News/Views

The following are the most recent 10 articles posted on dslrbodies.com. To see older articles from 2021 and later, use the News/Views Archives in the right column. To see 2013 to 2020 News/View articles, click on this link, which will take you to a deeper archive.

Another One Bites the Dust

Sony has officially discontinued the last of their DSLRs (the A99 Mark II, the A77 Mark II, and the A68). Some lingering inventory may be out in dealer/distributor hands, but we’re basically past “last call” on the A-mount DSLR.

Of course, many of you thought they were already gone and are wondering why it took so long for the coroner’s results to be published. What tends to happen is that a few clients regarded as key still have a product being used in production. If they break the product they have, they want to replace it directly, not with something else. 

For instance, several Nikon DSLRs were used in various traffic systems over the years (red light monitors, speed traps, etc.). The vendor who bought all those cameras doesn’t want to have to rewrite any software or do any new testing if they have to replace one, they just want to replace like-for-like. 

So some cameras end up with lingering availability, even though the manufacturer isn’t actively selling them any more. Eventually, though, the inventible happens and it isn’t viable for the camera maker to continue to supply something, typically because of parts.

Nikon Rebates are Back

Nikon has some new rebates in effect for the month of May for DSLR users. Let’s start with the cameras:

  • D780 — US$300 off. Well, finally. That puts the price for the very good D780 where it should have been in the first place, US$1999. Since the Z6 II is now the same price, you have the choice of DSLR or mirrorless using the same sensor technology without paying a premium for either. I like the D780, but it’s definitely a DSLR with the reduced area in the center of the frame for autofocusing except in Live View (mirrorless tends to use the full frame). Great camera, now at a much more reasonable price.
  • D850 — US$500 off. A pretty steep discount for a camera that, to this day, is still one of the best all-around cameras you can buy. Of all the folk that have tried both the D850 and Z7, you’ll find that some like the Z7 better, some the D850 better. I agree with that split decision. Some will prefer a D850 over a Z7, some will prefer a Z7 over a D850. They use the same image sensor and have very similar feature/performance sets. 
  • Lenses — The usual suspects have the usual discounts. There are two that stand out, though: (1) the 16-35mm f/4G is now US$799 (US$300 discount), so if you’re interested in that lens at all, now is the time to pick it up; and (2) the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6E AF-P lens is now US$399, which makes it a clear bargain. For the more casual shooter, the 16-35mm, 24-120mm, and 70-300mm make a reasonable DSLR travel lens kit. 

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Pentax Still Hanging onto DSLRs

While Canon and Nikon continue their wind-down of DSLRs, Pentax, meanwhile, continues to chug along on a few remaining lumps of coal and has once again iterated their APS-C flagship, the K-3 III.

In terms of specifications, the K-3 III now goes to the head of the APS-C class: 26mp image sensor, sensor-based stabilization, 12 fps burst rate, a bigger brighter viewfinder, USB charging (and USB-C), and much more. Wouldn’t a Nikon D500 user want to see a D580 with those stats, or a Canon 7D Mark II user see a similar 7D Mark III? I think so.

Of course, Pentax has been lagging on autofocus performance for a long time now. The K-3 III does have a new AF system that seems to have all the right stats to it, and Pentax talks about subject recognition AI helping, so let’s hope it does. But until I can test it, I don’t know if they’ve even gotten to D500-level performance yet. So there’s that.

Still, it’s nice to see Pentax iterating this DSLR. I don’t know how big the market will be for the K-3 III, but it’s clear that Pentax is no longer chasing after lots of new customers, just trying to satisfy their existing ones (see previous article about Canon ;~). 

Total new DSLR count in 2021: 1. 

Meanwhile, Canon...

Earlier this week I published a general article on DSLR expectations for Canon and Nikon in 2021. Today I need to point out that Canon is probably making a mistake. 

The reason is that EF lenses are disappearing from availability. Recent reports point out that the 40mm f/2.8 STM, 60mm f/2.8 EF-S, 70-200mm f/4L IS II, 85mm f/1.2L, and 200mm f/2L have all been discontinued in the last two months. Any remaining inventory in the dealer chains is now “last call.” 

