Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals
The summer 2003 issue of Photographer\'s Forum has an interview with Richard LoPinto, Vice President for SLRs at Nikon, talking specifically about digital cameras.
On future offerings and full-frame: Full frame DSLRs (e.g., EOS-1Ds) cost about twice what the D1x does. He acknowledges that there is real appeal in having "35mm lenses of the wide-angle type that achieve a wider angle of view than what we refer to as the DX format sensor," but at the same time, "higher resolution and a wider field of view ... aren't the only features that make them work well." Specifically, he feels that most photographers would not want to spend double what a D1X costs to double their resolution and move to a full-frame sensor, especially given that it would have half the frame rate of the D1X in burst mode.
LoPinto gives a long song and dance about how you can interpolate the D1X image to yield 10 megapixels, but is less than convincing on that score. The bottom line, though, is that Nikon is committed to APS-sized sensors for the next generation or two of cameras. The reason seems to be good old market economics. Not enough people would buy a $7500 camera that could only take 1.5 fps to give Nikon a good return on the investment of designing the camera and starting a production line. He thinks that photographers would rather buy a DX lens (he doesn't give a price, but what I guess is something in the $1500 range for the 12-24) to satisfy their wide-angle needs than to spend $7500 or so for a Nikon-quality full-frame DSLR.
What he says makes sense. In the long term, good sensors will become cheaper and faster, so full-frame will become standard, but for the near-term the market seems to like the $1500-2000 prosumer and $4000 professional price point.
This got me thinking and I think he's right. Looking back at the history of DSLRs, I found that in 1991, Kodak released the DCS-100: the first DSLR that could be used untethered. A modified F3, the full system weighed 55 pounds (most of it in the backpack that held the electronics and hard drive), sold for $30,000, and had a 1.3 megapixel CCD.
By 1999, you could buy a D1 for about $6000, with about 2.8 megapixels, and now you can get the D1x, with 5.3 megapixels for $4000. This rate of innovation and the consequent fear of obsolescence is another reason why very few people will spend $8000 or so on a digital camera. If the camera must be amortized over a five-year lifespan, that comes to $1600 per year on bodies. Glass holds its value much better, so a sensible photographer would buy a more modest DSLR and spend the difference on glass, knowing that in four or five years he can buy the dream body for a much lower price and will have some very nice lenses for plugging up that big hole in the front.
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#1. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 0photonav Basic MemberFri 06-Jun-03 12:50 AM
I read the same article a few days ago and found that the arguments put forward make a lot of sense. There's really no good reason to stick with the 35mm form factor or exact size. Modern digitals can cram 5MP on to a 1/1.8" CCD which is tiny compared to the Nikon SLR sensor size. I imagine that if they wanted to they could build a 20+MP sensor for the Nikon D series. I think it'd be overkill, but it could be done.
The main reason I think people want a full frame DSLR is for lens compatibility and so they can continue thinking of focal lengths the way they're used to. Personally, I think that the full compatibility of Nikon lenses and bodies is at an end.
Future lenses will be mostly G lenses designed to work with cameras that have command dials. DX lenses will be optimized for the smaller sensors of DSLRs and will probably all be G series lenses. The latest lens releases from Nikon indicate that this is the direction they're heading. It makes total sense too. Money isn't made on camera bodies. It's made on selling glass to stick on those bodies. Nikon needs to keep selling glass.
The article persuaded me to wait for Nikon's next offering in the DSLR arena. I'd been looking seriously at Canon. Don't worry, I got over it.
I shoot film with a Leica M6 currently and see no reason (for my style of photography) to be burdened with a large film SLR. I sold my F5 for this reason. I do see the benefits of having a DSLR and would be willing to put up with the weight. Now, if I can only put up with the wait for the next generation D series pro camera.
#20. "RE: Lens Compatibility" | In response to Reply # 1Gary DeWitt Registered since 25th Feb 2003Mon 09-Jun-03 02:44 PM
>>Personally, I think that the full compatibility of Nikon lenses and bodies is at an end.<<
And there lies the problem. Part of the reason I've been a Nikon user for these past 25 years is continued lens compatibility. If Nikon made a full-frame D1, then I would buy it immediately just because it is fully compatible with my existing lenses and nothing else on the market is. But lack of compatibility between my film cameras and a digital camera means that I am now free to choose any brand of digital camera, not just Nikon. I don't necessarily see an advantage in full frame, but the advantage to Nikon of offering it is that they keep me as a customer, rather than losing me to another brand.
BTW, price is little or no concern. After all, even at $8K a full-frame Nikon would beconsiderably less than the $20K a new Canon system would set me back.
#2. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 0
Those thinking are make sense to me. But wouldn't it be nice for the very small of us who wants to buy more expensive FF 11-16 MP D2 if Nikon provide it. It'll be good for Nikon too, as their rival already release one.
