A Plan for Nikon

I mentioned in yesterday's article that Nikon was not firing on very many cylinders (basically one). So what would be my plan be to get the engine re-tuned and providing full power? Short answer (!):

  • Coolpix — The less time and energy Nikon spends here, the better off they'll be down the line. Really the only two traction points Nikon has left in Coolpix are the lens-goes-to-11 bridge models (e.g. P900) and the AW. Both need a lot of attention, and both need raw file support. Plan: keep moving these upscale (SnapBridge, raw, Nikon compatible accessories, etc.), and make sure they're best of breed. Drop everything else.
  • DL — The delay due to missed targets on the electronics has put this line in jeopardy. But a really strong and to-the-point marketing campaign coupled with the right pricing moves would do a lot to getting them established even after a one year delay. The DL 18-50 will still be unique when it comes to market, though the others far less so. Nikon needs to absolutely play up the DSLR-compatibilities (CLS flash, for instance). But I think they really need to throw something in the box at first ship to make sure these products are perceived as good values on day one. Nikon has plenty of choices here (or should). Case, small flash, microphone, etc. The DL should be the easiest camera line for Nikon to save. While late, it's still competitive. Plan: it's all about how well these cameras are marketed and priced. Get that right.
  • KeyMission — What a mess. A lifelogger that's cumbersome at the point where lifeloggers fell out of fashion (and with no useful automation, either). A GoPro clone that basically matches the features at a matching price but with not so great mounting options. A 360° variation that has lots of little wrinkles (literally in the stitching), including the most terrible ergonomics I've encountered in a recent new product. Plan: If Nikon wants to be in the Action Camera world, they need several things: (1) clearly better image quality and file handling than the competition; (2) a fully thought out and complete mounting system that works for any use; (3) SnapBridge needs to work and it needs to do more; (4) marketing that tells us why we need these over other choices; (5) fix the problems GoPro and others won't (lens choice on the 170, for instance; (6) ergonomics that work for action (duh!). 
  • CX — Probably dead. Didn't have to be dead. My suspicion is that we'll get a last ditch J6 that matches the DLs in most respects (including optional EVF), and that's it. Or we'll get nothing. Nikon failed at CX for so many reasons it's hard to list them all. But the big ones: (a) overpriced; (b) under sensored; (c) poor ergonomics; (d) not really compatible with DSLR accessories; (e) lack of full and rational lens lineup; (f) erratic upgrading (lip service on the J series, complete changes of mind on the V series). Plan: Create a J6 based on the DL 24-85, call it the DL ILC (or the Big DL, big deal, get it?) and market it to existing CX users as finally being part of the DSLR accessory family. 
  • Mirrorless — Hello? Bueller? Nikon has let plenty of customers syphon off to Fujifilm and Sony (a few went to Olympus, but not as many). Nikon is losing DSLR customers and not gaining mirrorless customers, so the risk is that Nikon once again slides to third place in ILC cameras, and that's really bad news for a company that relies on them for about half their revenue and most of their profit. Plan: same as Canon, a DX-M to start, with new DX-M lenses. Full compatibility with an adpater to DX/FX. Eventually add FX-M if Canon moves there and the market warrants it. Oh, and a DX-M lens road map that is full and believable.
  • DX — Less than lukewarm updates to the D3xxx and D5xxx coupled with the extra long wait for the D500 coupled with the lack of a full and reasonable lens set are the reason why so many Nikon customers were syphoning off to Fujifilm and Sony as their mirrorless cameras became DSLR-competitive. Short-term Plan: A better than lukewarm D7200 update, some new DX lenses to fill gaps, and a road map to future DX lenses. Long term needs more thought.
  • FX — Nikon's one camera type where they still have a reasonably solid grip. But even that's slipping. We're due for updates of many models, and we're missing models. Plan: Shore this baby up fast before it, too, starts slipping away from Nikon.  D5x and D850 with new high pixel count sensor, D610 and D750 updates that are more substantive than "adding SnapBridge" (something like a minimum of: tilting LCD on D610 and keep the 24mp sensor; 36mp sensor in the D750), and a D900 that puts the D5 sensor and focus in a D850 body. Keep the excellent lens redesigns coming.
  • Surprises — We've had a few along the way: Coolpix A, AW1, Df, for example. It's the 100th anniversary, so we should get another, and it should look both back and forward. Plan: resurrect the S, but on steroids! Rangefinder/LCD ala the Fujifilm X-Pros, 50mp MF sensor, total commitment to stills only and retro controls, four compact lenses: 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. (And if I had been around, the 19mm PC-E would work on this body, too, though with very limited tilt/shift.)
  • Video — Old Mother Nikon went to the cupboard, to get her users a bone; when she came there, the cupboard was bare, so the poor users had none. Plan: start putting things in the cupboard. Take the mirrorless DX-M and make two dedicated video versions: one with a fixed 16-80mm f/4 lens or 18-140mm f/4 lens, one with the DX-M mount. Show us how you'll make video-specific lenses (extra credit for that being something you mount on existing DX-M lenses instead of a separate line).  
  • Software — Nikon has been dabbling at digital photography software for 25 years now. Their preferred style is to license a modest framework or base from a digital imaging software company at low cost, then take over the project and code and in so doing, ruin it. Seriously. Hasn't happened once. It's happened at least five times that I can count, all with the same end result. Now we have Nikon trying to support iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows and not managing to keep up with the OS updates of any of those. Most of the things Nikon has created look like projects by interns who didn't quite know how to make things work right, and had no manager directing them. Plan: start a real software effort in Silicon Valley, with known talent and real resources, and with a goal of making every Nikon camera work with the rest of the modern electronics world better than any other camera company. Reach out to the Silicon Valley-type image movers (Facebook, Twitter, et.al.), and make sure you're hooked in to them. Moreover, listen to the software gurus when they tell the hardware side that they're doing it wrong. That last part will be a management problem, as it likely means Western experts telling Japanese experts what they should be doing, and that doesn't play well culturally. Well, it's a global world you're trying to live in, Nikon, so you've got to make that work.

Of course, there's more. I haven't addressed global distribution, marketing, customer support, service, or a host of other things that all have gotten pretty inefficient and poor. But it really doesn't matter if you fix those things if the products Nikon makes aren't keeping up. So products first. And pretty much everything I outline above would have had to have been targeted for 2017 (and maybe early 2018) in order to truly swing the momentum. 

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