Update: the following lenses are claimed by Canon Rumors to be discontinued by Canon:

  • 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 EF-S USM
  • 14mm f/2.8L USM II
  • 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS EF-S USM
  • 17-55mm f/2.8 IS EF-S USM
  • 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S IS USM
  • 24-70mm f/4L IS USM
  • 35mm f/2 IS USM
  • 35mm f/2.8 EF-S IS STM Macro
  • 40mm f/2.8 STM
  • 55-250mm f/4-5.6 EF-S IS STM
  • 60mm f/2.8 EF-S Macro USM
  • 70-200mm f/2.8L USM
  • 70-200mm f/4L USM II
  • 85mm f/1.8 USM
  • 135mm f/2L USM
  • 180mm f/3.5L USM
  • 200mm f/2L IS USM
  • 300mm f/2.8L IS USM II
  • 300mm f/4L IS USM
  • 400mm f/4 DO IS USM II
  • 500mm f/4L IS USM II
  • 800mm f/5.6L IS USM

Three problems with this:

  1. It sends a fairly clear “your Canon DSLR is dead” signal. Three of these were popular lenses, and the other two well received. And this isn’t the first set of discontinuations. I’m guessing we’ll see more in 2021. So, get your EF and EF-S lenses while you can, because it seems likely that only the used market will be available to you in the future.
  2. M users are also impacted, as they can’t use RF lenses, they can only use M lenses (very limited number available) or EF/EF-S lenses on an adapter (going away). M users, too, will be dumped into the used market.
  3. Only two of those five discontinued lenses have RF equivalents. So just selling your Canon DSLR gear and replacing it with Canon RF gear isn’t a slam dunk. Sure, you can use an adapter on your RF camera and use your existing EF/EF-S lenses, but that’s not 100% optimal. 

Okay, so this seems to say Canon is going to stop making DSLRs and DSLR lenses. Canon obviously wants you to convert to mirrorless. In essence, Canon is going to force its users to mirrorless. 

But the problem is that Canon mirrorless isn’t those users’ only choice. If you’re going to use an EF/EF-S lens on a mirrorless camera via adapter, it turns out that those work pretty well with the proper adapter on a Sony Alpha or Nikon Z camera! Thus, Canon’s going to lose some customers in this transition, and because Canon showed them little or no respect. 

Canon DSLR users can’t plan right now. They don’t even know if a lens they were going to pick up later is still going to be available when they can afford it. 

On top of all this, a lot of folk just put off camera and lens purchases during the pandemic, for obvious reasons. As the pandemic eases and people return more to their pastimes, Canon DSLR users are going to find that, during the pandemic, Canon decided to leave them behind. 

The camera business is pretty much now about holding onto your loyal customers and encouraging them to update and iterate with you. Canon is sending the wrong signals to a big group of users, and those folk are not going to be happy, even if they do begrudgingly move along to RF. 

I wrote it earlier, I’ll repeat it: clear communication to customers and a path—even if it is a smaller, narrower path—for them continue as customers are what is needed. 

Canon should have said:

  • We’re winding down DSLRs and concentrating on RF mirrorless and video.
  • We’ll be reducing the DSLR lineups considerably; here is the one APS-C and two full frame DSLRs we will continue make and potentially upgrade during the next three years, and here’s the lenses we’ll keep in the portfolio during that time.
  • We’ll do everything to help you transition from EF/EF-S to RF, as well.
  • We’ll give you warning well in advance of changes to the above. 

Of course, Canon has tons of DSLRs in their current lineup still, so announcing a winnowing would make most of those models pull in less cash as they go on fire sale. So what? It’s not like they’re going to pull in full value as it is, and it’s far better to keep the customer than collect the one-time cash. 

Wither DSLR?

The overall DSLR sales volume continues to drop rapidly. 2020's volume was 53% that of 2019's. In other words, DSLR volume fell to half its former volume in just one year.

The average selling price over the last few years has changed a bit, with the likely reason being that the remaining distribution is steadily shifting away from lower-cost consumer models. But the average selling price is not shifting rapidly, as it is in mirrorless, suggesting that the weakness in DSLRs is an overall weakness, not just a consumer DSLR weakness. 

Credible rumors in mid-2020 had Canon introducing a new round of consumer DSLR models (though not as many) and Nikon introducing a D850 replacement at the end of the 2020 or early in 2021. Neither have happened yet. 

