2008 Nikon Predictions

Here we go again...happy holidays and enjoy!

I wrote but didn't publish my 2007 predictions. So before going to 2008, I think I need to step back and show you what you didn't see last year (written in early November 2006): Since so many of you reading this are not reading what I just wrote in the last sentence, I'm going to write it again--the following stuff in italics are NOT my predictions for 2008. I wrote the italicized things in 2006, over a year ago. To help you understand that they were predictions made over a year ago, I've added my assessment on how well I did.

  • D3h, likely summer 2007 announce, fall ship, 35FF at 8 fps, more than 10mp (correct except for name; I should also note that I also correctly and publicly predicted very early in the year that it would be announced at the Osaka Games)
  • D65, a 10mp camera to fill the gap between the D40 and D80 (correct except for name)
  • D200s, a modest update of the D200, likely Nov/Dec ship (incorrect; update was more major than thought; timing was correct)
  • D3x, announced but not shipped (outright incorrect; personally, I thought Nikon would have to announce the high-resolution camera at the same time as the high-speed camera in order to get past the "still haven't caught Canon" objections, but I was wrong)
  • Rumors of D200 35FF begin (correct--and there weren't really rumors of this--as in "a prototype exists"--when I wrote it, just people writing that Nikon should imitate the 5D)
  • 400mm f/2.8 VR (correct)
  • 50-135mm f/2.8 VR DX (outright incorrect)
  • 80-400mm f/4-5.6 VR AF-S (outright incorrect)
  • If any 35FF bodies show up, a 24-70mm AF-S VR N shows up, as well as an updated 70-200mm (first partially correct as I missed VR, second outright incorrect)
  • For Canon I was predicting a 40D, a 1DIIIn, a 1DIIIs, and at least one, possibly two 5D replacements (correct, correct, correct, and incorrect)

Hmm. Perhaps I should have published those predictions, after all ;~). One thing that is clear here in late 2007 is that the game has changed. Canon's momentum has slowed, Nikon's has improved, and we have a pretty wide range of very capable cameras available now (and yes, I'd include Sony, Olympus, Fujifilm, and Pentax in that assessment, even though Canon and Nikon are pushing on pixel and noise borders that the others aren't). But the D3 really is a game changer, I think. Forget the pixel peeping, you just shoot more unfettered by ISO with a D3 than any previous DSLR. Once whatever pixel juice is down in the photosites of the D3 rolls to other Nikon DSLRs, we can just all go back to shooting pictures instead of examining them at 200% view.

Let's get a long-range prediction out of the way first. One common email I've received a lot of since the D3 was announced and still continue to get is the "DX is dead" missive. I think the D300 proves that isn't currently true, but there still seems to be doubt about the future. Here's my prediction: DX won't die until we get to about 3.5 microns (the D300 is 5.5). That's about 34mp for those trying to do the math (~7000x4800). Thus, we've got a ways to go yet. We'll see 14-16mp in the next generation, 16-18mp in the subsequent generation, and so on. I suppose there is an off chance that three-layer sensor techniques might come before we exhaust where DX can go, but that also would mean that DX won't die.

I do question how far we need to go with DX, though. Frankly, I'm not sure that any of us really needs a low cost 34mp camera. But it's possible, and it will remain a truth that DX is cheaper to produce than FX.

Which brings us to long-range prediction number two: those tantilizing D3 photosites have technologies that are going to eventually define Nikon's lineup. Right now we Nikon users are getting the best of two worlds: the best technologies Sony's sensor efforts can produce, and the best technologies the Nikon sensor efforts can produce. But I think it's clear that ultimately the Nikonish side will win.

But not in 2008.

