News/Views

The following are the most recent 10 articles posted on dslrbodies.com. To see older articles from 2021 and later, use the News/Views Archives at the bottom of this page. To see 2013 to 2020 News/View articles, click on this link, which will take you to a deeper archive.

Design Versus Production

Here's one thing that's still confusing DSLR aficionados: are DSLRs still being designed?

I'd love to say that there's a definitive answer to that question, but unfortunately history tells us that some tinkering in the R&D labs does tend to occur after a transition has occurred. But it's rare that any of that makes it to market.

Effectively, both Canon and Nikon have now shut down designing new DSLRs. In the case of Nikon that doesn't absolutely mean that there wasn't one designed before that shutdown that might some day appear. Still, I think it likely to believe the following:

  • Canon — No new DSLR will appear. Canon seems to have clearly started their full-on mirrorless RF press.
  • Nikon — Highly likely that no new DSLR will appear, but I can't rule out that one or two of the models (D850, D6) might get a mild update to extend their life (e.g. D850s, D6s). 
  • Pentax — The sole player that might still have a DSLR design to launch, as they've chosen not to play in mirrorless.

One of the things driving Canon and Nikon now (and affecting Pentax) is that image sensor technology is now totally driven by mirrorless designs. Consider, for example, the stacked BSI sensor in the Z9: this sensor was designed to remove the mechanical shutter and provide a blackout-less data stream for the viewfinder. A DSLR doesn't really benefit from either of these traits, as you still have the mechanical mirror flip that limits frame rate and focus performance, and thus you still have viewfinder blackout. Dropping the Z9 image sensor into a D6-type DSLR body just makes the DSLR more expensive, with little benefit (Live View would get a benefit). 

As the image sensors move on with technologies that primarily benefit mirrorless, that limits the design choices that make sense for DSLRs. And the declining DSLR unit volume then also puts another constraint into place: you don't have enough volume to justify the R&D for a new DSLR-focused image sensor. The "box" that is DSLR design has gotten smaller, and at some point it's simply not financially prudent to be in that box.

So: new DSLR design is basically over at Canon and Nikon. Expecting any new DSLR from them puts you in the category of Relentless Optimist.

That, however, doesn't mean that DSLRs won't continue to get produced. It's less clear what is happening at Canon—I suspect that all the DSLR production lines there are in the process of transitioning to mirrorless, but can't confirm that—but at Nikon it seems pretty clear at the moment: D7500, D780, D850, and D6 cameras are still being produced "normally." D3500 and D5600 models still seem to come out of the Thailand factory, but in rapidly declining numbers. My suspicion is that much of the Nikon DSLR production has now moved to a flexible "on demand" and more hand built section of the factory (the mirrorless side is highly automated with robotic assembly, which is possible due to the simplified nature of their designs). 

So: DSLR production continues, certainly at Nikon, and apparently still happening at lower volume at Canon, as well. I count six Nikon DSLRs still regularly getting shipped to dealers, and eight Canon ones. I'll bet that number changes downward after this holiday season.

Thus the question is this: now that DSLR designing has stopped, when will production stop? Nikon used to say in official documents that they'd still be making DSLRs in 2024, and I believe that's still likely true. But will they be producing the D7500, D780, D850, and D6 bodies? That seems far less likely. The D3500 and D5600 will be the next Nikon DSLRs to cease production, I believe, with the D7500 to follow (probably at the point where a Z70 or Z90 is introduced). If Nikon is still making DSLRs at the end of 2024, I'll bet that will be the D850 and/or D6. Why? Because those are two remarkably capable cameras, even compared to the best mirrorless options today. Those favoring DSLRs will continue buying such excellent cameras.

On the Canon side, it seems likely that we'll start seeing discontinuances in 2023. How many and how fast are tough to predict, but the recent R7 and R10, coupled with the R100 rumors, seem to suggest that the Rebel/Kiss transition now completely underway.

At the moment, the holiday deals on DSLRs are mostly minimal, with the D850 at US$2500 being the only thing I'd point to as a great deal. The D850 is to this day one of the best all-around cameras you can purchase, and at that price, the least expensive of those top models. It'll remain a useful camera for years, maybe a decade more. 

End of 2022 DSLR Status

It's both tough and easy to recommend new DSLR cameras for the Holiday 2022 season. Tough because models are being discontinued and camera makers would rather you buy a mirrorless camera. Easy because its easy to point out the few DSLRs that still are at the top of the game and useful.

I've updated the camera section of this site to more properly identify the true "current" cameras versus older cameras for Nikon.

Canon

Canon's remaining DSLR lineup in the US these days appears to be:

  • EF-S (APS-C sensor)— Rebel T100, Rebel T7, SL3, Rebel T8i, 80D, 90D, 7D
  • EF (full frame sensor) — 6D Mark II, 5D Mark IV, 5DS R, 1DX Mark II

Some of these are only still available in kits, some appear to just be lingering inventory (7D, 5DS R). 

It's getting more difficult for me to recommend any of the Canon DSLRs, as many are starting to age poorly, to the point where I'd tend to say "just buy mirrorless" if you thought you wanted one of them. But here are my late 2022 recommendations:

  • EF-S user (other than 7D) looking to upgrade in EF-S: buy a 90D. It's the most up-to-date EF-S model, and it's very competent at a reasonable price. 
  • 7D user looking to upgrade: Sorry, but it's time to move to mirrorless, and the R7 is your answer.
  • EF user looking to upgrade (e.g. earlier 5D, 6D users): The only camera still worth looking at in my opinion is the 5D Mark IV. I suppose if you were on one of the oldest 5D's and Canon's discounting this holiday were aggressive, the 6D Mark II might come into play, but I'd strongly suggest that if you are an EF user looking to stay an EF user, you should get the best EF all-around camera that was made, and that's the 5D Mark IV.

Pros shouldn't be afraid of the 1DX Mark II. If you're using any of the earlier 1D's and can tolerate 20mp, this camera is an excellent upgrade choice, especially since Canon has been off-and-on discounting stock.

Nikon

Nikon's remaining DSLR lineup these days is:

  • DX — D3500*, D5600*, D7500
  • FX — D780, D850, D6

That's not what the NikonUSA Web site says, and even my short list is deceptive. The D500 is still obtainable via gray market, for example, and the remaining D3500 and D5600 units tend to be in and out of stock (thus my asterisks). My guess is that the D7500 will be the last DX standing, and once it is gone, we'll be down to just the three FX DSLRs.

Thus, if you're a Nikon DSLR user, want to remain one, and are in the market for upgrading this holiday season, I'm only going to have three recommendations for most of you:

  • DX user (other than D500) looking to upgrade in DX: buy a D7500, stat. It's an undervalued camera capable of excellent results, and a bit of a bargain. 
  • D500 user looking to upgrade in DSLR: consider a D850. You'll still have a 19mp DX coverage, but you get the benefits of one of the best full frame cameras made. 
  • FX user (D600, D610, D700, D750, Df) looking to upgrade: buy a D850. It's still the best all-around DSLR you can buy. 

