No Time Like The PreseNT

Camera - - WHAT’S NEW - Paul Bur­rows, Editor.

WHAT ArE we to take from Nikon’s re­cent con­fes­sion that it’s work­ing on a new mir­ror­less cam­era sys­tem? The im­pli­ca­tion, clearly, is that it’s not an­other 1 Nikon model based on that sys­tem’s tiny sen­sor. And be­sides, it looks to be the end of the road for 1 Nikon, at least as we’ve known it.

So… there’s the tim­ing for starters and, specif­i­cally, the ar­rival of Sony’s A9. Sony is mak­ing no bones about the fact that it’s gun­ning for both Canon’s and Nikon’s top-end D-SLRs with this model, and the A9 story is just about com­pelling enough to ini­ti­ate a sub­stan­tial num­ber of de­fec­tions. Then there are also the se­duc­tions of Fu­ji­film’s GFX 50S with its big­ger sen­sor, but even the ‘APS-C’ X-T2 is al­ready mak­ing in­roads into D-SLR ter­ri­tory, as is Olym­pus’s OM-D E-M1 II and Pana­sonic’s GH5. Pre­sum­ably an ul­tra-high-res A9R isn’t too far away and, if you were Nikon, you’d have to a bit ap­pre­hen­sive about what the next-gen X-T3 or GH6 might look like. Nikon’s an­nounce­ment may just be enough to stop brand devo­tees from jump­ing ship, but it’s go­ing to have to come up with a bit more de­tail for this strategem to be ef­fec­tive for very long.

There’s an­other as­pect to the tim­ing too… Nikon sim­ply doesn’t have too much time left if it’s to re­main a key player in the in­ter­change­able lens cam­era (ILC) mar­ket. Any­body who has al­ready switched to Sony or Fu­ji­film isn’t go­ing back and, per­haps more im­por­tantly, buy­ers who might have hap­pily bought a com­pet­i­tive Nikon mir­ror­less cam­era right now are go­ing else­where. Canon is ar­guably in the same boat here as the EOS M5 doesn’t re­ally tick all the nec­es­sary en­thu­si­ast cam­era boxes, but you get the sense that there’s more of a plan here.

Of course, Nikon has the huge rep­u­ta­tion of its brand to buy it time and, don’t for­get, it has turned the cam­era world up­side down once be­fore… back­ing the un­proven 35mm SLR against the more pop­u­lar rangefind­ers and TLRs of the late 1950s. Even if you aren’t a Nikon D-SLR user or still un­com­mit­ted to a mir­ror­less sys­tem, you’d be tempted to wait and see what it’s go­ing to come up with in mir­ror­less, espe­cially as it’s promis­ing “…the ul­ti­mate optics per­for­mance, im­age­pro­cess­ing tech­nolo­gies, strength and dura­bil­ity, and op­er­a­tion”.

So how long will we have to wait? Nikon has dropped teasers be­fore and then al­most im­me­di­ately fol­lowed them with a real prod­uct an­nounce­ment, but this doesn’t re­ally feel like one of these oc­ca­sions, mainly be­cause of the tim­ing. That said, it would a big deal to launch such a sig­nif­i­cant new cam­era dur­ing the 100th an­niver­sary year, echo­ing the tri­umph of the F, but then there’s not much time left for that, is there? Next year is a Pho­tok­ina year (well, ac­tu­ally ev­ery year will be, from now on), but Nikon hasn’t used this show as a launch pad for any­thing im­por­tant for decades. CES 2018 then… as per the D5 and D500 in 2016? Maybe, but that would mean the cam­era is ready to go now, and you re­ally don’t get that im­pres­sion from what’s been re­vealed so far… which is ba­si­cally noth­ing. How­ever far away it may be, it’s all ex­tra time in the sun shine for Sony et al to con­tinue mak­ing hay.

And what can we ex­pect? Who knows, but the ba­sics would have to com­prise a ful­l35mm sen­sor (36 MP will do nicely) with phase-de­tec­tion AF, sen­sor shut­ter ca­pa­ble of 1/32,000 se­cond, 20 fps or faster, 4K video, fully weather-proofed bodyshell, 4.0 megadots or bet­ter EVF, touch­screen mon­i­tor, dual mem­ory card slots and a bat­tery-grip op­tion. In terms of the es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ents then, this looks a lot like an A9, but sprin­kling on a bit Nikon magic has the po­ten­tial to cook up an even tastier dish.

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