End of Year Nikon Body Buying Advice

Each holiday season I get a stream of emails that ask whether they should upgrade to an advertised holiday bargain or wait for Nikon to introduce a replacement camera.

There’s no simple answer to that question as we’re talking about the intersection of known price (holiday bargain) versus unknown performance (potential replacement model). Still, things are regular enough on the Nikon side of the DSLR marketplace to make some general observations and recommendations:

  • D5 — No replacement is due for over a year (probably early 2018), no discount this year. Easy choice: buy it if you need it and can afford it. We likely won’t see any substantive discounts on this model until just before the D5s appears.
  • D810 — Expected replacement soon (early 2017) and substantive discounts now. Any replacement is going to skyrocket back to the original price, maybe even go up a bit. So this is the ultimate known price versus unknown performance choice. We all expect a new sensor and focus system. But there’s really nothing wrong with the current sensor and focus system. The D810 is still the best all-around DSLR on the market as far as I’m concerned, and you could easily still be shooting with it several years from now. So the deep discounts should be highly tempting to anyone that hasn’t already gotten up to 36mp and/or FX.
  • D750 — Expected replacement in 2017 and decent discounts now. My problem here is that the D750 has had multiple recalls for different problems, and it’s a consumer body masquerading as a pro choice.  It’s also unclear how Nikon updates this model. It could go the D3400/D5600 way (very little update) or it could be something more substantial. That’s a big unknown. My tendency would be to wait on a D750, as there are plenty of them floating about in dealer inventories and I’m pretty sure the pricing on them will continue to be aggressive all the way up to its replacement.
  • D610 — One of the two forgotten FX bodies (the Df is the other), and the bargain entry point to FX. Again, this model is due for replacement, but I have no obvious idea of how Nikon goes about such an update. Could be substantial, could be minor. I’d bet on minor (e.g. add SnapBridge). While this model is still the “bargain” in the Nikon FX camp, but the D750 bests it on LCD and autofocus system. If those features are truly important to you, you might want to step up to the D750 (exactly what Nikon wants, as even those few extra dollars increase their gross profit margin). 
  • Df — This was a one-off, legacy-style camera that targeted a narrow niche and found a reuse for the D4 sensor to get Nikon’s per-sensor costs down. Given that 2017 is Nikon’s 100th anniversary, we all expect a followup to the Df (i.e. another legacy style camera served up as an anniversary product). There’s no discount on the Df at the moment, and they’re in short supply anyway, so I’d just wait to see what Nikon has up their sleeves for 2017 if you’re interested in this type of camera.
  • D500 — No replacement is due for over a year (2018 would be the earliest), but a hefty discount now. I’ve already noted an uptick in my book sales that came with Nikon’s aggressive pricing this holiday season, so many of you are indeed thinking correctly: these are excellent discounts on a great camera, and it’s likely that some of the discount will go away at the end of the year (e.g. the grip won’t be included).
  • D7200 — Technically, the D7200 would be due for update in 2017. I suspect that if it does get updated in that time frame the update will be mostly minor (e.g. adding SnapBridge). I don’t think there’s a new sensor for this model yet, it’s too early to roll the new autofocus system to it, and that doesn’t leave a lot of compelling likely differences for the next model. Buy this year if you like the discounted price.
  • D5500/D5600Here in the US we still only have the D5500. We already know the D5600 update is minuscule. I suspect there will be substantive discounts after the holidays. I see no reason to hurry if you’re interested in this model; wait for a better discount.
  • D3400 — Another minuscule update, and prices are already sagging. The Best Buy I visited yesterday had huge stacks of them, so someone thinks they’ll be selling on Black Friday and through the holiday. Still, I see no real reason to hurry if you’re interested in this model.

If it wasn’t clear, here’s what I personally would do in the next two months if I were in the market for cameras at each of these levels:

D5: buy if I needed it; negotiate with dealer for a sweetener
D810: snap up the discounted model with grip (and probably sell the grip ;~)
D750: wait
D610: wait
Df: wait
D500: snap up the discounted model with grip (and probably sell the grip ;~)
D7200: buy it if the price is right
D5500: wait
D3400: wait

This leaves us with the previous generation models still hanging around in inventory. I’ll use NikonUSA’s list of still available models here, though there may be some even older bodies lingering out there on dealer shelves:

  • D4s — No reason to buy this new without a huge discount.
  • D7100 — While it’s discounted by close to 30% over the D7200, the D7200 was a substantive upgrade in how it handles during shooting (very minor in image quality). While Nikon didn’t change much, the few things they did change make the D7200 a camera you’re likely to continue to enjoy shooting for longer, particularly the buffer. I’d say skip the D7100 unless you’re on a really tight budget.
  • D5200, D5300 — On a budget I’d opt for the D5300 over the current D5500, frankly.
  • D3300, D3200 — Ditto: on a budget I’d opt for the D3300 over the current D3400.

Why did I avoid the extra discounts on the D5200 and D3200? Because of the likelihood of parts not being available for repairs down the road. In its cost cutting, Nikon seems to be pulling in the number of years that parts are still available for models. The older the model you get, the more likely that Nikon can’t repair it later on. DSLRs tend to have long useful lives, so the difference between parts being unavailable four years from now versus seven can be meaningful. 

Anything else in the US is lingering dealer inventory, not something that can still be obtained by the dealer from NikonUSA.

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