If you're willing to gamble a bit, a gray market D500 is still a remarkably good camera for the lower-body DX owners to move up to. It'll just be more difficult to get repaired if you drop it. 

Pros shouldn't be afraid of the D6. If you're still using a D3 or D4, the D6 is definitely an upgrade. The focus system alone just works far better. But workflow is also better, SnapBridge and GPS are built-in, and the video capabilities are better, too. The D6 is still built like a brick, and still has all the bells and whistles you expect. And if you haven't tried a 120-300mm f/2.8E VR lens on the D6, you're in for some wonderful surprises. 

Lenses

Here's the thing: DSLR lenses are slowly going out of production, across the board. EF-S and DX lens production have been cut by everyone in order to use parts and manufacturing facilities for mirrorless lenses. Overall, Canon, Nikon, Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina are all cutting back on DSLR lenses, both crop sensor and full frame, but particularly crop sensor. This holiday may be your last best chance at picking up new copies of many lenses you desire.

The DSLR-to-mirrorless transition is putting a lot of EF and F mount lenses on the used market, despite the fact that both Canon and Nikon encourage their continued use on mirrorless through lens adapters. In Nikon's case, their Z System lenses have generally been clearly and obviously better than their F-mount equivalents, which is sparking a lot of Z-mount lens buying and F-mount lens dumping. 

This holiday season is probably a good time to pick up used lens bargains. Why? Because once the largest portion of the herd has moved to the mirrorless pasture, the DSLR lens dumping will lessen, and people are going to discover that a lot of those lenses are actually more valuable than the lowest prices they fetched when they hit the used market during the stampede. 

Nikon F-Mount Availability Rescrutinized

A long-time site reader (thanks Martin) who follows inventories closely suggested that I add some information to my previous article, and provided a database lookup of what he found, which you'll see used below with some annotations. Note that this isn't a live inventory list, but was what we found last night when checking the data. Some items may change status by the time you read this article.

Some shorthands are used in the following tables:

  • Bold = Listed as a current lens by the NikonUSA site
  • IS = in stock (US version)
  • GM = in stock (gray market version)
  • OS = out of stock (US version)
  • BO = back-ordered
  • D = discontinued
  • Active = still on Nikon Japan's active lens list

So let's go through the Nikon lenses Amateur Photographer (UK) said were discontinued once again and observe more closely at what's going on here in the US.

DX Lenses

NikonUSA B&H Japan
10.5mm f/2.8G OS D D
12-24mm f/4G OS IS D
16-80mm f/2.8-4E D D D
16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G D D D
17-55mm f/2.8G IS IS, GM D
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G II OS D D
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II OS D D
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-P BO OS, GM D
18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G OS IS D
18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II IS OS D
18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G IS IS active
55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR OS D D
55-200mm f/4-5.6G OS D D
55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G OS D D
70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G BO IS D

With the DX lenses, you'll notice that one of the lenses Amateur Photography says is discontinued is not yet listed as such on the Nikon Japan site (18-300mm). Of the remaining ones, B&H has stock of five, NikonUSA has stock of three. If you ordered today you should be able to get a grand total of six of the fifteen "discontinued" DX lenses here in the US. How long those will remain available is unpredictable. Note that B&H is more aggressive than NikonUSA in labeling a lens discontinued. 

D-type Lenses

NikonUSA B&H Japan
14mm f/2.8D OS D D
16mm f/2.8D fisheye OS OS D
24mm f/2.8D BO BO D
28mm f/2.8D BO BO D
35mm f/2D BO BO D
50mm f/1.4D OS D D
60mm f/2.8D Micro-Nikkor D D D
105mm f/2D DC OS D D
135mm f/2D DC OS D D
180mm f/2.8D OS D D
200mm f/4D Micro-Nikkor D D D

With the D-type lenses, NikonUSA is much more optimistic than B&H: B&H lists seven of the eleven lenses as discontinued, while NikonUSA has dropped only two from their site. Note that I didn't catch that the 20mm lens in my previous list was not the D version, so I've updated this table accordingly.

G-type Lenses

NikonUSA B&H Japan
18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G D D D
24-70mm f/2.8G IS OS, GM D
28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G D D D
60mm f/2.8G Micro-Nikkor D D D
70-200mm f/2.8G VR II OS D D
70-200mm f/4G D IS D
70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G OS D D
105mm f/2.8G VR II Micro-Nikkor D D D

One thing to note: B&H still has new 70-200mm f/4G lenses available, but NikonUSA is labeling them as discontinued. If you want one of those, now is the time to buy it if you want a new copy [advertiser link]. Other than that, once again B&H is clearly more pessimistic than NikonUSA in terms of what's still available.

The NikonUSA site lists a total of 90 F-mount lenses (which includes the TC800 unavailable for sale separately, plus a pair of two-lens kits).  Of those 90, 20 are out-of-stock and have been listed as discontinued by Japan and B&H (although there’s two that B&H has grey market inventory of, plus that 70-200mm f/4G).  That leaves 70 lenses, and of those, 29 have been declared discontinued in Japan, leaving just 41 (and no recent Micro-Nikkor, which I find troublesome).

One conclusion you can draw from the above is that the new F-mount lens availability could very well drop to about half that which NikonUSA suggests is available. I and others are betting that a number of those out-of-stock listings will simply convert to discontinued at some point in the not-too-distant future. 

Yes, this site is US-centric. The vast majority of the site readership is located here in the US, plus there's far too many subsidiaries and distributors worldwide to do the list justice for every country. Moreover, as I've pointed out before, the US is probably the last canary in the coal mine. If something from Nikon gets discontinued here, it is just no longer available via official sources pretty much anywhere (though sometimes a dealer or two may have some lingering inventory). 

What's Happening With DSLR Lenses?

There's some continuing confusion about which Canon EF and Nikon F-mount lenses are in production and which aren't. This isn't helped by the fact that the various Canon and Nikon subsidiaries around the world seem to have a different set of lenses still available. It's unclear whether that's lingering inventory or something else is going on, such as targeted distribution. 

I vote for something else; I've seen products suddenly pop back up on sale after long periods of apparent discontinuation. I think this has to do with production facilities and how many units the companies think it takes to be worth restoring a production line temporarily. 

That said, the UK's Amateur Photographer just put together a list of 30 EF-mount Canon and 35 F-mount Nikkors they believe to be out of production, so it's worth taking a look at those lists and then formulating some conclusions. 

