News/Views

News and commentary about the Nikon DSLR world and photography in general. This page automatically updates with links for each new news/views story and is a good place to bookmark if you want to see the traditional bythom "front page" type of story. 

Latest News/Views stories (top is most recent):

How Bad is It?

 Let’s look at the just-announced Jan-Oct CIPA numbers for the past few years for a moment:

bythom cipa jan-oct


DSLRs fell to half their previous sales level in just four years. Mirrorless is running 11% under its peak. Since Canon and Nikon essentially own the DSLR market they’re under extreme stress; particularly Nikon, where a majority of their business is cameras. 

But another way of looking at the CIPA numbers is more illustrative:

  • 2012 — 1.945 trillion yen
  • 2013 — 1.672t
  • 2014 — 1.431t 
  • 2015 — 1.335t
  • 2016 — 1.080t (generous estimate)

This is the cumulative total value of all compacts, mirrorless, DSLRs, and lenses shipped by Japan. When I write “generous estimate,” I’m using the previous year's November and December sales as predictions to be added to the actual January through October for 2016. Still, a drop of 44%.

To put that in context, The US gross domestic product from 1929 to 1933 (the Great Depression) dropped 45%. Ouch.

Nikon’s fiscal year is a quarter off from the calendar year CIPA uses, but here are those same numbers for the Nikon Imaging group (all cameras/lenses) for the similar period:

  • 2012 — 751 billion yen
  • 2013 — 684b 
  • 2014 — 586b 
  • 2015 — 520b 
  • 2016 — 415b  (Nikon forecast)

Again, those are offset by one quarter (e.g. 2016 extends one quarter into 2017).  Moreover, CIPA doesn’t track accessories, which would be in Nikon’s numbers. Still, here’s what those look like graphed together: 

bythom cipa vs nikon

The word I get out of Tokyo is mixed. About half those I communicate with seem to think that 2016 would have represented a flat year to 2015 if it hadn’t been for the quake. The other half say that the quake just revealed reality. 

They’re probably both right. Had the quake not shut off sensor supply, I’m pretty sure the Japanese camera companies would have tried to ship far more units and at higher value than the estimate says they will. Anything above 1.2t yen would be considered a “flattening” of the market decline. Anything above 1.3t yen would be considered “we hit bottom.”

But if you look at the retail sales numbers here in the US (cash register receipts from one of the companies that collect this, such as NPD), you see that camera sales are weak even with the restricted supply due to the quake, and remember that the US is a strong economy compared to other places you might want to sell cameras. (I’m told by someone who’s seen similar numbers out of Europe that he sees the same thing there: very poor demand and sell through.) The units that arrived here in the US in 2016 so far just aren’t jumping off the shelves. Had more inventory been shipped, it’s almost certain that it would have required instant rebates and sales to move those units. 

So as we get to the close of another year, I’d have to argue that “nope, we haven’t hit bottom yet.” 

That’s where things get really scary. If this is just a constant state of decline, DSLRs will fall below 3m units by 2021, which is about where mirrorless is now.

The question is this: what breaks the on-going decline? Nothing so far. Nothing currently foreseeable. 

Whoop There it Is

bythom canon customer service survey

Battleship Canon just fired a salvo at the Cruiser Nikon. And it hit hard. Mostly because Nikon put their bow right where it was vulnerable. 

In a press release that reads more like a declaration of war, CanonUSA today released the results of blind survey of over 2300 professional, semi-professional, and advanced amateur photographers. Then they rubbed salt in the wound.

First, the wound:

  • 76.9% of Canon customers who had a service experience in the last 18 months indicated it was fast or ultra-fast. Nikon? 64.7%.
  • 90.4% of Canon customers indicated that they were satisfied or completely satisfied with the technical support they received. Nikon? 73.7%.

Ouch. But Nikon employees, as you’re reading this consider that I’ve been warning about this for some time now. Indeed, I presented Nikon corporate the disturbing results of own customer service surveys, so it’s not like you weren’t warned (e.g. >15% of those having a camera serviced by NikonUSA required a second trip to the service facility to get their product fixed correctly). 

The only surprise in Canon’s press release is that they felt that it was appropriate to pull the gun out and shoot their competitor directly like this. Very un-Japanese.

But they didn’t stop with that. Canon went on in their press release to point out why they think their support is better: 10 locations with more than 300,000 square feet across the US, two US-based call centers and 100% US-based tech support (Nikon outsources first-level support), and the Canon Experience Center in Costa Mesa, CA, which not only offers service, but seminars and workshops. Then to rub things in, Canon is now also claiming service times that average 2.82 days (1.59 for CPS Platinum members). 

That’s a direct hit on Cruiser Nikon. Two more and they’re sunk. 

So what to make of all this? Simple. Canon has decided that if the camera market is going to continue to collapse, the only way for them to grow sales is to take down competitors. Game on.

And you Sony folk shouldn’t be guffawing. Sony is in Battleship Canon’s sights, too. 


New Nikon Lens Rebates

Nikon has ended last month’s lens rebates and come up with eight new lenses that are now on rebate. As I always do when Nikon offers lens-only rebates, I’m going to comment on the new entries to let you know what looks like a good value and what you should probably just ignore. But first, a warning. 

