Welcome to 2016

(commentary)

Note: this article is a bit later than originally anticipated because of the very early 2016 launch of the D5 and D500 combo. I had to rework a few bits of the article after that announcement.


2015 was an okay year for Nikon DSLR users. We got the excellent D5500 and D7200 and an interesting option in the D810A. We got two great telephoto options (300mm f/4E and 200-500mm f/5.6E). The 16-80mm f/2.8-4 DX lens makes a very nice replacement for the aging 16-85mm. The 24mm f/1.8G is another great prime. Still, it seemed like Nikon was in between things, especially since the FX bar didn’t really move at all. 

What I heard from many Nikon users in 2015 was a lot of frustration. Products still missing that these customers thought key. Paranoia that Sony was encroaching upon Nikon’s success and creating more interesting products. More switchers and samplers espousing the Fujifilm X series or m4/3 or Sony FE. 

I also sensed and even heard directly from some a thought that I don’t think true: that Nikon was getting seriously outclassed in optics by Sigma, Zeiss, and others. (I’ll have more to say on that shortly as start posting some overdue lens reviews.)

In looking back carefully at my In Box, I just sensed a lot of negativity about Nikon. Now I have to be a bit careful about analyzing that: I’m probably Nikon’s most vocal critic and have been for quite some time. I could be getting parroting back from the readership. Something tells me, though, that this isn’t actually the case. Far too many emails began with things like “I’m glad someone is finally calling Nikon on that…” or “I’ve been thinking this for a long time and just thought it was me.” I sense that a lot of the Nikon faithful entering into 2016 are simply getting more worried about their choice of tool provider. 

So as we head into 2016, let’s turn this around a bit. I’ve already outlined what I think we’ll get from Nikon this year, and we’ve already gotten the surprise D5/D500 twin announcement, but what is it that we hope that we’ll get and that will make the Nikon users of the world happier?

Here’s my list of what I’m wishing for:

  • The Nikon D5 and D500 deliver something amazing. The two places where I want that to happen are in communicating with the outside world and in focus. Sure, I’ll take incremental sensor advance, additional features, better video, things like that. But that’s not what will make me happy. What will make me happy is a better autofocus that expands on Nikon's already good performance in ways that help my shooting. And then getting those great, in focus images off the camera to where I need them quickly and conveniently. The early prognosis here is good, but it won’t be until mid-March that we actually are able to verify that. 
  • The DSLR line becomes even clearer. DX, FX—at this point I personally use both and can go either way. But what is Nikon doing? As I write this we have 4 DX and 5 FX DSLRs in the lineup, and the lineup seems a little confusing in the lower three FX models. Nikon’s been marketing “move to FX” for almost four years now. Is that it? DSLRs are really FX? If so, just say so and make the FX lineup truly reflect a good range of choices.  But given the D500, apparently not. DX is back. Great. How “back” is it? Lenses will help clear that up, but we’re still missing too many. I also need Nikon to get better at clarifying who does what for whom in their marketing, and the entire product line needs to perfectly reflect that. So no matter which way the future lies, what will make me happy is that Nikon is clearer about how all the parts of their lineup fit together. The D500 restoring the high-end DX point is a start, but only a start.
  • That I finally have a small Nikon camera to carry casually that feels right. I don’t care if that’s a Coolpix, a Nikon 1, or some new name plate. The Coolpix A was a nice try, and probably came closest, as it was basically as D7000 in smaller form with the best wide angle DX lens Nikon has produced to date ;~). Before people start accusing me of being a Nikon fanboy to want a Nikon pocket camera, a Nikon DX for wildlife shooting, and Nikon FX for my other work, this isn’t about fan-boyisms. I want that because I want products that work consistently and have controls and performance that are the same as is possible. Even just the names for features varies across camera brands, and I just want to rid myself of as many cognitive dissonances caused by gear as possible. When I switch among my Mac products, I don’t get the same level of disorientation as I do between two Nikon cameras, let alone a Nikon and a Sony, or a Nikon and a Olympus/Panasonic. So to make me happy, Nikon needs to up their game at the low end. A shirt pocket camera that’s proud to bear the name Nikon would be very welcome, but I’ll still be happy if it fits in my jacket pocket.
  • What I really want out of 2016 is that for the first time in 20 years Nikon customer service and customer attention feels like it’s getting better, not worse. What we’ve been getting is death by a thousand cuts. True, every now and then I’m surprised when it looks like Nikon seems like it might be making a small step forward, but they almost immediately kill my excitement about that with something more dramatic in the backwards direction. I’ve given up responding “you’ve got to be kidding me.” It’s clear Nikon’s not kidding me. They’re just cutting, cutting, cutting. Right at the point of connection between customer and company. So to make me happy I’d like to feel like we took more than one positive step forward in customer relations in 2016, and nothing dragged us backwards again.
  • I want Nikon to get better in relations with other companies supporting Nikon gear. The whole Atomos API inclusion in Nikon DSLR firmware recently is one such thing, and an encouraging sign. But we need more than one sub-case, we need this to be the way Nikon operates through the camera group: cooperate and work with companies that make Nikon products work better. And yes, that includes Adobe. 
  • Get some serious help with software, and keep it more current. El Capitan is still tripping Nikon up almost six months after it first got wide-spread release. The number of complaints about bug reports I receive on the Windows side hasn’t gone down, either. It’s painful to watch how slow Nikon is moving on the software side. And to what end? Nikon is giving most of it away free, so when you produce what some people would call crapware and distribute it for free, no one’s going to buy into your for sale software. The software efforts by Nikon seem more ego-driven (hey, Canon has software) than function driven. Worse still, I don’t currently know of a pro that’s using Nikon’s software. And Nikon Image Space? Not exactly rocketing into stardom in the mobile/cloud world. Make all this software better, keep it better updated, and make it really work with the rest of the world and we’ve got something. Here’s hoping we see signs of that in 2016.

That’s it. That’s all it would really take to make me happy about Nikon in 2016. Not perfectly happy, but happy. Heck, throw in some more lens surprises like the 300mm f/4E and 200-500mm f/5.6, and I could get downright ecstatic. 

Okay, you got me, I don’t do ecstatic. Still, I might have to replace the grumpy picture* of me at the top of the site ;~). 


* Just to be clear: the reason why I posted that picture instead of something else is that fanboys all over the Web are always accusing me of being a grumpy old man. A curmudgeon is one of the nicer things they call me. Why not give them fodder for their faux cannon? If they don’t get that I was making fun of them, so be it. Indeed, I wouldn’t expect them to get that, because I was being subtle.  

text and images © 2017 Thom Hogan
portions Copyright 1999-2016 Thom Hogan-- All Rights Reserved
Follow us on Twitter: @bythom, hashtags #bythom, #dslrbodies