Nikon Germany Goes FX

(commentary)

I can always tell something is brewing in Europe when my In Box is filled with pointers first thing when I wake up in the morning. They've got six full hours to mull over things before I get around to them. 

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Today's tempest in a teapot is a press release from Nikon Germany. Up there in the headline is, roughly translated, "focus on Nikon FX full format photography." The press release goes on to extol the two "advantages" of full frame as being greater dynamic range and Bildgestaltung, which is one of those tough words to translate but which Google Translate picks "image design" for. My reading of the press release—my college German is quite rusty so I'm probably missing nuance—says that the advantages they're referring to with that German-build-a-word are probably things like the larger, brighter viewfinder image making it easier to compose, and the larger sensor giving you more choice in depth of field, particularly of isolating subjects. (After much consulting with German friends, I've decided that in the context Nikon used it, Bildgestaltung should be interpreted in English as "composing.")

The messages I'm getting today from Europe are things like "Nikon Germany is saying forget DX, buy FX." Well, yes, to a degree that's what they're saying. 

But I think people are trying to read a bit too much into this. Without DX DSLRs, Nikon would be effectively dead within months. Coolpix is dying and probably doesn't make Nikon any real money any more, Nikon 1 is tenuous at best, and FX DSLRs at the very best case ever hit a peak of significantly less than 20% of Nikon's DSLR sales. Nikon needs DX to continue to drive sales and profits. But they also need more than DX to succeed. 

The clues to what's going on are towards the bottom of the press release: cash back on seven FX lenses, a try and buy program, and a new microsite dedicated to FX. Of course, like many things in Nikon marketing, carts are in front of the horse: the microsite isn't up yet, even though the press release that announces it is out. ;~)

What's happening is that Nikon is getting more aggressive about selling what they have. After all, if the rumored retro DSLR appears, Nikon would technically have six different full frame cameras to sell (retro, D610, D800, D800E, D4, D3x). That's enough product to dedicate marketing resources to, I think. Microsites are one of Nikon's ways of doing that. 

Of course, this does bring up the age old question: why does Nikon so neglect the primary engine of their success (DX)? No dedicated microsite for that. Nothing more than superzoom lens announcements for DX lately. No D300s replacement. Still no wide angle prime and a lens lineup that m4/3 makes look bad. Slowly building inventories of past generation DX products that still need unloading. Minor updates (e.g. D5300). 

Basically all Nikon DX users at this point now have a paranoid inferiority complex. So much so that I hear the American Psychiatric Association is looking into possibly adding DXism to the DSM (Axis I, Anxiety Disorder). Wait, is it a complex or a disorder? I guess we'll have to wait for the DSM update to find out. Of course, Nikon could fix that problem with the right medicine: a full DX lens lineup, a D300s replacement, and a clear indication of where DX goes from here.

Well, there's always 2014. Here in 2013, Nikon wants to sell you an FX camera, if it can.

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