Old News/Comments/Links


I didn't want these items to die off. So they're copied here when I move them off the front page.

These front-page articles are pre-2007, listed from most recent to oldest.

Dec 2006
Nikon Financial Update
DSLRs have shown surprising sales strength in 2006, and Nikon is riding the wave. Nikon is now reporting that it believe it will sell 2m DSLRs in the current fiscal year (previous estimate was 1.75m, so the estimate has gone up 14%). This represents a staggering 49% increase in units over the previous fiscal year, and appears to be well above the overall market growth rate. Nikon estimates their market share in DSLRs for the year to be 40% (2m units of 5m overall; I estimate a higher overall market total and thus a lower market share, more like 35%). Lens unit volume is also up, though not by nearly as much (closer to a 10% increase, and much of that will come in the second half of the fiscal year, which ends March 31, 2007).

Meanwhile Coolpix sales have gotten, well, cool. Last fiscal year Nikon sold 7.1m units and this year they're now forecasting 6.5m units (down from an earlier forecast of 7.1m units). The average unit revenue from these models is down, too.

Overall, both sales and profits are up in the Imaging Products division for the first half of the year, though not dramatically. This is expected to hold through the end of the fiscal year. Imaging Product R&D expenses are up almost 19% for the first half of the year (no forecast for these forward to the end of the fiscal year).

Probably the most interesting part of the presentation for visitors of this site was Nikon's analysis of how various parts of the Imaging business are changing in overall value relative to one another. Here's what the revenue division looks like for last and this year:

  2006 2007
DSLR 30% 43%
Lenses 15% 18%
Coolpix 48% 33%
Film SLR & Other 7% 6%

Bottom line: DSLR sales good, Coolpix not so. What Nikon proposes to do to fix the slowing Coolpix sales is unclear (emphasizing face recognition and WiFi don't seem to be any different than the current strategy, which isn't working). May I make a suggestion? Make a truly distinguished product. The current models are rather pedestrian and me-too.

Nov 2006
Another December Surprise
Apparently Nikon likes to introduce products only days before Christmas. Last year it was the D200, this year it's the D40.

The D40 is a smaller, lighter, somewhat reconfigured D50 (for the specification comparison, click here). The reconfiguring has already caused some whining on the net (only AF-S lenses focus, the rear color LCD is used in place of the now gone top LCD, and we've got another new battery [why?]). On the positive side, the image quality seems improved over the already quite good D50, we get a FUNC button, the flash is a little more powerful, plus we get the D80 menu system, including the RETOUCH menu.

The D40 only sells as a kit with a revised (faster motor) 18-55mm AF-S lens for US$599 and will be available in December. Also introduced was the SB-400, a simple and less expensive i-TTL flash (sorry, no remote abilities).

Oct 2006
Seems Like my Roadmap is Accurate
Looks like we'll have a new low-price DSLR in the Nikon lineup soon. Specs and photos of another new Nikon DSLR, the D40, are now circulating on the Internet. Take a D50, simplify it by having it only support AF-S lenses and with a simpler AF system, and drive as many other costs as possible out. Basically what I was trying to say a D30 should be in my roadmap article.

More Updates
Adobe Camera Raw Converter 3.6--support for the D80.
DxO 4.0--support for the D80.
Bibble 4.9d--bug fixes, especially for 2.0 firmware updates on some cameras.
CaptureOne--support for the D80
Aperture 1.5.1--support for the D80

Fantasea has preannounced an underwater housing for the D80, called the FD80. The annual DEMA show in Orlando on Nov 8-11 will be the first public showing of it.

D200, D2x, and D2h Firmware Updates
All of the Nikon subsidiaries have now posted the firmware updates for the D200, D2x, and D2hs. These updates basically consolidate the feature sets of Nikon's top three cameras (as much as can be done) and add support for Image Authentication. Some people have had trouble with some of the update files. First, make sure you really unzip it (rather than just move it from a zipped directory). Second, try downloading from a different Nikon subsidiary if you have troubles.

Fantasea Coolpix Housings
Fantasea now has underwater housings for the L2, L3, L4, S5, S6, S7, S7c, S8, P3, and P4 Coolpix models. A slave strobe unit that works with the housings and the built-in flash for these cameras, the Nano Flash, is also now available.

Other Updates
Canto Cumulus 7.1--product fixes and modest feature additions/improvements.
B/W Styler--a black and white conversion plug-in for Photoshop that simulates the look of films, filters, and lab effects that were popular in traditional film use.
Gamutvision--if you're really into color management and want to have your mind bent, try out Norman Koren's latest, which allows you to visualize just about anything necessary to maximize your color fidelity. Norman's other useful program, Imatest is now up to version 1.7.1.
Iview MediaPro is now at 3.1.2, improving performance, memory handling, and squashing a few bugs.

Sept 2006
Photokina Wrap-up
Many Internet forums were bursting with disappointment during Photokina, as it seemed that the DSLR wars were suddenly confined to consumer cameras (Sony Alpha 100, Canon 400D XTi, Nikon D80, Olympus E400, Pentax K10D, etc.). Where was the rumored Canon pro model, the Nikon D3h or x, the pro lenses? Sure, a Leica M8, Fujifilm S5 Pro, and Hasselblad H3 announcement were enough to keep our hopes up, but the two big horses didn't show. What gives?

The short answer: Photokina this year was about protecting the meat of the market. With only slightly over 5m DSLR unit sales to go round amongst many increasingly hungry vendors, and with the vast majority of those being US$999 or lower in price, the heavy action was destined to be at the consumer end. Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, and Olympus all need to hit the market center hard first before worrying about the much smaller pro market.

Some also lamented that the megapixel wars continue unabated (now at 10mp and rising), but I think that's seeing the wrong message. What I take from early test samples of all these 10mp DSLRs is that the underlying differences in image quality are now mostly gone (yes, that means that I think that the Nikon D80 and Canon XTi are nearly equivalent in noise handling at high ISO values). If you're making camera choices based upon pixel peeping, I think you're out of step with where the products now are--the lens you choose may have more impact on your imaging. For consumer cameras, at least, we're now squarely starting the handling and feature war zone (to be followed by the lower pricing shootout). Anti-dust-stabilization-live view-superbuffer anyone?

But if you're looking for pro equipment, don't despair. 2007 is looking like it will launch the next round of pro gear, and probably from more directions and with higher quality and feature sets than you expect.

Fujifilm S5 Pro Development
Fujifilm announced the development of the S5 Pro (the S4 number was skipped for cultural reasons). Those of you who followed my pre-announcement postings on this in the various online forums will know that it's a good news, bad news scenario. The good news is that Fujifilm has adopted the Nikon D200 body for the S5 Pro. That means better build, i-TTL, more features, better viewfinder, etc. The bad news is that the sensor is the same as the S3 Pro (6mp SR) and the product won't be available until February 2007 (at an unspecified price). Other details are slim: 3 fps, larger buffer, new RPP ASIC for image processing (and with more film simulations--total of 5 now, though all labeled in silly fashion), and 3200 ISO support. In the press briefings, Fujifilm mentions wireless and LAN support, so the S5 Pro probably also supports the WT-3 and MB-D200 (the body connections don't seem changed from the D200).

Other Photokina Announcements
Capture 4.4.2: Adds D2hs, D2xs support (not acknowledged officially), support for D2 series after 2.0 firmware updates, bug fixes, minor changes. No D80 support, though.

Bibble 4.9: Adds D80 support, healing/cloning tool, hot/dead pixel correction, bug fixes.

Portfolio 8.1: Adds InDesign CS2 preview, S3 Pro raw file support.

Silkypix Developer Studio 2.0.24: additional supported models.

Aperture 1.5: now supports externally-linked files, Fujifilm DSLRs.

DXO Optics Pro 4: new features, supports D2xs.

D200 Firmware update 2.0: adds image authentication support, WT-3 support.

Epson introduced the new Stylus 3800, a 17" wide Ultrachrome K3 printer that slots between the 2400 and 4800 (list price US$1295). Also introduced are the P3000 (40MB) and P5000 (80MB) portable storage devices, which are said to be 2.5x faster than the older P2000 and P4000 they replace.

New Sigma lenses: 18-50mm f/2.8, 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 image stabilized.

New Tamron lens: 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3.

Zeiss introduces four new manual focus Nikkor lenses to go with the existing two: 25mm f/2.8 (really 26mm), 35mm f/2, 50mm f/2 macro, and 100mm f/2 macro. The primary problems I have with these lenses is that there really isn't a Nikon DSLR you'd want to use them on (that 1.5x angle of view change really give us 39mm, 53mm, 75mm, and 150mm equivalents). Perhaps the 50mm would make a nice portrait lens. What's really needed is a FM3-type FF DSLR to make these lenses stand out.

Software Merry-go-Update
DigitalPro 4.1.2: one-click image enhancement additions, support for D200, Capture NX, DNG, JPEG 2000, and various Lexar technologies.
Acdsee 9: faster, new QuickView mode, amongst other new features.
D200 Firmware 2.0: WT-3, Image Authentication support. (Only available on WT-3 Setup disc at present.)
Capture One 3.7.5: Adds D2xs, D80 support, bug fixes.

