As a photographer, I’ve been a longtime Nikon user. Nikon always epitomized, for me, the ultimate real photographers. From my beautifully crafted FM3a to to the modern DSLRs, the had always been something magical about handling a Nikon. But over the past few years, Nikon has fallen into a rut. The short story is they stopped innovating.
Nikon behaved as if they were the only game in town. In a way, they were. Canon hasn’t done anything exciting since the 5D mark III, which is really long in the tooth. Nikon started to treat their own camera lines as their only competition. They started to intentionally crippling different camera segments to ensure they didn’t cannibalize on each other. Want a pro caliber body in DX format? No way. Even a FX sensor in a pro body without going to 36MP was not an option. And even within a range, improvements within new releases were minor. For example, the D600 -> D610 -> D750 series offered only minor, evolutionary enhancements, contrary to what their customers were demanding. Nikon became more interested in protecting model segmentation than doing the right thing for their customers.
It had nearly reached the point where I was prepared to divest of my Nikon gear. Over the past two years, there has been a lot of innovation happening in photography, but unfortunately for Nikon, it was happening with mirrorless cameras and not Nikon DSLRs. I’ve been really impressed with the Fuji XT-1 and the high quality lenses Fuji has been releasing. I feared Nikon was about to pull a Kodak and let themselves fail due to their own arrogance.
Sony has been out innovating Nikon at every turn with their new A7 cameras. They have high quality third-party lens manufacturers making lenses only for their camera. In short, Sony was not just moving Nikon’s cheese, they were stealing it outright.
Sony was also churning quickly, responding to the demands of photographers. They only waited a year between the A7R and A7RII, and the changes between them were huge. Sony was also engaging more with photographers. They even contacted me to ask if they could use one of my tweets for their social media marketing campaign.
Fortunately, rather than die the Kodak death, Nikon appears to have realized the challenges they face rather than sticking their head in the sand. Along with releasing their new flagship DSLR, the D5, the also dropped a camera no one was expecting: the D500.
The D500 is the camera a lot of Nikon users had been asking for: a true professional body APS-C (DX) sensor camera. I had used the D200 back before moving to full frame and loved it, but I felt back then APS-C was being left for dead. I don’t think Nikon would have made this camera without the competition from Sony. It is the first revolutionary camera they have released in years, and it shows that Nikon is back in the game.
I’m predicting Nikon will release a D900 later this year, which takes the same pro body of the D500 and upsizes it to hold the same full-frame sensor as the D5. This would be the no-compromise successor to the D700 that photographers have been screaming for, not another pro-sumer lightweight like the D600/D610/D750 chain. I love my D750, but would upgrade in a heartbeat to the D900.
I’m hoping Nikon has finally realizing that protecting the segmentation between their camera lines is less important than giving photographers what they want and protecting them from the huge threat of Sony. It remains to be seen, but at last I see a glimmer of hope. And I’ll be hanging onto my Nikon gear.