A Long Absence And Nikon’s Current status (March 2017)

Singapore 2017: Life Among GeometrySingapore 2017: Life Among Geometry
(Nikon D610, Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G Micro)

It has been a long time since I last posted. The main reason is because of work – in a single month I was out of the country for three weeks. I also had some problems with my home which saw a lot of necessary rectification works. As a result, I did not get around to post as often as I hoped to.

The good news is that things are just starting to settle down. The rectification works are still ongoing, but at least I managed to find a little time to post this.

I want to talk about the Nikon of March 2017. From my previous posts I had hypothesized that Nikon will finally reveal the successors for the D750 and D810 at CP+ 2017. Unfortunately and surprisingly, this was not the case. Apparently the scope of restructuring and retrenchment at Nikon was more severe than anyone could have guessed. Nikon basically turned up at CP+ 2017 which was held in their own home territory with nothing new to show. This is causing a fair amount of uncertainty among Nikon users. Those users who have already switched brands to Fujifilm, Sony, or other camera companies are justifiably hugging themselves for making the decision to abandon what appears to be a failing company. In all fairness, this does not seem like a bad decision at this point!

Before I continue, let me talk about my own working experience. I spent a total of 7 years working for an Asian company with about 25,000 employees worldwide, doing business in multiple sectors and listed on the stock exchange. In other words, a company that is somewhat similar to Nikon in its scope of business diversity, size and hierarchical organization. It is not uncommon for semblances of “top-down” and “ivory-tower” mentalities to take root in management in such large companies. To be blunt, it is absolutely not unusual for people to end up in management positions managing a business that they know nothing about. Needless to say, this kind of management organization creates a lot of ineffectiveness.

Just as I had seen this happening in my previous company, I see the exact same thing happening at Nikon. Some of the problems you see with Nikon can only be a result of serious problems in the management ranks. What makes it worse is that there are some serious problems in some key management positions, putting the entire Imaging business at risk. Everything you like about Nikon is related to their technology – the work of the engineers in R&D. Everything that seems to be wrong with Nikon is a result of some dubious decisions made by some key persons in leadership.

I did not start paying attention to Nikon until the turn of this decade. However even I could count an embarrassing number of failures which are totally management related:

Nikon was the original Japanese camera company. But somehow Canon overtook them to take the number 1 position. Not only is Canon in still photography, they have expanded their business to include professional print and video. They have a vertical solution in imaging and has a vision about the future of this business. In comparison, Nikon appears to be stuck in the analogue age and still concerned with trying to sell cameras and lenses. The imaging business today has gone way beyond this kind of antiquated business mindset.

 The D600 sensor splash scandal should have been dealt with immediately, instead of having it drag out for so long. Even when Nikon finally released a statement about the matter, they never directly conceded that it was their fault.

The Nikon Singapore photography competition photoshop scandal just shows that this company is hiring people who have no clue about the state of modern photography.

They went with a mirrorless product line that is not only super-small with a 2.7x crop, but absolutely over-priced for what it is. The CX mount is so small that it could never scale up to accept full-frame lenses should they ever need to.

The Nikon 1 actually had an industry-leading focusing system when it was released, light-years ahead of all the competition. But Nikon did absolutely nothing to leverage on this technological advantage, such as adopting it on their larger-format camera bodies or making a strong push of Nikon 1 for the serious enthusiasts. Well now all of Nikon’s competitors have pretty much caught up with them in this aspect. Keep sucking your thumb, Nikon.

There are two different camera button layouts in Nikon’s DSLRs. We have the “professional” layout on the D8xx, D500, D4/D5. We also have the “consumer” layout on everything else. Management wants to create some form of “exclusivity” to defend the pricing differentiation in their product line. However this just creates confusion and usability barriers for customers who want to use different camera bodies simultaneously. This is classic “ivory-tower” management decision-making that degenerates your own product line.

Dear Nikon, nobody likes memory banks on your “professional” bodies. We prefer the user-configuration banks on your “consumer” bodies. Why do you continue to empower your competition?

