2.13.2017

Nikon Cancels DL series of one inch bridge cameras. Entirely. Now. WTF?

http://www.nikon.com/news/2017/0213_dl.htm

Wow! Just....wow. Nikon announced three models of one inch sensor, fixed lens cameras in three different zoom ranges, including one that might have competed with our favorite Sony camera, the RX10iii; and now they have announced the cancellation of all three products. They cited delays in the development of the image processor as well as the stumbling camera market.

Is this a (scary) tipping point for Nikon? Or will they circle the wagons around their DSLR position and retrench back into the cameras they feel they know best?

I wrote a few weeks ago that Nikon needed to focus like a laser on their core market if they were to move forward. They need to get back to producing their full frame DSLRs but they need to make sure that there are no more issues that lead to highly publicized recalls; like the D600 oil spots  on the sensor and the various mirror path design/implementation issues that plagued the D750.

I'm coming to believe that the days of having a business model built around offering something at every single price point and in every style are quickly coming to a close. It's almost impossible for a company to fight their own DNA and to make both an ultimately capable and distinguished flagship model, like a D3 or a D5, or a D500, and also a line of inexpensive models that seem to have no real market strategy or position, like the Coolpix series.

The writing was on the wall even before the announcement of the DL discontinuation when Nikon more or less stopped all support for the interchangeable lens, one inch family of cameras they created.

One imagines that they'll now pursue a strategy of building more strength in their core, DSLR line-up and offering traditionalists solid models that fit well researched price points.

The tragedy for Nikon will be that the traditionalists' market is quickly shrinking and what's left of that camera buying demographic is embracing the smaller and more advanced alternatives from Sony, Olympus, et al.

Canon, on the other hand, seems to be making inroads in the very same mirrorless market that is eating Nikon's lunch. The M5, while not ready for my camera bag, is a big move in the right direction and has been well reviewed in some corners.

While Nikon seems to have a hit with their APS-C, D500, is the cancellation of the DL series an indicator that they changed too little, too late?

Or perhaps the overwhelming performances of cameras like the Sony RX10iii were too much to compete with...

Interesting news with which to start the week.

27 comments:

typingtalker said...

It's important to note that cameras are just one of many markets that Nikon, Canon and Sony play in.

Nikon:
Imaging Products
Microscope Solutions
Industrial Metrology
Semiconductor Lithography Systems
FPD Lithography Systems
Ophthalmic Lenses
Encoders
Surveying Instruments
Optical Materials
Customized Optical Equipment

Canon:
Cameras and Camcorders
Lenses, Flashes and Binoculars
Office Solutions
Personal and Home Office Solutions
Professional & Large Format Printers
Production Printing
Network Video Solutions
Projectors and Reference Displays
Healthcare Technologies
Industrial Products
Supplies and Accessories

Sony:
Televisions and Home Theater
Video Cameras
Audio
Car & Marine
Cameras
Energy, Storage and Cables
Mobile, Tablets and Smart Devices
PlayStation
Entertainment
Video Games
Movies & TV Shows
Music
Phone and Tablet Apps

Canon and Sony have been expanding their camera (still and video) product offerings over the last few years while Nikon has been struggling. Could Nikon close, sell or downsize their camera portfolio. Sure. Is it likely in a market with well-funded, powerful and aggressive competitors? Yes. Might Nikon have other markets more attractive than photography in which to spend always-limited capital? Of course.

In any case, camera buyers will be watching closely.

Kirk Tuck said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk Tuck said...

Nikon already seems to be losing their shirt in the semiconductor lithography segment as well. If memory serves that was a huge part of their corporate income not too many years ago...

Unknown said...

So will someone else please make a 1" wide angle?

Anonymous said...

So, is Nikon's camera division following in the same footpaths as Kodak?
Similar problems and few solutions.
Could be. Or not.

typingtalker said...

From the Nikon [Annual] Report, March 31, 2016 ...

