I just spent the better part of a night wading through several dPreview threads (150,111,and 87 posts) in which Thom Hogan was blasted by a few Nikon loyalists who took him to task for written comments he has made recently. I'm not surprised,either. Hogan has made many written comments that aren't flattering to Nikon,and in recent weeks he's made a few of what he characterizes as "provocative" comments. The reason he's made so many unflattering comments about Nikon is that Nikon has some real problems with its performance as a company,and with some of its equipment lineup,and with the way it handles NPS issues and problems, and with its insular nature. Yeah, Hogan got kind of blasted on dPreview, and most all of the criticism he received was undeserved. I've been blogging about most of the issues Hogan has identified as problems with Nikon and their products for quite some time. The Fanboi culture that has sprouted up among new digital converts to Nikon reared its head throughout these threads,along with sane writings from a few people like Scrutneys Nut Pea Funch, ednaz, and a few others who are longtime shooters. It's weird that so often,the people newest to Nikon are the staunchest defenders of the company,the company,the company, while others show the ability to maintain open-minded ideas about Nikon,and about the other companies and their products which compete with Nikon and its products.
As Hogan recently wrote, Nikon does a lot of things right, and he brings up some of the things Nikon does not do right so that they might be able to improve on those things too. I think that's a good thing. He's on the side of Nikon USERS, Nikon shooters, and Nikon-using and Nikon-buying photographers. Trashing on Thom Hogan for "negativity" is stupid. Hell, he's advocating for better products...for clear company-to-consumer communication....for new lens designs...for some improved camera models with better performance....for better NPS support for pro members. Cripes, what _is_ the problem people? He's not attacking a company you own or run or even work at. He's advocating for better equipment and more-modern lenses and for better business practices. Am I missing something? Who loses when Nikon responds to pressure and makes better equipment? The internet has spawned the growth of something almost like college football rivalries--where "companies that compete with" (and against?) Nikon are viewed with a degree of derision that's like old-time college football rivalry hatred. A small but noticeable segment in the Nikon Stadium is the Fanboi Zone.
I think that the careful,critical analysis and comments about how to approach customers,how to approach markets, and how to approach and deal with NPS members is something Nikon could listen to Hogan about. I'm not impressed with how Nikon has handled Quality Assurance issues in the digital era--there have been a number of widespread QA problems with various Nikon gear in the d-slr era.The D1 and its bad banding and the "D1 silent upgrade program" ,the D2h dead meter syndrome, the D70 blinking green light of death issue,and the D200 banding fiasco, as well as the supply problems with D200 batteries due to the recall of so many bad batteries, the 12-24, the 17-55, D70 supply problems, D200 body supply problems,etc. My second Torrance repair job got me a $704 repair bill for a depth of field preview button failure from Nikon,Torrance which I had my dealer reduce to $500--then I found out at home that the repair had been BUNGLED, with only 50% of the DOF preview function restored! Not pleasant! The widespread electrical malfunction that crippled so many 70-200VR lenses was one mass QA bungle that affected me personally--the early 70-200VR lenses were done in by a pretty basic design fault that rendered them useless due to electrical contact problems....my $1,699 70-200VR functioned for only a very short time, then needed to be returned for upgrading,as did countless other peoples' lenses. Frankly, Nikon as a company is not without faults and weaknesses, and frankly the imaging market is changing,and people demand a lot,and deserve a lot of value for the kind of money they are paying for today's better cameras and lenses. Nikon can stand a little heat from Thom Hogan,or any other industry observer. There's no need to defend Nikon from mere words. Nikon ought to be glad it gets any press and ink at all--I bet Olympus would love to be in a position where anybody even cared enough to write about them as a company.
Where to begin is difficult. Here are some URL's for those of you who missed the flap. I missed the flap myself,and only went back and read about it three days afterward. A big can of worms was opened up in this thread, which was entitled
"Next Generation upgrades for D3". It went eight pages and 150 posts, and spun off several threads with Thom Hogan being sort of the fulcrum point of the threads,except for the thread "Thom Hogan's remarks", in which others basically stepped in after all the fallout,and sort of said their piece.
A thread entitled simply "Thom Hogan"
Thom says here,"...we can all just sit here and twiddle our thumbs until the Nikon Designers bless us with another product and we can then accept it fully as it is, or we can speak up and say what it is that we want and why."
Thread entitled "I'm still confused Thom.continuation" is at
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1021&thread=22014881&page=1 and shows some ire being aimed Hogan's way.