Sometime I wish Nikon still have ego and not only thinkin' economically. Just like some of us, who like to buy the best and newer gadget....sometimes only for our ego.
it's near Bali, if you don't know where it is
#3. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 2scottjua Registered since 24th Feb 2003Fri 06-Jun-03 10:15 AM
As I see the side of it that makes sense...I think it's an un-wise move to not inclde a full frame sensor. I for one will look at whoever makes the best tool for the job, and if I can't get it at Nikon...
Who know's though... I jsut dislike the conversion factors.
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#4. "The bottom line is..." | In response to Reply # 0
...6-8 Mpixels is ENOUGH for enthusiasts and most pros, and is very competitive with film. The objective break-even point in effective resolution is probably around 8 Mpixels, but the noise levels of current DSLRs are so low that 6 is nearly perceptually equivalent to 35 mm film. You might be able to cram 20 Mpixels into the APS-size sensor, but the tradeoffs might not be happy ones: (1) increased image noise, (2) lower effective ISO, (3) larger memory requirements, (4) slower continuous shooting and buffer-clearing times, and (5) sensor cost. These tradeoffs may render the 20 Mpixel APS sensor not much better than the current 6 Mpixel sensor from both an image quality and convenience standpoint. (Consider 30 NEFs per Gbyte of CF memory for a 20 Mpixel sensor.) You can only shrink the photosites so small before images suffer. That's one reason why the 14 Mpixel cameras are full-frame size.
#5. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 0
Could someone explain, or point me to a reference, what the "1/1.8" CCD" refers to, regarding size? Apparently I've been away from math too long, as this doesn't make sense to me. Thanks in advance.
#6. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 5photonav Basic MemberFri 06-Jun-03 03:17 PM
I honestly don't know how they came up with that nomenclature, but there's a picture of the relative sensor size at the review page I'm posting a link to. The larger sensor is the one in the D100. The one next to it is a 1/1.8" sensor like what's in the Canon G5 and I think in the CP5000.
Dpreview D100 review
#7. "CCD size nomenclature is bizarre..." | In response to Reply # 5
#9. "RE: CCD size nomenclature is bizarre..." | In response to Reply # 7fundy Registered since 13th Nov 2002Sat 07-Jun-03 04:37 AM
The coolpix 5000, 5700 and now the 5400 use a sensor that is about somewhere halfway between the 1.8 standard and the D100 sensor. So it truly is a step up from the sensor tha is in, say, the canon G3.
Oregonian Nikonian presently found on Shikoku, Japan
#8. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 0
There are 2 sides to the VP's comments.
There is no doubt that Nikon wants to expand market share at the price sensative level.
Olympus did that with the OM10 and when several years later they decided to bring out the Pro lenses the market had gone elewhere and they no longer make SLR's.
Nikon took market share from Canon at the PJ and fashion level in the early days of the Di.
Right now the price of the full frame Canon 1DS is not an obstacle to most pros, especially as it can out resolve many films and holds more shadow detail than E6.
Canon have a good range of lenses and have almost universal dominance of the Pro wildlife market because of VR in long lenses.
Soon they could have dominance of the studio and wedding market because they have the right digital body concept for this type of photography.
At the lower price point in the UK the 10D is reckoned as having the edge over the D100 and is also cheaper.
When there are major public relations excercises (as there are from Nikon) they are often a way of bolstering up a less than best product range.
Nikon were top digital dog last year.
Right now they are being increasingly perceived as second.
Perception and fashion may move in Nikons favour when Olympus launch their small sensor SLR system this summer.
Photography is a bit like archery. A technically better camera, lens or arrow may not hit the target as often as it could if the photographer or archer does not practice enough.
#10. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 0
I will admit, that I fear Nikons direction, one way or the other, they are going to alienate thier custmers. You have the 35mm crowd with thousands of dollars of 35mm glass, then you'll have the crowd of DSLR shooters who are going to invest in the DX glass, if Nikon does not go FF, there's going to be a lot of users feeling pretty betrayed, and jump ship, but the same may happen if the DSLRs go FF, with the guys using the 1 1/8 having bought in to the DX lens lines. Nikon's walking a tighrope, and no matter which way things go, people are going to jump to Canon. Competition to keep market share is going to get rough, and Nikon is not going to have an easy time with it. They need to get off of this econo-thinking and get back to making quality cameras, the N55, N65, and N75 are prime examples of how nikon is selling out to compete against Canon where they should be looking at Leica and Contax, and getting back to producing the best instead of thinking too consumer.
Aaron J. Heiner
Team Coast Guard Photographer
US Department of Homeland Security
#12. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 10vchong Basic MemberSun 08-Jun-03 03:12 AM
>if Nikon does not go FF, there's going to be a lot
>of users feeling pretty betrayed, and jump ship
There's always the Kodak DCS 14n. I don't blame Nikon for not wanting to put the mondo bucks into developing something that may or may not sell. Better to let Kodak commit themselves and then jump in later once the water is fine...
#11. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 0
I shoot mainly "normal" to telephoto. So I like the 1.5 crop factor. I rarely have the need for anything wider than my 20/2.8 provides for me. "Maybe" I will get a 12-24DX -- but most likely will just settel on a 17-35/2.8, 20-35/2.8 or even....gasp...yes...the new Sigma 20-40/2.8.