The question now is "will those new cameras still happen?"

I'd be surprised if Canon came out with another consumer DSLR, but if they do, I'm pretty sure it would be the last round. I would be surprised if Nikon didn't come out with the D850 replacement, but it, too, might be the last of the new DSLRs from the Duopoly (Pentax seems to have just decided to ride out the last vestiges of the DSLR market with incredibly slow iteration of their present cameras). 

Personally, I'm still of the opinion that it would be unwise to abandon the prosumer/pro DSLR market. Canon should probably iterate the 5D to Mark V status, and Nikon should iterate both the D500 and the D850 along the lines they did with the D780. Those shouldn't be "hard-to-do" updates, they should be no-brainers; just basically some junior level engineering iteration using existing technologies and parts. Manufacturing doesn't have to change much, either.

The D850, for example, has probably sold at an average clip of just over 100k units a year. So what if the demand is half now, that's still 50k units this year that should be quite profitable, plus maybe another 50k units lifetime. It would also make Nikon the only player to keep the high-end DSLR in play.

The D500 is a little more troublesome, having sold a lower average of less than 50k units a year. Still, even another 30-50k units lifetime is probably worth capturing, particularly since the D500 is a unique camera with high esteem among a very niche group of users, and D500 sales drive telephoto lens sales, as well.

Note: Both the D850 (with the D800 and D810) and the D500 (with the D300) have potential to pick up folk still using those older cameras who want an upgrade, and the base volume of those users is considerable. Thus, targeting the marketing to those groups with the right new iterated bodies should work to get the volumes I'm talking about here. I'm an advocate of "give the buyer a choice." So you can market both a Z7 II and a D880 to a D800/D810 user. What you want to make sure you do is pick that user back up and not have them shuffle off to a competitor.

Thing is, in both those potential Nikon updates, you're talking about significant parts reuse and longer parts lifetimes. For example, I'd expect both of those DSLR updates to use image sensors used in the current mirrorless models, and current EXPEED6, among other parts.

But that latter chip may be part of the problem. I understand that Nikon may be dealing with a shortage of EXPEED chips at the moment, and Nikon already can't keep their latest mirrorless models in stock everywhere. So with the supply chain not providing every part that Nikon might want, they have to prioritize where to put the parts they can get. And that's not good news for DSLRs.

Meanwhile, on the customer side I get a regular and high volume of "I'm sticking with DSLR" emails. There's absolutely a market—and yes, mostly of older, near-retired or retired folk—for the right new DSLRs that bring new features, performance, and keep a high model line fresh. Technically, for some purposes (e.g. birds in flight) the D500 and D850 still have "better" focus performance than the mirrorless cameras at the same price points, too.

Consumer DSLRs? Not so much, as the demand isn't there any more (Elvis has left the building and is using an iPhone). Moreover, if I'm reading the data correctly, that's true for consumer mirrorless, too, though not by as strong a drop: while <US$1000 mirrorless still sells in reasonable volume, it's not where the profit is. The most profitable buying action seems to start at about the XT-4/D500 level and continues up through the R5/Z7/A7/D850 level. (The A1, R1, and Z9 are/would be lowish volume halo products. Profitable and desirable, but not where the bulk of the camera market profit lives.)

So, I'm still advocating for a D880 and D580 (and Canon 5D Mark V, though I doubt there's any chance of that). But the longer the wait for those new models becomes, the less likely that they'll come at all.

Finally, there's this: the global economy was artificially depressed by the pandemic. Cameras, in particular, were doubly impacted, as not only was there somewhat less disposable income being spent, but the places you'd go to take a photograph were restricted. Thus, demand for cameras was artificially depressed, as well. 

I wrote this back in early 2020, and I believe it is still true today: once the pandemic has clearly eased and life becomes a little more normal again, demand for both travel and cameras are going to increase fast and dramatically. You'd rather be introducing new product just ahead of that surge, not after it. That's particularly true of any new DSLRs: if the camera market recovers before new DSLRs appear, then the buying will have accelerated towards mirrorless.

So, given that I think the D850 update is the most likely candidate to turn out to be a real, new product, I'd say this to Nikon: such an iteration needs to appear soon, probably no later than May/June if Nikon wants to optimize the sales of it. 