A third thread entitled "Thom Hogan's remarks" begins at http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1021&message=22029778
These long threads basically center around Hogan's comments about Nikon and Nikon products. The issues are really not just Thom Hogan's issues, but issues that are much bigger than he is. Nikon does not acknowledge Thom Hogan as a Nikon expert,and the company and he have no official ties,and he has by his own account, no direct ties to the company,and his inside sources at Nikon are not what would be considered numerous nor are they "main-line" type sources shall we say. But he HAS MADE A LIVING and he has developed a base of knowledge from his various Nikon equipment e-books, and he's also done a very nice CD-ROM Complete Guide To The FujiFilm FinePix S5 Pro, which I own and think was a nice guidebook on disc. Basically, Thom Hogan has recently distilled Nikon's woes down to about four main areas where Nikon is performing poorly. And of course, he's also touched upon some other real,significant problem areas with Nikon, both in terms of its products and its roadmap and business plans for the future.
Hogan's comments surrounding the next-generation Nikon D3 camera(s) drew a lot of heat. If there's a thread that you OUGHT to read, it's this one of the four at http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1021&thread=21954111&page=1
Hogan has made it clear that Nikon has been unable to stop the migration of top shooters away from Nikon and to the Canon system,and that Nikon's current actions and products and unclear marketing message/lack of public roadmap are seriously failing to stop the migration toward Canon gear. Nikon has maintained for a long time that the DX-sized sensor is "the way to go". And Hogan's top camera of choice is still the Nikon D2xs, and he'll also select the Nikon D200 for some uses. But he's not a Fanboi,and he's not a newbie who needs brand-loyalist yes-man talk about Nikon to make himself feel good about his investment in Nikon cameras and flashes and lenses. Check out his Nikon writings at http://www.bythom.com/nikon.htm
The underlying problems with Nikon and its products, as Hogan sees it, are pretty closely in line with my own opinions about Nikon,and I think the blasting Hogan got was largely from people who misconstrued what he was saying,and also from people who by and large are a little bit too insecure about their favorite brand. I know what it is like to take heat and flak from brand loyalists who absolutely can not stand criticism of their "brand", and who can not stand cold,hard,factual comparisons between cameras and equipment where the facts do not happen to agree with preconceived,brand-loyalist dogma. Nikon has some problems,both as a company,and with its products,and with its manufacturing and distribution arms. Nikon has LONG been a very cold, stand-offish,insular,Japanese company with very little interface with its actual customers. That's my experience,as a Nikon user since 1982. Nikon has always been kinda' slow to respond,in my experience.
It's hard to write about somebody else,and who said what,and who was right about what and who was wrong.I've been using Nikon cameras and lenses as my main 35mm film system since 1982,and have been shooting Nikon digital since I bought my very first digital camera, which was the Nikon D1 in early 2001. I've owned the D1, D1h,D70,and D2x Nikons and the Fuji S1 and S2 Pro models, as well as the EOS 20D. Each of those cameras had strong points and weak points. And that's really the issue now with Nikon as a company, and as a product line--it has both strong and WEAK points, or weak areas. The Fanboi culture cannot seem to understand that Nikon has *real* issues, and real *gaps* in its product matrix. Nikon is not perfect.
As Hogan pointed out, the D1 garnered a lot of interest in Nikon digital,and was a landmark camera. But since that time, Canon has continually managed to pull ahead of Nikon,and to stay ahead of Nikon. Hogan's recent writings have lead to the topic of the Nikon D3 generation of cameras,and how Nikon is positioned in relation to Canon,as well as the rest of the imaging industry. Hogan's contentions are those of a guy who has made a living off of being a Nikon writer and Nikon "expert", as well as an avid outdoor/nature/backpacking photographer/writer/instructor. His guidebooks on Nikon cameras and flash have earned him respect and a fan base, and his www.bythom.com web site has a lot of useful articles and essays. He has recently conducted a lens survey (a copy of which I filled out and submitted via the web) to determine some points of view on the Nikon lens lineup and what current Nikon shooters say they want,and how badly they want what.
Thom Hogan is not anti-Nikon. He's not overly negative. He's a realist.He calls 'em as he sees 'em. Check out one of Hogan's newest Nikkor lens reviews, for the 18-200 VR at around $700. http://www.bythom.com/18200lens.htm Read the review and you'll find one of the most-popular consumer lenses for the D200 earning a very,very positive review. The 18-200 is the lens that most newbies aspire to own,since it does perform so well,over such a wide focal length range,at such a fair price for quality optics and high utility in a one-lens solution or "superzoom". Oh, and the lens has VR too!