Coolpix Public LAN
The Coolpix S7c, announced only in Japan, is an interesting pointer towards the future: the wireless transfer in it is set up to use a public wireless LAN. What that means is, that starting in October, Japanese S7c purchases using Japan Telecom's BB Mobile Point LAN can just shoot--their pictures are transferred automatically via the wireless LAN to a "Nikon Online Album." You don't need a computer with an access point or any other special equipment; you just need to be in the LAN access area. Two weeks of free access are included with the camera.

August 2006
Coolpix Refresh
Nikon today announced five new Coolpix models. The L (life) models now extend to the L5 and L6. Both are entry-level cameras and once again the numbering seems backwards. The L5 has more pixels (7mp), a 5x zoom, and VR, while the L6 has 6mp, 3x zoom, and no VR. The S (style) branch of the Coolpix line gets three new models: the S7c is a 7mp model with WiFi and VR, the S9 is a 6mp model without the extras. The S10 is an update to the S4, with the interesting addition of VR done by shifting the CCD (all other Nikon VR is of the in-lens type). Several of the models boost high ISO settings from previous limits on similar Coolpix cameras.

With the exception of that CCD-shift VR, nothing is really new here, as Nikon seems to simply be pushing WiFi and VR further into the lineup. The critical thing to look at is whether the S4 image quality has been improved (that was the camera's real weak point). It uses the same sensor as before but now offers ISO 800. Before it couldn't deal with ISO 200 well.

Will They or Won't They?
The latest debate in the Nikon world is whether or not Nikon will introduce another DSLR shortly (as in "at Photokina"). The tea leaves are murky. A Nikon UK executive says another Nikon DSLR will be introduced this year but not a pro one, but the rumor mill continues to bubble about a potential Photokina launch of a D3h. Which will it be? I'm betting D3h sooner and a D50 replacement later. Others are betting a D50 replacement sooner and a D3h later.

Photokina starts Sept 26th, so it won't be long before we know for sure.

Nikon D80 and Lenses Announced
The countdown has ended and the prize(s) revealed: the Nikon D80 plus Nikkor 18-135mm G AF-S and 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR lenses are now officially announced. I have full comments on the D80 here, but the gist is this: a 10.2mp, CAM1000 autofocus, 3 fps DSLR for US$999. Essentially, the D80 is the D200's baby sister, with the primary difference between the two being speed and deepness of the feature set. The same crowd that found the D70 compelling should take to the D80 with gusto.

Meanwhile, Nikon Capture NX has begun shipping (and is available for upgrades through the Nikon Mall). Nikon has also produced some tutorials for new users, which you'll find here.

July 2006
Say What?
Fujifilm, which recently held inventory blow-out sales for the S3 Pro introduced, wait for it, an S3 Pro. This "new model," the S3 Pro UVIR (US$1795) has an altered low pass filtration that allow UV and near-IR wavelengths to be recorded by the sensor (spectrum allowed: 350 to 1000nm). The camera is targeted at law enforcement, but my personal assessment is that the S3 Pro isn't rugged enough for the abuse such cameras tend to get. Moreover, most lenses tend to block UV light, and the one UV optic (and flash) that Nikon made that would be of high interest to users of this camera was made in low quantities and tough to find.

Software Updates Round X^8
PhotoMechanic 4.4.3.2.
Breezebrowser Pro 1.5.2.1.
Bibble 4.8.1.
Portfolio 8.1.
Lightroom Beta 3.
Noise Ninja 2.1.3
DxO Pro Beta 4

New Nikon Coming...
Well, I hypothesized that Nikon must be getting ready to ship a new consumer DSLR when I saw Nikon's estimated shipments of DSLRs for the first half of their current fiscal year. And it seems that I was right. Just in time for my birthday, Nikon is teasing a new consumer camera with a Flash animation on their Web site. Salient information: "More power. More control. More versatile. More excitement. New 10.2 megapixel D-SLR addition to the lineup." (The Japanese version is a little different, and seems to suggest that the camera is "faster," as well.)

A couple things to note: "addition to the lineup." That means it isn't a D70s replacement, but likely a D80 (or whatever number they come up with) that slots between the two existing 6mp cameras and the 10.2mp D200, both in features and price (best guess, US$999 body). "Details will be announced [in] 20 days." Given when the teaser first appeared, that means the target announcement date (not ship date) is August 9th or so.

The more interesting thing than the camera, whatever it turns out to be, is that this is the first time in my memory that Nikon has clearly executed a marketing campaign targeted at a competitor. The teaser appears just as the 10.2mp Sony Alpha 100 is about to appear in stores here. Hmm. Can Nikon marketing really be stepping up to the plate for a change?

Nikon Web Sites Catch Up to Reality
The Nikon Imaging site has finally caught up to the reality of what products are really still current. The product listings on the site have been cleaned up. In DSLRs, what's left is the D50, D70s, D200, D2hs, and D2xs. In Film SLRs, it's the F6 and FM10. In lenses, the 70-180mm Micro-Nikkor and quite a few other lenses that have been hard to find lately are now on the "no longer in production" list, as are most of the MF lenses. Speedlight models have dropped to the SB-600, SB-800, and the R1C1 (e.g., SU-800, SB-R200). Now if they could just get what they are producing into stores in the quantities demanded...

D2xs Raw Converters
The Nikon D2xs was shipped earlier this month, but many found that there was no raw converter support for the new camera. In response, Nikon is offering a 30-day trial version of Capture NX on its Web sites. Capture NX supports the D2xs directly. Capture 4.x may go through additional service fixes in the future. The official quote [now revised] I got from them is "we will release service updates as we determine necessary for Capture 4, however have no plans at this time to add additional camera model support to Capture 4." That seems cryptic to me, especially since I asked directly about D2xs being supported by Capture 4.

Meanwhile, that still leaves those that use other converters up in the air. Here's the thing: the only differences between a D2x and a D2xs NEF image are the Camera ID tag and some additional Maker's tags in the EXIF. The additional Maker's tags can be ignored, I think: all you have to do is change the Camera ID tag from "Nikon D2xs" to "Nikon D2x." You do this by changing the hexadecimal value at offset 161 in the file from hex 73 ("s") to hex 00 (end of field marker) using a file editor. On a PC, you can use Hexedit; on a Mac you can use 0xED. Or, if you're a non-geek type, you can use the automated tool, D2XsHack.

Software Drama Continues
Adobe bought the RawEssentials converter (and apparently plans to roll it into Lightroom). Microsoft bought iView MediaPro (and the software has been updated to version 3.1.1). DxO is beta testing a new 4.0 version. Breezebrowser is now updated to 1.5. Bibble is updated to version 4.8 (S3 support and Mac Universal binary being the big two new items). Photo Mechanic is now at 4.4.3.1. Aperture is now at 1.1.2.

Sales Up?
On July 5th Reuters ran an article that included quotes from Nikon's Senior Managing Director, Makato Kimura. The key bit: Kimura-sama says April and May 2006 sales performance puts DSLR shipments up 35% over those same months last year, which puts them ahead of the current forecast growth estimate they made of 30%.

Personally, I'd caution against reading too much into that statement. First, these are sales from Nikon to distribution, not distribution to customers. Second, the impact of increased competition won't really be felt until the second half of this year (note that Sony didn't announce the Alpha 100 until after the period Kimura-san is talking about).

Much more interesting was the comment that the Thailand plant (D50, D70s, D200) was running at capacity, which would tend to argue against another consumer Nikon DSLR being introduced any time soon.

June 2006
Nikon Updates the D2x
As predicted by some, Nikon has taken a step to improve its flagship DSLR, the D2x. The new model is the D2xs. The changes from the previous model:

  • Hi Speed Crop mode now masks the viewfinder (grays out unused area instead of showing corner crop marks) and uses an appropriately targeted 3D Color Matrix pattern when matrix metering is selected.
  • The color LCD now has a wider viewing angle.
  • The EN-EL4a battery has 2500mAh for longer life (claimed up to 3800 images per charge). Older battery was 1900mAh.
  • Images can be cropped in camera, B&W is now supported in camera, additional FUNC button options have been added, and up to three custom curve may now be loaded. The menu system has been modified slightly for better readability. AdobeRGB is available in all three Color Modes.
  • Camera settings can be shared between bodies (via saving and loading on a CF card).
  • Some minor refinements to the AF system have been made (Lock-on changes, better subject acquisition).
  • ISO 1000, 1100, and 1250 now supported. Maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed have been added to Auto ISO.
  • Many of the D200 menu differences are implemented (e.g. AF Lock-On delay is configurable, Recent Settings can be locked, sensor cleaning doesn't require AC adapter)
  • GPS data gets an additional digit recorded for Long/Lat, plus the heading is now recorded.
  • Minimum suggested retail price has been dropped to US$4699, and the camera will be available in late June or early July.
  • Image Authentication is now possible for organizations that need to confirm that an image hasn't been altered or tampered with. Requires optional Windows-only software.
  • Capture NX apparently won't contain the camera control module any more, as Nikon has introduced Camera Control Pro.