  • D3x: announced as early as spring, certainly before the 2008 Olympics (August). (Didn't happen.)
    • D3 body, new Sony FX sensor
    • Certainly over 20mp if the Sony sensor is used (there were other sensors tested at a lower megapixel level, most notably 18mp, but I'm guessing that we won't see them).
    • Probably max 5fps.
  • D80x: announced early 2008, ship shortly after. Could be named D90. (Didn't happen until early fall, but was named the D90.)
    • The 12-bit Sony version (IMX021) of the 12mp sensor used in the D300 (Correct.)
    • 15-segment AF (Incorrect.)
  • D40/D40x replacements: announced mid-2008, ship immediately (announced Jan, ship immediately)
    • This is the tough one to predict, but I'm guessing 10mp, Live View (yes 10mp, no Live View)
    • Change in AF system, but to what? (no change in AF)
    • As of late December 2007, the D40x production has stopped (i.e. final D40x models made), making this prediction even more likely
  • What, no smaller FX body?
    • Not in 2008; 2009 at the earliest. First off, Nikon won't be able to make D3/D3x sensors fast enough, so adding another FX sensor to the mix is likely not in the cards for 2008. (D700 announced and shipped in July 2008. Appears that D700 and D3x priorities in my predictions are reversed.)
    • Question for next year: 12mp or 18mp? Given the D3's success, I'm now saying 12mp. I'd be happy with that (see right column). (12mp was the answer, and this answers the "adding another FX sensor" issue I noted.)
  • Nikkors:
    • 18-135mm DX VR. It's the orphan in the DX lineup now. It's time must be soon. (Slight change: it turned out to be an 18-105mm DX VR.)
    • 24-120mm VR f/2.8. Third time with this lens is a charm, and the folks complaining about no VR on the 24-70mm will be happier, though perhaps not when they see how big this lens is. And I now think I know what my source meant when he said "also DX version": the 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VR DX appears to be nearing production. This is essentially the DX 24-120mm equivalent (actually 24-128mm, but what's a couple of mm between friends?) (I'm now certain of this; my source did indeed forget to tell me that he was speaking of a DX equivalent.)
    • 80-400mm f/4-5.6 VR AF-S. Nikon really needs a lower priced 400mm VR AF-S option, and this is the way they'll address it. Finally.
    • 70-200mm AF-S VR N redesign in time for the Olympics. Some of you might not think it needs it, but a quick nudge to the newer VR and N coating specs aren't difficult.
    • Prime updates. 28mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.4, 200mm Micro-Nikkor.
  • Coolpix:
    • The P1 Pro (alternate name: Coolpix DX1 Pro): DX sensor, small zoom lens (2x-3x), 6-10mp. A longer range prediction: it will do well if it stays "pocketable" in size.
    • The P2 Pro (alternate name: Coolpix DX2 Pro): DX sensor, large zoom lens (3x-5x), 10-12mp. And the opposite prediction: a D40x with an 18-135mm VR lens will seem like a far better bargain, so this model will get a lot of press, but not much buying support.
    • The rest of the lineup will once again not be much worth talking about, and yes, we'll see 14mp Coolpix models (with small sensors, not APS) in 2008, just as we'll see them from others. (The 14mp Coolpix--actually 13.5mp--did indeed appear, and the most interesting thing to talk about was that "raw" doesn't mean "NEF" to Nikon any more, at least in the Coolpix lineup.)
  • Fujifilm surprises. No, they haven't exited the DSLR race yet (will the last couple of engineers please make sure the door is closed when you leave?). Another "development announcement," this time the S7 Pro (yes, they'll skip 6 just like they skipped 4) will be based on the D300 body, with a new sensor introducing Fujifilm's next breakthrough. But it won't ship in 2008. It might not ship in 2009 if the sensor doesn't work out as expected. (Sometime in spring the rumors changed. The "DSLR" being worked on turns out to be another all-in-one project ala the S100FD. Moreover, at about the same time strong rumors started to hint that Fujifilm was going to sell all the high-end digital camera assets to another company. Not long after that, the S5 Pro went on "fire sale" status. I now suspect that when all the S5 Pros are gone we'll get an announcement about the asset sale and Fujifilm will be solely a compact digital camera company in the future.)

12/7/07: initial post
12/12/07: clarifications plus some additional items
12/27/07: added lens
1/29/08: PMA update
8/18/08: mid-year update

What I want in 2008

1. D3 sensor in an F6 body (the infamous smaller FX camera). The D3 body is too big and heavy for many uses, period. As my mom says in lifting the D3: "aw geez..."

2. APS sensor in a small Coolpix body with decent focusing abilities. It's coming. But will 2008 be my year?

3. 80-400mm VR AF-S with new tripod collar. Nikon is missing a critical lens for both prosumers and pros compared to Canon. Either update this lens with AF-S or give us something better to replace it. Please! Soon!!

4. The Micro-Nikkor of my dreams: 70-180mm f/4 AF-S VR. This is also another answer in that telephoto gap that I just alluded to. Note to Nikon: it's okay if it only goes to 1:2, but don't make me buy Canon CU filters to get to 1:1 ;~).

5. 24mm f/2.8P PC. Hey, I'm only going to use this on my D3 and my D3-in-an-F6 body, so it can be manual and 24mm. Still, it would have been nice to have an 18mm f/2.8G DX PC. (Whoo-hoo! I'm one for six on my wish list.)

6. Three hours of fast-moving Q&A with the guys who design the Nikon flash system, one hour of same with the autofocus designers, and two hours of motivational cheerleading with the Coolpix team. I'll bring my own translater. Drinks afterward are on me ;~).

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