Monday, July 9, 2007

Fauxtokina 2007: Nikon speculation and predictions

Nikon DSLRs

  • high end The Nikon DSLR story began on a hot June 1999 day with the intro of the D1. Then Nikon split it up into a big nasty and a high-speed branch, the D1X and D1h (PMA 2001). More than two years later the D2H (July 2003) came out, to be followed next year by the D2X (Photokina 2004). Nikon did not have any new designs, so they did the logical thing, they refreshed those models with sequential but not dramatic upgrades. The D2Hs (PMA 2005) and D2Xs (June 2006) came to be. Needless to say the time is right for a new Nikon flagship camera. Some of the rumblings on the e-street talk of a new Sony 1.1x sensor (near full frame) that Nikon would have a one year exclusive use option. An 1.1x sensor could perhaps allow Nikon to only introduce one new body and use a cropped high-speed mode for the sports shooters. That could cut R&D costs significantly, but would that be an acceptable option for the H shooters? The H has a head-start on the X, so would we first see an H and then an X? Or would Nikon merge them into a glorious awe-inspiring D3? Time will tell!

  • mid range The D200 was the November surprise in 2005 from Nikon, being the numerical follow-up of the historic D100 of the historic 2002 PMA. The D80 (aka D200 lite) came out in August of 2006. What happens here may depend on what happens at the flagship level. It would seem not to be prudent to have a new mid-range and flagship at the same price, unless there is considerable difference between the two. And if the 1.1x flagship sensor rumors are true, there would be plenty of space between. But don't be shocked if instead of the D300 we get a D90 instead if the new D3* uses an 1.5x sensor.

  • entry level The D70 started the affordable non-Rebel DSLR party in January 2004, followed by a refresher (D70s) in April 2005 (it was that successful). The entry-level was then taken over by the D50 (April 2005), but that didn't last long, as Nikon came up with a new entry-level (D40, November 2006) that was geared towards newer lenses. This was to head into the holiday shopping period. Shortly after that (PMA 2007) Nikon decided to bring a 10mp version of that camera, the D40x. I would expect this high rate of new DSLR intros to slow down for Nikon. The D40 and D40x look like they are the set that will head into the busy holiday shopping season. The D80 could drop in price further and provide an alternative for those who prefer to use their old lenses. No new entry-level DSLR until 2008.

    Nikon non-DSLRs

  • mid-range and above The P5000 is the closet thing to a mid-range+ camera at Nikon. The last advanced cameras were the wide-angle 8400 and the VR-superzoom 8800 at Photokina 2004, along with the 8700 (Jan 2007). These were using 2/3" sensors. I do not expect anything new here, although it would be nice if they did. Before that, the 5400 (May 2003), 4500 (May 2002) and 5000 (Sept 2001) were the advanced models from Nikon... See more on the P5000 below under the P-series.
  • long zoom The S10 (6mp, 10x, VR, Aug 2006) is reasonably due for an update. Its precedecessor, the S4 was similar but without VR (Sept 2005). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to predict a 7mp update in the Fall of 2007. Assuming Nikon plans to continue this series. The twist body is different from the competition, but a 6mp 10x lens is behind on zoom ratio and megapixels compared to all the other competitors out there.
  • subcompact S series Nikon decided that it was best to confuse everybody by putting most of their cameras in the S-series, regardless of size, shape or lens type. This brilliant idea started in January 2005 with the S1. Their newer subcompacts look either like the Canon Elphs or thicker versions of the Sony T-series. If you can't beat them, join them! Nikon has been among the first to install wireless options in some of their cameras. This trend should continue.
  • L series (aka El Cheapo). The El Cheapo series serves one purpose: Grab market share and promote the brand. Hook them in, and hope they buy a Nikon DSLR later on. A leap of faith perhaps given the features and options of the L-series. Nikon does not seem to be in a hurry to adopt the 8mp 1/2.5" sensor. Infact their long-zoom uses a 6mp sensor. Four new subcompacts were announced at PMA. Unless they plan on an 8mp sensor or some other new feature, I would not expect anything new in the subcompacts until PMA 2008. More on this later after I painfully go through them :)
  • P series The P5000 (10mp, 1/1.8", VR) took over the P-series at PMA 2007. Before it, at PMA 2006 the 8mp 1/1.8" P3, P4 which were replaced the P1 and P2 (Sept 2005). This line-up seems to be of the PMA variety, but perhaps Nikon will get encouraged from the reception of the P5000 and attempt a side-by-side model. Maybe they will be tempted to just release one with a 12mp sensor. Ideally though they should consider releasing a more advanced version, eg include RAW and make other improvements to issues pointed out in reviews. There is a gap in the mid-range/advanced segment right now, and it's there for the taking for whoever makes a reasonable model. Nikon has a chance to built upon the success of the P5000. I think it's 50-50% they will release another P-series this year.

    What to expect from Nikon in the rest of 2007? (pure speculation!)
  • New S-series long zoom model in Aug/Sept 2007.
  • Predicted names of speculated models: D3, D3X, D3H, D300, D90, S11, S12, S13, S14, P5500, P6000

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