Skipping a Beat

Some followup to yesterday’s Development Announcement article

Since I characterized the two-lens announcement option for CES as something most readers would consider a “failure” back in mid-December, I need to provide more information and state why I wrote that. 

The Road Map for lenses has—surprisingly to me—been updated regularly by Nikon. I suspected that they’d go back to form and stop talking about future products after an initial period of Road Mapping, but instead Nikon has stuck to keeping the list updated once or twice a year. Some lenses have been on the Road Map for quite some time now (I’m looking at you, 200-600mm silhouette; you’re past due to come out of the shadows).

Given the Road Map, we really don’t need development announcements for lenses, as that’s just another tease (no real details, no date, no price). The fact that the CES announcement was not a release announcement, and that only one of the two most expected and desired Road Map lenses was even in that press release, is further reason why I’d say that CES has probably turned out to be an unwise use of funds for Nikon. 

Three constituencies walk around the Vegas Convention Center at CES: (1) consumer press; (2) consumer dealers and their distributors; and (3) consumers. That’s why it’s called Consumer Electronics Show. It’s one of the few times you get that level of concentration of #1 and #2 in the same place, so you really don’t want to waste that opportunity. The press out of CES for Nikon is mostly lost in the computer, mobile, auto, and metaverse announcements; what press they have been getting is no more than they’d typically get from a press release. So unless there’s something going on in a back room or hotel suite I’m not aware of, I don’t see how this year’s presence at CES provides any real payback to Nikon for the dollars spent. 

Moreover, there’s an undercurrent going on that Nikon’s not going to like, too. Quite a few people emailed me during the holiday season that they’d wait until CES to see what Nikon was up to, but that if that wasn’t “good enough,” they’d pop for another brand (mostly Sony). The fact that Panasonic is at CES with a Z6 II priced camera that does things the Z6 II doesn’t (e.g. 96mp pixel shift) certainly won’t help with that. 

Nikon’s problem at the moment is that the last significant camera they announced was the Z9 in October 2021 (only one low-end camera appeared after that). Before the Z9, we go back to October 2020 and the Z6 II/Z7 II launch. So, in a time period where Nikon has launched two mirrorless cameras (Z9, Z30), Canon has launched four (R3, R6 Mark II, R7, R10), and Sony has also pushed out four (ZV-E10, A1, A7 Mark IV, A7R Mark V). 

While I personally understand the ebbs and flows of development leap-frogging, the typical consumer these days is much more impatient. Auto makers update models every year, Apple updates models every year, Streaming services update shows every year. There’s a marketing cycle that drums a beat into consumers’ heads, and they notice when a company they favor misses a step. Or two. 

So we’re heading back into the throes of messages from angst-driven Nikon fans, and Sony fan-boy flaming of same. “Woe is the Z user” the chorus has started chanting again. To paraphrase Aeschylus: “Sing sorrow, sing sorrow, but new product wins out in the end.” 

As you know, I’m of more even temperament. I believe I understand exactly why we don’t have a new camera yet (sensors, parts!). I’m sure it (they) will come. Meanwhile, I’m quite enjoying what we have received so far in the Z System. All of it. The Z30 has become my studio’s video cameras, the Z50 is my walk about camera, the Z7 II comes with me for landscape work, and the Z6 II and Z9 do my main sports and wildlife work with aplomb. I’ve got more telephoto lens choices than I can carry, and really good other lens choices, as well. 

Thus, if Nikon has missed a beat with CES, it doesn’t bother me one iota. After all, we have CP+ announcements starting in about four to six weeks (plus some early announcers to avoid the elephants), and this time I don’t think Nikon will miss that home soil marketing opportunity. 

That said, note that Nikon’s unit and sales forecast for the rest of their fiscal year remains unchanged, and I haven’t heard any Tokyo whispers that indicate that this will change. That means I don’t believe that we’ll see any shipments of significant new product(s) until after April 1st, when the new fiscal year starts. 

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