News/Views

How to Lose Customers

Okay, I've been honking this horn for a dozen years now (buzz, buzz). But now the security alarm has gone off, too. 

Normally, this news would be on the sansmirror site: Fringer has announced the NF-FX "smart autofocus adapter" that allows Nikon F-mount lenses to be used on Fujifilm XF mount mirrorless cameras. With autofocus, exposure, EXIF, lens correction (!), and other support. 

bythom fringer nf-fx

While this adapter really works best with only five recent Fujifilm bodies (X-T3, X-T4, X-T30, X-S10, and X-Pro3), it appears to work quite well on them, enough so that it should help a smooth transition for a Nikon DX DSLR user to Fujifilm mirrorless. Perhaps smoother than to Nikon Z DX ;~). 

Note: version 1.10 of the firmware for the adapter is now available, which added support for a number of Nikkor exotic and other long telephoto lenses.

Meanwhile, Fujifilm has over the course of the last eight years built out a really good set of APS-C (DX size) prime lenses. Lenses that Nikon DX users have long coveted but never received from Nikon. At least under the 100mm equivalent focal length. The Fringer adapter now gives Nikon DX users an "out." They could pick up an X-T4 and a Fringer adapter, and still use their Nikkor telephoto lenses—the Fringer works with the 70-200mms, the 80-400mm, the 200-500mm, and the 300mm f/4 PF—but now have access to a load of "DX" primes. 

Buzz, Buzz just went Bang, Bang. (For those new to site, "buzz, buzz" is my shorthand irritating reminder to Nikon corporate that they failed to build out the DX lens set; it's like I'm a fly or gnat flying around their head reminding them that their situation stinks.)

Thing is, Nikon doesn't think DSLRs are dead yet. They'd like to continue selling them for the foreseeable future. But by their own inaction (on DX lenses) they've now enabled a competitor to come in and pick up any DX customers thinking about upgrading. Remember, DX is the bulk of Nikon's existing DSLR customer base. By "bulk" I mean 90% or more. True, those folk are not upgrading their cameras at anywhere near the pace they used to, but that also means that you can't afford to let a competitor siphon any of them off.

Nikon is supposedly readying two DSLRs for 2021. Nikon faithful hope that one of those is a D500 update. Or at least a D7500 update ala what was done with the D780 (incorporate the mirrorless bits into Live View). But if either appear, that still leaves the situation as it was: buzz, buzz, where are the DX lenses?

The problem in Tokyo is that they wish to dictate to customers what they should buy. Nikon wanted customers to spend more money by purchasing FX when they upgraded their DX cameras, and this has been the corporate focus since 2009. Not all customers wanted (or want today) to do that. So you shouldn't be surprised when your sales to those DX-type customers plummet, Nikon. Now that better alternatives for those DX-type customers exist, you shouldn't be surprised when they abandon the brand.

I've been writing about this for over a decade. I saw the problem clearly. Management in Tokyo either didn't see the problem or didn't care. Either way, the result is fewer sales than was possible, and now fewer sales than are possible. That's no way to run a business.

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The Travel Lens Conundrum

bythom INT ARG BA 2006 0034r

I keep getting the same question, and it involves going to a one-lens strategy with the D850 and the 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. One reason why I keep getting that question is that a famous post processing person keeps saying "that's all you need." Recently the advice has added "just add sharpening to fix any blur." 

First off, sharpening does not fix blur, unless you happen to have one of the exotic (and slow) deconvolution sharpeners, and even then I'm not sure I'd use the word "fix." When you sharpen, you alter pixel values to add contrast at boundaries, basically. That's not the same thing as optical acuity.

But let's get back to the main topic, which is whether the 28-300mm belongs on a D850. 

The 28-300mm isn't a terrible lens. It's big and it's heavy, though. That sort of is the antithesis of "travel lens." The real questions, though, are two: is it really 300mm, and how is it optically?

Optically, it has strong vignetting, one of the worst bokeh's I've seen, produces a lot of flare (both veiling and specific), has mustache distortion at the short end, has a lot of chromatic aberration, and isn't particularly sharp in the corners wide open. Center sharpness is decent, but the corners never come close, even stopping down.

