Thom's Nikon Wish List
last update: 07/25/07

This article was originally written in early 2003. It's amazing how few things I had to modify when I decided to update it in 2007. As in almost none. Nikon did abandon D-TTL and give us a macro flash and a 200mm f/2. But the majority of my wish list remains intact.


Here's what I'd like to see from Nikon


Not that Nikon listens to me, but if they did, here's what I'd tell them I want:

  • Minimize the new batteries and chargers. I have collected what's becoming a small museum's worth of Nikon gear. I can count six proprietary battery types and as many AC chargers and adapters in my collection, and I have this ugly feeling that the next Coolpix and next digital SLR will increase that by two more. Please, stop this nonsense! There's no reason to have more than two different proprietary battery types.
  • No more proprietary connectors. This is partially related to the first wish, as all those AC adapters have different tips on them so that they don't get plugged into the wrong equipment accidentally. By making proprietary (or at least difficult to come by) connectors the norm, it stunts third-party and hobbyist support. Now, I'm sure that's exactly what Nikon wants to do (and not because they want to sell 100% of the accessories, but because they are so friggin' afraid of damaged cameras needing repair). Ever hear of user-replaceable fuses, Nikon?
  • Real documentation on the interfaces and file formats. NEF files are our "negatives." Except that Nikon keeps changing the NEF format for each new camera and doesn't really document the format to third parties. Thus, we're stuck with Nikon's software and what can be reverse-engineered by third parties. Wanna bet if any of that will run on Windows XPLICIOUS 2020? Mac users have already experienced direct suffering: Capture didn't have the performance on Macs it did on PCs, for instance, and some features, such as tethered operation took more than six months to appear for Mac users who owned D100's. While Nikon's software has gotten better with time, it matures slower than any of us would like it to, compatibility with third party products is going backwards, and each new camera seems to require substantive new releases rather than plug-in support. Meanwhile, there are things in the EXIF data that need documentation, too. Overall, Nikon risks being just enough proprietary that it'll see yet another mass migration of pros if Canon ever wises up and releases this kind of information.
  • A real lens plan. With the exception of the 18-x consumer zooms, Nikon's lens introductions over the past five years seem almost random in nature. Nikon needs to reassure those of us that bought the previous 30 million plus lenses in the following ways:
    • New lenses will be G-type. (Yes, I know that doesn't "reassure" all you manual focus afficionados, but it does make it clear that now is the time to buy lenses with aperture rings if you need them, and that future products won't use aperture rings.)
    • Future long lenses (zooms and fixed telephotos) will have VR. This is needed even more now that some companies feature shake mitigation at the sensor. Nikon users need to know that they are not going to be passed by technology-wise.
    • All future professional lenses will be AF-S (unless it simply isn't practical for a particular design, such as Perspective Control lenses).
    • DX-type lenses (for the 1.5x field of view change) will be made for fill-in-the-blank years. Even if Nikon does eventually produce only full-frame digital SLRs, this statement is important to the now considerable used market for Nikon digital SLRs.
    • All lenses will be designed to a fill-in-the-blank standard. Digital SLR bodies are going to eclipse film resolution soon (at least the resolvable resolution the lens is capable of). We need to know what Nikon's target is for future designs. Are we talking 100 lppm? 200 lppm? What?
    • Parts for lenses will be available for fill-in-the-blank years after discontinuance. (I believe Nikon did state that once, but it needs to be restated.) This is again important to the used marketplace.
    • 62mm and 77mm really mean something to us. No more 67mm or even 72mm filter rings! I have two filter sets I use, and bringing along extra step-up rings just gives me one more thing to keep track of. Alternatively, tell us that 62mm is no longer the standard and that 67mm is the new "small" filter standard and try to keep to it.