Note that the D2x image quality hasn't really changed (one might argue that the AdobeRGB change can impact quality, I suppose). All the changes are what I would characterize as operational changes, making the camera more responsive, easier to use, and more flexible. The EN-EL4a is something that all current D2x users can take advantage of, and Nikon has indicated that all of the other non-hardware features will be made available to D2x users in a firmware upgrade this fall.

May 2006
Nikon 2006 Financials
The final results from Nikon's fiscal 2006 (ended March 31, 2006) have been posted by the company. Overall, it was mostly good news. The Imaging division had sales of 417 billion yen, up from 356 billion the previous year (17% growth). Profits were up slightly over 100% to 34 billion yen (from 17 billion in 2005).

Coolpix unit sales were up sharply, hitting 7.1 million units, an increase of 1.5 million units from fiscal 2005. DSLR sales were up by almost a third to 1.34 million units from fiscal 2005's 1.05 million units. DSLR sales rebounded in the fiscal 2006 fourth quarter after an unexpected third quarter drop, but did not rebound quite as much as anticipated (which explains the recent price drops on the D50 and D70s kits). 2.02 million lenses were sold in the year, up from 1.5 million the previous year. One word of caution: some of the profit improvement can be attributed to currency exchange benefits.

Much more interesting are the forecasts for the current fiscal year (2007). Coolpix projections are flat, which I would take to mean no revolutionary products will be introduced in the digicam lineup. Not that we won't get an update or two along the way, but the relative flatness of the predictions indicate nothing radically new in the pipeline and no major new model lineup (I think we're stuck with the P, S, and L series for the coming year).

With DSLRs, however, something is clearly up. The second half of fiscal 2006 was an uncharacteristically poor showing for Nikon DSLRs, with sales dropping almost 30% in unit volume from the first half of fiscal 2006 (some of that was self-inflicted with the D200 announcement before Christmas but inability to deliver). But for the first half of fiscal 2007 Nikon predicts a sudden and large rebound (from 550k units to 850k units). I really don't think that's going to happen with just new discounts, so there must be at least one new DSLR in the wings. Lenses also show a rebound from a droop in the second half of fiscal 2006, so I'll bet on a late spring, early summer launch of DSLRs and lenses. Specifically, I now expect a modest change in the D2x and a replacement for the D70s along with some of the known missing lenses (e.g. 70-300mm VR, 400mm VR, etc.).

Nikon's overall prediction of their DSLR market share was 34% in fiscal 2006 and is 35% in fiscal 2007. If that holds true, that would be a remarkable performance considering the competition coming from the big new players (Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic).

Rebates Return
New NikonUSA rebates are in effect starting May 1st, 2006. The SB-600, SB-800 and many lenses have rebates, though the amounts are lower than before. See my Nikon Rebates page for more. Also: expect some sort of new Coolpix announcement on May 8th.

Updates, Etc.
dpMagic Plus miniLab is a new version of dpMagic Plus that includes the ability to adjust, correct, and covert raw images. LightMachine, a plug-in for performing lighting adjustments on images within Photoshop, is now available in a Mac version. The LensFIT series of SizeFixer, FocusFixer, and TrueBlur have gotten a free update to support the latest cameras.

Digiscoping 8.1
Sometimes the announcements out of Nikon's binocular division don't make it to the main services. Nikon is now offering a Coolpix P4 digiscoping bundle that includes the camera, bracket, and eyepiece for US$729. You'll still need one of the Nikon fieldscopes--for example, the 60mm fieldscope body costs US$469 and would give you the equivalent of a 864-3,024mm zoom range on the P4. While the site hasn't been updated with the new info yet, you can learn more here. Note that you can use the Nikon fieldscopes with almost any current Nikon digital body (other than the S series Coolpix), including the D2x. You just need the correct eyepiece and/or body bracket.

April 2006
Free Software Updates Spring Up
Apple is shipping version 1.1 of Aperture. The update is free to existing users. Besides that, Apple has reduced the price to US$299 and are giving US$200 coupons to those that bought it at the higher price. For once, a positive customer experience.

Bibble makes it to version 4.7 with the introduction of the Perfectly Clear image correction technology (similar to Nikon's D-lighting, but with more attention to keeping color shifts from happening).

Capture One has been updated to version 3.7.4, giving it native Intel support (called Universal Mac application) and much faster performance on the new Macs (Capture One was already one of the faster converters on the Mac). The update is free to existing users.

Portfolio 8 now supports the Nikon D50, D70s, and D200 with the upgrade to RAW Filter 3.0.

Breezebrowser v1.4.2 fixes a NEF thumbnail bug.

March 2006
Coolpix Naming
We now know what the new naming scheme for Coolpix cameras means (at least in English): P = performance, S = style, and L = life. Okay, that makes sense so far. But can someone explain to me how the P3 is a better camera than the P4 (P3 adds WiFi) but the S6 is a better camera than the S5 (S6 adds WiFi), and how the megapixel count goes up as the L numbers go down? If I don't understand the logic, the sales people manning the camera counter at Best Buy are going to have a headache trying to comprehend this.

18-200mm Problem
Nikon has announced that there is a problem with near or infinity autofocus at wide angles with the 18-200mm on the original D70, D100, and D2h models. D70 owners need to update to Firmware version 2.0. D100 owners need to send their camera to Nikon for adjustment. D2h owners need to wait for an upcoming Firmware update. Update: add the Fujifilm S3 Pro to the list of cameras that need an update to use this lens.

Final PMA Announcements
Sigma introduced a new version of the 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM, this time with a focus distance that is enough shorter than the original that they're using the words "macro" on this lens (I don't think 1:3.5 makes it into macro range, but it is nice to be able to have a constant closer focus range).

Fujifilm USA announced a price drop and bundling addition for the S3 Pro. The new price is US$1669, plus now you get an AC adapter and Hyper Utility HS-V2 converter software bundled with the body. I believe this applies to an S3 Pro without the buffer upgrade, though.

February 2006
PMA 2006 Round 1
Nikon has announced the expected 105mm Micro-Nikkor f/2.8G VR AF-S, but not the rumored 70-300mm AF-S. An N-type lens (nano crystal coating), the new Micro-Nikkor is definetely a unique optic, being the first VR macro I know of. But it's not the macro I would have wanted (either the 200mm or the 70-180mm would have been better candidates for VR and AF-S; the old 105mm Micro-Nikkor didn't really need either addition, though they're welcome). Available in April.

On the camera front, Nikon continued its assault on WiFi with the 8mp P3/P4 and 6mp S5/S6 pairings. One of the models in these pairings gets you 802.11g capability (and in the case of the S6 a slightly larger screen). The one eyebrow raiser in the mix is that the P3/P4 pair gets VR in their 3.5x zoom. The S5/S6 come in colors other than silver (black, red, and blue). Otherwise, these seem to be modest updates of the P2 and S3 models. And heck, my dealer still has S1's on his shelf and just got his S3's. When you'll be able to get a blue S6 is anyone's guess.

And in the stupidest naming I've seen lately, we have the Coolpix L2, L3, and L4. Guess which one has the most megapixels? Yep, the L2 is 6mp, the L3 is 5mp, and the L4 is 4mp. Other than that, they're nearly identical 3x (large) pocket zoom cameras. Yawn.

I was amused by the use of the phrase "marking a leap forward in picture-taking enjoyment" in the press releases. Right. That's the real reason we buy cameras: the visceral joy of pressing the shutter release on an all-automatic camera...

The most interesting Nikon news was the announcements of Capture NX and Nikon View Pro. The first is the expected rewrite of Capture (apparently by Nik), with an expected delivery date of April (and a whole new UI to learn). The latter is the unexpected ressurection of View, adding speed and new features, such as IPTC editing. You'll pay for the new View, though (50 Euros; haven't gotten the US price yet since Nikon still refuses to send me press releases directly).

Tamron has announced three new lenses: the SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di-II LD, the AF 28-200mm f/3.8-5.6 XR Di, and the AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Di LD Macro. The last two are really updates of existing lenses. (Is anyone else getting tired of all the initials on lens designations?) Full details on the lenses are now in my Tamron database.

Fujifilm introduced two new slide films (yes I said film): Fujichrome T64 Professional (T stands for tungsten--this is an indoor film) and Provia 400X Professional. Both look interesting. The T64 has some of the finest grain structure of any slide film (RMS 7), while the new Provia also has a very tight grain structure for its ISO (RMS 11, which at one time was state of the art for any slide film). The new T64 will be available within a month or so, the 400X will be available in summer.

BibbleLabs and PictureCode have announced a joint agreement where a fully licensed version of Noise Ninja will be built into future versions of Bibble. On the heels of the PT Lens corrections additions, it appears that Eric is hard at work at trying to make Bibble a one-stop producer of clean, well corrected images from raw files. Current users of version 4.0 will get this upcoming update for free. I welcome both additions and hope to report on them in an upcoming Nikon DSLR Report.

Two Surprising Numbers from Nikon
Nikon has posted their financial results through the third fiscal quarter (ended 31 Dec 2005). Two numbers stuck out: Coolpix shipments are up, with the company revising their full year estimates to 7 million units (up from 6.4 million); meanwhile DSLR unit numbers are down, with Nikon now saying that they'll only sell 1.4 million units instead of 1.6 million for the current fiscal year (ends 31 March 2006). The culprit for the DSLR unit volume seems to be the Christmas quarter, where year-to-year sales actually went down slightly. I wonder how much of that was the pending D200 scaring away D70s sales?

