Where Did the D850 Go?

bythom d850 blur

Hmm. This weekend the D850 disappeared from B&H's Web site, and a discontinued notice was sent to anyone who had signed up for an email notification about when the product would be in stock. Other dealers just list "out of stock" on their Web sites, and NikonUSA says "backordered." 

B&H removed the D850 from their Web site because they have an automated system that removes products that haven't been available for a certain period of time. They corrected the situation when they came back to work on Sunday. The D850 is now listed as "More on the way," and imported models are available. 

The real question here is "what the heck is Nikon doing?" 

Even as I write this, I believe that the D850 is the second-best all-around camera that you can (almost) buy, and the best all-around DSLR that you can get (or can't get ;~). Unfortunately, the D850 has been pretty much out of stock now for almost two months here in the US. As one US poster wrote: "Is the D850 discontinued? No. Can you buy it? No."

Here's my best guess: Nikon doesn't have enough D850 sensors to continue full production at the moment. Note that the Z7/Z7 II sensor, while similar, is not the exact same sensor as in the D850, as it has a different microlens pattern. Sticking that sensor into the D850 body would require a new D850 model number (e.g. D850s) and slightly different firmware. My guess is that continued demand for the D850 coupled with not being able to get any additional low quantity sensor run onto any fab at the moment has Nikon between the proverbial rock and hard place. 

Just in time (JIT) inventory techniques are coming back to haunt a wide range of companies around the globe, and I'm pretty sure that Nikon, with all their cost cutting, cut themselves right to the bone on this one. Coupled with Nikon's dumbfounded insistence on building the same product serialized for different specific markets—regionalism versus globalism—they can't even move any inventory they do have without breaking their systems.

The best answer was simple: up the Z7 sensor production and release a D880 (along the lines of what Nikon did with the D780: mostly mirrorless additions to Live View and video, which make an already great camera better). 

I'm just going to state this bluntly: we're seeing the result of Nikon mismanagement running smack dab into real world problems that they somehow convinced themselves would never happen. 2011 should have taught them otherwise, but the bean counters just wanted fewer beans to count and have mismanaged Nikon into sub-optimal execution.

I've written before that there's substantive demand for higher-end DSLRs still. A D580 and D880 would both sell decently enough to justify making. They'd be highly profitable models even in their modest volumes. A D6s would also likely be welcomed, though not as easy to achieve. Unfortunately, Nikon is so focused on the fact that their mirrorless market share isn't where they'd like it to be that they've ignored the fact that they could have completely owned the high-end DSLR market (and still managed sufficient mirrorless product). 

"But at least we're profitable" the bean counters counter. "You're not as profitable as you could be" I'd bean them right back with. 

And now Nikon has another messaging problem: I've been getting periodic emails about "why was the D850 cancelled?" The lack of confidence among Nikon's most faithful is taking another blow. How many of those hits does Nikon management think they can endure before the perception becomes locked in that Nikon is no longer a leading camera brand and has stopped supporting top-end DSLRs?

NikonUSA, if you're reading this: you need a clear and direct message about the lack of available D850 stock and what you're doing about it, and you needed it 30 days ago. It's easy to lose the confidence of your best customers. It's much more difficult to attract entirely new best customers. Stop taking the easy route.

Update: D850’s continue to trickle into the US (as do D500’s). What I’ve been seeing happen is that a monthly shipment comes in, but before the next shipment arrives, it sells out. My recommendation is that you just get in line at a reputable dealer if you find the D850 out of stock. Typically the wait is significantly less than 30 days to receive a back-ordered D850. 

Looking for gear-specific information? Check out our other Web sites:
mirrorless: sansmirror.com | general: bythom.com| Z System: zsystemuser.com | film SLR: filmbodies.com

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