So..if they stay with the current sensor -- no problems here. I like my 8-2/2.8 reaching out like a 300mm.
#14. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 11HarisAshraf Registered since 21st Feb 2003Sun 08-Jun-03 08:46 PM
I am also in the "smaller sensor bandwagon". I hope Nikon sticks with it, but designs its digital cameras around the sesnor rather that adapting/repackaging current film bodies. These are some things I would like to see in a digital body one day:
1) Smaller mirror with a multicoated filter between the mirror and the lens opening (CCD dust prroblem: solved!!). Flash should sync at 250 because of the smaller shutter travel!.
2) A body weighing 14-16oz.
3) DX lenses corrected optimized for sharpness and color diffraction rather than pincussion or barrel distortions. These could be corrected by software.
4) Smaller, lighter faster lenses due to smaller image circle.
At this time the main problems I have is that my D100 setup (with 24-85 3.5-4.5 G zoom) weighs too much to carry with me all the time and when shooting inside with available light, people with prosumer digicams with faster lenses always seem to have an advantage over me.
My 2 cents
#21. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 14drjonslater Basic MemberTue 10-Jun-03 01:32 AM
While they're at it, they can add compatibility with older flash units like my SB 25. Fuji and Canon have solved this problem, but the D line is limited by the use of a single DX flash at a time.
#15. "Reality vs Perception" | In response to Reply # 0
Nikon needs to produce a full frame camera for perception reasons. Canon has gained the admiration of much of the market by producing the 1Ds. It is the leading "Flagship" camera out there. Now will the average shutterbug ever buy one? Of course not, but they will lust after one. This gives them a marketing advantage.
What Nikon really needs to produce is a $1500 camera that feels like a $1500 camera. A camera with a sealed metal body, High FPS, long shutter life and a great big viewfinder. I'd also love to see a D200BW model that has no Bayer filter and no AA filter, that produces great B&W shots, although I don't think this would be an easy camera to market to the average buyer, I'm sure it would get a lot of respect from B&W fans.
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#16. "RE: Reality vs Perception" | In response to Reply # 15jwb Basic MemberMon 09-Jun-03 10:53 AM
>Nikon needs to produce a full frame camera for perception
>reasons. Canon has gained the admiration of much of the
>market by producing the 1Ds. It is the leading "Flagship"
>camera out there. Now will the average shutterbug ever buy
>one? Of course not, but they will lust after one. This gives
>them a marketing advantage.
You are absolutely correct. I attended a conference once, where one of the speakers was the VP of Design from Oakley. He showed two pairs of sunglasses they made. One fairly basic (for them!), about $125, and one crazy $900+ pair that you wore over the top of your head. He said that they sold very few of the expensive ones, but they sold much more of the $125 pairs simply because they made the $900 pair. People will buy a less expensive model in order to be associated with someone they perceive to be the leader in a product category.
#18. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 0
In my everyday use of the D100, I find it to be very satisfactory for a great range of photography.
The smaller sensor allows me to store 107 RAW images on my microdrive. I can store thousands of images on a 120 gigabyte hard drive ($150.00 USD) in my computer. A DVD will hold about 450 RAW images ($2.50 USD). I would hate to increase the size of my images from 10.5 megabytes to much higher. Storage and processing would become a real problem, and get overly expensive for volume shooting.
My D100 makes flawless 8.5 x 11 inch images, so magazines and books are tied up nicely. Web images are superb. I have seen knockout 20x24 images, so even decor photos work well. The majority of photography for income is covered very well by the D1x/D100 camera lines. Just read a few of the threads in this forum.
I do not need, yet, a bigger sensor, and although I have a limitation in wide-angle photography. I shoot 99% of the time with my D100, while my F5 languishes in my bag. When I can buy a 10MP Nikon for less than $5,000.00 USD, I will be sorely tempted, mainly because I am a technohead. Do I really neeeed the larger sensor. Probably not. (Sigh!) Do I want it? Well...
#19. "RE: Nikon VP on future of Nikon digitals" | In response to Reply # 18Mike777 Registered since 16th Sep 2002Mon 09-Jun-03 01:29 PM
I'm in the same camp.
Bigger file sizes would be a burden not an advantage for me. The vast majority of what I do does not demand a larger sensor in my camera, especially as the gain I get is on the long side which is where the most expensive glass resides.
If I want a super wide angle shot or a blow up as big as a front door then out will come my trusty F80 and a roll of velvia but reality is, that has not happened in the last 6 months. Just coz you shoot digital does not mean it is compulsory to use it all the time. I can remember my uncle having 3 cameras 30 yrs ago, 'this one for action, this one for still life' etc. I bet most people who have switched to a D1/100 find the camera is more versatile than they imagined and use other cameras less often?
There is no doubt that there is a market for a full frame Nikon but the question is how big is it and is it viable? I held off on digital for a while for the simple reason that I felt like I was being cheated with an APS style image sensor but actually, I found it to a gain not a loss.
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