Nikon has never had it so good ...
I just wanted to say some positive things about Nikon.
Twenty or more years ago, Nikon hardly had a great consumer following. They were known mainly for their professional equipment. I think it a great achievement for them that they are now one of the most popular brands with ordinary consumers.
Ofcourse, they have probably lost the number one position for professional photography, a position they held from 1960 to about 1987. They had probably grown arrogant and too sure of themselves, and probably also felt that the semi-conductor industry was where most money could be made. Anyhow, they appear to have been at their lowest between 1987 and 1995. With the introduction of Nikon F5 in 1996, they started to recover.
Many people probably do not realise how revolutionary the F5 was. SLR cameras before F5 had a mirror blackout time of 140 ms - F5 brought it down to 91 ms - only the Canon EOS 1D series is faster at 87 ms. F5 also brought the shutter release lag down to 40 ms (with mirror up, it was 20 ms). Again, only the Canon 1D matches it. F5 also introduced a color matrix meter, a framing rate of 8 fps with focus tracking (the fastest those days one could get with SLRs with conventional mirrors was 6 fps, that too without focus tracking). Ofcourse, cameras with pellicle mirrors offered faster framing rates, but without focus tracking. Also, not many people know perhaps that Nikon provided a synch cord for connecting two F5 cameras so that when fired in synchronised union, the total framing rate would be 16 fps.
Nikon scored again with the introduction of D series and the Coolpix series of cameras. As a result, its camera business has grown steadily in the past few years (if you see the performance of the imaging division, you will see what I mean). I think that Nikon is determined not to let history repeat - they will come out with something that matches or exceeds the competition - it is just a question of time.
In terms of things that are going for Nikon today:
Everyone said that Nikon could not produce lenses that combined VR and AFS. Nikon has proven them wrong.
Nikon has stuck to a uniform sized CCD from the start. It appears to me that there are several advantages to this strategy.
a) It is great for people who use more than one camera.
b) It allows Nikon to make cheaper cameras.
c) It allows Nikon to compete with the DO optics from Canon without having to adopt an expensive technology.
d) I had hoped that Nikon would come up with smaller lenses that matched the CCD size - it was unbelievable when Nikon did do so. In one step, Nikon solved several problems. They solved the wide-angle problem. They created a potentially smaller, lighter camera system. They also enabled lenses with high maximum aperture. As time goes by, I am sure that Nikon will take advantage of these and produce smaller cameras/lenses.
e) Nikon have the broadest range of cameras available for their system. They seem to have maintained their relationships with Fuji and Kodak - as a result, the Nikon system supports at least 5 cameras as for now - the D1H, D1X, D100, S2 and now 14N. Between these models, almost all user needs can be met - except probably a fast framing rate exceeding 5 fps. I am sure that Nikon will deliver in this area as well.
It seems to me that Nikon is doing very well indeed. If they are taking time coming out with new DSLRs, they probably have good reason. They took a long time to come out with D100, but when they did it was worth it. They solved a problem which again many had said couldn't be done. The thing that Nikon engineers are most proud about in D100 is the battery performance (according to an interview on Nikon's web site). I remember that many people had said that cameras with CCD could not match cameras with CMOS as far as battery performance was concerned. Again, Nikon has proved them wrong.
What I would like to see is for Nikon to take another bold step and get rid of the mirror from the SLR. Ofcourse, the name SLR would have to be dropped. With a good EVF, this seems to be the next logical step. It will allow Nikon to provide must faster framing rates, and will also enable better optics. If they could do this and still keep the F mount and backward compatibility ...
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