Toshiaki Akagi, Department Manager in Nikon's 1st Designing Department of the Development Center in the Imaging Business Unit. Pictured at Photokina in Germany.

When we visited Photokina last week in Germany we made time to sit down with senior executives from several camera manufacturers. Among them was Toshiaki Akagi, Department Manager in Nikon's 1st Designing Department. In our conversation we spoke about reaction to the D750, the legacy of the D600 oil problem and the potential for a large-sensor mirrorless camera from Nikon in the future.


What has reaction been like to the new D750?

It has been very well-received, globally. Especially the new body design using carbon-fiber material, and the tilting screen. The camera is intended to offer more versatility and greater usability in its position between the D610 and D810.

How important was video when you were planning the D750?

Because of our history and background, our first priority is high-quality still images. But we have to pay attention to market demand for movie features. 4K for example is something we have to study very carefully - when, and how we can provide a camera to meet demand to satisfy our customers. 

Aimed at enthusiasts and first-time full-frame buyers (who like fishing, apparently) the D750 offers a 24mm FX-format CMOS sensor and 6.5fps capture, with 1080/60p video.

When we spoke to Nikon earlier this year we were told that you were seeing demand for 4K from some of your users - has work progressed in the meantime?

Work is ongoing - we cannot of course speak about forthcoming products but we have some ideas about [how to add] a 4K movie function to our DSLR lineup. There are several factors to consider when doing this - for example the image processing engine. So there are a lot of factors to study in order to find the best-balanced solution for a camera in the future. But it’s going well, and you can expect something in the future - maybe!

Do you think 4K is a technology of interest to filmmakers and stills photographers?

This is just my personal opinion - I am not speaking for Nikon. In my opinion, 4K is too much. Our current movie functionality is enough for our users. But some of our competitors, like Panasonic and Sony are adding 4K so we should aim for the same level of functionality in order to compete. 

Can you summarize your full-frame camera strategy?

Starting with the new camera, the D750, this is a lightweight, streamlined camera which is easy to carry, which offers a tilt LCD. That’s the concept for this product. The D810 is meant to deliver the widest dynamic range at low ISO sensitivities. The D4S is for customers who need more speed and durability. The D610 fulfills a demand for a reasonably priced full-frame camera, for more cost-sensitive customers.

Looking at the lenses that Nikon has released over the past few years, you have made a lot more full-frame FX-format optics than DX. Are you more focused on your full-frame customers?

We’ve been making new FX format cameras like the D810 and D750, so we need to have a good lineup of FX lenses. But of course we have the DX format lineup too and you can expect some new DX lenses in the future. We haven’t forgotten about our DX customers.

The D750, with LCD screen hinged out and the new AF-S Nikkor 20mm F1.8 mounted. The new 20mm is one of several affordable full-frame lenses that Nikon has released in the past couple of years.

Do you want to move customers that might be (say) D300S users up to full-frame?

A certain portion of our DX customers have already moved up to full-frame sensors. But not all. We understand that there is still some demand for a successor to the D300S and all we can say at this moment is that we are studying that demand.

The D600 had a well-publicized problem with oil on its sensor, which affected a lot of your customers. A lot of people were very unhappy with Nikon’s response. If something like this comes up again in the future, would you handle things differently?

Internally, we took that issue very seriously, and when we created the D750 we reviewed our quality control process. It’s impossible to say for certain that we could avoid this kind of thing in the future, but we have certainly minimized the risk. As for handling such an issue differently it’s difficult to say since we cannot predict what might happen. But the D600 issue was very important, and very sensitive and we are trying our best to avoid that kind of problem again.

How will you approach the next few years?

It’s very difficult to say actually, because the market changes so quickly. So even if we believe we should follow a certain strategy a new product might come out from one of our competitors and everything might change. One issue is that people are replacing their cameras less frequently than in the past. People want better products but want to spend less money. So we have to decide what to prioritize.

If there was one area where you could improve modern digital cameras, what would it be?

Well there are two - firstly speed, in terms not only of AF but also general responsiveness. And secondly of course, image quality. We have some room to make further improvements [in both areas].

Nominally, the 24MP D3X is still Nikon's full-frame flagship and has been for the past 6 years. Realistically though, the 16MP D4S (pictured here) sits at the top of Nikon's DSLR lineup. Is there room for a higher-resolution D4X above it? 

Are you seeing demand for a higher-resolution flagship, like a D3X replacement?

Yes, we know that some of our customers want a D3X successor. But again, we need to study this carefully. Which type of product should we prepare first - a successor to the D4S, or a replacement for the D3X? Speed, or resolution? We need to listen carefully to our customers.

As the DSLR market falters, what is your strategy for mirrorless?

The mirrorless market is growing rapidly, thanks to products from manufacturers like Sony. We know that there is a certain body of demand for larger sensors in mirrorless products. Although we already have the 1 inch sensor in the 1 System, we don't want to deny the possibility of future large-sensor mirrorless cameras. So maybe if there is enough demand we may be able to provide another type of mirrorless camera with larger sensors. This is one of the solutions.