More importantly, though, is the focal length breathing. At shorter focus distances, the actual focal length of the telephoto end starts to drop down, and eventually reaches 150mm! You need a much more distant subject to get anything near the 300mm (e.g. at 150 feet the lens is a respectable 270mm). 

So, if you want to use this lens as your "travel lens" with a D850, you're at 40.5 ounces (1148g), you'll be cropping some to get rid of the extreme corner issues, you'll need to be using a lens hood always (and still watch your backlit situations), you'll be doing a lot of chromatic aberration and linear distortion correction, and yes, you'll be sharpening the image more than usual. 

I understand the all-in-one-lens thing, but I'm not convinced that the long end of that is where you want to be concentrating. 28mm is a horizontal angle of view of 65°. Bumping up to 24mm at the wide end, you're at 75°, a significant and useful difference while traveling, particularly for indoor shots. 

To me, the travel lens for a D850 is the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5. If you also need long telephoto, then carry the 70-300mm AF-P or the 300mm f/4 PF with you in your backpack. You'll note in my mini review of the 24-85mm I write "not exceptional in any aspect, but it also has nothing that I would call a flaw, either." That's more of what you're looking for in a travel lens. It's also only 16 ounces (not 30). 

A case can also be made for the 24-120mm f/4—the image above was made with a 24-120mm—if you need a bit more reach and don't mind a bit more weight (23.6 ounces). But to me, travel should not just mean convenience, but also non-fatiguing (as in "not heavy"). 

The thing is this: if you bought a D850, you bought the best camera available for about a recent three year period, and still nearly the best today. I'm not sure why you'd want to spend that much money to get those beautiful pixels and then smear them in any significant way. Other than the big and heavy 24-70mm f/2.8E, none of Nikon's mid-range or longer zooms truly do the D850's pixels justice. 

Indeed, for travel, I'd rather just have the Z6 II with the 24-200mm lens. It's far better than the 28-300mm, doesn't focal length breath, gives me a wider view at the short end, and is pretty much exactly the kind of lens the 24mp Z5/Z6/Z6 II are made for.

Which brings me to the final conundrum. Many people buy the wrong thing. They buy the D850 because I and others say it's the best camera out there and they want the best camera. Then they go and compromise the camera with a lens that is going to reveal its weaknesses with those well-behaved pixels the D850 produces. That doesn't make sense to me. 

If you're mostly using a camera for "travel" photography, the D850 probably wasn't the right choice in the first place. 

Some of us are privileged enough to have multiple gear kits. I don't do travel photography with my D850. It's either the Z6 II or Z7 II with the 24-200mm, or more often these days, the even smaller Z50 with the two-DX-lens kit. That's just in the Nikon world. In the Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony worlds I can think of excellent travel kits, too. But the D850 and 28-300mm would be far, far down my list of choices.

What Time Does to Prices/Capability

A reader question about whether to buy a D800E prompted a thought in my mind: how do the various D8xxx models stack up these days?

  • 2012: D800 or D800E, 36mp
  • 2014: D810, 36mp 
  • 2015: D810a, 36mp
  • 2017: D850, 45mp

Each of these have been top-of-the-game cameras when introduced. While at first it doesn't look like the D810 is all that much different than the D800, those that shot with both know that the step forward was far bigger than it would appear on paper. Indeed, Nikon has done an impressive job of making each generation of this seminal camera clearly better and more desirable than the previous.

But you know what? The original D800 (in good condition) takes photos that will hold their own against anything currently on the market. Maybe the frame rate, buffer, UX, and feature set are a bit reduced from the most current model, but Nikon launched this product line with a really solid camera to start with.

So let's look at how much it would cost you to buy each of those cameras in excellent condition today:

  • D800: US$700+
  • D810: US$1200+
  • D850: US$1900+ (used), US$2500 (new)

This is another reason why APS-C (DX) is in danger: we've got really capable full frame cameras—and a D800 at DX crop is 16mp—that are available at APS-C (DX) prices. This is a problem that Nikon has been grappling with ever since their big push towards FX started just over 10 years. Their success in converting so many people to full frame (FX) and keeping them there diminished the APS-C (DX) market upgraders, and now excellent condition FX cameras sell for less than new DX models.

