say considerably. 

I recently came across an article about four Japanese women who use the Zf for their photography. The thing that immediately struck me is that three of the four made the point to describe one of the Zf's best traits as "being cute." 

I immediately glanced over at the blazing orange Zf sitting on my desk to see if I might think it cute. Well, it makes a statement, I suppose, but apparently I'm only able to recognize cute women, children, and animals, but not cute cameras. You can call that a flaw if you want, but it's the way I'm constructed, so I have to live with it.

The reason I bring this up is because I'm pretty sure at next month's CP+ show in Japan, we're going to once again hear about the camera maker's efforts to expand their markets. They're highly tuned to sales and response within their own home market, so if Japanese women are agreeing amongst themselves that the Zf is cute, then this will likely have some design impact down the line. One way the camera companies have been trying to expand their sales is by finding new markets, and the young and women are two segments that they've had their sights on for awhile now. That the Zfc and now Zf have resonated with Japanese women, has implications for the future.

If you didn't already know, automakers long ago started to understand the gender preferences when it came to transportation. These days we have dude cars trucks and chick cars. If you're driving the wrong one, be prepared to be mocked. 

The thing that strikes me, though, is that I believe that women are more likely to share photos than men. What are the camera companies doing about that? ;~) It's one thing to use external style to appeal to an audience, it's a whole other thing to actually deliver the functionality they desire. (Aside: back in 1980 when I added a section called Functionality to a national publication's review section, the copy editors and some readers chastised me for misusing the word function. No, function is the description of what the thing does, while functionality speaks to its suitability in performing that function. Technically, the Zf has a SnapBridge function, but does that actually have truly useful functionality in sharing photos?)

While all of you are waiting for this year's Nikon Z System introductions, you should know that those were cast in stone quite some time ago. What's happening this time of year in Tokyo will define what products we see in 2025, and more importantly, 2026 and later. In other words, the 2024 products are already in progress and locked in; they are what management decided back in 2022 and early 2023. The 2025 products are currently getting weeded down from all the mules and prototypes being evaluated. The 2026 and later products may get completely rethought based upon things that are being learned about the market today. 

Nikon's management style is Top Down Consensus. They also use the last quarter of their fiscal year to look at results and make decisions about their future. In other words, right now there are planning meetings going on in Tokyo where a consensus is attempted to be drawn within the organization. As that consensus becomes clearer, the top management then locks that in and makes it the marching orders for everyone. The Zfc and now Zf have been considerably successful in Japan, and in particular have opened up new avenues into the young and female audience. That's going to be one of the talking points in all those planning consensus meetings. 

Don't worry Z9 users. Management knows that not a single news agency or professional buys high end product because it's cute. However, I do believe that the successes of the Zfc and Zf are now locking in some future design tendencies for at least part of the Z line. There will be another cute camera from Nikon, no doubt. Maybe we'll get some cute lenses, too ;~).

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