______________________

It's rare that companies making transitions get the transition right. Besides too early or too late, there's too fast or too slow and a host of other factors that can all reduce the ROI during the transition period. One thing that most get wrong—and Canon and Nikon are both doing this—is to go silent on the older product. This artificially pushes people to (1) not transition with you at all, (2) to look at competitors when they do transition, or (3) to question whether they need to transition at all. 

The correct approach has been and continues to be: "if you want to stick with what you've got, we've got your back, though we won't continue making every option moving forward. If you want to transition to the new we've got you covered there, too. We appreciate you as a customer and we'll serve you no matter what your decision." 

Production Suspensions

Nikon will be suspending production of some accessories on February 6th. The accessories involved are: MC-21A Remote, MC36A Remote, DG-2 Magnifier, and SD-9 External Power Supply for Speedlights. 

It appears that these are products that were produced by facilities that are being closed in Nikon's factory consolidation. It's unknown whether and when these products will begin production again.

Nikon also is closing two small lens production plants in Japan to consolidate lens production at a single plant. I don't expect the lens manufacturing changes to have any impact on which lenses continue in the lineup, or even ongoing supply in the markets.

Nikon's February Lens Discounts

It's a quiet month for instant rebates for Nikon, unlike in previous years. Nine Nikkor F-mount lenses are on sale:

  • 16-35mm f/4G — US$100 off
  • 20mm f/1.8G — US$80 off
  • 24mm f/1.4G — US$200 off
  • 24mm f/1.8G — US$70 off
  • 28mm f/1.4E — US$200 off
  • 28mm f/1.8G — US$70 off
  • 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G — US$100 off
  • 58mm f/1.4G — US$100 off
  • 105mm f/1.4E — US$200 off

Two of those lenses—the 58mm and 105mm—are incredible lenses, and they don't tend to come on discount often. I'd have no reservations telling you to pick up either of those if you need that focal length and aperture. 

The 28-300mm I covered in my Travel Lens Conundrum recently.

The 20mm and 24mm f/1.8Gs are lenses I recommend, and they're at reasonable prices. 

All the others I have some reservation about, though they might be minor ones that don't impact you. 

As I've noted, Nikon right now—as well as most of the camera industry—isn't in a discounting mood. Supply chain shortages and retailer limitations due to the pandemic have everyone fully valuing their inventories at the moment. If you're looking for bargains, those probably won't come until later in the year.

How to Lose Customers

Okay, I've been honking this horn for a dozen years now (buzz, buzz). But now the security alarm has gone off, too. 

Normally, this news would be on the sansmirror site: Fringer has announced the NF-FX "smart autofocus adapter" that allows Nikon F-mount lenses to be used on Fujifilm XF mount mirrorless cameras. With autofocus, exposure, EXIF, lens correction (!), and other support. 

bythom fringer nf-fx

While this adapter really works best with only five recent Fujifilm bodies (X-T3, X-T4, X-T30, X-S10, and X-Pro3), it appears to work quite well on them, enough so that it should help a smooth transition for a Nikon DX DSLR user to Fujifilm mirrorless. Perhaps smoother than to Nikon Z DX ;~). 

Note: version 1.10 of the firmware for the adapter is now available, which added support for a number of Nikkor exotic and other long telephoto lenses.

Meanwhile, Fujifilm has over the course of the last eight years built out a really good set of APS-C (DX size) prime lenses. Lenses that Nikon DX users have long coveted but never received from Nikon. At least under the 100mm equivalent focal length. The Fringer adapter now gives Nikon DX users an "out." They could pick up an X-T4 and a Fringer adapter, and still use their Nikkor telephoto lenses—the Fringer works with the 70-200mms, the 80-400mm, the 200-500mm, and the 300mm f/4 PF—but now have access to a load of "DX" primes. 

Buzz, Buzz just went Bang, Bang. (For those new to site, "buzz, buzz" is my shorthand irritating reminder to Nikon corporate that they failed to build out the DX lens set; it's like I'm a fly or gnat flying around their head reminding them that their situation stinks.)

