What To Expect

Believe it or not, we’re less than 100 days from the start of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. If the Z9 and the two big lenses are going to appear for these games, I think we’ll be getting some more information in the days prior to the Opening Ceremonies. 

But since everyone is bemoaning the lack of announcements from Nikon all of the sudden, let me set out what I think Nikon will be saying in the next 100 days. I believe the following is the order of Nikon press information to come during that time:

  1. Completed —Fiscal year 2021 results. Typically done in late May, and covers the period from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. This is preceded by executives meeting with key press, and it’s often during that period we learn generally about some near term new products. Yes, the final report for the year will have bad news, as Nikon has already told everyone that they’ll be doing aggressive write downs. We pretty much know the gross level of the financial details already; it’s the final details that are being whispered now and revealed through the final public announcement. Historically, Nikon likes to get rid of bad news before discussing new product. Which is why...
  2. Z30 launch, 18-140mm DX lens launch; possibly a 10-20mm DX surprise announcement. This could be first and occur while the executives are previewing results with press, but I’m currently betting it will happen after the fiscal year results are officially reported. Why? Because parts shortages and pandemic travel are slowing Nikon down right now from the pace they’d like to be taking. But more importantly, this would give them something new and positive to discuss right after disclosing last year’s bad news. Since we’ll also have the fiscal 2022 estimates at this point, we’ll also be able to get a sense for how Nikon thinks this new camera will help take over the entry point load from the D3500. 
  3. The 28mm and 40mm compact lens launch. This might happen with the Z30 announcement, as these two compact lenses match up well with that camera and the full frame folk are getting hungry for anything new. 
  4. Another development announcement. Since the Z9, 400mm f/2.8, and 600mm f/4 are going to show up in some form by mid-July—probably as loaners to NPS members and agencies at the Olympics—Nikon is likely to disclose some more information about them (it’ll get out anyway, so why not get the message out yourself?). We’re likely to learn more details about the Z9’s features and performance, but probably not all the specifics. I suppose it’s possible that Nikon might do a full launch of the Z9 but with availability in late fall, but at the moment I don’t get the sense that this is what Nikon will do. Nikon likes to keep the deep details and the full technology explanations for the month prior to shipments. I don’t at all get the sense the Z9 is ready to ship, though prototypes are beginning to circulate.

Wild cards: other lenses on the known Road Map, and a new Lens Road Map.

A few points: Nikon wants to start their new fiscal year out strong, so I believe they are motivated to ship something in June so that it shows up in their Q1 results. They’ll have the same motivation again in August/September, and then finally in November/December. My expectations that these quarterly “pushes” will be (Q1) DX, (Q2) lenses, and (Q3) Z9. The corollary is that I’m not expecting a “surprise” Z camera or lens from Nikon until their fiscal Q4 at the earliest, which puts us into early 2022. 

Am I right? Could all this change? 

This has been one of the stranger periods in Nikon history, and they’ve had some strange ones (e.g. having to emphasize the Nikon 1 system after the quake, tsunami, and flood impacted all their other ILC production in 2011). One of my Tokyo sources says that things are indeed a lot like 2011 at the moment, where unplanned disruptions are impacting their ability to execute plans as designed.

As much as the dogs on the Internet keep saying the Z System is a failure (it isn’t), I’d judge Nikon is only able to supply about a third of current demand at the moment, and at no real fault of their own. Other companies are starting to have the same problem as parts supplies get really constrained. 

The good news is that all the unplanned issues should be short term, not long term. I expect things will flip sometime in early fall as supplies start to catch up to demand. I’m guessing that Christmas 2021 is going to be huge for the camera makers, including Nikon.

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