Why There Should Be a D400

(commentary)

An email from one of this site’s readers nailed it. Let me paraphrase:

If someone is starting out in sports or wildlife or even photo journalism and requires a serious, dependable, fast frame rate camera (10 fps+), Nikon’s answer is for them to spend US$6000. Canon’s answer is for them to spend US$1400 and get a free printer. 

Yes, you read that right (current B&H prices). Guess which one someone graduating from college with a degree in photojournalism is likely to buy?

Technically, Nikon could sell you a V3 for US$1100, though they aren’t exactly promoting that option to this group, nor would it be the right answer.  And sure, Nikon could try to get you to pick the D7200 over the Canon 7D Mark II, but the build quality difference is going to be a bit of an issue for someone seriously starting out in photography and using their gear all the time in all kinds of conditions.

Where is the oversight and management attention in Nikon’s product line up? 

Missing in action, I’d say. Unfortunately, it’s systemic to Nikon’s reporting structure in the design groups (yes, I wrote groups, as in plural). Moreover, the same problem is present in the lens design groups (again plural). And between camera and lens groups (again plural). Who is the leader that’s rationalizing all of Nikon’s camera product offerings? Seriously, I don’t know any more, and haven’t for over five years now. I’m not sure Nikon knows, either, and that’s producing these scenarios that are problematic for them downstream.

What I’m talking about here is future customers. Younger folk just getting started and selecting a system to grow into. One problem Nikon has right now is that they want any customer, and they want them today. In terms of volume, Nikon lost a double digit percentage of customers in 2015 in ILC products, probably something that will turn out to be about 15% when all the numbers get tallied soon. Thus, the panic in Nikon Tokyo is about selling anything today to anyone, not building a solid and dependable future customer base. You and I can see that as a big mistake, right? 

Meanwhile, Canon isn’t making this same mistake—though they really need to make more useful EF-S lenses—and Sony now has a very rationalized and excellent E/FE lineup that’s starting to grow wings and even carries over into their video offerings. 

Nikon could close their biggest gaping hole with one thing: a D400. They could look better than Canon with just three additional things: 50-150mm f/2.8-4 DX, 24mm f/2 DX, 16mm f/2.8 DX. That they could have (and should have) done this five years ago is the part that makes the inaction a scathing affront to future customers.

I personally now doubt Nikon management’s long-purported goal: to take the number one camera maker position from Canon. Yeah, they may have had that goal internally for decades now, but frankly, I don’t see the actions that make it likely they’ll ever achieve that goal. So, either it isn’t a goal, or management is incompetent and incapable of achieving it.

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