Nikon F-Mount

I'm going to start with Nikon and split the presentation into three lists (DX, D, and G) so as to make things a little clearer. Here's what AP said was "discontinued":

DX

  • 10.5mm f/2.8G (it's also D)
  • 12-24mm f/4G
  • 16-80mm f/2.8-4E
  • 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G
  • 17-55mm f/2.8G
  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G II
  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II
  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-P
  • 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G
  • 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II
  • 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G 
  • 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR
  • 55-200mm f/4-5.6 VR II
  • 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G
  • 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G

D

  • 14mm f/2.8
  • 16mm f/2.8 fisheye
  • 20mm f/2.8
  • 24mm f/2.8
  • 28mm f/2.8
  • 35mm f/2
  • 50mm f/1.4
  • 60mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor
  • 105mm f/2 DC
  • 135mm f/2 DC
  • 180mm f/2.8
  • 200mm f/4 Micro-Nikkor

Other G

  • 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G
  • 24-70mm f/2.8G
  • 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G
  • 60mm f/2.8G Micro-Nikkor
  • 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II
  • 70-200mm f/4G
  • 70-300mm f/4-5.6G
  • 105mm f/2.8G VR II Micro-Nikkor

You probably noticed the bold items in this list. Those are lenses still listed as available new by NikonUSA! 

Which brings us to the confusion. Different Nikon subsidiaries are listing available lenses differently, with Japan itself being probably the most assertive in reducing their available lens list. (Nikon Japan tends to also have a sliding policy that takes a lens from Discontinued to Not Available to Archived, which in itself causes confusion elsewhere in the world.) Some lenses not on AP's list of 35 discontinued lenses are apparently no longer available in Japan. The 85mm f/3.5G DX Micro-Nikkor, for instance (still available in the US, too). 

NikonUSA and its Nikon Inc. brethren (basically Nikon North America, which includes a bit that's not North American) are about one third of Nikon's global market. Historically, North America seems to be last in discontinuing older products, for reasons I'm not 100% sure of. 

Canon EF Mount

AP's "discontinued" Canon lens list looks like this:

EF-S

  • 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 35mm f/2.8 Macro
  • 60mm f/2.8 Macro

EF

  • 14mm f/2.8L (II in stock)
  • 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 20mm f/2.8
  • 24mm f/2.8
  • 24-70mm f/4L
  • 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6
  • 28mm f/1.8
  • 28mm f/2.8
  • 40mm f/2.8
  • 45mm f/2.8 TS-E
  • 70-200mm f/2.8L II
  • 70-200mm f/4L (both versions)
  • 70-300mm f/4-5.6L
  • 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO
  • 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III
  • 85mm f/1.2L
  • 89mm f/2.8 TS-E
  • 100mm f/2
  • 100mm f/2.8 Macro
  • 180mm f/3.5L Macro
  • 200mm f/2.8L
  • 300mm f/4L
  • 400mm f/5.6L

As with the Nikon list, I've used bold to indicate that these lenses are still listed by CanonUSA as being in stock and available to buy.

Make a Plan

These lists make those who have decided to stick with DSLRs a little bit vulnerable. It's clear that EF- and F-mount lenses are being discontinued, but it's entirely unclear exactly when you'll no longer to be able to get specific lenses. The discontinuation of many Canon macro and Nikon Micro-Nikkors, for instance—only one older FX model is available in the US now, for instance—means that the used market or third party lenses will become the only sources for DSLR macro optics in the near future. 

In crop-sensor DSLRs, it seems that Nikon's being more aggressive short term in discontinuing lenses for them (DX) than Canon is (EF-S). I'd say that this seems to indicate that Nikon will remove all DX DSLRs from their lineup before Canon removes all the EF-S DSLRs from theirs. But plans change quickly during transitions, so I wouldn't 100% count on that if you're a Canon EF-S user.

Plus it's unclear how long the third party lens companies will keep their DSLR lens lines intact, too, particularly with crop sensor lenses.

Thus, you have to assess what camp you're in with lenses, and start making plans now. I see three distinct groups forming:

  1. Already have the lenses you want/need. Bravo. You need take no action, and you'll find that the exotic EF- and F-mount lenses are coming down in used prices, so you might find something enticing in the near term that extends your kit at the telephoto end.
  2. Have some lens gaps you planned to fill. You need to pay attention to what's going on with F-mount lenses and perhaps move up your purchase timing. If a lens you planned to buy is in bold on the above list, you're going to want to pick that lens up sooner rather than later, as there's no predictability as to when they will no longer be available new. Some dealers may still have new copies of lenses that are not in bold, but once those are gone, you'd have to dip into the used market to pick them up. Time is not on your side. You should be adjusting your purchase plans stat, before your choices get more limited.
  3. Just starting out or have lots of long-term lens need. If you're just starting out, you're going to want to fill out your lens set faster than you originally planned (much like those in the previous bullet). Either that or just be prepared to be dipping into the used market to find excellent-rated examples of the lenses you desire (which may save you money, so not all bad). If you currently have just a few lenses but had plans for building out a full lens lineup (the second part of this group), it may be too late for you. The reason I say that is that you're probably financially limited in what you can do short term, which is why you were making long-term plans for acquiring more lenses. I'd again point to the growing used market for you. As more and more Canon and DSLR users switch to mirrorless, the used market will grow for a while longer. Moreover, on the Nikon side these folk are discovering that the new Z-mount optics deliver in ways that go beyond what they're used to, and thus are ending up more aggressive at getting rid of their old F-mount optics than the Canon EF crowd. This is producing plenty of supply in the used Nikkor market, and is pushing used prices downward, especially for the top-end lenses. Take advantage of that.

One other thing to keep in mind: there's an unknown "gray area" that's starting to become evident. That has to do with repairability. In the US, the general standard that's followed is California's: basically companies must offer repairs for products that were in production in the last seven years. 

You can see how that quickly creates a gray area. Some of these lenses that are still available may have been out of production for awhile without us knowing. So the clock started ticking on their repairability without any of us knowing, let alone as to when the clock started. The Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G is potentially a good example of that. I'm sure that production was trimmed, if not stopped, after the 24-70mm f/2.8E was introduced in 2015. But exactly when did the cutoff occur? No one knows. Well, okay, the ones that know won't tell you. So some of the lenses on the above list are potentially non-repairable once the warranty is exhausted (remember when NikonUSA dropped their 4-year automatic warranty extension? ;~). 

Of course, some of the really old lenses on the list, such as the Nikon 24mm f/2.8D, are simpler lenses that independent repair shops might be able to fix using scavenged parts. Just realize that for discontinued lenses, there is an expiration date for when NikonUSA will repair them. We're already seeing that with bodies, as the D800 and D4 are now out of the seven-year window.

Before you panic, take a deep breath, and remember you're carrying a towel. The recent DSLR bodies (and even many older ones) are robust, produce excellent results, and so do the F-mount or EF-mount lenses for them. Just as some of you are probably driving 10-year+ old autos and are content with that, there will be a time when more of you are using 10-year+ cameras, and will likewise be satisfied. 

So relax, and make your plan for the future. Answer a few simple questions, then adjust your lens expectations as I suggest above. What questions, you ask? Well, this one is sort of a critical one: "will I transition to mirrorless, and if so when do I plan to do that?" 

As always, my In Box is available for quick consultation if you have a specific question.

