The Random Firmware Gods

Sometimes I wonder who Nikon is talking to and why they're responding the way they do. What happens is that we get these wandering functions and features within the Nikon cameras, which means you have to be careful about upgrading, because a feature that you're using might go away for no stated reason.

Case in point, TIFF. Nikon has long offered uncompressed TIFF as a file output choice on their high end cameras, including the Z6 and Z7. A TIFF file gets the Nikon EXPEED Picture Controls and White Balance applied, but does not add compression of the data like JPEG does. The Z6 II and the Z7 II removed TIFF as a file option. 

No doubt Nikon did a poll somewhere and discovered that almost no one was using TIFF in their Nikon's anymore, so they removed it. Wrong question and wrong answer (those two often go hand in hand ;~).

When TIFF support was first offered, Nikon's JPEG compression still was a bit heavy handed. There definitely was a reason to shoot TIFF over even JPEG Fine because the results were more useable and malleable in post processing. Over time, as image sensors and the original NuCore JPEG processing got refined, there wasn't as much of a reason to pick TIFF over JPEG Fine, particularly since the TIFF file would be so much larger and reduce the buffer of the camera. 

The correct question to ask users should have been "What would make you shoot TIFF?" and the correct answer would have been "11-bit+ files with lossless compression." Nikon knows how to do both things, so you'd think this would have been a no-brainer. Moreover, that's a marketable benefit, because no other camera has that ability, and it would be a useful one for some photographers. In other words: make the feature better, don't remove it.

We have other instances of Nikon's firmware sleight of hand, as well. The one that provoked the most email to me recently was the change in Multiple Exposure. When that feature was first added to Nikon DSLRs, it allowed output in NEF but didn't allow retention of the original exposures. Now the feature is basically "output only in JPEG, but can retain original NEF exposures." Nope. Still not right. We want "output in JPEG or NEF, able to retain original exposures." (Actually: "output in JPEG, TIFF, or NEF" ;~)

Nikon gets deep engineering right more often than not. They're wizards at sensor development, EXPEED-embedded algorithms, focus and exposure algorithms, and all the practical hardware type engineering challenges. Where Nikon needs someone guiding them is on how the photographer deals with the camera, or basically UX (user experience). In some firmware and camera updates we get better UX, in other cases we get worse UX. It should always be: "better." 

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