  • Standardize the standard interface. No more button swapping! If the current command dial and button interface is going to continue to rule the roost, then it needs to be the same on every camera. No moving the exposure compensation button around (N80), no moving the flash exposure compensation button around (D100), no some-cameras-get-mode-dials-some-don't changes. Lock it down, it isn't broken! Yes, you may need some additional buttons for new features, but that should be part of your design today, not tomorrow (i.e., you figure out where and why now, not when you suddenly discover you need another button). The only area that needs a bit of a rethink is the digital-side button clutter (for example, the current D40/D80 usage is better than the D100/D200 usage). First, Nikon is overloading buttons (making buttons do more than one thing depending upon what "mode" the camera is in), second, there are simply too many buttons. LCD On/Off, Okay, Cancel, and the sensor pad are actually all that are necessary, IMHO.
  • Learn safe software practices! Losing frames in a buffer because the user turns the camera OFF prior to everything being saved onto permanent storage is just bad, bad, bad. Lock the slot until writing is completed.
  • Give us a feedback point. You don't have to do what we ask, since we're many millions of users all with differing opinions, but it would be nice if you asked us what we want and listened. Give us a Suggestion Box email address. Who knows, the feature that makes Nikons better than Canons might actually come from someone who uses the product!
  • Hire an ombudsman. Nikon Japan should hire Asian, US, and European ombudsmen. Each should have a modest budget and/or inventory at their disposal to resolve disputes and unusual claims. The ombudsman contact info should be part of every communication from Nikon to the user. Note to users: just because there's an ombudsman doesn't mean you'd be able to get the Nikon you threw across the room fixed for free overnight. It does mean that when something about the way Nikon has handled customer service goes bad (in your opinion), that there is a clear point-of-contact to see about possibly rectifying the problem, one that will look at the issue from your viewpoint first, then Nikon's.
  • Bring back the PCs. Anyone else miss having wide angle perspective control lenses? I do. Nikon proved that they could do a modern implementation with the 85mm Micro-Nikkor PC, so why don't we have a 24mm PC that can meter with new bodies? And while we're on lens wish lists:
  • Also build me these. I'd like: a fixed aperture telephoto zoom that went to 300mm, preferably with VR; an autofocus 400mm or 500mm f/5.6; an AF-S 85mm f/1.4 (or f/1.8 as a second choice); a wide angle lens with depth of field markings; a better 18mm f/2.8 than the current design; an AF 75-150mm f/3.5 (but keep this Series E reincarnation as small and light as possible).
  • Improve autofocus. Yes, I know that Nikon's autofocus system is still state-of-the art after half a decade in use, but better is well within the realm of possible. First, move the sensors on the CAM900 cameras. Instead of a +, we want an X array, with the points of the X at the one-third marks (the CAM1000 didn't get this right, by the way, so it still applies). And those outlying sensors need to be angled, even if only slightly. On the CAM1300 cameras, I'd argue to make all current sensors cross-hatched and add the four missing ones at the one-third points, giving us nine sensors overall (update note: Nikon did just that with the D2 series and the CAM2000 sensors!). In low light, use only the cross-hatched sensors. (Why does CAM900 get an X while CAM1300 retains the + plus adds the X? It has to do with the nature of the individual sensors. On CAM900 cameras--N65, N80, D100, S2, 14n--only the central sensor has low light and multi-direction capabilities. Moving the outlying sensors aren't going to change the autofocus performance, but will put those sensors in more useful positions. The CAM1300 cameras--F100, F5, D1 models--need the horizontal/vertical orientations for fast-moving objects, but have gaps in places where we pros often put our subject, thus the extra sensors. The CAM1000 cameras (D80, D200) didn't fix these things. The CAM2000 cameras (D2 series) did. Think more like the D2 and less like the D200 in the future, please.
    However, it's not just the sensor arrangement that could use some updating. I'm seeing more and more factory alignment issues, which doesn't bode well. Many of us subject our cameras to a large amount of vibration, too. The AF system needs to be either more robust or more user adjustable, or both. Finally, long-range accuracy with the exotic telephotos seems to be a little hit or miss, as does really wide angle use. Someone needs to reinvestigate what's happening in those situations.