Thing is, Nikon doesn't think DSLRs are dead yet. They'd like to continue selling them for the foreseeable future. But by their own inaction (on DX lenses) they've now enabled a competitor to come in and pick up any DX customers thinking about upgrading. Remember, DX is the bulk of Nikon's existing DSLR customer base. By "bulk" I mean 90% or more. True, those folk are not upgrading their cameras at anywhere near the pace they used to, but that also means that you can't afford to let a competitor siphon any of them off.

Nikon is supposedly readying two DSLRs for 2021. Nikon faithful hope that one of those is a D500 update. Or at least a D7500 update ala what was done with the D780 (incorporate the mirrorless bits into Live View). But if either appear, that still leaves the situation as it was: buzz, buzz, where are the DX lenses?

The problem in Tokyo is that they wish to dictate to customers what they should buy. Nikon wanted customers to spend more money by purchasing FX when they upgraded their DX cameras, and this has been the corporate focus since 2009. Not all customers wanted (or want today) to do that. So you shouldn't be surprised when your sales to those DX-type customers plummet, Nikon. Now that better alternatives for those DX-type customers exist, you shouldn't be surprised when they abandon the brand.

I've been writing about this for over a decade. I saw the problem clearly. Management in Tokyo either didn't see the problem or didn't care. Either way, the result is fewer sales than was possible, and now fewer sales than are possible. That's no way to run a business.

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The Travel Lens Conundrum

bythom INT ARG BA 2006 0034r

I keep getting the same question, and it involves going to a one-lens strategy with the D850 and the 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. One reason why I keep getting that question is that a famous post processing person keeps saying "that's all you need." Recently the advice has added "just add sharpening to fix any blur." 

First off, sharpening does not fix blur, unless you happen to have one of the exotic (and slow) deconvolution sharpeners, and even then I'm not sure I'd use the word "fix." When you sharpen, you alter pixel values to add contrast at boundaries, basically. That's not the same thing as optical acuity.

But let's get back to the main topic, which is whether the 28-300mm belongs on a D850. 

The 28-300mm isn't a terrible lens. It's big and it's heavy, though. That sort of is the antithesis of "travel lens." The real questions, though, are two: is it really 300mm, and how is it optically?

Optically, it has strong vignetting, one of the worst bokeh's I've seen, produces a lot of flare (both veiling and specific), has mustache distortion at the short end, has a lot of chromatic aberration, and isn't particularly sharp in the corners wide open. Center sharpness is decent, but the corners never come close, even stopping down.

More importantly, though, is the focal length breathing. At shorter focus distances, the actual focal length of the telephoto end starts to drop down, and eventually reaches 150mm! You need a much more distant subject to get anything near the 300mm (e.g. at 150 feet the lens is a respectable 270mm). 

So, if you want to use this lens as your "travel lens" with a D850, you're at 40.5 ounces (1148g), you'll be cropping some to get rid of the extreme corner issues, you'll need to be using a lens hood always (and still watch your backlit situations), you'll be doing a lot of chromatic aberration and linear distortion correction, and yes, you'll be sharpening the image more than usual. 

I understand the all-in-one-lens thing, but I'm not convinced that the long end of that is where you want to be concentrating. 28mm is a horizontal angle of view of 65°. Bumping up to 24mm at the wide end, you're at 75°, a significant and useful difference while traveling, particularly for indoor shots. 

To me, the travel lens for a D850 is the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5. If you also need long telephoto, then carry the 70-300mm AF-P or the 300mm f/4 PF with you in your backpack. You'll note in my mini review of the 24-85mm I write "not exceptional in any aspect, but it also has nothing that I would call a flaw, either." That's more of what you're looking for in a travel lens. It's also only 16 ounces (not 30). 

A case can also be made for the 24-120mm f/4—the image above was made with a 24-120mm—if you need a bit more reach and don't mind a bit more weight (23.6 ounces). But to me, travel should not just mean convenience, but also non-fatiguing (as in "not heavy"). 

The thing is this: if you bought a D850, you bought the best camera available for about a recent three year period, and still nearly the best today. I'm not sure why you'd want to spend that much money to get those beautiful pixels and then smear them in any significant way. Other than the big and heavy 24-70mm f/2.8E, none of Nikon's mid-range or longer zooms truly do the D850's pixels justice. 