For those that are interested, here's my current best guess at how the DSLR marketplace ended for 2005:

Canon 1.85m units 48% share
Nikon 1.33m 35%
Other 0.67m 17%
Total 3.85m 100%

Nikon executives forecast that total DSLR unit volume worldwide will be about 5m units in 2006 (i.e., the market is expected to grow by just over 30%). Overall, just looking at the imaging division operating numbers (cameras and lenses), things looked like this for Nikon during the first three quarters of the last two fiscal years:

  2005 2006
Sales 266.7b Yen 314.1b Yen
Income 8.9b 29.5b

Given the constant downward pricing pressures in digital cameras and the number of competitors trying to grab market share, Nikon seems to be weathering the storm and has a healthy operating profit in this business.

Software Updates
Photo Mechanic is now at version 4.4.1.1 and supports Intel processors for Mac (as well as fixing a few bugs). DXO Pro now supports the D200.

January 2006
Lens Parade Continues
Sigma has announced YAMRZ (yet another mid-range zoom). The Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC Macro is another attempt to find the right formula for the all-in-one lens. Perhaps I'm jaded, but I find the use of "revolutionary" in press releases of such lenses increasingly irritating. The 7.9" constant near focus limit is supposed to be the thing that makes this new lens so appealing, but that only gets us to 1:2.3 at 70mm, and as a walk around, general purpose lens, that macro ability would be a lot more appealing with some form of image stabilization (1:2 is near impossible to handhold well).

More interestingly, Zeiss has announced a new ZF line of lenses in the Nikon F mount. Essentially, they're the old Contax lenses with modest tweaks in a new mount. While the lenses in question are high in quality--for example the Planar 50mm f/1.4 is often claimed to be the best 50mm produced for the 35mm format--the fact that they're manual focus only and of focal lengths that aren't particularly exciting for Nikon DSLR work limits my enthusiasm somewhat (the 50mm f/1.4 has a potential to be the new 85mm f/1.4 for Nikon digital, though). These lenses are not chipped, which allows them to meter only with the D1, D2, and D200 bodies. Zeiss has promised to deliver the 50mm and an 85mm f/1.4 in spring, with more lenses to follow later in the year. What we really want is a true DX wide angle of Zeiss quality, but given the current Zeiss line-up, I don't expect one.

S3 Buffer Upgrade
Fujifilm USA has finally announced the price and availability of the 256MB buffer upgrade for the S3 Pro: US$379.95 plus tax, with a US$30 discount if they get to keep the 128MB buffer they remove. This increases the worst case scenario from three buffered RAW images with enhanced dynamic range to eight.

Nikon Film Options Narrow
Nikon has announced that they'll limit future production of film equipment to the F6 and FM10 bodies, plus nine MF lenses (20mm, 24mm, 28mm, 55mm, and 105mm f/2.8, the 35mm and 50mm f/1.4, the 50mm f/1.2, and the 85mm PC).

Sigma Experiences D200 Woes
Sigma has indicated that a number of their products require upgrading to work correctly with the Nikon D200 (only #3 has been acknowledged so far by Sigma America). Specifically, (1) the Sigma EF500 DG Super, Sigma EF500 DG ST and the EM140 DG flash units are not i-TTL but will be upgraded to be i-TTL compatible if returned to Sigma in some parts of the world; (2) the 28mm F1.8 DG ASPERICAL RF, 20-40mm F2.8 EX DG ASPERICAL, 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG MACRO, 24-70mm F2.8 EX ASPHERICAL DF, 28-70mm F2.8 EX DG, 28-105mm F2.8-4 DG, and 28-105mm F2.8-4 ASPHERICAL all require firmware upgrades in the lens in order to expose properly with the D200; and (3) all HSM lenses do not support the AF-ON button on the D200 and require a firmware update in the lens.

December 2005
Nikon Capture 4.4
Capture got the expected D200 update, along with a few unexpected bits: a new black and white option, better highlight retention when exposure compensation is set in the converter, and a couple of bug fixes, including one that caused Mac versions to unexpectedly quit while printing.

DigitalPro 4
The Windows-only DigitalPro--liked by some for it's integration of transfer, cataloging, and browsing abilities-- has undergone a major upgrade. New features include many changes to the UI that allow for more customization, faster performance, side-by-side comparisons, and one unique feature I've yet to see in any other product: the ability to simultaneoulsy launch the same RAW file in multiple converters (great for those comparison wars, like the one coming in a future Nikon DSLR Report). Updates are US$80 for the standard version, US$99 for the pro version.

November 2005

More Nikon News
Nikon has recalled a number of EN-EL3 batteries (used in the D50, D70, and D100). See the Nikon Web site for details on how to tell if your battery is one of the affected ones. Nikon is making this recall in response to four incidents where the battery has short circuited and overheated. Nikon advises you to stop using affected batteries immediately, and return them to Nikon for replacement.

The D2hs and D2x get a firmware update to version 1.01. The update enhances auto focus, corrects a bug with AF assist using certain Speedlights, improves flash performance, and corrects a bug in setting manual white balance.

Software Updates
PictureProject gets a bug fix to version 1.6.1. QImage gets additional features and tuning to version v2006.200. Adobe Raw Converter gets a beta update to version 3.3 that includes some changes to the demosaic engine. iView Media Pro goes to version 3.0 with a number of new features. Apple has introduced Macintosh OS 10.4.3, which now provides support for NEF files directly in the operating system.

Nikon D200 and Goodies
As expected, Nikon announced the D200. This new DSLR has a 10.2mp CCD (3872x2592 pixels) and bridges the gap between the D70s and the D2 series. Relevant specs include 5 fps, ISO 100 to 1600 plus HI-1, new CAM1000 eleven-sensor AF (one cross, 10 lines, new orientation), built-in flash with Commander mode capability, USB 2.0 (high speed), 2.5" LCD with 230k pixels and up to 400% zoom, 10-pin connector, and PC Sync connector, all wrapped in a new magnesium body. GPS support is built-in (requires optional cable). The optional MB-D200 provides multiple battery support, vertical grip, and a full set of controls. The optional WT-3 provides WiFi capabilities.

Things that pop out at me on first impression: the AF system is completely redone and reoriented (yuck, another AF system to learn and document!)--the interesting thing to me was the wide area 7-group mode, which seems like it might be useful; color histograms (yes!); mirror lockup (yes!); black and white support (yes!); multiple exposure (yuck!), supports metering with AI lenses (yes!); 95% viewfinder (yuck!) with .94x magnification (yes!); 22 frame NEF and 37 frame JPEG maximum buffer size (yes!); flash sync is at 1/250 (yuck!) but supports TTL FP (yes!); the FUNC button is back (yes!); EN-EL3e battery (sorry, old EN-EL3's won't work, yuck!); not as much lighter than the D2x as you'd expect (<half pound) but about the same size as the D100; Capture 4.4 optional (yuck!). (Note: this is likely to be the last version of Capture on the current software base; Nikon is working a new version that was originally scheduled for release at the end of the year, but has been delayed.)

Overall, the D200 seems to have the menu guts of the D2 series (intervalometer, multiple exposure, shooting and custom banks, etc.), but with some curious consumer body throwbacks (Optimize Image settings like Vivid, plus truly consumer things like Beep, for example).

The goodies are a new 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR DX lens (that's equivalent to a 28-300mm on film cameras). Assuming it's sharp, that's a one-size-fits-all lens that'll be pretty hard to pry off most amateurs' DSLRs. Also announced are a nifty and versatile macro flash setup, the SB-R1C1 kit, which includes an SU-800 controller and two SB-R200 slaves that mount on a lens ring (more SB-R200 slaves can be used, and the SU-800 can be used as a Commander-only option on the camera for the i-TTL flash system).

PictureProject Update
PictureProject gets a bug fix to version 1.6.1.

October 2005
Nikon Comes Clean
The not infrequent D70 BGLOD (blinking green light of death, which my original D70 just encountered) and D2h AF/metering failures (which my D2h has yet to experience, knock wood) have been officially acknowledged by Nikon, along with an AF failure problem on the N55. Even cameras out of warranty will be fixed if they encounter these problems. If your D70 or D2h was fixed out of warranty for these problems and you were charged for it, contact Nikon tech support to find out how to get a refund. Good move, Nikon. On the other hand, apparently this has caused a run on the parts needed for the fix, so repairs may take longer than expected. Meanwhile, Capture 4.3.2 fixes a problem that caused it to quit when certain D-Lighting settings were changed.

As Does Fujifilm
Shortly after Nikon's announcement about fixing problems on the D70 and D2h, Fujifilm announced that they would fix problems with CCDs that die on their S2 Pro out of warranty for free, as well. Meanwhile, Fujifilm has announced a US$500 price drop for the S3 Pro (to US$1999) and a free US$400 package of free stuff with the camera (Stitcher 4.0, an extra battery tray, battery charger, and white balance card).

