Filling the Void: Nikon D400 Wishes

Now that we’re safely past the D800 and D4 announcements, all eyes turn to Nikon for the third piece of the trifecta, the successor to the D300s: the D400 (at least that what I assume they’ll call it).

Honestly, I thought the announcement of the D7000 in the Fall of 2010 really made the D300s look a bit long in the tooth. The D300s was only a year old, a light update to the D300 announced two years before that, but it was outclassed by the D7000 is several areas – ISO performance, dynamic range, resolution and more. Only the fully pro build, a deeper buffer and Nikon’s best auto-focus system gave the D300s an edge. I actually value the auto-focus performance more than the megapixels and even the ISO performance: Low light capability and dynamic range don’t matter much of the shot is fuzzy.

But D7000 had pretty darn good auto-focus and a big step forward in metering, which put the D300s under fire almost immediately. A lot of pros and BIF shooters didn’t care – the D300s was a pro tool, had a deep buffer and served the purpose well.  Some hopped on the D7K and liked it a lot.

But we’re now 18 months beyond the D7000 announcement, and the D300s doesn’t look like a camera worth anything close to its $1699 on-line price (B&H, etc.). Nikon’s recent sorta-announcement of the D700 at $2199 also puts pressure at the relative price point. And the D7000 sits at $1299. Nowhere for the D300s to go…

Thom Hogan said somewhere that you’re either a DX shooter or an FX shooter. Generally I agree with that, but I really sorta want a blend. I love the image quality of the D700, and I love the reach of DX. So what am I looking for in the D400?

  • Resolution: Honestly, I don’t really care. In today’s spec-war environment, megapixels are going to be more than the 12MP of the D300s. I’ll take anything from the D7000 resolution of 16MP all the way up to the rumored 24MP that is out there. Beyond that, the burden on my PC and storage is more than I want.
  • ISO Performance and Dynamic Range: I’d really love to have the ISO/low light performance of the D700 with the Dynamic Range of the D7000. Honestly, I don’t know how these things trade off against each other, but we’re talking wishes here, right?
  • Auto-focus and Metering: Since I’m going hybrid, I want the D700 auto-focus with the new metering ushered in with the D7000. We’re talking about a pro-class body, so this needs to be the good stuff!
  • Other stuff: This is the D300s replacement, so the build, buffer capacity should be consistent with that product. I love the concept of the U1/U2 buttons from the D7000, which let you store a whole set of camera settings. Video should be as good as the D7000. USB 3.0 would usher it into the 21st century. I’d like to see the same seven frames-per-second performance of the D300s as well. I’d prefer dual SD card slots, but Nikon seems to prefer one Compact Flash and one SD card in this category, so I could live with that.
  • Oh – and price: Keep it at $1799 list.

As I said in my Open Letter to Nikon post about the perfect Enthusiast Photographer Full Frame camera (which is nicely answered with the existing D700 reduced to $2199), I’d love to see a market research site that would let you design your perfect camera, trading price and weight for features. It would be a really cool way to gather some information, plus get some other ideas for features.

Readers: Do you want a D400 or whatever the heck a D7100 is? What features aren’t on cameras that you’d like to see?

7 thoughts on “Filling the Void: Nikon D400 Wishes

  1. Tons of rumors floating around that the D400 will be a full frame camera that will be the D4 lite, sort of how the D700 was the D3 lite. This does make some sense considering the different path they went down with the D800.

    • I’ve heard those rumors, and I just don’t see it. Why abandon DX? Why push BIF and sports shooters looking for that reach to the D7000? Personally, I’d love to see a D4 Lite at the D300s price point (or thereabouts – let’s call it $2K-ish), but I just can’t see it for the price point they have to be shooting for or the wants/needs of a pretty sizable customer base. If they can hold the D700 around for a while, they have the affordable FF covered, and I don’t hear anyone griping much about that camera (other than availability) Maybe there are two new bodies out there…

  2. Agreed, it only makes sense if they get rid of the D700, which is still my preferred body over the D800 when I move to FF.

  3. Let’s get one thing clear: there is no way Nikon is going to abandon DX. If all my telephoto (and macro) lenses are going to lose one third of their power it would be enough to make me think seriously of the unthinkable (the C word we Nikonians don’t pronounce.)

    The real question is whether Nikon is going to relegate DX to the D70/D80/D90/D7000 class.

    The pro features of the 300S which matter to me are the autofocus, the 7 FPS, the buffer size, and the sealed body. And the buffer size. Did I mention the buffer size? Give me a D7000 sensor with those features included and I will line up to buy the D400. And, although I know it is politically incorrect and therefore not going to happen , remove the video and either lower the price point or add some D4 goodies: I am not a videographer (I have my pocketable G12 if need be.)

    • Elion – I agree Nikon won’t abandon DX – it is the platform for consumer and prosumer (e.g. D7000) DSLR’s. What some are questioning and you are alluding to is whether DX has a future in a pro body.

      I’m like you – evolve a D7000 into a D300s body and I want one. The question is what Nikon thinks.

      Personally, I don’t want to play poker with Nikon – they are hard to read and predict. I think they’ll wind up with a DX-based D400. Sports shooters, bird-in-flight shooters and guys like us want the “reach” (even if it is only apparent reach, not real) the DX offers. What is odd is I don’t see all that much traffic on the D400 on the forums I hang out on compared to the anticipatory waggle on the D4/D800. You don’t see lots of D300s cameras for sale on the buy/sell forums.

      If it isn’t’ a volume category, it does lend some credence to a new approach to that price cell and market category…

  4. Pingback: D3200 Emerges | Enthusiast Photographer

  5. Pingback: What really replaces the D300s? | Enthusiast Photographer

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