IMAGING PRODUCTS BUSINESS

o Year-on-year drops in unit sales of digital cameras–interchangeable lens type, compact digital cameras, and interchangeable lenses in a shrinking market

o Net sales and operating income both decreased compared with the previous fiscal year

INITIATIVES AND ACHIEVEMENTS

With regard to digital cameras–interchangeable lens type, sales of entry-class models such as the D5500 were strong in Japan. Contrastingly, in China and Europe, sales growth was recorded in middle and high-end digital SLR cameras, such as the D750. The next-generation flagship model D5 launched in March 2016, which features significantly improved functions, is attracting rave reviews. With regard to compact digital cameras, the Company recorded strong sales of its high-value-added products, such as the multifunctional COOLPIX P900 that features ultrahigh zoom capability for excellent image quality.

In a shrinking market, however, there were year-on-year drops in unit sales of digital cameras–interchangeable lens type, compact digital cameras, and interchangeable lenses, and decreases in both net sales and operating income.

http://www.nikon.com/about/ir/ir_library/ar/pdf/nr2016/16nikonreport_e04.pdf

tnargs said...

A narrow market segment works if you are Ferrari, or Chaterham. Not if you are Ford. Even Leica makes a wider range of cameras than you are recommending for Nikon, Kirk.

Kirk Tuck said...

I think most companies would love to sell three products: good, better, best. The problems with operations, investment, etc. come when they diversify too far from their core businesses. As a comparison I was thinking (while reading your comment) of the market for professional level desktop computers. I know it's a slightly different kind of product because you can configure a computer more extensively than a camera product. But in that category the biggest consumer electronics firm in the world has.....one model. You can buy it with a faster processor or more memory but it's essentially one model. One outer case. One basic core structure. One name. It's called the Mac Pro. And that's the model they chose to compete with in a narrow market segment.

Nikon gets into trouble because they are so busy iterating across all the price points in a wider market that they don't have the bandwidth to make each product really unique and exciting. Most of the product line is based on ten year old models that have new life breathed into them via newer Sony imaging sensors. A good, better, best strategy might be just what they need.

The problem for Nikon is to make each model tier valuable to the consumer. They surrendered any sort of pretense to excellence in the Coolpix market years ago. They let their own (decent) line of mirrorless cameras die from neglect. But as a company their real sin was taking their eyes off the quality of their upper-middle tier products, like the D600 and D750. Basically "halo" cameras to APS-C users. Aspirational step ups, crippled by design and manufacturing issues. Not by just by the consequences of a changing market.

Ford suffered mightily when the Pintos exploded with people inside. They did themselves no favors when the first Explorers started flipping over. They would have been happy to make Crown Victorias and Expeditions forever (their original style of core products) but were forced by fuel economy regulations to expand into smaller, cheaper, lower margin cars for the sake of fleet gas mileage targets. Nikon works under no such regulatory restrictions --- their foray into poor cameras was entirely self-inflicted.

Let's look at a different product line of cars than the very esoteric and unattainable cars you mentioned. Let's look at Tesla. They currently have.....3 (three) models from which to choose. An entry level $35,000 car, a car that is almost twice the cost, and a model X aspirational car. Three. They seem to be making a go of it. Why? Hmmm. Desireable technology? Extreme product differentiation? Very careful attention to overall quality and warranty value?

With ever declining sales would it really hurt Nikon to pull back and offer: a D5 for people who need that level camera, a medium cost, high res, full frame camera, an budget 24 megapixel ff camera, and an economy model with great styling and good features. Four models. Easier for consumers to understand. Easier to stock. Easier to design and build.

But no. We're watching them run a very embarrassing campaign for the "Key Mission" action cams instead. Already failing in the marketplace...

Jim Hughes said...