But not me...
Nikon has a new D2x site featuring images and words from professional photographers who use the D2x. Warning: the site is Flash-heavy and thus slow if you don't have broadband.

September 2005
S3 Pro Updates
Fujifilm has announced optional buffer updates for the S3 Pro in Japan, effectively doubling the buffer from 128MB to 256MB and easing one of the complaints I had about the slowness of working with the camera for events and other fast-moving subjects. No word on when it'll be available in the US. Based upon the Japanese price, it ought to be about US$199. Also, Fujifilm released version 2.1.8 of the firmware for the camera, which fixes a minor problem with sharpening in JPEG files.

Photoshop Converter Update
Adobe has posted the camera support for ACR 3.2, but not yet the update files (keep checking, it should be there soon). The next version will support the D2hs, D70s, D50, Coolpix 8400 and 8800, and will provide as shot white balance for the D2x.

White Balance Encryption Eased
Nikon has announced a "mini-SDK" that provides access to the encrypted white balance information of the D50 and D2x, while Adobe has indicated that they'll use it for the next version of Adobe Converter Raw that comes with Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. This will patch over the primary drawback of the D2x for pro users (inability to use common software in raw workflows), but implies that Nikon will continue their policy of encrypting white balance and other information in NEF files. Linux users are left out, as Nikon doesn't support SDKs on that platform. Frankly, I don't see the point of the encryption or the mini-SDK. Nikon would be better off simply documenting the NEF format with each new model.

August 2005
The Update Parade Continues (part 4)
Nikon Capture to version 4.3.1. A modest set of bug fixes.

Bibble to version 4.3. Eric's been busy. New tools (straightening and lens correction plug-in), significantly faster (33%) performance over an already fast conversion, D50 and D70s support, new highlight recovery tool, and a host of minor bug squashings.

The Update Parade Continues (part 3)
S3 Pro firmware to version 2.1.6. Fixes a few problems with flash and Custom white balance inconsistency.

Plug-in Commander to version 1.6. Adds a few new features.

Having Problems getting your WT-2 to work?
The complexity of correctly configuring the WT-2 has prompted Nikon to publish a raft of new technical support documents, both for Macintosh and Windows users.

July 2005
The Update Parade Continues (part 2)
Breezebrowser to version 1.2. Adds image magnifier, D70s, D2x, and D2hs raw support.

Adobe Bridge to version 1.0.2. Fixes stability issues.

Coolpix Goes Swimming
Inexpensive (US$160) underwater housings for the Coolpix 4600 and 5600 (the CP-6 housing) and for the 5900 and 7900 cameras (the CP-7 housing) are now available from Fantasea. Also just announced, CP-8 housing for the 5700 and 8700, and CP-8n for the 8800. The smaller ones are rated to 130 feet (40m), the larger ones to 300 feet (100m); comes with a one-year flooding insurance.

The Update Parade Continues
Coolwalker to version 1.03. Corrects a number of minor bugs and problems.

PictureProject to version 1.5.2. Corrects display, CD burning, and D50 viewing problems.

Nikon View to version 6.2.6. Adds D50 support and fixes some bugs.

DxO Optics to version 3.0. Adds new Lighting and Noise Engines.

Qimage to version 2005.310. Adds network compatibility, new UI, improves interpolation.

PhotoRescue to version 2.1.676. Lots of minor changes, but most interest would be the D2x support.

FocalBlade to version 1.04. Adds selective preview, presets, immediate response, plus fixes some bugs.

DigitalPro to version 3.1. Adds D2x support, some performance and color improvements.

Coolpix Goes Swimming
Inexpensive (US$160) underwater housings for the Coolpix 4600 and 5600 (the CP-6 housing) and for the 5900 and 7900 cameras (the CP-7 housing) are now available from Fantasea. Rated to 130 feet (40m); comes with a one-year flooding insurance.

June 2005
Thom on Other Sites
The first of a three-part interview with me has gone up on the Nature, Wildlife, and Pet Photography Forum.

Meanwhile, my article on digital cameras for hikers is in the June issue of Backpacker (on newstands now) and available on their site. A special bonus addition of text not in the printed article is available in Digital 301.

Coolpix Updates Available
The Coolpix 8400 and 8800 have received firmware updates to address a number of minor issues. The most interesting change is the ability to drive the camera from PictureProject, plus fixes for the 6GB Microdrive. As I post this, a NikonUSA URL isn't yet ready, but check here.

D50 Shipping
Looks like the D50 started shipping in the US from some online retailers prior to the official June 28th estimate. A handful of pre-orders for the D50 plus 18-55mm kit lens have gotten "shipped" emails from several retailers, including Ritz Camera. (The D70s started shipping late last month, by the way. I'll be updating that review in a week or two.)

Capture 4.3 Update Available
The Capture 4.3 updater is available on most official Nikon sites. The primary changes: D50 NEF support, red-eye reduction tool added, color fringing control added, performance and bugs addressed. Likewise, Nikon View was updated to version 6.2.6 to support D50 NEFs.

May 2005
Fiscal 2005 Nikon Financials
Nikon announced their financial results for the full 2005 fiscal year (ended March 31, 2005). The Imaging division (the part of Nikon readers of this site are interested in) looks like this (all numbers in billions of yen):

  2004 2005 2006 (e)
Sales 284.7 355.5 380
Income 25.2 16.8 20

Yes, profit dipped a bit on higher sales, though it appears from the 2006 estimates that Nikon expects to not see a further dip going forward. Still, against historical levels, the profit margin has dropped as digital camera growth started to level off. R&D expenses went up from 10.4 to 13.3 billion yen in a year. More interesting are the unit sales numbers:

  2004 2005 2006 (e)
35mm SLR 680k 240k 140k
35mm compact 600k 50k 0k
Lenses 1230k 1500k 2200k
Digital Cameras 5400k 6610k 7600k

D70 Firmware Update Available
The D70 firmware update is available on most official Nikon sites. The primary changes: autofocus improvements when following action, more accurate reportage of frames remaining with NEF, menus have been changed to be more readable, page sizes can be set with PICTBridge, and at least one bug has been fixed (timeout when camera used with Capture Camera Control).

February 2005
S3 Pro Update Available
Fujifilm announced a minor update to the S3 Pro firmware, which adds support for tethered use and fixes a few small problems. Details are available here.

D2x Ships
Initial deliveries began worldwide the last week of February. Yes, I have my D2x. Yes, I'll have a review of it once I've managed to use it enough to form detailed impressions. Yes, I'll have a D2x eBook (but I don't take advance orders, nor do I predict completion dates).

Post PMA More Interesting?
Nikon has registered the trademark for the D50. Rumors abound that they'll announce two DSLRs and lenses this spring. Kyocera (maker of Contax cameras) has decided to get out of the camera business, so another big name bites the dust, at least temporarily. Meanwhile, Leica reported financial difficulties and losses which violated their line of credit conditions--a serious problem that puts them in a more vulnerable position than they already were. Mid-2005 is shaping up to be more interesting than we all thought. Will Nikon launch another DSLR salvo at Canon? Will Leica survive long enough to get their digital back out? If Kyocera is giving up on cameras, who might be next?

Nikon Announces Six New Digital Cameras
Well, okay, five new cameras and one with tweaks. Specifically, Nikon announced the D2hs and five Coolpix models. Since there's a fair amount of detail involved, my full comments are here.

Sigma Annouces 13 New Lenses
Well, okay, three new lenses and 10 with minor tweaks (is this the new theme?). The most interesting of the bunch is the 30mm f/1.4. For full details, see my Sigma Lens database.

PictureProject Plug-ins
Nikon introduced three new plug-in software modules for PictureProject. Coolpix Remote Control allows 8400 and 8800 models to be controlled directly from a computer, ala Capture Camera Control. nik Color Efex Pro 2 Express (!) provides 14 plug-in color effect modules. DVD Show automates the slide show to DVD process.

Software Updates Abound
Nikon has posted the Capture 4.2 Updater. This update supports the D2x, improves the DEE and noise tools, and adds a number of small other tweaks and improvements.

Canto has introduced Cumulus 6.5, which mostly will appeal to multi-user setups, but does add user-creatable "actions," ICM support, and a host of other minor features.

dpMagic is now at version 1.1.015, which fixes some minor bugs and adds support for a number of additional cameras (only one Coolpix has been added on the Nikon side).

Noise Ninja is now officially available as a Photoshop plug-in.

Human Software has announced the 8th volume of Photoshop plug-in frames for images.

Adobe has a minor update (3.0.1) for Windows Photoshop Elements users. Also note that DNG Converter and Camera RAW module are both now in version 2.4.

