What comes next for DX - some possible scenarios...

Started Oct 27, 2012 | Discussions thread
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jfriend00
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What comes next for DX - some possible scenarios...
Oct 27, 2012

The drum beat seems to be getting louder that Nikon is due to announce some some new DX cameras next. While there is no definitive information about what DX announcement might come next, there are only a few likely possibilities (yes, Nikon could always do something out of the blue, but that is less likely than a logical extension of what they've done before). So, I thought I'd run through the various possibilities:

D5200 gets a sensor upgrade to the D3200 sensor or a slight improvement on it. This seems like an inevitable offering as the D5100 currently has three purposes in life: a camera slightly more optimized for video (articulated screen), a slight spec bump from the D3x00 line and a slightly higher price point than the D3x00 line. So, if it is to maintain that position in the marketplace, it's sensor certainly has to eventually meet or surpass the D3200. How much it surpasses the D3200 seems to depend upon whether the successor to the D7000 stays in that price and feature slot of whether it moves upscale (as some have predicted). If the D7000 successor moves up in price/features, then the D5200 probably does too in order to maintain that market spot between the D3200 and D7100. If the 5200 comes next, it's price point probably tells up a bit about what will happen to the D7100. If the 5200 price point stays the same, then we can probably assume the D7100 isn't moving a lot from the D7000 price point, but if the D5200 goes up a bunch, then perhaps the D7100 is moving upscale too.

D7100 gets a sensor and AF upgrade (probably the same AF parts used in the D600), but otherwise maintains the general market position in price/features offered by the D7000 today. If the D5200 and D3200 are at 24MP, one would assume the D7100 goes to 24MP too. Since there is a pretty significant price gap between the current D7000 street price ($995) and the D600 price ($2095), if the D7100 stays in the same price slot it's in now, then it is likely that Nikon contemplates some other camera filling in somewhere between the D7100 and D600. That price slot could be filled with either a D9000 (a souped up D7100 in a D7000 style body), a D400 (a true D300 upgrade in a D300 style body) or a new low-end FX body below the D600. Since the D600 just came out, it seems unlikely Nikon would immediately eclipse it with a lower end FX version in this product cycle. So, if the D7100 stays at the current D7000 price, then there's probably another DX camera coming above it.

D7100 moves significantly upscale and gets a sensor upgrade, AF upgrade and fps upgrade. In this scenario, the D7100 gets more expensive to perhaps $1200-$1300. It probably keeps the D7000 body style, but gets a new sensor, some AF improvements and fps improvements that move it towards the specs of the D300. If this is the case, then there probably is not a D9000 or a D400 coming. If this happens, this is probably the new top of the DX line as there would be little room for a D400 between the D7100 and the FX line. Those clamoring for a true D400 that stays with the D300 body style and is an upgrade to the D300 in all ways would be disappointed in this decision by Nikon and would be faced with evaluating whether this camera was a satisfactory upgrade from their D300 or not. If the image-relevant specs fully exceeded the D300 (AF, fps w/grip, noise, color, DR, etc...), then D300 users would probably eventually accept it and just live with the smaller build. If some of the specs (such as fps or AF) weren't quite as good as the D300, then there would be great consternation because it wouldn't be a complete upgrade to the D300 in all relevant specs.

D9000 replaces the D300. A D9000 replaces the D300 in the range of $1500-$1800. The camera does at least 8fps with grip and boasts a better AF system than the D7000 (hopefully better than the D300 also). It could have either the D7000 body style or the D300 body style, but if they are naming it D9000, then it probably has the D7000 body style. If it has the D300 body style, then this is really just what people have been asking for in a D400, but with a D9000 name and perhaps Nikon chooses that because they want to preserve the D400 name for a future low-end FX body or to distinguish FX and DX products by how many digits they have. What would create controversy would be if the D9000 doesn't beat out the D300 in some specs (fps or AF or external controls). Then, it wouldn't be a true D300 upgrade in all regards and D300 owners would have to evaluate whether they were OK with the places that they didn't get a full upgrade.

D400 replaces the D300. This is essentially the same as the previous D9000 option except that a D400 would likely have the D300 body style - otherwise they wouldn't call it a D400. Depending upon how high the specs go, this could be anywhere in the $1500-$2500 price range (most likely around $1700). Though some see it as heresy to overlap at all with the $2100 D600 price slot, it appears (from various interviews with Nikon folks) that Nikon recognizes the D400 serves a pretty different audience than the D600 so it could overlap in pricing, yet still have it's own market segment (those who want top of the line DX with speed and great AF). Currently, Nikon has no recent speed cameras at all below the $6000 D4 so if they really did a great DX speed camera, they could charge a premium for that and make this into a higher margin, but lower volume product and let the majority of DX volume go to the other DX bodies at their lower price points. Or, the less controversial thing would be to put the D400 at $1500-$1800 below the D600 and above the D7100.

Summary

So, if we see the D5200 next in the same price point as the D5100 (or very close to it), then we can probably assume that the D7100 isn't go significantly upscale in price (too big a gap from the D5200 to D7100 if the D7100 went upscale) so there's probably a camera coming above the D7100 to fill in the big price gap between $1000 and $2000 (either a D9000 or a D400).

If we see the D7100 next, then we can just look at its price and specs to see whether there's room for another DX camera above it. If the D7100 comes out at $1300 and usurps more of the D300 specs (fps, AF), then it gets harder and harder to imagine there being enough market room for a D400 or a D9000 unless Nikon does something unconventional with it (large body or super speed at $2500 price point). If the D7100 comes out around the same price or lower than the D7000 and with similar AF and fps, but just with a newer sensor, then there's clearly still room in the market and pricing scheme for a higher end DX camera (D9000 or D400).

If we see the D9000 or D400 next, then that camera pretty much answers the top-end DX question.

Compeition with Canon

I don't personally know a lot about the Canon APS-C offerings, but with the 7D at 18MP and 8fps, it seems like Nikon would want to have something to compete with those specs. If they go upscale on the D7100 into that territory and lose the ~$1000 price point of the D7000, then Nikon is missing something that competes effectively with the specs of the 60D. So, it seems more likely to me that the D7100 battles the 60D at it's current price point and Nikon comes out with something new above the D7100 to battle the 7D.

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