Update: moved the Canon 60mm f/2.8 macro to the correct category.

____________________

Bonus: As is happening over and over in the world of photography-related Web sites, once one site publishes something that looks like news—in this case Amateur Photographer in the UK—they all follow with their own news-scraping version of it, typically with no added information or analysis whatsoever. This forces sites like mine, which do attempt to improve readers' understanding of what's going on, to have to publish a version that tries to go beyond the "oh no, lenses are disappearing" level of reporting. 

If DSLR Development Stops, Where Do We End Up?

With all the talk of Nikon ending DSLR development—sourced from a bad article that has gone viral by repetition from all the news scraping photography sites—it's probably a good time to talk about what if what that article suggests is correct, that Nikon has end-of-lifed their DSLR development. The tricky part for Nikon to navigate in the next few years is the DSLR to mirrorless transition (less so for Canon, who simply pursues market share). Why? Because Nikon made so many terrific DSLRs and up through this year had more DSLR than mirrorless volume. DSLRs that are still reliable and useful today. 

Thus, it seems relevant to go through the current lineup and comment on each model. Note that we're in year 14 of mirrorless (4 for Nikon), and year 24 of DSLR (technically about 30 for Nikon if you count the pre-D1 products).

  • D6 — Arguably the best focusing DSLR ever made. And, within the bounds of its AF sensor array, still as good as any current mirrorless camera, unless you want something automated more than just human face/eye recognition. 3D tracking is stellar. Group AF is dead-on reliable and predictable (and fast). Low light performance is great due to the really large phase detect sensors. Customization is also really good, allowing you to refine autofocus performance and take full control of it. Note that the D6 is clearly better than the D5 at these things, and the D5 was no slouch. An under appreciated gem of camera, and a robust, complete, and thoroughly modern one at that. Disclaimer: the D6 has continued on in my gear closet, despite the Z9.
  • D850 — Without a doubt the best all-around DSLR ever made, and still among the top four all-around cameras currently available (probably #3). Need a jack-of-all-trades camera? The D850 is the DSLR that did that the best, and has been doing it for five years. Looking back, you could almost say that it was ahead of its time ;~).
  • D780 — Probably the toughest of the Nikon DSLR lineup to assess, as it not only followed the excellent and long-lived D750, but it lives in the most hotly contested region of enthusiast/prosumer cameras. I wish Nikon had updated the autofocus system as well as the other things they stuck into the camera, though. That's sort of the D780's Achilles heel, as the older 51-point system just feels a bit "tired" in what is otherwise Nikon's most modern DSLR. It didn't help that the price creeped up, either.
  • D500 — As I've written recently, six years after launch the D500 is still arguably in the top three crop-sensor cameras you can buy today (and the other two only launched within the last couple of months). Versatile, robust, fast, reliable, and never had a DSLR competitor that came close (sorry 7D II, I liked you, but I'll never love you). The real shame here is that Nikon could have done a mid-term firmware update to make this camera even more capable and competitive, and extended its shelf life. Indeed, Nikon could have done that with the earlier D300, but instead we got a mediocre D300S replacement. In other words, Nikon repeated a mistake here, one that's cost them a lot of users who get antsy for "something better." I'm here to tell you, though, there wasn't anything better in APS-C until last month, and the D500 still holds its own.
  • D7500 — Another under appreciated camera, this time mostly because Nikon cut a lot of corners in creating it, taking back things that were on its predecessor. Those terrible design decisions saved Nikon a few pennies, but spread a great deal of negativity about the camera that was undeserved (most people won't miss those things, but it was an incredibly bad visibility move on Nikon's part). The D7500 was Nikon's "value" DX camera, with a great deal of prosumer performance at a more consumer price. Anyone still using a D70, D80, D90, D7000, or D7100 that is waiting for a "better" update to happen should rethink their procrastination and snap up a D7500 before it goes away. It's a far better camera than what they have, and it has the right stuff they rely upon.
  • D5600 — Ironically a very good selling camera (along with its predecessors) despite being what I'd call a mediocre choice. Nikon triggered a lot of folk to "buy up" from the D3xxx model by suckering them into a couple of seemingly useful additions (e.g. swivel LCD) for "a few dollars more." However, the only reason I'd buy a D5600 over the D3500 is the focus sensor, and then only if you're not a focus-and-reframe sort of person. 
  • D3500 — Arguably the best entry-DSLR made. And by entry I mean lowest priced in the lineup. Image quality that is at the top of what APS-C (DX) could do until we started seeing the 26mp and 33mp sensors (in more expensive models). Solid foundation of control and simplicity. 

When I look at where Nikon's primary DSLR competitor, Canon, has ended up, Nikon wins in at least five of their seven models. And at least four of those Nikon DSLRs still have more life to live, at least if people keep buying them. 

Moreover, because so many people are selling their DSLRs to finance their mirrorless transition, all except the D6 and D780 are available in abundant supply on the used market. If you evaluate used products carefully, you can find a low-mileage D850 at what has to be considered a bargain price, considering that it's still near the top of the best all-around camera parade.

I expect Nikon will start end-of-lifing these DSLR models in this order: D5600, D3500, D500, and D7500. I expect the D850 and D6 to be more like the F6, which stuck around for a long time. However, it was easier for the F6 to stick around longer, because it didn't rely on two critical chips (EXPEED, and an image sensor). Once the EXPEED6 stock has dwindled and an image sensor is no longer produced, Nikon will only be able to make small numbers of D850's and D6's until they run out of parts. 

Has Nikon continued any DSLR development? I'll cautiously answer this as "yes, but not in a slated-for-production" role. Nikon prototypes lots of cameras that never make it to market. They'll take a current body and use it as a mule to test the latest-and-greatest chips and other technology, but that doesn't always develop into a process that triggers a full-on development cycle that gets released to a manufacturing decision. I've heard, for instance, that Nikon R&D has tinkered with what a D7 and D880/900 might be, for instance. But tinkering is not necessarily developing. As with automobile concept vehicles, only a few of the concept cameras actually get pursued to production. 

To a large degree, what Nikon does next in DSLRs depends a lot upon whether people keep buying them. Given Nikon's other statements, I believe the consumer DX DSLR models are headed to the discontinuation list for sure, while the higher end FX models probably will stick around for a number of years before Nikon has to make the continue/discontinue decision on them.

That said, Nikon R&D's attention appears to be entirely focused on mirrorless now. If Nikon continues to roll out Z models that appeal to former and future DSLR users, such as the Z9, this will hasten the demise of the FX DSLRs. 