Nikon seems to have been rudderless for some time. As someone with quite an investment in their gear, it's saddening. I really enjoy shooting with the V1, but for the life of me can't figure out what they were thinking with the V2 or V3, including sticking with that weak sensor rather than the Sony. Thpe DL seemed like a step in the right direction, though obvious me-too type products. Sorry to see them change directions again, though it seems like they just can't get the technology part don, so it's probably a good thing.

John Krumm said...

It's hard to speculate. My own guess is that they looked at the shrinking market, looked at existing competition, looked at development and advertising costs, and said nope, not going to work.

Bassman said...

Nikon has mostly failed at listening to customers and solving the problems that they have. Instead, they've misfocused on a seemingly random collection of products that don't appeal to anyone who isn't already heavily invested in their FX lenses.

They have some terrific DX cameras at different price points. How many DX primes are there?

As mentioned above, the V1 and J1 were great starts, if somewhat artificially crippled, that could have made both incremental sales to existing F mount customers and gained new customers with a growth path to more expensive gear. They managed to destroy that line by having no idea where to go with it.

They have had recurring quality problems with the mid-level FX cameras.

They missed an entire upgrade cycle with the D500 - they probably could have sold many D400s and also D500s to the same people.

The DL series actually pushed real products off the front page of their web site last year, robbing them of some sales for those real products in favor of a product that missed its window of opportunity.

Any fantasy - which I had along with others - that Nikon would swoop in and dominate the modern camera market (EVF, smaller form factors, effective integration into postprocessing workflow and social media) is long gone. At this point, it's not if Nikon will ultimately disappear, it's only when.

Anonymous said...

These days, I am happy to keep shooting my Nikon DSLRs. But I don't think Nikon has been on the right track for several years now, which was obvious even before the DL cancellation. The news they announced today also stated that they will be taking a huge write-off on the semiconductor lithography business when they announce their financial results this week (possibly tomorrow), coupled with ongoing restructuring. They've been losing market share in DSLRs while Canon has been gaining. And I believe it was Thom Hogan who wrote a while back that Nikon's photography/imaging division now accounts for about 2/3 of its profits.

On a personal level, despite being a long-time Nikon user, I absolutely hated the Coolpix A - the DX-sized mirrorless with a fixed wide angle lens: it had too much shutter lag, poor controls/UI, no built-in viewfinder and unreliable autofocus. What's not to hate? In a camera they priced at $1200+ at the beginning (I waited until they were ~ $400, and that was $400 too much for that camera imho - I sold mine in short order). They made similar mistakes with pricing and targeting their "1" line. At those prices, with mostly slow kit lenses and point-and-shoot level controls, who were those cameras designed for? And where are some right-sized wide-angle lenses for my D7200? And so on.

Nikon has been cutting costs and quality control for too long, and really testing their customers' loyalty. They've already had upper management shuffles in the past couple of years - the results still stink. They need to do something more drastic, pronto, unless they want to follow the likes of Kodak and Minolta* into oblivion. (* Selling their camera business to Sony doesn't change the fact that Minolta as a camera company no longer exists). Nikon is supposedly going to introduce a DSLR update (or two) this week. For Nikon's sake, it better be something really special.

Ken

Gary said...

With regard to the DL, I always wondered why Nikon would invest in producing a new line of cameras with one-inch sensors. Had the DL been spced with APS-C sensors I might have been interested. Maybe dropping the DL is a good move for Nikon that will allow them to focus on something better.

Michael Meissner said...

It is kind of sad, but not unexpected, given how long the DL's have been promised.

Sony is about the only maker left that is making an interesting camera (to me), and the Sony has some drawbacks as well.

As a mirrorless/DSLR owner, what I want from a fixed lens camera, is a camera to use when I don't want to bring the lenses and gear (typically vacations, particularly if the focus is not photography).