It seems that Nikon has changed strategy a bit. We’re now seeing shorter-lived lens rebates that rotate. Nikon’s marketing and sales department obviously want you to think of these rebates as highly ephemeral: miss the sale and you miss the rebate. Previously, we’ve seen the same lenses appear in multiple rebate programs over time. This seems to be new: there is only one repeat on the new list of lenses. Moreover, the rebates are smaller.

Of course, come January—actually, more likely February—we’ll see another lens rebate program and perhaps some lenses will repeat. But I think it safer to assume at the moment that these rebates are indeed temporary.

  • 16-35mm f/4G US$100 rebate — This is another good but not great lens. The real issue with it is that it has a lot of linear distortion to it, so what you see in the viewfinder is not necessarily what you’ll get in a corrected image. However, it does take filters, and it is optically very good throughout its range.
  • 20mm f/1.8G US$50 rebate — Not much of a rebate, but this is a great lens for the price (see my review). Indeed, it may at the top of the choices you can make for shooting 20mm on a Nikon DSLR. Recommended
  • 24-70mm f/2.8G US$100 rebate — The old beast is still available. It’s a good but not great lens. Thing is, do you want to pay US$800 more for a better lens with VR? Nikon’s hoping you don’t so that they can rid themselves of some inventory.
  • 35mm f/1.4G US$200 rebate — Okay, this is a very good lens, but awfully expensive for a simple prime, even a fast one (and even with the rebate). I know multiple people—including myself—who eventually got rid of their 35mm f/1.4G simply because there were smaller, less expensive choices that were almost as good (e.g. 35mm f/1.8G). I’m also not a big fan of the “slightly wide angle” view of this focal length. But if you need a fast 35mm, you can do far worse than this lens. 
  • 40mm f/2.8G DX US$30 rebate — Yes, this is a Micro-Nikkor and sharp. But the working distance for 1:1 is infinitesimal. Thus, you generally don’t use this as a macro lens. So do you really want a 40mm f/2.8 (60mm effective on DX bodies)? Probably not, especially if you already have the 35mm f/1.8 DX.
  • 50mm f/1.4G US$50 rebate — I think everyone knows what I think about Nikon’s 50mm lenses: the newer AF-S versions aren’t exactly up to Nikon’s own recent prime standards. You might as well buy the cheapest f/1.8D you can find (assuming you have a body with a screw focus drive, which leaves out you D3xxx and D5xxx users. Not a fan of this lens. 
  • 85mm f/1.8G US$50 rebate — This is my personal choice of 85mm lenses from Nikon these days. First, it’s inexpensive. Second, it is so close to the f/1.4G version from f/2 onwards that you really have to have a dire need for two-thirds more of a stop at the fast end (see my review). Recommended
  • Two-lens DX kit, 35mm f/1.8 and 85mm f/3.5 US$320 rebate — The one carry over rebate. Simply put, if you’re new to Nikon DX and have just picked up new DX body, this is an excellent price with two excellent lenses that give you capabilities you didn’t get with your kit lens. The 35mm f/1.8 is sharp, small, and exactly what you want in a fast, “normal” lens. The 85mm f/3.5 is also sharp, especially when used for close-up work. Nikon amusingly calls the 35mm f/1.8 a “portrait” lens in this kit. Still, these are two great lenses at a great price (39% discount). Highly Recommended

As usual, I’d ask that you help this site by purchasing any of these lenses from this site’s exclusive advertiser, B&H. If you do, you’ll typically also get some free goodies with each lens, plus a 4% future purchase discount:


Nikon 2016 News

In these folders you’ll find the several hundred news and commentary articles about Nikon and DSLR cameras that appeared on this site in 2016:


Nikon 2015 News

In these folders you’ll find the several hundred news and commentary articles about Nikon and DSLR cameras that appeared on this site in 2015:


Nikon 2014 News

In these folders you’ll find the several hundred news and commentary articles about Nikon and DSLR cameras that appeared on this site in 2014:


Nikon 2013 News

In these folders you’ll find the several hundred news and commentary articles about Nikon and DSLR cameras that appeared on this site in 2013:


Nikon 2003-2012 News

What follows are links to the front page reports that appeared on bythom.com from 2003 through 2011. These are archive pages of the old bythom news/views for historical purposes. I've left them in the old bythom style and URLs because it would be an enormous amount of work to bring them all in as separate news/views articles on the new site (there are thousands of these older stories).


Nikon

The Nikon section is divided into three primary sections:

You may question why a section on the camera maker itself needs to exist. 

Buying into a camera system is a leap of faith. A full system for a serious photographer can cost many thousands of dollars. A prudent buyer wants to know what they’re getting into with such a large commitment of their hard-earned cash (if you’re one of those still buying on credit, you need even more to know what you’re getting into, as you’ll be paying it off for a long, long time). This section of the site tries to help you understand the overall system you're buying into.


© Thom Hogan 2016 / All Rights Reserved
Portions © 1999-2015 Thom Hogan / All Rights Reserved
bythom.com  @bythom #bythom