Nikon Adds Some DSLR Rebates

NikonUSA is now (starting Monday May 30th) promoting a number of key DSLR lenses at strong discounts:

  • 200-500mm f/5.6E — US$340 instant rebate reduces the price to US$1059. This is the budget zoom telephoto to own. Competent at all focal lengths, hand-holdable, and at this price, a bargain.
  • 24-70mm f/2.8E — US$500 instant rebate reduces the price to US$1599. This was the best of the mid-range zooms Nikon made, though a little on the "big" side. At this price, everyone would have bought one when it first came out. 
  • 70-200mm f/2.8E — US$450 instant rebate reduces the price to US$1899. Sensing a theme? Nikon's put some of their best recent F-mount optics up with substantive discounts. If you're a DSLR user and don't have an f/2.8 telephoto, now's the time to pick one up.
  • 500mm f/5.6E — US$300 instant rebate reduces the price to US$3299. This is a solid lens that, due to its fresnel lens, is short and light for the focal length. Very hand holdable. Both DSLR and mirrorless users have this lens in their kit for good reason: it's the best way to get to 500mm with high quality without breaking the bank (or your back). 
  • 14-24mm f/2.8G — US$400 instant rebate reduces the price to US$1399. This is a workhorse wide angle zoom that, once you get past the field curvature, can net you great wide angle images in low light. 

Before people start hypothesizing that this is the end of the line for these lenses, consider that the yen/dollar relationship has tilted dramatically in the dollar's favor recently. That, coupled with the fact that Nikon probably would like to clear out some F-mount inventory they've been building up probably explains these deep discounts. Oh, and Nikon controls most of the parts in these lenses, and thus likely doesn't have the supply chain problems they have with some of their camera offerings. 

Other than perhaps the 200-500mm, I don't expect these lenses to go away any time soon. The three f/2.8 lenses, for instance, really need to stick around to sell the FX DSLRs out through 2026 as Nikon expects. And the 500mm f/5.6E fills a role in both the F-mount and on an FTZ adapter on the Z-mount. 

So, sales like this are a way of taking advantage of Nikon's short-term tactical shifts. 

Click this link to purchase one of these lenses from this site's exclusive advertiser.

First "Hard" Information on Nikon DSLR Life

bythom nikon dslr

Updated: it appears someone got their dates wrong in the above chart: FY21 should be FY22, and FY25 should probably be FY26. I've adjusted my dating below.

There you have it (from Nikon's Investor Relations Event on May 26, 2022). 

You probably need some help parsing this chart, so let me try. 

FY21 actually refers to the year ended March 31, 2022. In that year, the F-mount cameras and lenses accounted for about 30% of Nikon Imaging's sales, or something close to 53b yen.

FY25 actually refers to the year ending March 31, 2026. By that point, F-mount cameras and lenses will account for just less than 5% of Nikon Imaging's sales, or something below 10b yen. 

Put another way, in the next four years Nikon will be phasing out DSLR sales, though not discontinuing them completely. Given Nikon's stated "concentrate...in high value-added products", it would suggest that the three current FX DSLRs (D780, D850, and D6) and the primary, best-selling side of the FX lens set are likely to be the products that remain in the lineup through 2026. 

Some of you will take this as "bad news." I actually take it as "good news." The fear has been that Nikon would just summarily discontinue DSLR products at some point in the near future. While that seems likely for DX, the fact that there's a clear tail of sales out for another three years indicates that the FX side will likely just be allowed to taper naturally. Put another way: Nikon's DSLR future is actually up to you, the customers. Keep buying and Nikon just might encourage that tail to continue past 2026. Stop buying, and Nikon will see that as a message to close the DSLR shop. 

The "Available" List Dwindles

Let's look at the Nikon DSLR lineup as of today:

  • D3500 — readily available
  • D5600 — body only is drifting in and out of inventory, but body+lens kits readily available
  • D7500 — body only is drifting in and out of inventory, but body+lens kits readily available
  • D500 — limps in and out of inventory; seems to be built in low quantity at the moment
  • D780 — readily available
  • D850 — has a big discount at the moment; but has been in and out of inventory for months
  • D6 — seems to be readily available

Essentially the full current body lineup is available. In the recent past we've seen the Df, D610, D750, and D5 leave the scene. Rumors keep popping up about another DSLR body going out of production, but looking at Nikon's latest financial numbers, they're still selling quite a few DSLRs. The problem for Nikon is that in order to remove a model, they'd need stronger mirrorless offerings at that same or higher position. Realistically, only the D6 has that (Z9), but there's no way the D6 is going away soon. It's a low volume flagship that is likely to be one of the last to leave the building.

That said, Nikon doesn't have much "old model still available" happening in the DSLR lineup anymore. At one point, we had three generations of DSLRs being sold at the same time. Today, it's just the current generation, with the D780 and D850 bodies being the only ones with any instant rebate. I expect that to be a similar story through the rest of this year.

Many F-mount (DSLR) lenses are still available, with NikonUSA showing 90 such lenses still being sold. That list is a little deceptive, though. A number of those are duplicate DX lenses (four 18-55mm!). Some are lenses we've seen discontinued in other countries. The Japanese Web site is probably a better indicator of "still available", and it's listing 83 lenses, though some of those also appear in the "archive" list, which tends to mean production has been stopped even though sales might continue for a short period. 

My best guess is that about 50 F-mount lenses remain in active production at the moment. Old technologies are clearly being slowly removed (e.g. D-type lenses), as are some poor selling G-type lenses. The lenses that seem to be relatively immune from discontinuation are recent E-type lenses. That actually makes some sense, as they're also the ones that work best on the mirrorless bodies (electronic aperture control, not physical). 

The problem, of course, is that "interchangeable lens camera" is a chicken-and-egg proposition: no bodies means that lens sales tank. No lenses means that body sales tank. Nikon seems to be carefully and slowing cleaning the cupboards of their older gear, trying to leave a viable set of body/lens choices that are trimmed down, but not so much winnowed that no one wants to buy into DSLRs at all. 

I don't think 2023 is going to be kind to Nikon DSLRs, at all. Nikon has said that they are now at the point where they can make their desired profit on only 150b yen worth of sales. That's the level of sales Nikon did in their previous fiscal year (April 2020 thru March 2021). In the fiscal year just ended (March 2022), Nikon Imaging was at 178.2b yen in sales. So I think one of the factors with Nikon DSLR continuation is how fast the mirrorless part of the imaging business grows to be close to that 150b mark. They're clearly not there at the moment, and the parts procurement problems prevent them from moving faster on that front, so I suspect we're going to see the DSLR line just continue to slowly winnow for the next three years before we reach the point where Nikon will say "time to close it down." (More on that at the end of the article.)

The tricky part is that D780, D850, and D6 sales compete with the stronger side of the mirrorless line (FX from Z5 to Z9). Nikon's DX DSLR line is actually stronger than their mirrorless DX line, both in bodies and lenses, and that's where a lot of the unit volume is still happening. I believe that about a third of Nikon's ILC body volume is probably in the D3500 to D500 DSLR lineup still. Until Nikon shows a more concerted Z DX effort, I'm not sure how Nikon can transition away from DSLRs. The Z5 to Z9 lineup won't produce that 150b yen sales level on its own, methinks. 

