Buzz Buzz, DX Lenses ;~)

(commentary)

I’ve been watching all kinds of unsupported arguments derive from what I’ve written so far this week. I’d like to tackle a few of them directly:

  • Nikon knows there isn’t DX lens demand. Right. Just as they knew how much demand there would be for a D500 ;~0.

    The argument that Nikon understands their customers well enough to accurately predict demand for something fails in a lot of ways. The first and biggest way is that they haven’t managed to do that very well in the past. They’ve overestimated demand (hint: can you still find a new D5200 for sale?). They’ve underestimated demand (D800, now D500). And these examples aren’t isolated cases.

    Second, Nikon isn’t very close to their customers and they’re damned inefficient in getting customer feedback into their marketing and design groups. So on exactly what would they be basing their take on demand? Telepathy? Remember, they didn’t put warranty registration cards in cameras for quite a long time, so people didn’t get into their database for surveying from that.

    Third, there’s a classic fail mechanism that companies fall into: because X is what sold, X is what customers want. How would Nikon even know that people wouldn’t buy a wide angle prime designed and priced along the lines of the 35mm f/1.8DX? They’ve never produced anything close to that, so they’d be trying to predict an outcome from a negative assumption.  

    Finally, I argue that there’s an unspoken assumption at play in most peoples’—and Nikon’s—reasoning: that not producing a full line of DX lenses hasn’t hurt Nikon. After all, Canon didn’t produce a full line of EF-S lenses, either. Sure, but why are some people moving to Fujifilm FX or m4/3 or even Sony E/FE (that last based upon an assumption that Sony is going to fill the line [note they do have at least one wide angle prime ;~]). In other words, not producing lenses could be a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you don’t make them, no one buys them ;~). I can measure leaking and sampling as being in the low single digit percentages from Nikon to those other mounts. And when I survey as to why those folk moved from F-mount, one of the top reasons is “lack of DX lenses.” 

  • DX owners are almost all low end, and don’t want anything other than a kit lens. See the last paragraph, above. No, they’re not all low end, and demand for the D7200 and D500 tends to prove that, as I pointed out yesterday. Those two models have enough demand to justify a few lenses on their own. More so than the Nikon 1 models justified a 32mm f/1.2 lens of its own. 

    But this is a fallacious point because we have nothing in the Canon and Nikon realm to compare against. The only evidence we have is in the mirrorless realm, where it is clear that there is demand for a wide range of lenses.

    Still, let me throw the numbers at you: if FX with 16% of Nikon’s volume in the last four years justifies a full line of f/1.8 primes, wouldn’t DX justify something, considering that the D7xxx models alone in that period produced more than 10% of Nikon’s volume? 

    The argument that FX users are the only ones that buy lenses seems patently false on the face of it, and evidence seems to indicate that it isn’t true at all. Sure, DX lenses have to be appropriately configured and appropriately priced to sell, but is that all that difficult to do? Nikon themselves proved they were up to the task with the aforementioned 35mm f/1.8DX. 

    Moreover, there’s this: I can identify quite a few serious shooters that bought into the smallest (and lowest cost) Nikon DSLR; those arguing this point would claim the lowest cost DSLR purchasers should  really all be low-level consumers not interested in other lenses. Nope. There’s a clear subset of D3300 owners—this started mostly with the D40/D40x, but has continued for as long as I can track it—who value simple and small at a good price. Many of them are using MF legacy lenses on those cameras. And guess what lens is pretty much missing from their arsenal: yep, a wide angle prime that makes sense in the 16mm range. 

  • Nikon’s decline in sales is due to contraction in the market only. The corollary to this thought is: Nikon is perfect at execution. In other words, if Nikon’s decline in sales is only due to a market contraction out of their control, then they’ve made perfect decisions during the time of that contraction. 

    Other than perhaps US presidential candidates, I don’t think anyone would make such an extreme argument as that. Plus facts tend to have this nasty way of destroying extreme arguments.  

    Yes, the market is in decline. But the real question is why is the market in decline? My assertion has been and continues to be that the camera makers simply haven’t caught up to, let alone gotten ahead of, the times. The reason why you bought a quality camera in, say, 1990, was fairly clear. The reason why you do that today is not, especially since the smartphones came along and lowered the bar for needed quality (both in taking and in viewing photos). 

    Still, I’d argue that not only has Nikon not yet demonstrated to the next generations why they need to own a quality camera, it’s at the same time not perfectly serving it’s already committed constituency. In other words, Nikon’s decline in sales is stronger than it need be.

  • Nikon must know what their customers are doing and what they want from the warranty registration database. Wanna make any bets about how many customers these days actually register their warranty? (It’s not necessary to pre-register a camera to get warranty work done, by the way.) Okay, now consider this: for quite a few of the years in the data sample I’ve been presenting, NikonUSA did not include a warranty registration card with the cameras being sold! How did those customers even get suggested to register their warranty?

    So now Nikon trolls through their database of customers that they do have registered in some way to send surveys to, and guess what happens? (You might also want to go back and read my criticism of those surveys in the first place. For example: this). Virtually every time Nikon has actually performed a customer survey, the reach of my site is deep and broad enough that I have people emailing it to me almost instantly. I’ll just say this: not only doesn’t Nikon have a good base from which to do n sample surveys from, they don’t do it very often, and their surveys aren’t very good. Yet a lot of the discussion about my DX lens comments always falls back to “Nikon knows what their customers want.” Do they?

  • DX lenses don’t sell. I’ve seen some arguments just make this straight out claim. Facts, unfortunately, suggest that the planet is warming and that humans are part of the cause…oh wait, wrong essay. Facts, unfortunately, suggest this statement about DX lenses is patently and absurdly false. As one dpreview poster correctly pointed out, you can take the two DX primes that Nikon has produced and compare them directly to FX counterparts: the 10.5mm f/2.8 DX fisheye has sold in almost twice the quantity of the 16mm f/2.8 FX equivalent. Doh! The 35mm (normal) f/1.8G DX has actually outsold all the 50mm (normal for FX) f/1.4G and f/1.8G lenses combined. Right, and DX users don’t buy lenses. 

    Simply put, Nikon needs to stop being a climate change denier…dang it, I mean DX lens denier, and start being a DX lens maker. 

Your honor, I rest my case. Buzz, buzz.

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