The original version of this article also had these two items:

  • Abandon D-TTL. Fuji has proven that you can read reflections off the Bayer array, so there's no real need for the crippled D-TTL system any more. I'd rather have the Fuji's high ISO limitations than D-TTL's wireless and exposure limitations. And if for some reason D-TTL needs to live on, then see my earlier comment about documenting interfaces: Metz, et.al., should have full knowledge of how D-TTL works so that they can produce flashes with it. And if you have to stick with D-TTL:
  • An SB-29DX. So many beautiful close up lenses. Please let me use them fully with my digital SLRs!

Nikon did abandon D-TTL and gave us a much better i-TTL and a macro flash option (R1C1 instead of the SB-29DX I requested). However now my request is simply Document the flash system. The i-TTL system is underdocumented and has an enormous number of gotchas and caveats. It'd be nice to know them in advance rather than having to unearth them through experimentation.

You'll note that none of the things on my list is a full-frame digital SLR or a specific megapixel requirement. I'll be satisifed if Nikon simply continues to provide increased resolving power, essentially matching or exceeding the competition. I really don't care how they get there as long as I can use my current lenses and accessories and the other things hold true.

As for forward-looking features, here's a few to consider:

  • Powered USB drive support. Let me plug my Storix USB 2.0 portable hard drive directly into the camera. Save to the card first, save to the drive as backup (or give me a button that lets me dump from card to drive).
  • 802.11. Let me plug an 802.11 card into the CompactFlash slot instead of a storage card for untethered studio shooting. (A CompactFlash card with wireless capability was announced at CES in January 2003. And Nikon did introduce the WT-1, 2, and 3 with the D2h, D2x, and D200, respectively. Still, the integration is shaky and I don't want bulk added to my camera to get connectivity.)
  • Pre-exposure Histogram. Uh, there's a 1005-element CCD in the viewfinder of my D1x, why no way to see what it sees? And while we're previewing that, why not tell us what the camera thinks is the color temperature in the scene and give us the ability to override it (assuming we're in Auto)? And give me the ability to look at channels this way, too.
  • Tricked out EXIF. Okay, so you don't want to change from the DCIM folder and file name standards. Let me enter two values into two EXIF manufacturer-defined (comment) fields: Folder Name and File Name. Then, when Nikon PictureProject transfers my files, it looks at the EXIF data and uses what it finds there to control the transfer from camera/card to computer. Thus, when I might enter a File Name of WASHDC1-15-03- (which on my computer would give me numbered files, such as WASHDC1-15-03-0001, WASHDC1-15-03-0002, etc.) and a folder name of ZOO in the morning while I was at the National Zoo, then LINCOLN when I went to the Lincoln Monument that evening. Heck of a lot better than where we are right now, folks...
  • In camera crop. Select Crop from the Shooting Menu. The viewfinder first shows horizontal and vertical crop lines, which you move with the sensor pad (left/right=horizontal control, up/down=vertical control). The Crop stays until I cancel it, and all images are saved at that cropped size on the card instead of wasting extra space. Why do I want this? Well, I've got a 300mm lens when I need a 400mm. I can crop once in the field or I can crop every image when I get back to the office. Which do you think I'd rather do? [Interesting: I wrote this in 2003 and two years later Nikon announced a camera with a Hi-Speed Crop ability. Not quite what I was asking for, but it does fulfill the situation I described.]
  • Vibration Resolution. Okay, here's an out-there idea. At a fast shutter speed, why couldn't you take two frames with the CCD slightly offset? (Heck, for my type of photography, it would work for most shutter speeds unless it's windy out.) In one possibility, the two frames would be offset by exactly one photosite, meaning that every pixel point except the outermost columns would have two values already present (i.e., only one needs to be calculated). But I was thinking of putting the second image between photosites, essentially doubling resolution.
  • Smart release. If I press the regular shutter release, it's a horizontal picture. If I press the other shutter release (on a D1 model), it's a vertical picture. Save 'em that way! For the bodies that don't have two releases, either put in a detection switch that senses the body's physical position, or give me a small switch next to the shutter release that I can move to the correct rotation position. [Nikon did this; but I left it here for historical purposes.]
  • Zone spot meter. Here's a thought: for each digital camera calculate the available dynamic range then give us a "zone spot meter." With this function active, you press the AE-L button (after configuring it via Custom Settings to Zone Spot) and then meter an object and use the Rear Command dial to place it on a zone (the zone number is shown in the viewfinder and top LCD). For example, the D1 and D100 models have about a 7 stop useful range, thus middle gray is zone 3.5 (actually, 18% gray is probably more like 4), last useful highlight detail is zone 7, and last useful shadow detail is zone 0. I meter on a dark tree trunk at zone 2. Press the AE-L button again to lock that exposure.

If you've got other ideas, send me an email and I'll add the best ones to this list, just in case someone from Nikon ever bothers to enter "Nikon suggestions" in their Google toolbar.

  • 200mm f/2. (suggester: Jeff Amidon). Nikon actually made four versions of this manual focus wonder, but never created an AF version. Those of us who shoot indoor sports want one, preferably with AF-S. [Well Jeff, they listened to you. Perhaps you'd like to make some other suggestions?]
  • Battery holders for Speedlights. (suggester: Jeff Hogan, no relation). Quickly changing AA batteries in a Speedlight without having at least one fall on the floor is a future Olympic event. I'd argue that any of the Nikon professional products that use AA batteries really ought to have battery trays/holders that can be preloaded and quickly swapped.
  • Extended range multiple exposures. (suggester: Scott Robertson). This mode takes two bracketed, sequential images, then combines them into a single image to increase dynamic range. [Might work with completely static subjects, but poses a problem with any movement in the scene.]
 

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