The Circular Path of “Information"

News—or in this case, the lack of news—travels in strange ways on the Internet these days. 

Nikon Rumors published an article last week refreshing everyone’s memory about the eight lenses on the Nikon Z-mount Road Map with the title “Nikon is expected to release eight new Z lenses in 2023”. Which then got picked up and mostly repeated by the Japanese rumor site Asobinet with the slightly more accurate title of “Summary of Nikkor Z lenses expected to appear in 2023”. Which then triggered an article on Mirrorless Rumors whose title is “List of all rumored Nikon cameras and lenses.” Curiously, Mirrorless Rumors adds a rumored Z70 camera to the list, which wasn’t in the Asobinet article, but is in Asobinet’s 2023 Rumored products list (a different article that’s been on that site for awhile). Joining the game was The New Camera blog in the UK, also cited Nikon Rumors as “the source.” (The actual source is Nikon’s Road Map, which has been out for many months, but my point is how one article produced on the Internet tends to trigger others.)

This is the way of news, rumors, and leaks these days: everyone is using “scrapers” that dredge up any article, and across many languages, that talks about any upcoming or new products. This isn’t just true of the camera sites, but you’ll find the problem repeated in basically all the tech sites, and it’s similar to what used to happen in the Hi-Fi and auto magazines, as well. 

Developing, cultivating, and working with original sources is tough. Over the course of 30 years of supporting (mostly Nikon) cameras on the Internet, I’ve had many good sources disappear and thus have had to cultivate new ones every couple of years or so. The few of us who do have direct sources for upcoming and previously unpublished information tend to be extremely careful about releasing it these days, for fear of damaging the source. Nikon, for example, terminated their relationship with two people who had provided information to me and others in the early DSLR days. 

For the most part I no longer write about upcoming products directly and with specifics. If I do write about something I instead only hint at a direction or change rather than being specific. I do use information I obtain early to start writing stories I’ll publish later, once the information has been either credibly leaked elsewhere or released by the manufacturer. I also adhere to date embargoes from the companies themselves, even when not under a direct NDA (non-disclosure agreement).

To put my “pre writing” in perspective, as I publish this article I also have 36 stories in progress for this site, about a half dozen that include some information that isn’t currently publicly available. (Don’t bother looking for them on the URL, as they’re not already there and hidden, but only on my office system awaiting release to the site.) I have similar lists of work in progress for my other sites, as well. Again, some with information that is not yet publicly available. 

However, let’s return to the lede and be clear about what those circular articles were writing about: Nikon currently has eight lenses on their published road map, two of which, according to statements from Nikon executives in published interviews, were supposed to appear by April 2022, but did not. Two have also have had development announcements recently (85mm f/1.2 and 26mm f/2.8). So:

  1. Given the current state of supply chain and logistical issues, it’s improper to put a time frame on anything at the moment. Products will appear when they appear. To my knowledge Nikon hasn’t ever backed away from doing any product on their Road Map, though there is some indication that they might have changed the attributes of one or more of the lenses along the way. A 24-105mm was originally strongly rumored and even discussed as such privately by some Nikon employees, and a spot for that lens which was unspecified in focal length was on the original Road Map. In the end it turned out to be a 24-120mm. I now wonder if the “extremely late” 200-600mm might have seen a similar change of some sort. Product development timelines and final specifications do change, not just during the early R&D phase, but sometimes as late as the release-to-manufacturing stage. (For those of you who don’t remember, I’ve described Nikon’s basic lens cycle as being a minimum of three years from concept to production, with three major engineering check points being what I’d call Final Conceptualization, Final Optical Design, and Manufacturing Prep. At the end of any of those steps, it’s possible that rethinking occurs and the schedule for that lens lengthens as a result.)
  2. Nikon very well may produce more than eight lenses in 2023, or perhaps a different eight than are on the Road Map. That was actually the case in 2021, where we got the surprise 18-140mm f/3.5-6.3 DX and 28-75mm f/2.8 lenses. Likewise, the 17-28mm was a surprise in 2022. By my count we’ve had four “surprise” lenses so far. I will say that there are at least two very specific lenses I’m pretty sure are nearing release to manufacturing that aren’t on the Road Map. But I don’t know if they’re going to actually get released to manufacturing, nor do I know if they’ll appear in 2023. But at least one of them could. In the topsy-turvy supply chain world at the moment, anything goes.
  3. The game is afoot. Sony, who hasn’t tended to talk about future lenses publicly, reversed direction last week and announced that they have a target release date for a 300mm f/2.8G OSS lens “in early 2024”, which realistically is at least a year way. It seems that the recent Canon RF-mount and Nikon Z-mount telephoto parades are starting to have an impact on the FE mount with the wildlife, sports, and photojournalism communities. At over 100mm, Canon RF currently has eleven lenses, Nikon has five (plus a Tamron and three in the Road Map), and Sony eight. All three mounts have gaps that need filling, and no one wants to look “weaker” than the other in this critical high-end focal range. 

The good news is this: in the month leading up to the big CP+ show in Japan we’re about to get a lot more clarity on many of the rumored items the photography press is ruminating about at the moment. I fully expect significant announcements from Canon, Nikon, and Sony. It seems unlikely that the other camera companies would miss this home field possibility, too, though Panasonic may have just made their early 2023 major announcement at CES instead (the S5 II and S5IIX). As I’ve written before, I believe Nikon was originally going to do the same (major CES announcement), but instead backed off to just the two-lens development announcement for items already on the Road Map. That says to me that a significant product originally intended to drop at CES turned out to not be ready. Let’s hope it is ready for CP+. 

Some of you with long memories will recall that there was a time in the teens when I pointed out that Nikon, and then Sony, had gone to a “let’s announce a new product every month” schedule In order to keep their products in the photography news stories. While both still tend to want to drop some form of press release as often as possible, in Nikon’s case for sure that has tended to be more diluted lately. 2022’s press releases gave us one camera, six lenses, and seven software/firmware updates. 

Thus, what happens is that we get lulls between anything of significance, and in the lulls, this circular Internet sourcing issue keeps going on for anything that might be considered a story. Mirrorless Rumors cited Absobinet. Absobinet cited Nikon Rumors. Had there been more to the original article, I suspect we’d have seen a chain or six or more in the circle (may yet happen, as I write this almost immediately after the initial sequence occurred). 

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