Coolpix Rebates
Nikon has rebates and new prices pretty much across the board with the Coolpix lineup this month:

Model Rebate Effective MSRP
Coolpix 8800 US$100 US$899.95
Coolpix 8700 US$50 US$749.95
Coolpix 8400 US$100 US$799.95
Coolpix 5700 US$150 US$749.95
Coolpix 5400 US$200 US$399.95
Coolpix 5200 US$50 US$349.95
Coolpix 4200 US$30 US$319.95
Coolpix 4100 new price US$199.95
Coolpix 3700 US$100 US$299.95

I haven't reviewed many of the Coolpix models, but the 8800 is a very nice all-in-one (much better in almost every respect over the 8700 or 5700 that came before it). The 5400 is a bargain at the new price if you can live with it's noise properties, which are a bit higher than the 8400 that replaced it. The 3700, 4100, 4200, and 5200 don't strike me as competitive, even at the new prices. PMA comes at the end of this month, and I'd expect new Coolpix models to show up then. In particular, we haven't seen a 7mp model from Nikon, and the lower end needs something sexier or more performance-oriented than the current bottom four models.

Sigma Introduces New Digital Lenses
Two new DC lenses (cover only the APS sensor size) were announced: 18-50mm f/3.5-5.6 and 55-200mm f/4-5.6. The primary feature is light weight and compactness, as both together barely weigh a pound.

January 2005
Low Cost Underwater (or Waterproof)
Normally, underwater housings cost more than the camera they protect. Fantasea Line bucks that trend with their new FD-70 housing, which at US$999 comes close to matching the price of the camera it protects. Rated to 200 feet, the FD-70 comes with a lens port for the standard D70 kit lens (18-70mm), and sports external controls for most of the D70's buttons and dials. It also includes a flash hot shoe socket. The main casing is injection mold clear polycarbonate, and the whole thing is relatively light for a feature-packed UW housing at 2.5kg. (Fantasea Line also makes housing for Coolpix bodies.)

Coolpix 8700 Firmware Update
The Coolpix 8700 firmware has been updated to version 1.3. The new version includes the ability to use 4GB cards and fixes some Spanish menu problems.

D2x Delayed
The D2x, which was originally supposed to be available in January, will now be shipped on February 25th, according to Nikon. The likely street price will be US$4995. The interesting thing is that this is immediately following this year's PMA, which means that Nikon will be announcing other things prior to shipping the last thing they announced.

Odds and Ends
Capture One 3.6 has been released (supports S3 Pro, adds card import and more metadata). Picasa 2.0 (free) has been released by Google (adds NEF support amongst many other new features). iPhoto 5 (part of the new iLife suite introduced at Macworld this week) supports NEF files. Version 1.0.3B firmware for the Nikon D70 was introduced by Nikon; it's a minor bug fix for color management issues. The 300mm f/2.8 VR will ship in small quantities in January. LightMachine is a new Photoshop plug-in to deal with shadow/highlight and color correction changes.

December, 2004
Mysterious Price Drop
NikonUSA (and then Nikon Canada) lowered the minimum advertised price for the D2h to US$1995 (and apparently price protected dealers for their inventory), sending Nikon DSLR forums into a tizzy. What's it mean? After much consideration, I'd have to say I don't know. The D2h price was sliding for a long time in Japan, to the point where gray market imports could have cost as little as US$1900 if some enterprising sort wanted to try making a living at that. The curious thing is that pricing action seems to be distributor-originated, though (the D2h price in Europe appears to still be above US$3000). Is there a replacement/upgrade in the wings? Will the D2h be discontinued? Your guess is as good as mine. Whatever just happened, it was handled awkwardly at best.

New Mac RAW Converter, New Photoshop Converter
Mac users can get an Mac-optimized converter based upon the dcraw routines from Iridient Digital. The Raw Developer program has a free demo available. Meanwhile, Adobe has released a public beta of Raw Converter 4.3 for Photoshop, which adds D2x support for those of us who don't have one to try ;~)

October, 2004
Lower Coolpix Prices
Nikon has dropped the rebate and applied lower prices on several Coolpix models in the US:

Coolpix 3200 (3mp) US$199.95
Coolpix 4100 (4mp) US$279.95
Coolpix 4200 (4mp) US$349.95
Coolpix 5200 (5mp) US$399.95
Coolpix 8700 (8mp) US$799.95

Bibble 4.0
Bibble has been completely rewritten and updated, with an eye to speeding up and simplifying batch processing, amongst other things.

August, 2004
Software Updates
Human Software announced Volume 7 of ClassicFrames (for Mac and PC), which includes 60 new frame styles. dpMagic 1.00 for Windows has been released. Labeled as a shell manager that supports display of RAW files (NEF and DCR, but not RAF) and EXIF data within XP's Explorer window, dpMagic helps simplify workflow with RAW files, as you no longer need a dedicated browser such as Nikon View to see and choose files. A free and more extensive commercial version (US$9.95) are available. Photo Mechanic 4.2 (for Mac and PC) has added FTP support, a new ability to categorize photos, the ability to open different editors with different file types, automatic launching of the program when a card is inserted or camera attached, and a host of other minor features and fixes.

Nikon 1st Quarter Results
Nikon announced that their first quarter fiscal 2005 profit jumped 22 percent over last year, to 1.72 billion yen (~US$15.5 million). This reflected mostly better news in the stepper division, as the operating profit in the imaging division actually fell 45 percent to 5.3 billion yen (~US$58.5 million). Price decreases are blamed for the increased pressure on imaging profits. Nikon also announced that D70 production will be upped to 90,000 units a month, though they haven't changed their year forecast for overall digital camera sales, which would indicate weakness elsewhere in their lineup.

July, 2004
D2h Updated
Nikon has released version 2.0 firmware for the D2h that changes a couple of dozen things on the camera. Significant autofocus options have been added; changes to filenaming and EXIF data have been made; and white balance, histograms, and playback zooming have been improved. A few bugs have been squashed, and card capacities beyond 4GB are now supported. See the Nikon site for your area for the user-installable updater.

July, 2004
Nikon Takes Step Backwards
It appears that the latest batch of D70 bodies in the US are now arriving without Nikon View (only Picture Project and the trial Capture copy are included). Nikon's sales reps are only talking about Picture Project and Capture. I regard this as another step backwards for Nikon's software offerings (pulling out the ability to automatically catalog images into Cumulus as you transferred was another; the ability should have been expanded to support other programs, not pulled out). IMHO, Picture Project is a strategic mistake, as it simply means that people like me will begin very loudly recommending third-party software over that which Nikon supplies. Since many of those third-party programs are branching out into NEF support (Breezebrowser, iMatch, Portfolio, etc.), this has long range impact on the success of Capture. If you're going to try to sell someone razor blades, the razor you give away better be decent enough to be useful.

June 25, 2004
Digital SLR Camera Production
This is the time of year that all the Japanese manufacturers release both their previous year production numbers as well as estimated shipments for the coming year. Here are the DSLR production numbers (note that these are for fiscal years, and Canon's ends three months earlier than Nikon and Olympus).

Company 2003 2004 est.
Canon 580k 1400k
Nikon 300k 1000k
Olympus ? 150k
Total Market ~1200k ~3000k

Nikon appears to have lost the top position it apparently held as late as 2002, though the D70 sales appear to be tightening the gap. Slowing down the D100 plant and transitioning it to D70 production in the third and fourth quarter seems to have hurt Nikon's 2003 production numbers considerably. Also note that these are production numbers and don't necessarily reflect sell-through. For example, the D100, D1x, and D70 are all pretty much out of stock through much of the US right now, while only the Canon 1D Mark II is out of stock at most shops. The Olympus estimates include their upcoming low cost DSLR, by the way. Once again SLRs are a two-horse race between Canon and Nikon, and with both growing at over 140% a year and controlling over two-thirds of the market, they'll be nearly impossible to dethrone.

June 14 2004
D70 Production Increases
Reuters Japan is reporting that Nikon is increasing D70 production from 70k units a month to 90k units by September or October. The figures apparently come directly from Kimura-san, the managing director for imaging products. Nikon's expectations are now that they will sell one million DSLR bodies in the current fiscal year (ends March 2005). If you're doing the math, that means 780k D70's and only 220k other bodies, which indicates that a significant portion of Nikon's DSLR sales shifted from higher priced models when the D70 came out. Reading between the lines, Nikon's predictions also seem to indicate that any D2x or other new DSLR body won't be produced in significant quantity prior to 2005. My Nikon financials article has been updated with the latest information.

June 1 2004
Rumor Mill Rumbles to Life

We must be getting close to another major annoucement from Nikon, as the rumor mill is rumbling again much like it did prior to the D70 announcement. But, gee, what to make of these rumors? The upcoming D2x is everywhere from 8mp to 15mp, 2fps to 9.5fps, and announced anywhere from next week to Photokina (we do know that mules disguised as D2h's are outside Japan). The FM3D rumor is back (FM3a body with 6mp D70 sensor). New AI-P lenses are on the list (35mm f/1.4 and return of the legendary 105mm f/2.5, both of which would make sense with the compact FM3D). Three new VR lenses: 35-135mm f/2.8, 100-300mm f/2.8, and 300-600mm f/4. Unlike others who think these are strange focal lengths, I hope the rumor is true, because it will release the exotics from fixed focal lengths!

May 2004
A Legendary Lens Returns

The Nikkor 200mm f/2, a legendary sports and indoor telephoto, has returned in AF-S and VR form, along with a TC-17E II (1.7x) converter. The combo gives you an 340mm f/3.5. Supposedly the two become available in July.

