The future of Pro DX: Dark

I was reading an article today from Thom Hogan, titled “The DX Problem”. In the article he essentially states we’re getting two more DX cameras this year and that Nikon’s mentality has devolved to a sensor/form factor view as opposed to a customer/user view. Where I’d see Consumer, Prosumer and Pro with use categories underneath (e.g. family shooter, advanced consumer, serious amateur, sports, wildlife, etc.) that would slot into products that fill the need, Nikon sees Coolpix, 1, DX, and FX, at least in Thom’s view.

I think he’s right, and it makes me feel like Nikon is removing a product from their current lineup. Two more DX cameras sounds an awful lot like a D7100 and a D5200, replacing/updating two products that are a tad paler with the D3200 announcement (especially the D5100).

What is left out? A D300s replacement.

As someone who went from a “prosumer” D90 to a “pro” D300s, this is a big disappointment.

Why, you ask? Why wouldn’t a D7200 or a D600 replace a D300s? Why isn’t the latest DX sensor or a new prosumer FX enticing to me? Easy. The answer is handling.

When the PC industry went through a phase where the megahertz and megabytes, it devolved in to a morass of slapped-together, mainly disposable junk. Anything more than a couple years old was bad, and you needed a new one. Cameras are apparently heading this way too. Megapixels rule the day.

The D300s wasn’t an upgrade for me in terms of sensor or megapixels, but it is a liberating camera. The “pro” handling, where switches and knobs allow you to set most key settings instead of a bunch of buttons and menus in the camera’s software, is a terrific thing. It gives me much more instant command of my camera, allowing me to stay focused on the shot in front of me. I can switch all the important stuff without looking at the camera. Awesome.

And it has spoiled me. The D7000 is a terrific camera, and I have no doubt the D600, which appears to be an FX sensor in the D7000 body, will probably be a game changer in the prosumer area. For me, it would be a return to menus and buttons, and I’m just not going to do that. What good is a great sensor if you’re fiddling with buttons and missing the shot? I think the consumer and prosumer cameras are getting the handling just right for the people who are using them, but expecting the wildlife, sports and other folks who want a DX sensor and are used to the “pro” handing of the D200/D300/D300s (not to mention the older D1x, D2x, D2h, etc.) to move to the prosumer models is crazy.

No matter how good the sensor is, those guys and gals aren’t going to be very happy, because the handling is a core part of how they shoot. I don’t think I’m at that level yet, but I can tell you that I’ve benefited a lot from the D300s, even though I didn’t upgrade my sensor at all. Do I want ISO 100, a nice 24MP sensor with the dynamic range of the D7000? A few other things? Sure! (though I’d settle for 16MP, which of course won’t happen). But I want it in a D400 package, not the D7100 or D600. It looks like Nikon is getting out of that business.

I guess the good news is this my wallet is safe from Nikon for a long time. Outside of the blog, I can stop thinking about the next camera so much and focus more on the next shots.

8 thoughts on “The future of Pro DX: Dark

  1. I agree 100% I also just recently went D90 to D300 as my focused has turned to birds. Sure I would love the better ISO performance of the D7000, but the ergonomics, handling and AF performance of the D300 is perfect for how I shoot. I can’t imagine we are alone in this area.

    • Chris – thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer!

      I’m pretty sure we’re not alone, but Nikon isn’t necessarily looking at the market the way we might. Also, I’ve never seen numbers, but my guess is that the D300s was possibly their lowest-volume camera other than the D3X. I work in the tech industry, and when you’re doing a business case to justify a new product, things can get a little tight. The disasters in Thailand and Japan surely didn’t help. When resources are limited and times are troubled, you focus on the big hitters. That said, I think there is not only a market but a fair bit of pent-up demand for a D400. How much of that will go to a D7100 or D600 is a big question to me. Some of it will go to Canon if they have an offering. Some of it will just stay on the sidelines for a long time (which is my likely scenario).

  2. I think the D400 is coming. About a year ago I heard a rumour that the D300 successor had to be delayed, because the planned sensor was not good enough. If true, this sensor was probably the one placed in the D3200. I hope it’s true and that a D400 will come later with an even better sensor.

    • Nils – Thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer!

      I hope you’re right. In the meantime, I kind of feel like I’m off the treadmill of waiting for the next thing, and I can focus more on what I’m doing than what I’m getting. πŸ™‚


  3. I agree and will add that after 8 months the only flaw to the D300s is the missing button to convert from 14 bit to 12 bit processing so as to convert from 2.5 frames per second to 7. Going to the menu for raw bit rcording change is complicated. So for me the option of upgrading the sensor if there is a better sensor into the 300s body is the way to go.

  4. Hey, you know if you think about it in this day and age of volatile economic price swings in commodity supply and demand graphs, production limits you know correlate resource inventory to future growth scenarios it would be irresponsible for Nikon not too offer the option of upgrading the sensor on the d300s as forcing the body into retirement may waste some good magnesium alloy. Moreove I can’t believe Nikon would melt the alloy for a new production run kind of a waste resources.

    • Jacques – thanks for visiting Enthusiast Photographer! I honestly wonder if the hypothetical D400 is a victim of the disasters in Japan and Thailand. They couldn’t fail to deliver the D4/D800 (Olympics and Profit) or the D3200 (Revenue) or the D600 (Category changer). Maybe the D400 was the odd man out while they scrambled to keep the company together in the midst of two big crises?

      Anyway, I’d love to be wrong, but I’m glad to not be thinking about it too much. Bag-stability is under-rated… πŸ™‚

  5. Hi Lee, enjoyed the visit and am sure there must be a book about Nikon going through the two events as I have heard Sendai was a location. As for the d300s replacement i am no expert and rely on what i can read on the internet from useful sites like the “Enthusiast” and really do wonder how they could improve the D300s without sacrificing something. For example i read that changing the pixel count has constraints such as more pixels may improve resolution but sacrifice dynamic range as pixel size is reduced. Isn’t 12.3 million on a dx equivalent to 20 million on an fx sensor (pixel size does matter). Or just look at the D3 vs D3X. So in my ignorance of a lot technical I would love to learn if there has been any conversation at Nikon marketing about photographers being so used to changing film that they will line up to buy new sensors to satisfy a psychological habit. Personally I would hope that the sensor has a 9 stop dynamic range three more than print paper, I could work with that!

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