Is there a sweet spot here?

Yes, the D810. It's only 36mp (!) and doesn't have the D5-generation focus capabilities, but it's still a really good camera. You can find a like new D810 for less than a new D500.  Which makes a shift to full frame tempting. 

Another temptation: buy an older body to convert to UVIR photography. 

So, are there things to watch out for in buying older models? Yes:

  • D800 and D800E — I would not buy these used unless I could first verify focus consistency. First, there's the left-side focus problem, which plagued at least a third of the early D800's made. This isn't a terrible problem, in that it can be "fixed" by Nikon repair, but it's an aggravating problem, as correcting the issue often means that you'll have to AF Fine Tune all your lenses. Also, Nikon has dropped their service advisory on this, so you'll probably pay for that repair. Second, there's the cracked frame issue, which isn't fixable. A D800/D800E that's been dropped can crack the back of its frame and then result in the focus sensor module not being in a fixed position. You know that Nikon was aware of this in the change to the frame they made with the D810. 
  • D810 — Since Nikon drops service advisories after 7 years post production, we're coming up on that with the D810. The very earliest D810's created bright noise in long exposures and sometimes in 1.2x crop. Nikon can fix that. In the US you can still check the serial number of the camera to see if a particular D810 was impacted, and if it was, you can look in the tripod socket to see if it was fixed (black dot inside). If it wasn't fixed, Nikon will still fix it for free.
  • D850 — No known issues.

The D800, D800E, D810, and D810a all used the original EN-EL15 battery, and that also has a current service advisory in effect. 

All that said, I know pros who are still using all of the D8xx variants, and happy while doing so. These were great cameras to start with, and got better with each generation. I don't see a lot of harm in exploring the used market here as long as you're informed (this page) and you have the ability to test and possibly return a camera you find has a problem.

Nikon service advisories

What Do I Want From Nikon in 2021?

bythom 2021 calendar

Note that I'm not including Canon in this article, as they've already indicated that they're not likely to do much with DSLRs in the future unless demand changes their mind (which hasn't happened).




Nikon really wants to keep at least part of their DSLR lineup going for the foreseeable future, mainly because they've been killing it with at least a couple of models.

Yes, D3500 and D5600 sales have dried up, and yes D7500 and D500 sales are a fraction of what they once were, but in the full frame lineup Nikon's DSLRs are still making them money, and plenty of high end enthusiasts and pros aren't currently interested in switching to mirrorless. The D850 is holding its own against all comers, though now at a reduced price.

So I'm going to start my comments with a single, overriding one: what I (and you should) want from Nikon in 2021 is clarity. You want to know as much as possible about what Nikon's plans are for DSLRs, and you don't want that equivocated. 

One reason for that is simple: we all expect a D850 replacement in early 2021. Basically the D780 type thing where Nikon adds in the mirrorless goodies for Live View, plus adds a few other refinements from their current collection (a real CFe slot, for one). 

If Nikon is just going to drop an easy-to-create D880 on the market in early 2021 and then abandon it quickly, that puts a "use by" date on an expensive camera. We don't need Nikon to say that they're going to make D880's forever, but we do need to believe that it will have a full product cycle (at least two years) and Nikon's full support for the full necessary repair period (again, seven years after last build). 

Likewise, if the D3500 and D5600 (or all of DX) are end of life, it's time Nikon just said that and hold the final sales on them. 

Put another way, if Nikon is going to put new DSLR products on the market in 2021, we need to understand that they are as committed to DSLR life extension as the customer they want to sell it to probably hopes for. But we don't need that for consumer DSLRs, as their time has come and gone.

That isn't an easy thing to do. While we don't need guarantees about the higher end DSLRs, we do need clarity on Nikon's intentions here. There's a difference between trying to take one last milk run at the market and trying to keep a contracting market supplied and active. So, we're all going to be watching Nikon's messaging very carefully for clues as they do anything with the DSLR lineup in 2021.