One of the things that got Hogan blasted was the way he called attention to deficits in the D2H and D2hs camera models.He's positive on a great product, the 18-200 VR. But he's never been all that positive on the D2H or hs models. The D2x series models, despite vastly higher retail prices, have vastly,vastly OUT-SOLD the lower-MP D2H and hs models, which is kind of a problem, in that the D2H and D2hs models have represented a big,fat failure in the face of the Canon 1D Mark II at 8.2 MP and 8 frames a second, and the re-work of that to the EOS 1D Mark II-N with the larger 2.5 inch LCD screen and a tweak here and there. Nikon's been losing professional market share to Canon steadily, and Hogan is pointing out that the Nikon company is not approaching the market as well as it could, or as well as say, Canon is actually approaching and interfacing with the customers,through business channels and through product lines,and company press releases. AS Hogan points out, Nikon has offered customers nothing but DX-sized sensors, and diffraction isues prevent cramming more megapixels onto a DX-sized sensor without coming up against the noise demons and DIFFRACTION issues that severely limit one's f/stop choices. The D2x is about the end of the line...12.4 MP on a DX-sized sensor is about it,right now. Or so it seems. Nikon's simply going to have to go to BIGGER SENSORS,and soon. But when????
Nikon's D2H and D2Hs at 4.1 MP with wacky sensors have been clobbered by the 8.2 megapixel EOS 1D Mark II and the 1D Mark II-N cameras. The D2H and 1D Mark II class cameras are the sports/photojournalism/wedding/generalist type cameras of professional grade and high ruggedness. Nikon has simply not been able to be competitive in this class. And professionals have looked to Canon cameras in this class in ever-increasing numbers. Nikon's own IN-HOUSE developed sensor, a 4.1 Megapixel LBCAST sensor, has been in the D2H and D2hs. The LBCAST sensor premiered in the D2H. Sony's first CMOS sensor premiered in the Nikon D2X. D2H, D2X, both had first-of-their-kind sensors as features. Think about it for a bit.
The simple truth is that Canon is pulling away from Nikon at the "Serious User" end of the market,and Nikon's lens lineup and body offerings are starting to seem,well, too narrow to satisfy the "majority" of the serious user market. The higher-end shooters like to have the biggest,best system from which to assemble their kit. With three types of bodies, Canon has the body thing down well. And Canon has a decided advantage in many lens classes. Not all, but many. I myself think Nikon needs to consider changing the way it approaches the market of making cameras and lenses. I've felt for over two decades that Nikon's higher-end amateur models were the best Nikon cameras available in terms of bang-for-dollar spent, and the FM/FE, FM-2 and FE-2, N8008,and N90 series models offered tremendous apability for their price,size,and weight. Today, the Nikon D200 is the high-end amateur camera oofering the best bang-for-dollar-spent value proposition. Where I myself would like to see Nikon go is slightly away from the traditional pro lens lineup and into something more modern and discretely different from the pack. But Nikon's not actively working to expand its system to cover the type of things a lot of pros and serious shooters want and expect these days. More MP, better ISO performance, and better software integration with Adobe Photoshop are problem areas for Nikon products,as compared with Canon products. The white balance encryption stunt with the D2x was a major,major Nikon boner. A total screw-up. Totally without provocation,and just a major screw-up on Nikon's part,on behalf of Nikon shooters everywhere. Nikon Capture 4.x and Capture NX? Serious work still needs to be done on the software end by Nikon. Or better yet, serious software work needs to be contracted to a company fa,far outside Nikon--a company that understands how to develop modern software and write effective code and to find bugs BEFORE releasing the product.
I tell you what...I bought a D2x in May of 2005,and have been annoyed with the software hassles with D2x files and Adobe Photoshop and ACR and Capture 4.xx and Capture NX. Nikon got a few things right in Capture NX, BUT, and this is a big but, it's a buggy,crash-prone piece of software that's got a lot of weird quirks. Oh, and it crashes. And did I mention it has a lot of weird quirks and interface problems not found in Photoshop's ACR or Bibble or SilkyPix or DPP? Sigh.