Indeed, for travel, I'd rather just have the Z6 II with the 24-200mm lens. It's far better than the 28-300mm, doesn't focal length breath, gives me a wider view at the short end, and is pretty much exactly the kind of lens the 24mp Z5/Z6/Z6 II are made for.

Which brings me to the final conundrum. Many people buy the wrong thing. They buy the D850 because I and others say it's the best camera out there and they want the best camera. Then they go and compromise the camera with a lens that is going to reveal its weaknesses with those well-behaved pixels the D850 produces. That doesn't make sense to me. 

If you're mostly using a camera for "travel" photography, the D850 probably wasn't the right choice in the first place. 

Some of us are privileged enough to have multiple gear kits. I don't do travel photography with my D850. It's either the Z6 II or Z7 II with the 24-200mm, or more often these days, the even smaller Z50 with the two-DX-lens kit. That's just in the Nikon world. In the Canon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony worlds I can think of excellent travel kits, too. But the D850 and 28-300mm would be far, far down my list of choices.

What Time Does to Prices/Capability

A reader question about whether to buy a D800E prompted a thought in my mind: how do the various D8xxx models stack up these days?

  • 2012: D800 or D800E, 36mp
  • 2014: D810, 36mp 
  • 2015: D810a, 36mp
  • 2017: D850, 45mp

Each of these have been top-of-the-game cameras when introduced. While at first it doesn't look like the D810 is all that much different than the D800, those that shot with both know that the step forward was far bigger than it would appear on paper. Indeed, Nikon has done an impressive job of making each generation of this seminal camera clearly better and more desirable than the previous.

But you know what? The original D800 (in good condition) takes photos that will hold their own against anything currently on the market. Maybe the frame rate, buffer, UX, and feature set are a bit reduced from the most current model, but Nikon launched this product line with a really solid camera to start with.

So let's look at how much it would cost you to buy each of those cameras in excellent condition today:

  • D800: US$700+
  • D810: US$1200+
  • D850: US$1900+ (used), US$2500 (new)

This is another reason why APS-C (DX) is in danger: we've got really capable full frame cameras—and a D800 at DX crop is 16mp—that are available at APS-C (DX) prices. This is a problem that Nikon has been grappling with ever since their big push towards FX started just over 10 years. Their success in converting so many people to full frame (FX) and keeping them there diminished the APS-C (DX) market upgraders, and now excellent condition FX cameras sell for less than new DX models.

Is there a sweet spot here?

Yes, the D810. It's only 36mp (!) and doesn't have the D5-generation focus capabilities, but it's still a really good camera. You can find a like new D810 for less than a new D500.  Which makes a shift to full frame tempting. 

Another temptation: buy an older body to convert to UVIR photography. 

So, are there things to watch out for in buying older models? Yes:

  • D800 and D800E — I would not buy these used unless I could first verify focus consistency. First, there's the left-side focus problem, which plagued at least a third of the early D800's made. This isn't a terrible problem, in that it can be "fixed" by Nikon repair, but it's an aggravating problem, as correcting the issue often means that you'll have to AF Fine Tune all your lenses. Also, Nikon has dropped their service advisory on this, so you'll probably pay for that repair. Second, there's the cracked frame issue, which isn't fixable. A D800/D800E that's been dropped can crack the back of its frame and then result in the focus sensor module not being in a fixed position. You know that Nikon was aware of this in the change to the frame they made with the D810. 
  • D810 — Since Nikon drops service advisories after 7 years post production, we're coming up on that with the D810. The very earliest D810's created bright noise in long exposures and sometimes in 1.2x crop. Nikon can fix that. In the US you can still check the serial number of the camera to see if a particular D810 was impacted, and if it was, you can look in the tripod socket to see if it was fixed (black dot inside). If it wasn't fixed, Nikon will still fix it for free.
  • D850 — No known issues.

The D800, D800E, D810, and D810a all used the original EN-EL15 battery, and that also has a current service advisory in effect. 

All that said, I know pros who are still using all of the D8xx variants, and happy while doing so. These were great cameras to start with, and got better with each generation. I don't see a lot of harm in exploring the used market here as long as you're informed (this page) and you have the ability to test and possibly return a camera you find has a problem.

Nikon service advisories


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