Canon is more difficult to figure, as they have a real scattergun approach to interchangeable lens anything (still or video) as I write this (though that may change with RF S models about to appear, and the recent appearance of cinema RF). Here in the US the Canon DSLR line now seems to be:

  • SL3
  • T7
  • T8i
  • 90D
  • 6D Mark II
  • 5DS R
  • 5D Mark IV
  • 1D-X Mark III

That's one more model than Nikon is serving, but a lot of those Canon DSLRs are truly limping along in sales at the moment, and I wouldn't expect that many DSLR models by the end of the year still being actively sold in the US. 

Like Nikon, Canon has been cutting out a number of older DSLR lenses. I count 76 EF lenses still being promoted, but only about 50-60 of those seem to be still in serious production. 

Thing is, for the first three months of 2022, it seems that only 56% of the interchangeable lens cameras (ILC) shipped by the Japanese companies were mirrorless, meaning that nearly 44% of the ILC shipped were Canon and Nikon DSLRs. Of course, the average selling price of the mirrorless cameras was well over 4x higher than for those DSLRs. That is the real dilemma for both Canon and Nikon: they're still selling a lot of APS-C (DX) DSLRs, but neither company has a huge mirrorless unit volume going yet. Frankly, no one does. It's why Nikon is pushing Z9's so hard: low volume but high sales price and high profit margin. Sure, they'll only sell 40-50k units in the first year, but those all have a nice markup on them. 50k units also gets Nikon almost 10% of the way to their 150b yen minimum sales need. 

FWIW, Nikon's just published forward estimate of camera sales for the coming fiscal year is basically flat in terms of unit volume (700k ILC, 1.25m lenses), but predicts an 18% increase in revenue and 16% increase in profit. This implies that the mix of cameras and lenses sold will go further upscale from where it currently is. The Z9 is only part of that. It appears that Nikon thinks that at least another model (or models) will pick up their average sales price. Short answer: fewer DX DSLRs, more FX mirrorless.

Will Demand or Supply Determine the End?

This just in and relevant to the discussion: Nikon noted for the first time that mirrorless unit sales of both bodies and lenses exceeded DSLR unit sales as they reported their 3rd quarter financials (Oct-Dec 2021). And revenue and profit were both up, even though unit volume overall was down.

Two ways exist to get to the end of the DSLR era: (1) customer demand falls below sustainable levels; and (2) product supply falls below expectations. 

#1 is easy to understand: people just stop buying DSLRs. To a large degree, that's what has happened at the consumer end of DSLRs. People aren't seeing the value in paying US$500-1000 for a big camera, often with arbitrary performance and feature cuts, when their mobile phones are getting better at doing the same basic function and, if they want an interchangeable lens camera, the mirrorless versions are more compact, light, and just as functional at the same prices. 

To put that into context, it's difficult to recommend a Nikon D5600 with the 18-55mm lens for US$800 (current price) when the Nikon Z50 with the 16-50mm lens has been at US$900 at times (currently US$1000). 

But that brings us to #2: the camera makers are in control of supply and pricing, so they can game the results as they see fit. When the supply chain was functioning better, the Z50 was often on sale, while the D5600 began to stop being included in sales. Clearly Nikon wanted to get more people choosing the Z50 over the D5600 at that point. However, as the supply chain started making it more difficult to manufacture new cameras at the volumes the camera makers wanted, you may have noted that pricing tended to ratchet back up to list price. So now the Z50 sits significantly higher in price than the D5600, of which apparently Nikon has plenty of in the pipeline. 

The naive consumer walking into a camera store shopping for a basic interchangeable lens camera now sees that the D5600 is the less expensive choice, has a few more pixels, an articulating LCD, and a few other odds and ends that make it look better than the more expensive Z50. Though the Z50 does 4K video, and is smaller and lighter, so maybe that extra US$200 is worth it?

For years the camera makers have been micromanaging their unit volumes of various products. Partly by price, partly by keeping them available long after the expected end of life (also by price), and by careful feature manipulation. There's no surprise, for instance, that the Z50 didn't have a fully articulating LCD when it came out. That's because the camera it most resembled in terms of performance was the D5600. If you put out an exact clone (e.g. a Z50 with 24mp, articulating LCD, real 3D-tracking, Special Effects modes, and so on), what you're saying is that the new thing (mirrorless) replaces the old thing (DSLR). By gaming products into gaps, Nikon essentially forced customers to make tough choices. 

Let's go higher up the lineup: the Z7 came in below the D850 in terms of performance and features. It's really a 5.5 fps camera (usefully) versus a 7 fps one (9 fps with the right battery and grip). I suspect the odd and kludgey Subject tracking choice instead of a separate 3D-tracking focus mode was another intentional compromise to provide some model separation. 

We can infer from what Nikon did originally with the Z system versus the DSLRs that Nikon thought they wanted to continue with both. The question now is this: is that still true? (My own personal assessment is that I think it is with some cameras, such as the D850, but not with the full DSLR line, particularly at the lower end.)

Which brings us back to #2: if a manufacturer wants to end the DSLR era, they can simply stop making them. You don't announce that you're going to do that, but one can start to see all kinds of hints of this in the market. For instance, when Sony stopped iterating Alpha DSLRs/SLTs, you could see inventory slowly disappear and then not get replenished quickly. Someone interested in the Sony solution started to find that the Alpha mirrorless cameras actually were providing performance and features that extended beyond the DSLRs/SLTs. Coupled with lower availability over time, this was essentially Sony forcing supply to have customers favor mirrorless. Sony's marketing of mirrorless ratcheted up considerably, too, as it was a trait with benefits that Canon and Nikon at first didn't match. Indeed, the full frame A7 and A7R were launched in 2013. Canon's R appeared in 2018, as did Nikon's first Z's. Sony had a long time to force the issue.

Canon and Nikon both now face the opposite problem: do they have any time to make the mirrorless lines their primary focus? The answer to that is no. The R3, R5, and R6 sealed it for Canon, the Z6 II, Z7 II, and particularly the Z9 did the same for Nikon. 

I think Canon has already taken approach #2 and is choking anything further happening in DSLRs. I'll bet that we see them choose to put parts in mirrorless cameras and their DSLRs start to fall more and more into Out of Stock or Back-ordered status in 2022. 

Nikon had already hit that juncture, partly because of their further choice to downsize and consolidate all manufacturing in Thailand. Not only did they start having parts restraints, but I think they also had some trouble juggling all the things they now wanted the plant to produce (it's still unclear if the D6 manufacturing moved out of Sendai to Thailand, for instance). 

So, in essence, as dealers sell their remaining DSLR boxes, I'm finding that they're not getting restocked as fast. At least one dealer has told me that DSLRs are now "special order" for him. He'll sell one to a customer if they want one, but he won't stock them. 

Which means that #2 is starting to be more and more the case. As that happens, you get an expected outcome: people can't buy a DSLR so they don't buy a DSLR ;~). Because people aren't buying DSLRs, manufacturers decide they can stop making them.