Nikon cameras are all DX-sized sensor models. Canon has given its customers three lines: Full-Frame, 1.3x high-speed-high-res generalist cameras, and the lineup of 1.6x cameras spanning beginner and semi-pro type models with the EOS Digital Rebel line and the 60D-10D-20D-30D series and now, the affordably-priced,high-resolution-low-noise camera, the EOS 5D, a 12.8 megapixel model that's not a 1-series, but is full-frame in its imaging chip size. Canon customers know a good deal about what Canon offers,which is a camera sensor size for every segment of the market. Nikon on the other hand, is offering only one sensor size, not three sizes, across all segments from beginner-amateur-serious amatuer-sports/event/generalist and finally the flagship segment. Nikon is being coy about full-frame,but the problem is that Canon will very soon announce a 22 megapixel full-frame 1-series body. Nikon's got nothing like that. But even worse, Nikon has no semi-pro, $2,000-$2,500 body that has a high-res sensor in a moderately-nice serious enthusiast type body like the F100 film camera of yore. In other words, Nikon is missing a full-frame sensored option in a D200-like body.In other words, Nikon is missing an EOS 5D, an economy full frame model.
But, even more significantly, Nikon is missing a killer sports/PJ/nature/generalist camera that has 8 or 10 megapixels,high FPS, high-performance AF, the awesome Nikon i-TTL flash system, and the killer battery system of the D2x. With, and this is the important part, a sensor that can deliver beautiful images at ISO 800,and doggone good ones at ISO 1600. With good color,and not this damned excessive infrared/excess magenta problem that renders so doggone many synthetic fabrics and black things as off-black. Nikon is getting its proverbial ASS KICKED in the sports/photojournalism/generalist camera market, where the D2H and hs models have been total sales FAILURES, with a lot of sensor-related complaints,such as too few MP for cropping, funky IR response making blacks look magenta and purpleish,shadow noise problems, color shifts, and in general a feeling that the sensor does not deliver image files on par with those from the 8.2 MP Canon competition. The EOS 1D Mark II and Mark II-N models have met with good,almost stellar approval,and eight-point-two QUALITY megapixels is a wonderful compromise that offers cropping capability, high resolution,reasonable file size economy, and good workflow speed and modest archiving needs. WITH a fully professional camera body to go with a damned good CMOS sensor.
Nikon's counter-offerings to the EOS 1D Mark II and Mark II-N, the D2 series models H and hs,have been sales failures. Failures. There have been vastly more D2X and D2Xs-series camera sold than the h-variants. Which is not right. Nikon's generalist camera I recommend to people is the D200, not the D2Hs. It's a sad state of affairs. Nikon's best High-ISO camera might now be the D40,'cause it sure as heck isn't a D2x series model. What I did not really realize when I bought the D2X was that it was really a high-resolution studio camera. Not a field camera. It is clearly best at the lowest ISO ranges,and it does very poorly at anything other than moderately high ISO settings. But at lower ISO settings, under "controlled conditions" or in-studio, the D2X is a phenomenal camera. I bought it after reading the Thom Hogan review of it, and I was disappointed in the camera's performance at the highest "elevated" H-series ISO notches,which I think was and is a lot weaker a performance than his review described it as being. At lower ISO's the D2X is a quite amazing machine, but its small,high-density sensor has very tighly-packed,small photoreceptors,and it is prone to diffraction,so using the smaller apertures (smaller than about f/13, like f/16 or f/22) are really killer on the final image quality. The D2x demands a lot of shot discipline and paying attention to the technical fundamentals,and it is,in my opinion, a pretty poor "generalist" type of camera.
The D3H needs to be one heck of a camera,in my opinion. Nikon's simply got to do one hell of alot BETTER against the EOS 1D Mark II-N. That means 10 MP, fast firing,and damned good image quality,at all ISO's. With good autofocus,and a reliable body. And did I say Nikon finally needs to get a handle on this excessive near-infrared sensitivity that's been screwing things up? Oh,and with no banding either,thank you.
Where Nikon does seem to be doing better is in the image processing arena,with its newer cameras D50,D80,and D40. Nikon's gotten better at implementing the right kind of curve application to the capture to give the in-camera JPEGs or the RAW+JPEG file jpegs some snap and has moved away from the heretofore typical dull-drab,kinda' blah "Nikon look" on RAW captures and even JPEG files. The consumer and advanced amateur camera segment with the D200-D50-D80-D40 models is really Nikon's best lineup ever in terms of fitness for purpose, in my opinion. But at the generalist or PJ camera level, Nikon's D2H and D2Hs models have been,well, a bit disappointing. And so have Fuji's oferings for the past couple years with the S3 Pro,which had a very low adoption rate until its price got to about 60% and then 50% and then 40% of its premier price point...the S3 Pro was perceived as overpriced and under-performing,as was the D2H and D2hs model duo. Nikon's been missing with the pro-level cameras D1h and D2H and D2hs,and to an extent, the D2X series of two models has been a bit of a missi in that the D2X and D2xs models are not really generalist cameras, but are really much more capable as studio cameras and low-ISO cameras.
