D500 Demand Assessment

(commentary)

I asked those of you reading my D500 Delay article yesterday to answer a snap poll. Here are the results in one table:

bythom d500 demand survey

I should point out that readers of this site fit right into the wheelhouse of the D500: serious enthusiasts and pros that have the disposable income to purchase such a camera. Indeed, the D300 is one of the most often-cited and previously purchased models when I survey my user base. 

I’m mentioning that because any poll that’s not done in a truly random fashion—e.g. n-name sampling—can be biased. But bias towards a pro DX body was exactly what I was hoping for in the poll takers. 

Buried within the set of answers I provided poll takers was a bit of a Trojan Horse. I’ve written before that Nikon’s QC was causing me to get a lot of feedback from Nikon shooters that they would now always wait to see whether there are issues in a product before ordering it. Now look at the answers in the poll:

  • 10% of Nikon DSLR users from my site have pre-ordered a D500
  • 18% of Nikon DSLR users from my site are waiting to see how the D500 fares in testing
  • 22% of Nikon DSLR users from my site are waiting to see if there are any quality control problems before ordering

Now I don’t have a baseline for whether this is a different result from, say, the D800 pre-order scenario in 2012 before all the QC issues became front and center talk, but we do have a potential answer to something else: is the D500 likely to remain difficult to get after the first shipment?

Yes, it will. 

That assumes, of course, that there are no initial-ship QC issues that surface with the product and that the D500 tests as good as people are now expecting from the marketing. Given Nikon’s clear confidence in the D500 at and post announcement, I’d be surprised if the D500 turned out to be a dud. 

So, consider the numbers: four times more people are waiting to see the results of those tests than actually pre-ordered, and we know that the pre-ordering exceeded Nikon’s expectations enough so that they need another month’s worth of production to just deliver first units everywhere. Many of those waiting will stop considering and buy should the D500 turn out to be the camera we’re all hoping it is.

Therefore I see the strong potential for the D800 launch scenario to play out again: the D500 may instantly sell out in first shipment, get rave reviews, and trigger additional pre-ordering for subsequent shipments. If four times more people than pre-ordered actually live up to what this survey suggests, the D500 is going to be in short supply for a long time. 

So expect the D500 to be in short supply unless Nikon has a way to open the faucet and let more production out rapidly (and actually does so ;~). But even then, I’d suspect that it’ll be a couple of shipments before Nikon begins to tamper down the pent-up demand for this camera.

I sent this message clearly to Nikon Japan before the D500 was announced. I guess I’m happy I turned out to be right ;~).  Still, I’d like to know why Nikon didn’t seem to see this coming.


Some of you probably want to know what was in the “other” responses. It was a curious mix of things, including a number of people that just wanted to explain their vote. About half of those in some way indicated they might get a D500 (e.g. “waiting for gray market pricing” and several “waiting until I have the money” responses).

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