Many of you, on the other hand, have an entirely different viewpoint, as the emails triggered by my initial Change begets Change article continue to pour in. So here's some more of them with my responses:

"Re: straddlers. Before the Z9, it was very easy to see complimentary combos of D850/Z6 II or D500/Z7 II.  Now that the Z9 is out, the combination with the DSLR is more difficult."

True. I've been dealing with this with a number of pro sports photographers, who end up with some angst, too. The only DSLR/mirrorless straddle that makes sense to me with a Z9 is the Z9 and the D6, and even that's a bit questionable, and starts to bring up the issue of lenses. I've had to keep my 70-200mm f/2.8E, for instance, because the Z-mount lens can't be used on the DSLR. But I like the Z-mount lens on my Z9 because it gets rid of the extra mount needed by the FTZ adapter (and the adapter itself, of course). I really don't want to keep both lenses, as that seems like an expensive redundancy.

And the 400mm f/2.8? Boy do I want that lighter lens with the built-in TC, but it wouldn't work on my D6, so, again a problem. 

Of course, Nikon wants this to steer users towards rebuying everything in the Z form, but that's quite costly to do, so a lot of folk end up in a straddle position and not feeling comfortable about it.

"[D500 discontinuation is] Bad news. Oh well. I waited a LONG time to upgrade from D200 to D500, so I guess I will hang on to the D500. I was hoping to update my D810 one more time though. The D850 is not a sufficient jump IMO, I was hoping for an update. What are the chances? But that means I will not be investing in Nikon mirrorless. I have too much glass to switch, too expensive. But I don't really want to carry the weight around anymore. Around the city I mostly use m4/3 nowadays."

First off, the D850 is actually a pretty significant update from the D810, which itself was a more significant update of the D800 than most seem to realize. Nikon pushed the bar quite quickly in the D8xx line. Which, of course, would make it disappointing if we don't get another push, as it would produce a stellar DSLR.

The weight comment is the trickier one. The mirrorless options do tend to produce lighter equivalent gear, but as you note, there are other options, such as m4/3. This puts Z DX in an awkward position, too, though I personally find the Z50 and the right lens(es) make for a great walk around camera. But a Z50 isn't going to replace your D500 and D810, as it's not in the same league. 

"For me, the biggest impact of the discontinuance of the D500if that's what it is—is that it makes me rethink all Nikon purchases as I wait for the other shoe to drop. I'm not ready to go mirrorless and had been looking at a couple of lenses and another body and the long winter nights are when I read blogs like yours, dpreview, LensRentals blog etc. and that's when I start getting DSLR GAS while thinking about spring shooting. But if Nikon is discontinuing such a highly regarded body maybe the DSLR days are over at Nikon and the last thing I want is to put $$$ into lenses that have to use an FTZ when my 810 dies."

This is one reason why I said Nikon needed to be more forthcoming about future bodies—both mirrorless and DSLR—with some sort of (even vague) Road Map. What's happening is that Nikon's few moves coupled with radio silence are putting quite a few people into a "no buy" zone. So what we end up with is a pre-gone conclusion: we won't tell you what we're up to, so you stop buying, but since you stopped buying, we won't make that

Nikon has a long history of shooting themselves in the foot like this. They've over-extended and been late to the game with certain new tech (autofocus, IS, mirrorless, etc.) many times before. What happens is that they jettison all the low-end stuff, retrench, and come out with lower volume at the other end. The only real exception to this was DSLR, where they were first mover, and moved fairly fast at the consumer level as well as quite fast at the pro level. (Same thing can be said for the Precision division, where abandonment and retrenchment seems to be a constant struggle, but has resulted in Nikon losing leadership in steppers.) 

It's always fascinated me that Nikon can manage to make the numbers work with this constant back-pedaling approach. Full credit to the bean counters. However, at some point, this could very well come to a different conclusion. Imaging and Precision are the majority of what Nikon does, despite attempts at diversification, so if the bean counters ever can't make this back-pedaling work, it's game over. 

"It was not long ago Nikon’s message (at least it seemed to be) was "we are going to support our users with both DSLR & Z". Since then it appears F-mount lenses are being dropped left and right and no new DLSR announced or even credibly rumored, while existing “current” models basically are not available. I understand there are issues with supply chain and market uncertainty, but Nikon needs to at least provide minimal guidance to its user base about F-mount and DSLR—even a firm clear "really do not know at this time" is better than what is happening."

Agreed. Consumer-facing companies actually have to face the consumers ;~). You go on:

"Yes Nikon needs and wants to move the user base to Z, but the fastest and best way to get to that goal is to keep those existing users. Particularly for those users that will not or at least not quickly move to Z they need those users to stay connected and better yet continue to purchase products. They will reduce leakage and retain more sales from the existing user base if they would be clearer on future of F-mount in general and DLSR in particular. If F-mount lens production/inventory being liquidated and DLSR is at end of the road then say so and more importantly be clear about how you will help users to make the transition."

I'd guess that Nikon thinks they're being clear: "use the FTZ". That's not as clear a solution as Nikon thinks it is. As we're all starting to discover—thanks partly to the Z9—the FTZ is almost exactly the solution, but on a Z9. On the other models, the performance isn't quite the same, particularly in initial focus acquisition. Moreover, there's the AI and screw-drive lens issues, still. Ironically, the Z9 seems to have pulled some film SLR users from out of the closet, trading in their F's for Z's. But it's really the large base of DSLR users that Nikon needs to be careful with. The D# and D### users, in particular, have to be moved to mirrorless for the Z-mount to totally succeed, and Nikon's been equivocating with this group, sending mixed messages.

"I have the D780 and Z6 II with lenses for both mounts. I have used both in parallel for over a year for all types of photography. Despite the advantages related to sensor stabilization, electronic viewfinder and lighter setup, the Z6 II falls behind the D780 in nearly every single aspect—especially in terms of usability. That's why I overall prefer using the D780 and why I've decided to not further invest in Z-mount lenses."

The D780 is a very underestimated camera. It's not the right choice for me, but it very well can be for a lot of folk. But this brings up the question (again), of what Nikon thinks is going to happen with the Nikon DSLR users who think this way. This way of thinking definitely happens with the D500 and D850 crowd, as well, though given the Z9 not so much with the D5/D6 crowd these days. (This reader's further comments went into specifics. All of those specifics could be addressed in the Z line, but currently are not. Does Nikon even know what those things are?)

"The D500 is good enough that I can afford to wait for mirrorless—which essentially (to me) caught up with DSLR performance only this past year—to become enough better to be worth the price of switching. It's not there yet. It will be. Good now. Better later. Not sure if/where Nikon fits in that future."

The tricky part here is that you're probably expecting a Z70 (or Z90) type of camera on the mirrorless side. What happens if Nikon doesn't produce a high-end DX mirrorless body? We know they can't ignore high end in FX (and the Z9 proves that Nikon knows that). But DX DSLR users represent a huge crowd that still needs to be moved to mirrorless. Saying "buy FX" doubles the "need to buy new lenses" thought for those people, which simply opens up the buyer's decision making process to Canon and Sony options (or Fujifilm if they want to stay APS-C). 

