Nikon's PMA DSLR announcement

Started Mar 1, 2007 | Discussions thread
Thom Hogan Forum Pro • Posts: 13,660
Re: It's funny how things work out in Japan ...

jeff-c wrote:

What confuses me, and probably even Nikon themselves is why the
small size and low price D50 didn't sell well whereas the D40
becomes an instant sales champion 18 months later. It's even a
lower spec'ed model than the D50 it replaces.

I'm not confused. It's called marketing. Marketing has both intentional and accidentally aspects to it. Nikon tends to get the intentional stuff completely wrong, but sometimes benefits from the accidental.

Let's see if I can at least partially explain what I mean. The D50 was introduced at the same time as the D70s. That was a mistake, I believe. What most people saw was "I can get a better specified camera for a little more money." Worse still, the D50 was initially sold as kit only, while the D70s could be obtained as body only. This made the price issue even more fuzzy, as someone with some existing Nikon lenses would be tempted by the "better specified body" and fore-go a new (and cheap) lens. But anyone that's used a D50 and a D70s knows that the D50 produces better ISO 1600 JPEGs out of the camera than the D70s. Where's Nikon's marketing about that? Oops! You can't say the cheaper camera is better than the more expensive one, can you? Even if only in a limited way. Or else you really mess with people's minds and get the marketing messages really wrong.

Fast forward to Christmas 2006. You can buy the more expensive 10mp bodies or you have a choice of two old, about to be retired 6mp bodies or one new 6mp body that you trumpet as being the lowest priced DSLR, that has significant size/weight advantage over the rest of your line, that has a completely rethought (and well thought out) user interface targeted at the entry user, and that has even better JPEG hi ISO noise characteristics than the D50. Hmm. Buy a D50, D70s, or D40? No brainer, in my mind, despite Nikon's continued ineffectual marketing. Indeed, the lack of messages about the D50 and D70s other than the perceived "on end-of-life sale" messages pretty much doomed both during that period. You know, if you're trying to unload your inventory of a product, it might help to actually tell people why they'd want it. That's even more true in consumer high tech, where people know that they'll be a new iteration every 18 months or so. Nikon missed SO MANY opportunities to end-of-life market the D50 and D70s that it just plain amazes me that they don't see it.

Still, at no point during the D50's history has Nikon had a particularly clear explanation of why you'd want it. AT NO POINT. That's even rougher than it at first seems because Nikon isn't exactly a company that historically has had more than tangential success at the lowest, consumer end of the SLR/DSLR market. Nikon's strengths come in the serious shooter market.

Thus, the other aspect of the D40's success comes in another weird way: it was relatively unique in the time frame you're talking about. Everyone was focused on selling more expensive 10mp bodies, making the D40 pretty much stand alone as a NEW, low cost entry into the DSLR market. Let's see now, buy the new, low cost 6mp DSLR or buy the old, about-to-be-retired low cost 6mp DSLR? Again, no brainer. And that success is not because of any brilliance in Nikon's marketing--it's simply a form of good timing.

Now I'll give Nikon full credit for that. If there is a D40x about to pop (and people ought to note I haven't announced a D40 Guide yet ; ), Nikon probably saw an opportunity to sneak in the D40 as a "timing play." If so, kudos. Well done. But marketing could have made that a touchdown instead of a field goal. And such trick plays don't tend to work over and over.

-- hide signature --

Thom Hogan
editor, Nikon DSLR Report
author, Complete Guides: D50, D70s, D80, D100, D200, D1 series, D2 series

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