Phase One Updates
Version 3.5 of the C1 raw workflow software from Phase One is now available, and includes D70 and D2h support. There are now three versions: Pro, LE, and SE, which vary in feature set and supported cameras.

Book Ordering Update
For the next week or so I'll be turning the ordering on and off for the D70 book as I'm able to meet and clear demand. I hope to have the problems fixed by mid-June. My apologies for the delays.

Free Plug-ins
Reindeer Graphics has several free Photoshop plug-ins that are useful to Nikon DSLR users, including the just updated Adapative Equalization. My favorite, however, is the Wide Histogram, which gives you full 16-bit histograms that go beyond what Photoshop provides.

May News (Coolpix, iView, Sigma)
The Coolpix 3700 gets a firmware update to version 1.2 and a US$100 rebate in May. iView MediaPro has just been updated to version 2.5 and now is available in a Windows version (previously, the Pro version was Macintosh only). Sigma has begun shipping the 24-60mm f/2.8 EX DG lens. My D70 book began shipping on May 25th.

D2h Book
Since people keep asking, my Complete Guide to the Nikon D2h is now scheduled for late June.

May 2, 2004
D70 Software Updates
Adobe Photoshop Raw Converter 2.2 is now available for download from the Adobe Web site. The Capture One converter, including a low-cost Windows LE edition that supports the D70 (and D100), is now in beta test. Nikon View has been updated to 6.2.2. And I'm sure the list of updates will continue for a bit as the D70 NEF format trickles through the developers (just in: Breezebrowser 2.9 supports D70 NEFs for viewing).

February 17, 2004
Kodak Updates the Pro 14n (updated)
An updated sensor, new filtration, some minor changes in software, and a redesigned power management system highlight the new Pro SLR/n, which ships February 16th (US$4995 street). Of all the new features, the changes to power consumption and noise tendencies are the two that get my attention. Existing Pro 14n owners can return their camera to Kodak and have it upgraded to the SLR/n's new features (except for power management, unfortunately). Once done, the updated camera is referred to as a Pro 14nx. Cost of the upgrade: US$1500. (DSLR comparison chart updated.)

February 10, 2004
Fujifilm Announces S3 Pro
Only a few details of the camera were announced (it won't appear in stores until about August), but basically it's a re-worked S2 Pro with the new SR SuperCCD technology for expanded dynamic range. The body and battery situation appear to be substantially improved, but little else is known at this point. I've added what we do know to the DSLR comparison chart.

February 1, 2004
Latest Nikon Production Figures
They keep going up (another 4% overall). Between the Nikon Japan D70 press conference and the latest Dempa Shinbun article, the following numbers are what Nikon is now using in describing market share (in unit volume):

  Worldwide Digital (all) % Growth Nikon Digital (all) % Market Worldwide DSLR
2001 15.87m -- 1.45m 9% --
2002 28.38m 79% 3.36m 12% 0.25m
2003 46m 62% 5.5m 12% 1m
2004 62m 35% 8.6m 14% 2m*
2005 72m 16% -- -- 3.3m
2006 80m 11% -- -- 5m

*Nikon claims 800k, or 40% of market (described as the leading market share). This share is down slightly from what they claimed at the D2h product launch.

Again, market growth is slowing in compact cameras, still high in DSLR sales. Additionally, Nikon said the initial production volume of the D70 will be 70,000 units a month, and 60,000 units a month for the 8700.

January 28, 2004
D70 Specifications Announced
Nikon has released another press release giving us more details on this upcoming camera. I've updated my specifications page accordingly, adding my comments where appropriate.

Other Nikon Announcements
Simultaneous with the D70 announcment mentioned above, Nikon announced the price of the 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S lens (~US$300 with D70 kit), a new SB-600 Speedlight, the 8mp Coolpix 8700 (also new wide angle, telephoto, and fisheye converters), the Coolwalker digital wallet storage device, and that Nikon View is being surplanted by PictureProject.

January 20, 2004
Smile, You're on Shirt Cam
I enjoy perusing Nikon patents and patent applications from time to time, but when I came across Pub #US 2003/0156127 A1 I smiled. Obviously a Coolpix related patent application, but it isn't the filing itself that was interesting so much as the line "The camera can be inserted into a shirt pocket...allowing photography of objects while the apparaus is inserted into the shirt pocket." Are we getting that lazy as photographers?

January 8, 2004
The 04's are Here
In what will be the start of a long progression of "replacement" digital compact camera announcements this year, Nikon announced that the Coolpix 2100 and 3100 are being replaced by new 2200 and 3200 models. Cosmetically similar to older models, the new ones have no real groundbreaking features (Nikon is making a waterproof case for them, which I guess counts as something). The 2 and 3 megapixel class of pocket cameras is all about cost reduction at this point, not new features, and the new Coolpix models reflect that. Expect to see everyone else doing the same thing at the bottom of their lineup: mild redesigns that help them push pricing downward and manufacturing efficiency upward. It's at the top of the Coolpix lineup that we're all waiting to see what's in store.

January 4, 2004
FocalBlade 1.0.2 Released
The FocalBlade image sharpening tool has been updated to allow a wider range of settings and to better reduce sharpening artifacts.

New Coolscans Coming
Three new models are coming to replace the existing Coolscans: Coolscan V ED (US$599.95), Super Coolscan 5000 ED (US$1099.95), and Super Coolscan 9000 ED (US$1995.95). All three work at 4000 dpi and support ICE4, GEM, and ROC. All have no warm-up time LEDs, Firewire/USB 2.0, and ED lenses. The 9000 ED supports scans up to 6x9cm, while the 5000 ED is said to get a full 35mm slide scan in 20 seconds at 4000 dpi. The cases have been modestly redesigned.

December 14, 2003
Digital Market and Nikon Forecasts
Dempa Shinbun, a Japanese newspaper that covers Japanese industry, has reported Nikon's digital camera forecasts and production numbers several times during the past year. The numbers are interesting, and tie into my 2004 predictions. For the overall digital camera market (DSLR and compact digital), Nikon predicts:

Year
Worldwide Unit Sales
Percent Increase
2002
28m
--
2003
43m
53%
2004
55m
28%

These numbers are slightly above Canon's (see old news page). In terms of overall unit volume, Nikon expects to sell 8.25m units (compact and DSLR) digital camera in 2004, which is a 50% increase over 2003. This means Nikon sees themselves gaining market share.

December 10, 2003
Cumulus/NEF Connection Dead
First Nikon stopped supporting the direction connection to Cumulus through Nikon View, now it appears that Cumulus 6 breaks the NEF filter that was needed to see large previews. I no longer support or suggest Cumulus as a database for Nikon DSLR users, especially since other products support NEF directly (Extensis Portfolio, for example). The next editions of my books will reflect that advice, and I'll update my site articles shortly.

Digital Market and Canon Forecasts
Dempa Shinbun, a Japanese newspaper that covers Japanese industry, has reported Canon's digital camera forecasts and production numbers several times during the past year. The numbers are interesting, and tie into my 2004 predictions. For the overall digital camera market (DSLR and compact digital), Canon predicts:

Year
Worldwide Unit Sales
Percent Increase
North American Units
European Units
2001
14m
--
--
--
2002
28m
100%
8.22m
6.85m
2003
41m
46%
12m
14m
2004
50m
22%
--
--

The new 2004 predictions are up about 10% from earlier reports, but still, note that slowdown in market growth. Getting market share is going to be more difficult. As for Canon's sales, look at these numbers:

Year
Overall Unit Sales
Percent Growth
2000
1m
--
2001
2.4m
140%
2002
4.5m
88%
2003
8.5m
89%
2004
12.5m
47%

So when I say in my predictions that gaining market share is becoming more difficult, I mean it. Canon's unit growth is growing faster than the market, so it is gaining share. Nikon's growth appears to be outpacing market growth, too, though not as fast as Canon's. And both companies have significant back order issues.

December 4, 2003
2004 Predictions
With Nikon scooping one of my predictions for next year (see next), I've decided to post an early version of my 2004 Predictions.

Nikon Consumer DSLR in 2004
Update
: Nikon has made it official, announcing that they're going to announce a consumer DSLR in Spring 2004. It'll be called the D70, and the first pictures of it show that the guess that it will be built on the N75 base is probably correct (note the infrared remote sensor on the front of the body and the displaced depth of field preview button).

November 14, 2003
Nikon Ups Digital Camera Sales Figures
Along with their quarterly financials, Nikon recently made several adjustments to their predicted worldwide camera sales for the current fiscal year. Digital camera sales (compact and DSLR) are now expected to be 5.5 million units, up from the earlier prediction of 4.6 million. 35mm film SLR bodies are now expected to sell only 750,000 units, down from 1 million. And compact 35mm cameras are expected to drop to perhaps as few as 680,000 units from an earlier prediction of 1 million.

That means that while the overall camera sales are slightly higher expected (6.9m units versus 6.6m units, a 5% increase), the 35mm/digital mix has shifted (previously expected to be 69% digital, but actually now 80% digital). This kind of shift has implications for R&D and makes substantive new 35mm models less likely.

November 5, 2003
Coolpix 5700 Rebate
Besides lowering the price to US$899, there's now a US$100 Winter Rebate on the Coolpix 5700.

