Back in 2007, Nikon did something really remarkable: they made DX and FX versions of essentially the same camera (D300 and D3, respectively). Other than the crop sensor of one, they were near feature and UI identical, about as close as you could make them in two different sized bodies. Then they quickly added the D700 and we had a trio of choices where we chose only two things: sensor size and body size. Did the D3 stop selling because of the D300 and D700? No. Did the D300 stop selling because of the D700? No.
Today we’re seeing Canon pull off almost the exact same thing. The 7DII, 5DIII, and 1Dx form a trio of nearly identical cameras that differ mostly in sensor between the first two, and in body style and a bit of performance factor between the last two. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that this will be very successful for Canon in keeping their serious users engaged and buying Canon gear and that we’ll see a fair number of Nikon D300 holdouts realize that the position is reversed and buy into the Canon choices instead of waiting longer for Nikon.
I’m not going to reverse myself here; I’m consistent on my sense of what is correct in the high-DSLR line. Nikon made the right choice in 2007. Canon has now made the same right choice in 2014. Unfortunately, Nikon seems to have forgotten their choice.
Nikon basically now has a tough marketing problem on their hand, and while they never really quite were able to fully market the old speed/pixels sensor size combos well, now their marketing seems almost boilerplate, often with vague adjectives used to describe minimal and random differences. (“Powerful combination of pro-caliber features,” “new and refined features,” “easily tracks,” “enhanced accuracy,” “robust construction”.)
But more important, I think, is that Canon now appears to be winning the “reward the legacy users” war more than Nikon is. That, too, is another reversal.
Last decade I began a “modularity” campaign, but you know what? Nikon isn’t making non-modular modularity any more, so it’s unlikely they ever want to pursue modularity. What do I mean by that? Up through the D3 generation, we tended to have choices that were essentially “locked in factory” modularity. D2h or D2x, for example. Rather than buying one body and two sensor sets I had to buy two bodies with different sensors; essentially I was buying the same body twice instead of one body and two modules. My backup also wasn’t exactly the same as my primary, no matter what I was shooting that day (sports [D2h] versus landscape [D2x], for example). Still, I was essentially buying modularity in the sense that I was getting the same thing in different incarnations.
My problem now is that I have a fairly random set of choices in trying to decide a Nikon “kit” these days. Should my kit be D4s and D810? Or maybe D810 and D7100? Or maybe D810 and D750? None of these combos make as much sense as did the old D3s/D3x/D300/D700 days.
Somebody at Nikon thought that this new more random and mostly FX path was the right one. My problem is this: where does it take them? What’s the next FX camera going to be? (Best guess, 48-54mp something, which could be another random shot.)