Another FX Christmas

“So go out and buy an FX camera.” 

That’s the way NikonUSA Senior Technical Manager Steve Heiner closed out his video interview with dpreview

This isn’t the first time in the last two years that Nikon subsidiary executives have strongly pushed FX directly. The question in customers’ minds is whether that’s “sell what you got” or a clear signal from Nikon.

Before we get to considering which of those two it might be and how that impacts your decision making, let me point out something: Nikon doesn’t make a dud in their current FX lineup. Yes, that includes the D610. Most of the D610 angst I hear is really D600 angst in disguise. The D610 never had an issue, the D600 did. 

So as I note in today’s other article, most enthusiasts currently have a choice of D610 at US$1697, D750 at US$2297, and D810 at US$3297. Plus we have the Df in there between the D750 and D810 price. Four very capable FX DSLRs across a US$1600 price spread, all considerably more expensive than any Nikon DX body.

It’s that last part that makes people think Nikon might be a bit disingenuous when they keep pushing FX over DX. To some degree, Nikon has turned into one of the auto makers: “Sure, we make a sub-compact; have you looked at our trucks lately?”  

As I’ve been trying to outline for awhile now, Nikon DX is kind of stuck in a small troublesome area at the moment. Mirrorless nibbling upwards into the DSLR market, FX prices dropping down to intersect the top of DX (especially the Sony A7’s), and of course Canon dropping the 7DII on the market, making Nikon’s high end offering look a bit weak. While Nikon DX is looking like a small category all the sudden, it’s Nikon’s biggest selling camera lineup.

Is Nikon really sure they want to keep promoting FX over DX so deliberately? 

It seems to me that there are two basic cases:

  1. Nikon continues DX much as they have in the past, including a new high-end DX body to compete with the 7DII.
  2. Nikon detours and transitions DX to something else, most obviously mirrorless.

I think it abundantly clear that if Nikon is going to attempt #1—and the odds favor that—that they’re going to regret their constant FX push a bit. It’ll look highly disingenuous to have been promoting FX in retrospect, and it will undermine Nikon’s ongoing marketing messages. “Everybody buy FX. Wait, here’s a D300s replacement, finally.” No, that doesn’t work so well, does it? 

The problem is that no one, not even me, can actually see well enough into the DX future to know whether it’s to pour money into buying it. Indeed, just the opposite is happening: all those leakers I’ve been writing about have already made the guess that the DX future is dim enough that another future is clearly a better choice. They often even point to statement’s like Heiner’s to justify their jump. 

It was about seven years ago on this site that I wrote that Nikon needed to issue product road maps. Not detailed information about upcoming products, but the kinds of road maps we’ve seen from other companies that describe how lines flush out, compare to one another, and update over time. These days, four competitor camera companies are leaking like sieves in ways that even embellish their published road maps.  

Nikon? No road maps, no meaningful leaks, no clarity to users as to where they’re headed. They need to be careful that this doesn’t translate into no sales. 

I was doing some final cleaning of my gear closet the other day and noticed something: I’m down to one DX body and six DX lenses (three are third party, and only one a recently produced product). So even I have probably voted with my dollars. Winning me back is going to take something really, really good. 

No, I don’t think DX is dead. What’s on life support at the moment is Nikon’s commitment, shown through actions, to DX. This is a marketing and management problem, not a product problem. I’d even go so far as to say as the D3300 is the best entry DSLR made at the moment. So why is it getting so little love from corporate?    

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