17-55mm DX Lens Delayed
The 17-55mm DX lens announced with the D2h will not be available until Spring 2004, according to Nikon.

Will They or Won't They?
Earlier this fall Nikon's Imaging Company president Makoto Komura was quoted in both the Japanese and American press as saying that "future [professional Nikon DSLRs] will be full frame." The source of that original comment appears to have been a private conversation with the Japanese press immediately following the D2h announcement press conference. Now, Popular Photography is reporting on their Web site that Komura-san has told them personally that full frame is "for study only," and that Nikon DSLRs will continue to use a smaller sensor size.

October, 2003
Coolpix 3700
Nikon has joined the brushed-aluminum shirt-pocket crowd with the latest Coolpix, the 3700. Less than 6 ounces and only 4 x 2 x 1.2 inches in size, this 3.2mp camera uses SD (secure digital) cards and has only one surprising feature: the Clapper. Yes, you can set the camera to self timer and clap to take a picture (any loud noise, actually). The 3700 should show up in stores in time for Christmas.

D2h Delayed
It's old news now (I was out of Internet range in the slot canyons of Utah during much of October), but the D2h has been delayed slightly due to part shortages. According to an email I received from NPS (Nikon Professional Services) "The shipping date is anticipated to be early November 2003."

Nikon View Update
Version 6.1.0 of Nikon View is available for update. This version fully supports the upcoming D2h and fixes a few bugs. File size = 38MBs.

Nikon Capture Update
Version 3.5.2 of Nikon Capture is available for update. This is a minor bug fix. File size = 5.4MBs.

Nikon Prices Drop
As of October 1st, a number of outlets are now selling NikonUSA official import D100's at US$1499, a reduction of US$200 from the previous street price. All current Coolpix models have seen an official price drop, as well. The MSRP for the Coolpix 5400 is now US$699 and the 5700 is US$899. Some of the rebates have been tweaked, and the MSRP of the N80 SLR has dropped slightly. Full details of the new lower prices and Fall 2003 rebate program are on Nikon's site.

Lenses Reappear
The popular Nikkor 12-24mm DX and 24-120mm AF-S VR lenses are starting to pop back into US stores due to a new round of shipments from Nikon. Rumors have it that Sigma is about to introduce a 12-24mm consumer lens shortly (i.e., f/4.5-5.6, no AF-S, but full frame).

September 15, 2003
Nikon Going Full Frame?
Herbert Keppler's column in the latest issue of Popular Photography quotes a Nikon spokesperson as saying future professional DSLRs from them will be full frame. Hmm. That seems to fly in the face of the recent DX lens development, doesn't it? (None of the DX lenses introduced could said to be intended for consumer markets.) Still, I have no doubt that Nikon's future consumer DSLRs will remain APS-sized (1.5x angle of view modification).

iView Update
iView MediaPro 2.0 was introduced for the Mac (Windows version to follow). This product has long been the catalog program of choice for many Macintosh Nikon users for its feature depth and NEF support.

August 10, 2003
Workshop Update
I've now posted all the info on all my 2004 workshops (and two new 2003 workshops). If you've taken a workshop from me before, check out the Returning Students workshop in May. If you were waiting for information on the Alaskan workshops, the blanks have been filled in and signups will now be accepted. Don't put off registering for a workshop. At the usual rate I receive signups, there will be no openings by October 1st.

Scanning Book Introduced
Those of you who are still shooting film and then using a desktop scanner to digitize will be interested in Taf Tally's new book, Silverfast: The Official Guide. Silverfast software is the software of choice for most desktop scanner users, and this book steps you through everything you need to know to get great scans from your slides.

Spring Clearance Sale #2
Only a few items left in this round of cleaning. Goodies are all first come, first served. Plus a free surprise in every box!

July 4, 2003
Olympus 4/3 Appears (in October)
Nikkei Weekly
on 6/9 speculated that the Olympus/Kodak 4/3 DSLR is going to have a Japanese price point somewhere near 100,000 yen (which would probably translate to US$995), so why was the announced price for the body US$2195? Does Olympus really think that they can get a premium over the the Canon 10D, Nikon D100, and Fujifilm S2 Pro with fewer pixels and the requirement to buy new lenses?

Software Updates
CaptureOne DSLR version 1.1 is now out for Mac OS-X and there's a new version (1.2) with some fixes for Windows, as well. Photo Mechanic for Windows has been updated to version 4.0.3, which now includes color management.

June 10, 2003
Lens Update
A reader in Japan tells me that the "official" Japanese release date for the new 24-120mm and the 12-24mm DX lenses is June 28th, and that Nikon set that date there as being the date at which the lenses will be available everywhere. No word on the 20-200mm, though.

New Books
Since everyone keeps asking, the Complete Guide to the N75 is likely to be ready somewhere near the end of the month, with the F5 eBook slightly behind that.

Site Updates

The F100 errata page has been updated.

June 3, 2003
Rumor Mill
Rumor has it that Nikon USA may start bundling a storage card with the D100 shortly. Some retailers (B&H, for example) already do so (if you use the NY Times ad coupon), though I would expect Nikon's offer to be more substantive. Meanwhile, Hitachi, the new owner of the IBM Microdrive, has quietly told manufacturers that it will launch a 4GB Microdrive before the end of the year. Too bad our current Nikons can't use that extra storage. Remember, folks, these are rumors.

New Lenses Begin to Arrive
The 24-120mm AF-S VR and the 12-24mm DX lenses have begun arriving in stores throughout the world. As is usual with distribution of new Nikon products, today (6/2/03) you'll find them in the Asian markets (Japan, Hong Kong, etc.), by the end of the week we should see them in Europe, and the poor old US should see lenses in two to three weeks. Why do we get the raw end in the US? Partly due to the size of the market, the shipping methods used to deliver the huge quantity needed, and the requirement to sub-distribute so all stores receive initial shipments at the same time.

Software Updates and More
Photo Mechanic 4.0.2 now supports NEF browsing, though only using the image thumbnails, not by rendering the NEF. Fsoft has introduced a 24 Euro Photoshop plug-in for resizing, Resize Magic, that does indeed seem to do a better job on retaining detail on downsizing than Photoshop does.

Site Updates
I've updated my Fujifilm S2 and 70-200mm VR reviews. Also, I've added a short note about the Wein digital slave to the Wireless article.

May 30, 2003
D1x Now Comes with Upgrade.
Nikon USA is shipping all new D1x models to dealers with the expanded buffer upgrade and no price increase (i.e., you should be able to get a D1x with upgrade at the same price as the un-upgraded model was previously sold at). This appears to have started in early May. Also, a coupon for Capture is also now included. Nikon Canada is now shipping only D1x models with buffer upgrades, again at the same price, but without the coupon for Capture. D1x purchasers in North America should be careful to make sure they get models with buffer upgrades rather than the original buffer. How do you tell? Take a picture and scroll through to the info page that shows the firmware version. It should be 5.x for upgraded models.

Why'd I Get a Second D1 Report Issue #4?
As noted earlier in this space, I found a database error that precluded some people from getting their issues. I stopped mailing the remaining issues and fixed the error. Meanwhile, I had some more NEF/RAF converter info to impart, so I added that to the issue and remailed a copy to everyone. As of 5/12/03, everyone has been mailed a new Issue 4 and the database is fixed. For those looking to renew, add ".htm" to the link in the Report--the address I listed in the revised version was wrong.

Tokina and Sigma DB updates
Both companies announced a new lens at PMA, and I've finally gotten around to adding what I know about them to the lens database tables. Sigma. Tokina.

May 1, 2003
Nikon Production Numbers.
The Japanese industrial newspaper Dempa Shinbun published March 20, 2003 had an article that included some Nikon production numbers. Worldwide, ~1m Nikon 35mm SLRs and ~200k digital SLRs were sold in 2002 (it's unclear if this latter number is all DSLRs, or just Nikon's). In the Coolpix realm, about 3.3m units were sold (versus 1.3m compact 35mm models). This would give Nikon a 7-8% market share in consumer digital camera sales, using Nikon's total market figures. Expectations were of 36%+ growth in Coolpix sales in 2003. Nikon digital SLRs are made in Thailand, while the Coolpix units are made in Wuxi, China. Final interesting note: Nikon is more interested in dollar-based share than unit sales share.

Fujifilm and Canon Production Numbers.
From more recent issues (May 8) of Dempa Shinbun: Fujifilm's digital camera output isn't broken into SLR and consumer models, but claims are for a total of 4.6m units in 2002 and an almost 50% increase for 2003. Cameras are made in Japan, with a factory in Suzhou, China coming on line. Canon claimed 4.45m digital camera units shipped in 2002, with a goal of more than 7.5m in 2003. Low-end products are made in Malaysia, mid and high-end products in Oita, Japan, with another low-end plant coming on line in Zhuhai, China. Curiously, all three companies claim different totals for worldwide sales of digital still cameras, with Canon's being the lowest (for which they claim a 16% share). Elsewhere Canon has made the GE-like claim that they want to be #1 or #2 in market share in every market they enter. In consumer digital cameras they have yet to achieve that.

 
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