Nikon Hasn't Lost Everyone

After my article last week on what Nikon users are thinking, there was a minor blip in the In Box that countered some of what I wrote, so let's get right to that.

"I wanted to give you the viewpoint of someone who recently doubled down on Nikon rather than walk away from them... I just bought a D500, 16-80mm, 70-300 VR AF-P (I got it in a bundle for $250 and have been very impressed with it, especially for its size and weight), and an 85mm f/1.8G."

I've never written that Nikon doesn't have competitive DSLRs. In particular, I can see from my book sales and correspondence that the D500, D750, and D810 in particular resonate quite well with the traditional Nikon user. Of course, there were four extra years where the D500 purchaser had to wait for anything interesting, the early D750 user probably had to send their camera back to Nikon to make right, and even the D810 had an early "white dots" hiccup. 

Still, I'd be the first one to claim that from the D3400 to the D5 Nikon has an excellent and arguably state-of-the-art DSLR product line. Even as disappointing as the D3400 update was to some, I found it to be a step forward, particularly in Live View focus. If SnapBridge gets stabilized, fixed, and enhanced, there's nothing wrong with a D3400. But it's a tough sell because DSLRs are now a tough sell. 

The problem Nikon currently has is the same one they had in the 1990s: they've gone one-dimensional, and some of their execution points with new technology are coming up short. I have no doubt they'll fix both those things eventually, but right now, Nikon is still becoming more one-dimensional, not less. 

"I’m as distraught over company direction as everyone else but there is no way I’m changing brands. I love my setup and it really is a joy to shoot with the D750 (for me and my needs). It’s weird to tell people [that] I love my setup and wouldn’t trade it out for anything else and also advise them NOT TO start with Nikon."

Statements like this should scare the living daylights out of Nikon executives. The good news is that this person is staying loyal to Nikon (and already has, having upgraded from a D300 to a D600 to a D750). The bad news is that they wouldn't recommend a Nikon product to others. 

Just to be clear, I'm not in that camp. I'm perfectly happy to recommend most any Nikon DSLR to others. Having used pretty much everything that's available, if you're in the market for a DSLR, I believe that Nikon makes one at every level that is arguably state-of-the-art. But I'm finding more and more folk who are more like this correspondent, where they will continue to upgrade their Nikon DSLR over time, but have stopped recommending them to others. 

If this really is a trend, it's a terrible trend for Nikon, who's battling for increased sales numbers in a declining market. If all you have are upgraders buying your product, over time you slowly lose sales. That's particularly true for the mature DSLR market, as many DSLR users are at retirement age or older now. They simply won't buy as often and will eventually stop buying. 

"Unlike some, I have no plans whatsoever to replace my gear with that of another manufacturer's. In fact, I just filed my 2016 income tax return. With part of my refund I plan to upgrade to a D7300 in 2017 or 2018. I'm also looking for a good used Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 or 16-80mm f/2.8-4 as well as the 200-500mm f/5.6 eventually."

Not all the In Box messages had negative statements within the positive. There's no question that many Nikon SLR/DSLR owners are wedded to their brand of choice. There is a question of how many of those remain. But still, it's good to know that people who were in the sweet spot (D70->D80->D90->D7xxx) of the Nikon DSLR lineup are still looking forward to moving up when they can. 

And then there are the pragmatists:

"As a faithful Nikon shooter since 1976 also an NPS member for the last few years. I just wonder what Nikon has been thinking. They got rid of the great support staff in Canada, moved off shore, now back to USA, and changed the time to regular business hours. What are they thinking service costs money so let's lose business? I have been thinking seriously about moving to Canon, then went to the Mt, and asked myself do I really want to change? No, for if they do go under there will be some really good bargains out there in used gear. I'm going to stay put and not learn a whole new system. But I would really like to talk with some of the big Nikon execs."

It's messages like this that reveal the real issue for Nikon: perception. Like many of you, this reader has been paying close attention—note the comments about how support changed over the years. Also like many Nikon users, he doesn't want to disrupt his learned camera control or workflow, thus puts a value on staying within the brand even if the brand self-destructs. 

It used to be that I could track Nikon "brand value" through companies that rate that sort of thing. But slowly Nikon fell off the list of the top brand values and now I'm not exactly sure where they fall. But fall is the operative word. Nikon has lost brand value, and that's all about perception of the customer. Even for these customers who are sticking by Nikon, the perception is of a company that has gone downhill, not gotten better for them.

"I have been a Nikon user since 1967 and stayed loyal for a long time. In the last 2 to 3 years I have bought a Tokina, Sigma, and a Tamron lens. The Tokina because Nikon don’t make one, the Sigma on price and the Tamron on price and size."

I'm hearing more and more stories like this one, too. You'll note almost immediately that we're talking DX cameras here (Tokina 11-16 or 11-20mm f/2.8 is the first lens in question). In other words, the user is staying with Nikon in terms of camera body, but supplementing the system with lenses from third parties (buzz, buzz Nikon! ;~). Is that really what Nikon wants? Just to sell camera bodies? Somehow I think not. Yet it's becoming more and more the case even among the faithful that are sticking with the F-mount.

But note I wrote "minor blip" up top. The other commentary coming to my In Box basically remained similar:

"Someone needs to right this rudderless ship."

"Nikon has a cultural problem, and there is no sign of revolutionizing on the corporation horizon."

Personally, I'm willing to give Nikon some time to show that they understand their predicament and can forge a plan to get out of the box they've put themselves in. As I've tried to say from day one: Nikon makes great DSLRs, they make great FX lenses, but they're slipping in terms of customer perception and their forays into other products haven't been fruitful. If Nikon doubles down on DSLRs, produces DX lenses, and comes up with a viable mirrorless alternative, that would go a long way towards restoring the brand faith, I think. Sprinkle in something remarkable in the compact realm (e.g. more Leica Q than Canon G X), and I think they can shore up the base. 

But the clock is definitely ticking, and the DL fiasco meant that a whole bunch of ticks went by without anything useful appearing. 

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