Note to Nikon executives: you're now running at 13% market share and in a weak third place. You're not building a huge consumer base in DX mirrorless with the Z50 and Zfc models. The risk is that you're minimizing your potential market in the future to be even smaller if the prosumers and pros you target perceive that it's FX only for you. 

"I am a retired owner of a D850, D500 and Z50. Each camera has a specific space to fill for my photographic efforts. The D850 is my all-around go to camera, it’s my landscape first choice and it’s my macro first choice. My skills do not exceed the D850’s performance so it’s hard to justify a swap out for something else at this time. The D500 is my go to wildlife camera. The DX crop factor and frames per second advantages are very helpful for wildlife shooting. The Z50 is my convenience and travel camera.   Small, lightweight, good lenses and with a UI that shares the Nikon DNA.  I have previously owned Sony and Fuji APC cameras which were excellent cameras, but the menus are just different enough and just quirky enough to mean that my fingers don’t know where to go.

For the time being, it doesn’t seem like there is a big win in switching to full frame mirrorless Z cameras—all have good reviews, all are well thought out—but swapping out functional FX lenses for marginally better Z lens equivalents feels like a small win for a lot of cash. There is a part of me that says watch the used FX lens market for bargains on exotics; when the shift from FX to Z gets on in full swing there will be opportunities to fill in a few holes in my lens sets and to retire some older FX lenses for better behaved versions that are compatible with the pixel count of the D850.

Nikon has a bunch of choices to make and should consider how to move some of their core customers—owners of high end DSLR’s —over to full frame mirrorless. As they say in Southwest Texas: 'ya gott’a dance with the one that brung ya!'"

We'll leave today's installment with this last email, since it tends to summarize my thoughts fairly well (i.e., I agree with it). That last phrase really sums things up. Nikon has spent over 50 years building up a loyal, enthusiastic base. Those folk are the ones Nikon has to please to stay relevant in photography, and my In Box says that way more of you are displeased at the moment than should be, which is a problem. 

What Made the D500 So Good?


With the Nikon Japan site now listing the D500 as "Old product" we have the beginning of the end for the venerable camera. 

bythom nikon d500

On its back and struggling to get up.

While some sites are reporting the D500 as "discontinued," that's not actually how things work at Nikon. Each subsidiary runs independently when it comes to end-of-life for products. Nikon Japan, the home market, tends to be fairly quick to pull the plug on things, and product with the 20##### serial numbers stops being produced. We've also long had DX lenses that are no longer available to order by a dealer in Japan that still are available from NikonUSA, for instance. 

This is partly due to that non-global attribute of Nikon's system I've been complaining about for decades (yes, decades). By serializing product at the factory to individual markets, this creates all sorts of side frictions, including gray market and differing end-of-life points. To some degree, this is Nikon bean counters continually micromanaging things, thinking they're saving pennies (yen) when they probably aren't. They're just bolstering the old-IBM-like upper management promotion mechanisms as subsidiary CEOs jockey to show they can do better than one another. 

What I take the Nikon Japan reclassification of the D500 to mean is this: production is down to remaining parts supply, and Nikon corporate will produce the remaining bodies that can be made to the subsidiaries where they'll fetch the biggest profit margins from. Long term, though, the D500 is winding down.

Two things need to be talked about. The first is the headline question. The second is what's next for high-end DX from Nikon?

The D500 stood out for a number of reasons. It looked a lot like a baby D5, for one thing: 20mp like papa, same focus sensors as papa, mostly same controls and functions as papa. A bit fewer fps, sure, but also a couple of more consumer-side conveniences (SnapBridge and tilting LCD). 

For sports and wildlife photographers who were already cropping in FX because they didn't have enough lens, the D500 actually was a clear improvement over buying a D5: more pixels on subject and lower price. That's not to say that the D5 didn't have advantages, but that many didn't view those advantages as worth the extra price. 

One problem with the D500 was that there was no D400. Nikon went way too long between the lame D300s upgrade and the D500 introduction, and during that period Nikon was pushing everyone to FX (partly by denying a full DX lens set, buzz, buzz). Most D300 purchasers who wanted to upgrade had long ago made the decision to go D8xx, or worse, something else (m4/3 was an early choice, Fujifilm X is the more recent choice). Thus, D500 sales never really took off the way the D300 sales did. 

I suspect that Nikon felt that the D500 was a disappointment in terms of volume, particularly recently. OMG! I'd argue long and hard that the lack of volume is Nikon's own fault, not customer lack of interest. As I keep pointing out, the D500 is to this day still the best performing APS-C (DX) camera you can buy. Excellent image quality, top performance in virtually every arena, particularly focus. Do you hear Nikon marketing telling you that? No, not really. 

Nikon's marketing has no long game (and sometimes no early game, either). They put almost all their effort into selling whatever was just released, and never manage to do followup or ongoing marketing. The tag line and short summary on the Nikon corporate site for the D500, for instance, is still the same as it's been for five years. NikonUSA still points to the dpreview initial impressions trip. Neither points out that the five-year-old D500 still tops any APS-C (DX) camera you can purchase. 

So here we have the best APS-C camera being discontinued, which can only mean there's a better one coming, right? 

Yes, probably from Fujifilm (X-H2 in May). Fujifilm's problem will be that they don't have the lens set that the D500 user would really want (e.g. lack of telephoto choices, particularly fast ones or light ones). Does lack of lenses sound like a familiar problem? ;~) 

I'm not getting the sense that Nikon wants to put out another US$2000 DX camera. At least not any time soon. Maybe never. For a bit over a decade Nikon has been on a "push FX" craze, and since that now encompasses US$1000 to US$5500 bodies in the mirrorless lineup, that's what they really want to sell you.

Indeed, you can sort of see it in the lens lineup. The reason why we'll get a 400mm PF and 800mm PF lens in mirrorless? Because you need longer versions if you're not making a DX camera to use them. 400mm on FX is not far off the 450mm equivalent of the 300mm f/4 PF on DX, and 800mm on FX is actually a bit better than the 750mm equivalent of the 500mm f/5.6 PF on DX. Seems like a clear signal to me. 

Of course, for that to work, Nikon is going to have to radically improve the autofocus on the Z5 II, Z6 III, and Z7 III. 3D-tracking and Group-area AF was pretty darned good on the D500, after all. 

So, it's a sad day for D500 users thinking about upgrading. The D850 gives them more pixels in FX, but is pretty much a D500 in DX crop. The Z7 II ditto, but not as good at tracking focus of erratic motion. The Z9 also ditto, but at a much more expensive price. 

Here's hoping that I'm wrong and that Nikon does have a reasonable DX future for the prosumer/pro user. Of course, there's this: the D500 is still today the best APS-C (DX) camera you can buy. So if you have one, you can still claim to be state-of-the-art, congratulations. 


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