In particular, I want a camera that has reasonable zoom range (28-200mm equivalent, though 24mm would be better), f/2.8 at the wide end, f/2.8 or f/4 at the telephoto, an electronic shutter (preferably OLED), small enough that it can fit in a jacket pocket, a 1/1.7" or 1" sensor, light weight, weather sealed, and preferably under $1k.

My current Olympus Stylus-1, meets all of these except for the weather sealing, and its viewfinder is a TFT LCD, which means it is problematical to see with polarized sunglasses. Unfortunately, Olympus has withdrawn from that market.

Right now the Sony RX's meet a lot of these requirements, but the size/weight of it, and the cost tend to make it less desirable. I also have some non-camera reasons that make it hard for me to buy any Sony product (I worked for a company that made products for the Playstation space, and it was nearly impossible to get anything from Sony, and I still haven't forgiven them for the root kit on DVDs). It would be nice to have a competitor to Sony, but they've fallen to the wayside.

If I wanted to carry a big camera for vacations, etc., I would carry my current Olympus/Panasonic mirrorless cameras, and a 14-150mm lens. In fact, I usually do that. If rain is possible, my goto single camera/lens has been the E-M5 with 14-150mm mark II lens (and now the G85 with the same lens). But when I'm shooting outdoors, and rain is not in the picture, it is so nice to carry the Stylus-1.

Wally said...

Ditto many of the comments. I remember speaking to a Nikon rep at an event in Texas about what the customer was asking about/for. The message goes up the ladder and is swallowed up and disappears into upper management.

David said...

Kirk,
I find it funny you name apple as a professional desktop computer player as this really is not the case. Yes they have one model, but have really exited that market a while ago and are now really a phone company. Dell, HP, MSI, and some others are the real players there and they have many products.
Nikon, may have the writting on the wall for their consumer photo division. Or they may just tighten up and move ahead. Fuji, Panasonic and Sony seem to be the real players now. Canon is also holding strong and may surprise people with a new anoucement soon as rumored.

Kirk Tuck said...

Apple is the gold standard for our creative community. We are not accountants or engineers. We are creative people working with creative software. Not going to open up the Apple versus PC battles here but elegant design and near perfect implementation are immensely important to the creative class. There may be a whole different perception among the people who use Microsoft programs. Or people who just want the cheapest commodity products. If I have to sit in front of a product in order to edit all day long it better look great, feel great, perform well and have zero downtime. Those parameters disqualify a lot of the product you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

It's starting to feel like Nikon is the 2017 version of Kodak. Too little, too late.

typingtalker said...

I don't want to participate in a Microsoft vs. Apple war either but you might enjoy a few minutes looking at the Microsoft Surface Studio at the Microsoft Store at/in The Domain. It's beautiful. But don't get too involved, the top model is back ordered until June. The top model Surface Book is back ordered until March.

Don't worry, they're neither cheap nor inexpensive. Lots of people are paying big bucks for them.

Did I say they're beautiful?

Kirk Tuck said...

No interest in a Surface Tablet. I'll look for something deeper...

David said...

Kirk,
Don't get me wrong. I do not want to start any wars. I fully agree. Linux is still buggy with KDE running great but still has issues. Microsoft win 10 is a great OS, but seems to be always updating and this too can cause issues. Apple has just seemed to shift markets to were the big bucks are.
We will also see how long the desktop lasts period. Intel seems to be shifting to mobil chips and even said once in press release that they think the desktop computer will fade after 2020.

Rufus said...

I think Nikon probably made the right decision in ditching the 1' inch series.

Of course, I can fully understand how Kirk is a massive fan of the RX10 series, but in truth I dont think I have ever seen anyone using one out in the field. They seem to sit there, rather unloved in camera stores. I am not sure they sell that well..

Maybe the market is polarising toward full frame and m4/3? Maybe the 1 inch cameras are being eaten away by smartphones?

Do these 1 inch cameras sell in volume?

Noons said...