Why is Nikon wasting time with Nikon Image Space? Why create something that is 10-to-100 times lousier than the free cloud alternatives out there? The management does not know Dropbox, Google Photos, iCloud and OneDrive exist and thought they were doing something new? Are they dried-out zombies who never used a smartphone in the last decade and don’t know what services are available to everyone? Now I am genuinely getting scared.

Was SnapBridge created by college/university interns who got to work with Nikon’s technology teams for a couple of months? Because it is quite rubbish. There are about 15 SnapBridge tutorials on Nikon’s Youtube channel now. Having to release that many video tutorials to guide users how to use a mobile app is concrete evidence of incompetence. For goodness’ sake pay good software developers to make software for you.

How could the D3400 and D5600 be green-lighted with nothing more noteworthy than the addition of Snapbridge? (Which, as explained earlier, is quite rubbish.)

Just when Nikon managed to price the Nikon-1 sensibly with the J5, they appear to pull the plug on the entire product line. Management actually had no clue that over-pricing was what doomed the Nikon 1?

Cancellation of the entire DL lineup after a 1-year delay.

And probably many more that I can’t think of now…

Nikon is a company which is clearly in management-driven self-inflicted decline for a long while now. I hope they fire the right people in this retrenchment exercise they are going through, because evidence shows that there are a lot of clueless aristocrats sitting in the management ranks.

But what about the end users?

I do not think people should switch camera brands unless there is a clear alternative with the right set of cameras, lenses, performance and price for the things they want to do. In addition, the switch should actually help you take better pictures! Switching brands is not a cheap exercise, and discovering that you just fled a set of grievances to run smack into another set of new grievances is not a productive thing to do with your time and money. Perhaps that is the reason I am not leaving Nikon yet. To me, there really isn’t a camera company that provides me a proper fit for what I am looking for. Of course, that may not be the case for those of you reading this. Perhaps Nikon will be a better imaging company after their restructuring exercise. Perhaps not. Either way, I may well be making a decision on switching formats by the end of the year due to certain photography needs I am looking for. We all need to make a decision sometime eventually.

Maybe next week I’ll write a quick article to describe the merits and demerits of the Japanese camera companies now. Until then, let’s just keep making pictures! – WY

2 comments

  1. It’s sad, because it’s so avoidable – but, of course, not by the people presently in power. And isn’t that always the case. I’m 75 and have used SLRs and DSLRs since 1966. I’ve had the opportunity to watch many companies go the way of Nikon.

    In the late 1980s we had the fat cats at MicroPro who killed WordStar, the best writer’s word processor ever. Then we had AT&T’s personal computer business which was run by fat cats for fellow fat cats and ignored the everyday user with pockets full of cash. And then…and then. These companies reach a critical point where they either find the humility to reorganize and invite clueful people to take over (as the San Francisco 49ers organization appears to be doing, and as it did in the early 1970s). Or they die.

    It’s really too bad about Nikon. The Nikon engineers did marvelous things with that tiny CX sensor. See http://livingwisdomschool.org/head-heart-ch-3-first-steps-living-wisdom-school/ and http://livingwisdomschool.org/head-heart-ch-5-visit-third-grade/.

    I am just stunned when I go back and look at the photos I took in school classrooms with the V1. But then, the CX was doomed to die because of its limitations – it was crap for low-light shooting, where it turned everybody’s skin into sand. That’s why I now shoot with a Canon 6D, because of Canon’s superb customer support, and it’s largely customer-driven innovation – i.e., they know how to put money where it counts.

    Always, when companies fail because of top management’s lazy fat-cat attitudes, it comes down to a crisis of ego. For Nikon, the solution might be to turn over management of its research and engineering divisions to brilliant young execs who place the customer above all else; and then turn over support to execs who understand that great support can absolutely help a company thrive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your feedback. It is disappointing to bear witness to a once-great organization in decline for all the wrong reasons. I am certain you will do well with Canon’s equipment. I may also start blogging about Canon equipment by the end of this year, depending on Nikon’s performance in the next 6 months. 😛

      Like

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