Thursday 30 July 2020

What Should Nikon Do?

The Milky Way
D750, Laowa 15mm f4 Macro

Nikon needs to get some movement with the Z system, here's what I think they should do.

1. Put a stake through Z DX. It's dead Jim, it's pining for the fjords. Serious crop shooters went Fuji, Olympus or maybe Sony and Nikon's current offerings won't pick up the folks now bailing out on Olympus. The consumer market is busy buying EF-M or maybe an A6100 if they even bother with a real camera instead of using their phone. Figure something out to apologize to the few Z50 buyers.

2. Get Viltrox, Tamron and Sigma releasing their lenses in Z mount. Whatever that costs Nikon, it will be worth it in the long run, especially if those lenses arrive in Z mount before R mount (and be sure they're already coming in R mount thanks to the R5/R6 announcement success)

3. Go wave some money at Kodak's remains and secure rights to the film names. Then come up with a set of Picture Controls that mimics those films and make them available for all cameras with Picture Control support (or at least the D750/D6x0 and consumer bodies, along with all Z's). Fuji's made a killing here and Kodak's far more legendary names are ripe for the picking now. 

4. Get even more aggressive on price with the Z5 ($1199 I think, with the 24-50 being a $100 add), and bring out a Z3 for $899. Start pushing consumer Z lenses now that the core f2.8 trinity is done.

5. Folks shoot DX because it's small and/or they like the reach it brings. For the former, small bodies combined with lenses like the 24-50 cover it. For the latter, Nikon needs some cheap and long lenses. A consumer 200-500/8 would work well here. Canon's F11 telephotos are their answer, Nikon needs its own answer. A small and cheap set of primes are also needed. 18 & 24 f2.8's, 35, 50 and 75 f2's. These need to be good performers, but not S level, and should sell between $150 and $400 USD. That fills the compact needs and the cheap needs, while still delivering solid performance. Fuji's Fujicron line is the pattern here, but without the fancy build that drives up the price. 

What should the Z3 be? A full frame Z50. Start with the Z50 body, stuff the Z5 sensor in it, delete all the ports except a USB-C PD port or two. Cameras have been suffering from port sprawl for years. The reality is that everything in terms of ports can be replaced by USB-C. Don't include a charger, the consumer will be happy charging from their phone/laptop charger. Do come out with a USB-C PD dual charger for the battery (same battery as Z50 of course) that's an available accessory (and actually on shelves at launch, unlike the Z6/Z7 battery grip)

This does need to be paired with a USB-C version of the remote release cable, but that's really it. By pairing this way, Nikon can support a larger selection of accessories while minimizing the hardware cost. USB-C can support HDMI output, audio in/out, power delivery, remote releases, external storage, tethering, etc. And thanks to being a USB variant, it can do all of those at once via hubs.

One thing that should definitely be supported is the ability to write to USB-C storage directly, with support for typical filesystems (FAT32, ExFAT, NTFS and whatever Mac OS is doing these days). More capability with less hardware is a win for everybody. The users get more camera and it costs Nikon less to deliver.

Where possible, any USB-C capability added should be given to all bodies in the line. 

No IBIS, but a cheap, small and slow 24-105 VR zoom for it. Make sure there's also a 70-300VR for Z users (that will sell to Z5 users and weight conscious higher-end users if it's as competent as the current 70-300 AF-P DX. It can also be slower at the long end to cut size/weight, f6.3 or f7.1 is viable). 

Next go pay somebody competent to write a new Android/iOS/Windows app for it and work with the firmware designers for the Z so that connectivity is seamless and sharing can be triggered from the camera (you want people able to post to Instagram or Facebook directly from the camera, via the phone). 

Users should also be able to configure the camera from the phone and create/trade Picture Controls loaded off SD or via the phone app. These capabilities should come to the other Z bodies as well, based on BT/Wifi connectivity. Heck, you should be able to trade Picture Controls in the field with another user, just leveraging the built-in sharing ability of the app (BT file transfer et al). the one mistake Fuji made is you can't share your custom Film Simulation beyond posting settings recipes in text form.

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