If you haven’t read my What Happened article, please do that first.
Okay, so let’s assume that I’m right and that Nikon has fumbled pieces of the serious camera lineup. How do they fix that? Starting from the top with the bodies:
- D4x (no later than early 2015) — Simply put a higher count sensor in the D4s body. Not much else needs to be done. The question is: which sensor? With the 36mp sensor in the D800 cameras and that sensor already two years old, that sensor is probably out. The next sensor choice out of Sony would be 54mp, and that seems just about right. That allows Nikon to keep the D4x as the high end of their lineup, it puts it squarely in the Studio camp where it belongs, and it differentiates from the D800. Some might say that a D4x isn’t needed. It is. Not by many, but even if Nikon put the 36mp sensor in it, there’s not a lot of engineering they’d need to do, so picking up even the small number of folk who’d buy that is worth it. For one thing, it says something about Nikon’s line: we will cater to pros of all kinds.
- Something to replace the D700 (no later than early 2015) — Here’s where things get a little interesting. I can see two approaches to giving the D700 users what they want. The first is simple: stick the 16mp sensor in the D800 body, enable 8 fps, call it a D800h and you’re done. I’ve asserted before that such a camera would outsell the Df. I’m still sure it would, even with the Df in the market. However, there’s another trickier approach that keeps the D800 folk happy, too: add sRAW to an iteration of the current D800, enabling 8 fps when you shoot that way. We’d end up a little short in pixels (9mp), but those ought to be pretty superb pixels. Throw in some additional useful updates (group AF, for example) and the D700 to D800 problem is solved as well as how you keep the D800 current. Right answer? Do both. I’d certainly want both. And again, it sends the right message to loyal Nikon users: we’ve got you covered, pick what you need most. Note that both this and the previous product would be done alongside the existing products in Sendai. If Nikon can’t manage production to match demand in the Sendai plant with complimentary bodies, what can they do right? ;~)
- D400 (no later than August 2014) — The goalpost is 24mp and 8 fps in a pro level body with pro controls. With EXPEED4 that’s quite doable. Personally, I’d go a step further and put the D400 into the D4 type body. That might push it to the US$2500 price point, but I don’t think that’s problematic. That actually makes for a better, more explainable overlap between high DX (D400 pro body) and low FX (D610 consumer body). Moreover, the folk that really want a D300 replacement have a strong tendency to use the optional vertical grip in the first place. Such a change also allows the D7200 a chance to move a bit more upward, too.
That’s really all it takes: three updates, maybe four. We can argue about the details, but if Nikon puts their best efforts into these things, I don’t see why we wouldn’t continue to get state-of-the-art sensor, state-of-the-art autofocus, and state-of-the-Nikon-art controls.
Of course, none of this still answers my programmable, communicating, modular goals, but the point of my What Happened? article was to show that Nikon had already changed strategy for some reason, and that’s not really a strategy that resonates with the current serious user base. Reverting to the old strategy, at least for a quick near-term “fix” is the best we can expect from Nikon at the moment, I think. A deeper rethink on what cameras are and how they operate can wait for the D5 generation.