You Need a Good Egg Before You Can Have a Better Chicken

Which came first, the chicken or the egg sometimes can be answered. At least I think so. Sometimes you need to start with an well conceived egg to get a viable chicken. 

Nikon lately has been fiddling with trying to get more traction as a video enabler. They’ve now got another new Web site—titled In Every Frame—where they’re intending to promote Nikon as a video camera maker. As an incentive, up to four videos shot on Nikon cameras will be awarded US$2000 every month ("No footage can originate from a camera or product other than a Nikon camera or product”).

Now, many Nikon cameras do very credible video. But they’re not really optimized for video. It appears that Nikon is hoping that its customers can prove that Nikon cameras do better video than Nikon’s own marketing department has managed to convince people of. But why this requires an entirely different URL without Nikon branding in the name (e.g. nikonineveryframe.com instead of ineveryframe.com), I have no idea. Moreover, it looks like the eventual place Nikon will showcase the winning videos will be on a new In Every Frame channel on YouTube, not on the ineveryframe site. 

This all seems disconnected and odd to me. 

The camera is the egg. With it, you can make chickens (videos). Thus, I’d suggest that any marketing really has to start at the camera side. Those videos shouldn’t be sitting out somewhere on their own doing an oblique point back to the cameras, they should be directly part of the camera marketing campaigns. Originally, the KeyMission Web site—remember those video cameras Nikon made?—was nikon.keymission.com. Today, many of those old links just take you to a generic nikonimaging.com URL and the whole KeyMission separate Web site thing seems to have perished. The eggs spoiled and the chicken never came to be. 

Nikon does have a KeyMission channel on YouTube (with only 3870 subscribers as I write this), but now they’re going to add In Every Frame as another channel? So if I create a video with a KeyMission 180 and enter it into the In Every Frame competition and it wins, what happens? Oh oh. 

Technically, to enter the video market full-fledged, you need a real video camera and bunch of creators who help you showcase it (or them if it's a product line). Nikon seems to be trying to use the Ambassadors to do some of this heavy lifting, but that hasn’t exactly worked, so they keep trying to find new ways to get others to help them market the Nikon “video cameras.”

Here’s the problem: other than the now failed KeyMission cameras, they’re not video cameras. They’re just really great still cameras that can do very credible video if you make them jump through hoops (even Nikon seems to acknowledge that by putting an Atomos in the D850 Filmmaker’s Kit). Moreover, Nikon hasn’t found something unique about video that they can showcase, with perhaps the exception of the KeyMission 360, which they botched both the execution and marketing of. 

Nikon cameras can shoot video, but they’re not the camera you’d select if all you’re doing is shooting video. No interesting video on a separate channel that was made with Nikon gear is going to convince me otherwise unless the camera-to-video raison d’être is clear. And clearly communicated. Nikon is failing at both (not clear, not clearly communicated). 

Nikon needs a real egg to create some unique, real chickens. Nikon needs to look at how Blackmagic Design and RED managed to shoulder into the video camera market and catch user attention with their unique eggs (which in theory produce unique chickens). It’s still possible to do so, though the stakes and the bits and pieces needed to do so are getting more complicated and advanced. 

To get any attention now you probably need 8K raw with ProRes or DvNHD support, fast frame rates that enable slow motion at least in 4K, some form of modularity, XLR audio, and lenses, lenses, lenses. You’d think a company that was established in optics and known for its lenses would recognize the last, but that has been one of the real issues with using Nikon gear as a video rig: you’re probably not going to use Nikkors. 

I’m pretty sure that Nikon’s next “video initiative” will be mirrorless. They’ll try to position their mirrorless product as a do-anything imager: stills, video, sharing. That would mean that they should already have vloggers in force working with this new gear (I don’t believe they do). One thing I noticed at Sony Kando was how many people were doing near live vlogging with Sony gear. Most seem to have picked one of the A6xxx models to keep their rig small, and most were shooting constantly off gimbals, spinning their camera around to capture their reaction/commentary, then spinning back to the scene they were capturing. 

What’s happened is that Nikon has become a follower, at least when it comes to video. They caught onto the action camera scene late, the 4K video scene late, they’ll catch onto the vlogging scene one of these days, and so on. And then their gear isn’t designed right for the need, and they play catch up trying to convince people with disconnected marketing messages that they’re really in the video business. 

It’s grow up time in Tokyo. I strongly believe Nikon is capable of executing hardware that’s not just state of the art but can pioneer the future. What I’m not seeing is the decision making that is getting them in front of the pack, nor the marketing that makes it clear what their “video” gear does that other gear doesn’t. Instead, we get marketing campaigns that try to get users to fill in the blanks after the fact in the Nikon view of the world. Good luck with that. 

Make a better and unique egg. Correctly promote the unique chickens that hatch from it. It’s not rocket science. Well, okay, making a better egg isn’t going to be easy, but the rest should be. 

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