Thoughts on why Nikon 1 is not successful

Started Aug 9, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Thoughts on why Nikon 1 is not successful
Aug 9, 2013

Since Nikon have stated that they are Nikon reconsidering their 1 strategy and since many people (especially the N1 haters) are predicting the end of Nikon and the world as we know it, I find it hard to pass up the opportunity to give my two cents' worth.

Pricing

Humans perceive the world with their senses. Every single one of us knows that it requires way more work and effort to lug a bag full of bricks than to carry a suitcase filled with paper. Most people still have this way of thinking when it comes to electronics and optics. If something is larger, it needs more work and materials, and is therefore justifiably more expensive. Smaller things do not “deserve” to be more expensive, since they require less work and fewer materials. You can observe this kind of thinking every time you read camera forums and you enter a debate about similar lenses for different formats. My favourites are the debates regarding pricing of the Nikkor 32mm f/1.2. Most people compare it with the full frame varieties, especially the Nikkor 85/1.8, and are puzzled by the higher price. People don’t seem to realize that smaller things also require more precision, and therefore work, and more expensive materials in order to work anywhere near as well as larger things. Ever think about why car prices aren’t directly coupled to the weight of the car, but instead smaller cars are more expensive per unit of weight? Exactly!

Regardless of this mental exercise, I too think that J1 and V1 came in price heavy. I firmly believe that the J series should have been priced lower, while the V series should have had the same price, but more features enthusiasts crave for.

Features

If you have to separate camera lines, like Nikon has with the J and the V line, the more expensive one, obviously aimed at enthusiasts, should reflect this with its feature-set. Most meaningful features, that people want, can be realized via a firmware update, given that they didn’t make the cut at launch. People look at software, and a firmware is a piece of software, as something immaterial, in other words “free”. So why don’t give them what they expect?

Fuji has already shown that you can bolster your brand image and up the loyalty of your customer base with firmware updates and better communication (regularly updated lens roadmaps), the way it is impossible with any other marketing tool. People get what they want and get the feeling that they matter and that the company cares about them and the company in return gets more loyal customers (long term investment that will certainly pay off). In my eyes this is a WIN:WIN proposition. And I bet that from a financial standpoint this is one of the cheapest ways to show people that you care and that you are willing to go the extra mile. Certainly far less expensive than having Ashton Kutcher spread nonsense on the TV screen…

Marketing

Nikon has made several marketing mistakes since they’ve introduced the Nikon 1 system, the high prices being the obvious one. The positioning is another one. If you make a bold move and introduce a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera with a relatively small sensor into the market, at a time large sensors are hyped up beyond belief, you have to be equally bold when it comes down to positioning of your products. The J series should have been positioned even lower regarding pricing and should have had features which many customers coming from smartphones already expect nowadays. Meaning, a J type camera should have had a touchscreen, some form of social media integration and a lower price at the cost of some other features. The V type camera should have been aimed at enthusiasts more aggressively. The initial price is not the problem in my eyes as much the features are. If you are going to sell a 1” camera for 900 bucks, you better make sure that enthusiast get every feature they could possibly dream of. Enthusiasts all crave for high-end image quality, but they are no fools. They also know that every single camera in the world is a bag full of compromises. But in order for them to swallow the bitter pill in form of the 1” sensor, the camera has to be great to excellent in every other department. The V1 was and still is great in regards to AF, burst rate, buffer size, EVF and LCD resolution, operation speed, size, and it even had some additional gimmicks which are nice and unique, like the slow-mo and 4k video clips. But it lacked severely on other fronts. Almost every enthusiast expects a sound, button/dial driven user interface, the Nikon crowd expect something similar to what they are already familiar with on their DSLRs. So why the hack are you trying to impose an inferior way of operating the camera onto them? Instead of the nonsensical dial, there should have been a PASM dial right from the start. Instead of the rocker there should have been a thumb-wheel. Instead of the stupidly assigned F button there should have been a programmable one. The camera should have turned off when the lens is retracted, that made sense to everybody, except some people at Nikon. People like choices, so why not give them the choice to disable image review and automatic EVF/LCD switching? The HDR crowd must do a lot of work per image in post processing, so why don’t give them exposure bracketing, to make their lives easier while taking the images? Creative photogs and videographers alike, like being able to make time-laps videos, so why take that away in the next installment of the camera (V2)? Strobists like to be able to use their existing flashes, so why impose the small, non-standard hot-shoe? I get the idea of needing real estate on the camera this small and wanting to introduce smaller flashes that make more sense with the smaller bodies, but why not give them an adapter that can make the camera work with larger Speedlights?

If, and only if, the V1 had all of these features, many more people would have found the price more justified. As is, Nikon had to slash the prices for the V1, which made many question the N1 system’s viability and the soundness of the marketing behind it. And to make things worse, Nikon’s marketing department didn’t learn sufficiently enough from the V1 experience. They launched the V2 at the same price point, but without many of the features. And in fact some nice features were even taken away, like the intervalometer, the battery which was compatible with Nikon’s big guns (obviously important to the Nikon crowd) and the smooth, crystal clear EVF.

Nikon 1 J1 Nikon 1 V1
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