Nikon is losing professional and serious enthusiast shooters to the Canon system. Nikon has had some pretty serious supply problems on many popular,new,key cameras, key lenses and key accessories since 2001. The NPS system has become a joke. Nikon seems quite out of touch with the wants and needs of the top end of the market,and has been beaten in two of the more prestigious camera segments. I would not mind seeing Nikon shift its emphasis away from the pro market,and more toward what I like to call the serious enthusiast market, with more lenses that are ABOVE the current standards for mid-level lenses, but below the prices for the really exotic lenses. In other words, I'd like to see Nikon focus its lens design efforts on creating some NEW LENSES that are not derived from 35mm film-based lens designs that have been kicking around for years and years. Instead of the 300 2.8, Nikon ought to consider developing say a 250mm f/2.5, or a 50-150 f/2.8 or a 70mm f/1.2 or 1.5, as well as a 50-250 f/2.8 or any number of straight 1.5x equivalent wide-angle lenses with fast maximum apertures. Nikon really,really,really needs to plug in the lens system gaps. Many lenses need re-designs,or complete re-thinks. Nikon's prime lens designs are aging,and the wide-angle,fast lenses are MIA.
PMA 2007 is just a short ways away. We'll see if Nikon has any significant announcements. Nikon sure could use some good news to get people more enthusiastic about Nikon as a system choice. I think for the hobbyist shooters and general mom and pop professional photography, Nikon has an amply broad and deep system to choose a kit from. But I do think that Nikon is *lagging behind* is some lens segments. With some seriously OUTDATED mechanical designs that have poor focusing characteristics, and which are simply nowhere near state of the art, despite representing the high end of the Nikon lineup. The good thing is that the NEWEST Nikkor professional lenses, like the 105 VR micro and the 200 f/2 VR and the 200-400 VR and the new 300/2.8 VR and the 70-200 VR, are major hits with those that can afford them. The bad thing is that the majority of the Nikkor lens lineup is,well, kind of old now,and there are still a lot of missing lenses for a camera company that's just about hit the end of the Dx-sized sensor gravy train at 12.4 MP.
Nikon needs to find a way to get its cameras into higher resolution with lower noise levels and better imaging quality,and it seems that the Dx-sized sensor has about topped out at 10 to 12 megapixels, or we need to have some massive breakthroughs in sensor design and performance. Canon's moving quite fluidly and well through the 1.0x-1.3x-1.6x sensor size fields,as appropriate,to get the best mix of performance and imaging characteristics....Nikon is still sticking to 1.5x or DX-sesored cameras,and as the D2x proves, there's a limit to how small the photosites can be and still give the kind of imaging we all demand from a professionally-priced camera. Nikon's got some sensor issues to solve. Nikon needs to get a full-frame sensored option on the market,or make an announcement about it reasonably soon if it wishes to stop the migration toward Canon at the higher end of the market. At the consumer end of the market, the NEWEST small Nikons offer a lot, and the D200 and D80 and D50 and the very-newest D40 models are offering a lot. But those two "professional cameras" Nikon has right now, D2Xs and D2hs, are really not offering Nikon the kind of market penetration Nikon gets with its newer,more-competitive lower market cameras. Nikon's REALLY got some issues in the higher-end product line. I payed $5,000 for a D2x....I'm kind of disappointed that as a total "generalist tool", the EOS 20D at 1/3 the price offers 80 percent of the same quality and capabilities, but better PICTURES at higher ISO's than the pro Nikon.
The D2x is a lousy sports camera, and it's a lousy generalist tool as well. It's a studio camera, and a low ISO camera. When I bought the D2x, my only other professional body choices in F mount were the D2Hs for $3,499 or the FujiFilm S3 Pro for $2,499. There was no D200 then. No D80. Adding an 's' to a D2x has not been enough of an update for Nikon. It has been two years since the D2x was introduced,and it still represents the best Nikon can do in a professional camera. No wonder so many people are disappointed, and no wonder so many people have switched to Canon's 1D Mark II N 8.2 MP model,and to the EOS 5D,or to the 20D or 30D for that matter.
Nikon still has a lot of work to do in the serious camera and serious lens segments. Nikon's doin' great at the consumer end of the market and product matrix, but they do indeed have some serious issues that just are not inspiring confidence at the higher end of the market.