Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Sony Can't Get All The Attention!", Says Nikon's D600

Sony is getting all of the attention recently, and rightfully so. The RX1 is groundbreaking, and both the NEX-6 and A99 are incredibly competent cameras that push things further than Canon, Nikon, Olympus, or Panasonic have proven willing (capable?) of doing. The only other company out there that is even in the same ballpark as Sony is Fuji.

But that doesn't mean that the others are sitting still. Well, maybe it does, but we have a week's worth of announcements coming up before we find out. Next up: Nikon. Sony shot first, probably because Sony had the best stuff, but that's beside the point. The point is... what is the point? Don't do drugs is the point.

Where am I? The D600! That's where. The new D600 is a cheap, FF camera. It will cost $2,099. And trust me, that price is the most exciting element of the camera. I actually find the rest of it underwhelming. For example, the flash-sync is only 1/200th. That may seem like a small thing, but I see it as representative of a greater philosophy surrounding this camera. The maximum speed is only 1/4000th. That is base-level APS-C camera territory. It can do 5fps, but I don't know if that is some sort of speed priority or not. If not, that's good speed. It is weather-sealed, so it will be a suitable working camera.

The price is decently exciting, I must admit. Nikon jumped to where I think Sony should have already: compete with pro-thusiast APS-C cameras with cheap full-frame. I'm really puzzled about why Nikon didn't drop the camera to $1,999. It would have been only $100, and only $50 of which would be felt by Nikon. That would undoubtedly be made up for by the increased number of customers who react to the psychological barrier of sub-$2,000 pricing. This smacks of a company trying to "fit" a product into their selection of other products.

The other element of this camera's philosophy that is classic Nikon is the intransigence inherent in its genesis. Basically, this is Nikon doubling down on its traditional designs. There are two ways to increase value for a customer: increase product, or decrease price. The former is the domain of driving, innovative companies like Apple. That's not a fundamentally better place than a company that drives down prices — just look at Wal-Mart — but it is the place that evinces life inside a company. Ideally, most companies should be a combination of both, thus remaining competitive in all ways.

Nikon is only doing one. Instead of innovating, they are simply reducing their prices. And as I mentioned with my confusion over the price, they aren't even doing that very well. Nikon abjectly refuses to accept that the market is shifting. We are experiencing a large shift toward cell phones and mirrorless cameras. The market doesn't care that Nikon's system is built around a mirror. Nor will the market accept a half-asses piece of crap meant to fit in with extant products like the Nikon "1", which, by the way, has essentially been confirmed as dead with the release of a single, simple lens by Nikon.

So yes, the Nikon D600 is a pretty good camera. It should be $1,999. It should have some features expected in a camera of its price. It shouldn't be the most innovative camera to come out of Nikon in over half a decade. I don't count the D800 as a Nikon innovation since the sensor was designed and built by Sony.

Will any photog who buys this be happy. I'm 100% sure that they will. Images produced by yesterday's technology are still great images. But this isn't just an issue of images and cameras, it's an issue of technology and market development. Nikon is standing still, stubbornly so, and demanding premiums for the privilege of standing with them. It's one of the things that pisses me off about Leica, which has turned that behavior into an art form. When companies like Fuji, Sony, and to a degree Olympus and Panasonic, are willing to innovate —  to find new ways to implement technology —  not only do I see no reason to stand with Nikon, the arrogance required to claim that I should pisses me off.

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