The One-at-a-Time Approach 

As much as I sometimes demean Nikon's bean counters, uh, management, you have to give them full credit for one thing: their deep analytical-based decision making has been pretty dead on to their intention. Where you and I start having problems with that is in the intention bit. We customers wish Nikon would be more aggressive. 

In case you've been in a coma the past few years, the Nikon Imaging intention is to create a smaller operation with a high focus on product that produces strong profits.

The recent situation has been illustrative: skip mild Z5/Z6/Z7 iterations and instead focus on broadening the full frame line in a way that nets the most income/profit on a short term basis: Z9, Z8, and the yet-to-be-announced camera you'll learn about shortly. Meanwhile, over in DX, the emphasis has been on iteration into different markets without real R&D cost: Z50 begat Zfc (influencers/legacy) begat Z30 (creators/video), but these really are just different UX on the same basic technical underpinnings.

Ironically, at a time when semiconductors should be the "hot" market, the Imaging group's tight focus has once again vaulted them to the savior position within Nikon. This past quarter, for instance, saw Imaging produce substantive year-to-year growth (20%+ in revenue, 12%+ in profit) at a time when the Precision (semiconductor) side went backwards (-10% in revenue, and sliding from profit to loss). 

When I say "savior" (yes, it's an exaggeration) I mean: Imaging just produced 47% of the company revenue, and without Imaging's profits, the company would have posted a -12b yen loss instead of a 3b yen profit. 

It's a shame that the Z8 Service Advisories are going to cut into this quarter's results significantly, but I'd bet that Imaging will still manage to pull both the quarter and the full fiscal year up to about where they planned.

All those asking for more iterations, new sensors, and more from Nikon are probably going to find that the last three years' approach is going to continue. I'll bet that we get one-at-a-time introductions next year, and focused on upscaling something. That means Z6 III, 60mp+ photography, and perhaps higher end DX. All three of those things would be a continuation of current intent.

So the question becomes: which is next? If you do things one-at-a-time, then you have to prioritize. 

I'm probably not the person to ask in terms of what I'd want. With the Z8 and Z9 in my gear closet, I'm not Jonesing for the first two options at the moment, as they wouldn't provide any particularly immediate useful gain for me. Which means that I'd love to see a Z50-sized camera with a lot more horsepower.

As I've noted before, those three potential next cameras would all basically require a new image sensor commitment from Nikon. Nikon management is going to look at that problem long and hard, as the costs at the sensor side go up in all three cases, and you really want to analyze how that plays out over time. This suggests to me that doing something about the Z6 image sensor is probably the most important thing the bean counters have to figure out first. I say that because I don't believe that the small tweaks in the 24mp sensor coming in the camera about to be announced would provide enough extra juice for a Z6 III success.

So once again I'm thinking that sensor choice is what will tell us what's next. Fortunately, via the patent stream, I can tell that Nikon is still very active in exploring sensor possibilities and new technologies. But for us to know more about future cameras, we have to know two things: (1) which possibility did they choose? and (2) how long will it take to get that on fab and finalized? Unfortunately, I can't answer that. One of my sensor fab sources has now retired, and it's also possible that Nikon is shopping fabs again. 

So, I have no news for you. What I do have is a prediction. There's a new camera using existing tech coming in the next week or two, then probably nothing else this year. Either CES 2024 or CP+ 2024 (or possibly both) look like the next launch windows after that. What would be launched there is, right now, anyone's guess. I've heard no reliable hint or rumor. 

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