Nikon's strategy and marketing have been going down fast since they decided to drop their scanners and concentrate only on compacts and dslrs that nobody wants or can afford and lenses that are not compatible with any of their past cameras in a blatant attempt at forcing folks to fall into the upgrade-or-else cycle.
It apparently has not downed on them that aggravating their past customers is a bad future survival strategy for ANY company...
Not an Apple fan-boy here,although I refuse to let go of my ipods even with all the pain that is iTunes! ;)
One thing I like with Microsoft: their ICE product.
Free, and makes some of the best stitched images I've seen.
I've got amazing prints of stitched images from my little Oly EM5 that are over 10 foot long, with full definition!
Amazing piece of software. Never found anything else as good.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Rufus, the RX10iii is a very, very popular product for Sony. It's held it's initial price point since the introduction and, in fact, has gone through frequent periods of product shortage at dealers here in the U.S. According to my favorite retailer it is a "briskly selling" product and they have sold through all their orders (quickly) in each quarter since its launch.

The one inch sensor is a huge step up from the phone sensors and is much bigger than the standard ENG video chips that were prevalent until just a year or two ago at price points that were double or more the cost of the RX10iii. The sensor in this camera is the same one that is featured in the Sony PXW-Z-150 video camera which sells for $3200 and is a top selling camera in its category.

In fact, I would conjecture that Nikon launched their failed attempt into this particular market after watching Sony's original RX10 perform well and sell well at a premium price point and with huge margins. The problem was that they could not execute as well as Sony and don't understand the video market AT ALL.

As to use in the field? Get over here to Austin this morning and watch as we use an RX10iii and an RX10ii to document a play for Zach Theatre. The resulting content will be used for broadcast as PSAs.

Kirk Tuck said...

"So will someone else please make a 1" wide angle?"

All three of the RX10 camera models feature 24mm equivalent, wide angle focal lengths. Is that wide enough?

Michael Matthews said...

It's amazing how many older generation guys like me keep wanting to see Nikon clean up its act and succeed. We've watched what was once a leading aspirational brand (for those of us who couldn't yet afford it) fragment into an endless shower of irrelevant low end products. Having diluted the brand into the commodity market, which market then disappeared, the company next tried to pull phone camera users up into a wildly overpriced line somehow based on the presumed popularity of a B-list actor as Nikon's lifestyle spokesman. Millions of dollars in TV production and air time costs down the drain. Now it's been reduced to promoting fantasy products as the next big thing, feebly producing some and cancelling others for lack of interest.

Somewhere behind all this waste and loss of direction there's marketing management that couldn't find it's way out of a paper bag -- and several ad agencies willing to milk them for everything they can get.

I've got it -- how about caps with the embroidered slogan "Make Nikon Great Again"!

Teheimar said...

I agree mostly with Kirk and Michael Meissner.
I'm not on of the old guys here, but I have gone from respecting Nikon to feeling a bit sad about their mistreatment of their costumers. I own the V1, and also first thought "1 inch sensor...who cares" until reasing a bit more and testing it out realized how exceedingly quick ang agile system it was. So the base idea was sound, unless one really needs giant sensors and paper-thin DOF, and really low noise levels. However for most things at a consumer-semi professional lever it seems to work well.
What was strange was the solutions, lack of firmware updates and the quite expensive price.
Sony or not Sony sensor is a tricky discussion, but as it turned out the Sony sensors won.
The V3's bad move was to have the EVF separate for a huge price.
And of course the incompatibility with big flashes. Guess they didn't wan't to cannibalize the sales for aps-c/ff equipment.
In the end it seems that for many cameras are still kind of big chunky things because otherwise it doesn't seem serious enough. But that shouldn't affect consumers from buying small, fully capable mirrorless cameras.
I do agree with that Nikon might need to slim down their portfolio now, and I would suggest having also the following:
1) modularity
2) firmware updates based on consumers wishes or error checking.
3) maybe some consumer loyalty program? Not only for the pros bit for usual consumers as well.