A Lot of Lens Legacy is Retiring

Nikon has never officially acknowledged what constitutes an "active" product. That's because of the arcane and boneheaded way they distribute products globally. Products are built and distributed to specific markets, and the subsidiaries who get those localized products either are totally inept at selling them or Tokyo corporate is inept at predicting volumes for each of the markets, so we get odd regional outages and surpluses all the time. 

One reasonable indicator of "currency", however, is the list of discontinued products that appears on the Japanese Web site. For instance, the discontinued Nikkor lens list. Of course, is it actually a discontinued list? The Web URL says "discontinue." The link to that URL translates as "old products." The page title itself suggests "former products." And finding that page isn't particularly easy to start with, but when you do the link translates as "old product".

As some other sites have (partly) picked up, the F-mount lens list version of the discontinue page just got a lot of "updates" to it. Here is the list of lenses that appear to no longer being manufactured (I'm only going to list autofocus lenses that are still currently on the NikonUSA available lens list):

DX

  • 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G
  • 10.5mm f/2.8G
  • 12-24mm f/4G
  • 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G
  • 17-55mm f/2.8G
  • all 18-55mm other than current AF-P
  • 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G
  • 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G I
  • 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G
  • all 55-200mm
  • 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR
  • 85mm f/3.5G

FX

  • 14mm f/2.8D
  • 16mm f/2.8D
  • 17-35mm f/2.8D 
  • 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D
  • 20mm f/2.8D
  • 24mm f/2.8D
  • 24-70mm f/2.8G
  • 24-85mm f/2.8-4D
  • 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G
  • 35mm f/2D
  • 50mm f/1.4D
  • 50mm f/1.8D
  • 60mm f/2.8D
  • 70-200mm f/2.8G VRII
  • 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G
  • 70-300mm f/4-5.6D
  • 80-200mm f/2.8D
  • 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D
  • 85mm f/1.4D
  • 85mm f/1.8D
  • 105mm f/2D
  • 135mm f/2D
  • 180mm f/2.8D
  • 200mm f/2G I
  • 200mm f/4D
  • 200-400mm f/4G II
  • 300mm f/2.8D II
  • 300mm f/4D

So, the 94 autofocus lenses currently on NikonUSA's Web site would be reduced to 49 if this information is accurate. This would reduce the DX lens set—which was already problematic—from the current 26 lenses (though with a lot of duplication) to 9. It also appears that Nikon is closing down the "D" lenses now. 

Why might this be? I suspect glass. To my knowledge, Nikon hasn't substantively increased their glass production capacity to the point where they don't have to worry about it. Certainly not to the point where they could keep producing everything they have in the past plus produce all the new lenses they need. For instance, you don't want to tie up polishing machines doing short runs for lots of old lens elements when you need them for longer runs of required new lens elements for new models. 

Of course, we have the same thing happening with DSLRs, too. Nikon Japan's pages list the D5, D610, D750, and D7200 as discontinue/older/former, as well, but they are listed and sold as current products at NikonUSA.

Personally, I'm not overly concerned about all this "shuffle." Tech products all go through these kinds of transitions. I do wish Nikon were entirely more clear, however. From a customer standpoint, we'd really want to know where a product we're considering fits into the following categories:

  1. Current Model
  2. Former Model, Still Available New
  3. Former Model, No Longer Available New (some refurbished items show up here)
  4. Former Model, Repairs No Longer Guaranteed to be Available

No one worries about #1. I think we all understand that #2 means that we're buying a product for which a newer model became available but we want the discount that's implied by getting the older version because we don't need/want the changes. #3 is where Nikon produces a lot of obfuscation, as it varies from market to market (again, due to their nightmarish global distribution tactics). 

Meanwhile, here in the US, technically #4 can't occur until seven years after a product is no longer manufactured. This is due to local laws (particularly California's), but note that #1, #2, and #3 don't speak to when the product was actually made.

I might have to sit down and try to build a chart that shows this categorization, since Nikon won't. But it will be a complicated and labyrinthian task for lenses. Let me try to do it just for the DSLR bodies to show you what I mean (again, US, not global):

  • Current: D6, D850, D780, D500, D7500, D5600, D3500 
  • Former, available new: Df, D5, D810A, D750, D610, D7200, D5500, D5300, D3400
  • Former, no longer available new: everything else
  • Former, no repair guaranteed: anything announced prior to 2011, a few announced in 2011-2013.

If there's anything to be taken from this article it's this: we're probably on "last call" for new copies of quite a few Nikon and Nikkor DSLR products that are listed as "available" on the NikonUSA Web site.

______

What about the F6, which some sites are claiming is discontinued? I believe this is actually a Europe thing for the moment. The way the F6 is built and the parts in it are no longer kosher with EU law. Thus, I suspect that the F6 just simply isn't being distributed to Europe any more. Now, volume on the F6 isn't particularly high to start with, so losing a major geographic region for potential sales may push it to be discontinued everywhere, but I don't get a sense that this is imminent.

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