Okay, that out of the way, let's get to some specifics. Here's what I personally want from Nikon in terms of DSLRs in 2021:

  • A D880. This already incredibly good camera is still near the top of the heap. Adding the Z7 goodies to Live View and video, plus adding a true CFe slot and a few of the D6 generation type changes is enough to keep it at the top. Anything beyond that is gravy, and I like gravy.
  • A D580. This really should be low-hanging fruit, just as the D780 was and the likely D880 would be. Bonus points for moving the D6 focus system over to this seminal DX body. Super bonus points for a new image sensor (not likely, but it's where I would have headed).  

What do I predict we'll get from Nikon? 

A D860, which is really just my D880 definition with a different number. Why the change in number? Because for some reason Nikon doesn't seem to like two 8's next to another in a name any more. (As with all my year-start articles, my predictions are underlined so that they can be assessed later.)

It's also possible that if Nikon decides to upgrade a DX DSLR, it would be the D7500 instead of the D500. It's really the same process: use the Z50 image sensor and bring over the mirrorless components to the DSLR Live View and video processes.

Why would Nikon upgrade the D7500 and not the D500? FOP (fear of pricing). Realistically, any D500 update should be re-priced back to US$2000, which puts it competition with the Z6 II. Of course any D7500 update would end up priced about at the Z5 level, so the same problem would exist there. 

My recommendation: Nikon should create the D580 update and not worry about pricing conflict with the Z6 II. The D500 is now a specialty camera—partly due to lack of DX lenses, buzz buzz—and those specialists aren't going to replace their D500 with a Z6 II. They might be tempted to replace their D500 with the right "new" features/performance.

That said, I haven't heard of any 2021 DSLR body that's coming other than a D850 update. 

Nikon executives have almost outright said that there will be new F-mount lenses released in 2021. Lenses, as in plural. That surprises me, but it would be consistent with trying to keep high-end DSLRs alive. 

The real problem is trying to figure out what those lenses might be. We do have some lenses that should have existed that never did: a 200mm f/2E FL, 200mm f/4E Micro-Nikkor, 300mm f/2.8E FL, and 14-24mm f/2.8E, for example. We also have a small handful of lenses that many would really like an update for, such as a 24-120mm f/4E FL or 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6E. And no matter how good the 300mm f/4E and 500mm f/5.6E PF lenses are, there are strong demands for 400mm and 600mm versions. 

While it hasn't yet showed up in NikonUSA product listings, Nikon corporate has retired quite a few F-mount lenses this past year (many of them DX). "Out of production" is now a phrase that is true for probably two dozen of the 105 lenses NikonUSA lists for sale. Plus we're down to only a handful of Coolpix models. Thus, Nikon probably has the capacity to build more new Nikkors (both F-mount and Z-mount). 

I can't really make a prediction about F-mount lenses coming in 2021, though. I'm not hearing any hints of new lenses, which generally means that they are low-volume, specialty lenses, as that operation is silent running and pretty leak tight. So I'll make a vague prediction: one specialty/exotic lens in first half of 2021 and possibly a second F-mount lens later in the year. 

News/View is New

In trying to keep my various Web sites all lean while still basically the same in design, one thing I've done is simplify the News/View sections. You'll find more of a "blog style" to this section now, and not the warren of folders and subfolders that were starting to get completely out of hand. 10 years worth of articles meant thousands of articles were cluttering the menu system.

The way things work now is that the top News/View page is the one you want to point your RSS newsreader at. There are no submenus in this section (though it is still possible to get to an individual news/view page directly if you know how, or a link is offered to it). To find articles that move off that page, you'll need to look in the monthly archives that are referenced in the sidebar. 

Can you still get to the thousands of previous News/Views articles? Yes. I've left them in place on the server, they're just not reachable via the menus. Old links and searches should still find those articles. If you want to "hunt" for something manually, you can simply start at the Old News/Views header page and drill down.

Looking for gear-specific information? Check out our other Web sites:
mirrorless: sansmirror.com | general: bythom.com| Z System: zsystemuser.com | film SLR: filmbodies.com


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