Evolution – Nikon style

This article is more about what I would like to happen in the near future…

Cameras evolve, users too – this is inevitable, and if a camera stays more or less ‘in time’ with events over a 5 year period, this is almost outstanding and shows a great deal of thought went into the initial design. Camera manufacturers don’t always want this, of course – they want people to buy at a regular interval, so while some critics bemoan the lack of forethought, it’s more likely designed-in to encourage us to keep ‘updating’.

The ‘pro’ range of most of the current camera manufacturers will usually escape this logic – their buying public are notoriously fickle and are likely to change brands at the drop of a hat, so in my experience the BIG manufacturers tend to go the whole nine yards, pushing the envelope as far as they can, within reasonable practical, and financial, boundaries. The middle-of-the-road and amateur models tend to get ‘splashed’ by the advent of certain ‘pro’ updates, but it’s fairly clear that while a ‘pro’ model will have a certain number of firmware updates during it’s life cycle, the others tend to be relaunched with a new model number.

The Nikon Z series is of particular interest to me. The two current camera bodies are identical – the only thing that changes is the sensor. To me, at least, this doesn’t make one body more or less ‘pro’ than the other, but Nikon are aiming to convince a lot of people that ‘mirrorless’ is the future, and unlike Canon who have marked their territory with an almost ‘pro’ version, and just last week, a much lower price (and specification) ‘public’ version of their full-frame mirrorless camera.

There are sadly a couple of things missing from the current Nikon offering, and frankly I’m at a loss to understand why. Neither can be ‘corrected’ with a firmware update, and both come down to a basic design flaw, in my mind.

1: Two button card reformat.

For quite a while now NIKON have used a simple ruse of letting the photographer press two buttons at once to reformat the memory card. For the most part this is on the ‘pro’ bodies, but can also be found on the D600 etc.

Nikon two button card reformat

Having been used to this for so long, it seems a little ridiculous to have to turn on the screen, go into the menus and find the « Reformat Memory Card » prompt. There are certainly enough buttons on the back of the damn camera… And like I say, this can’t really be corrected in a firmware update as the logos on the buttons would have to be added somehow.

2: Illuminated rear buttons

This is something I had for the first time on the D500 and then the D850 and frankly for someone who works a lot in dark or badly lit situations, it can be a huge help. Again, something else impossible to correct in firmware.

I can’t help asking myself questions regarding the future of the current Z series offerings. Were these two versions ‘rushed out’ to claim market share before Canon, and will now be ‘evolving’ with little add-ons from time to time? Will the Z8 or Z9 be announced with grand pomp « And on this model there are illuminated buttons etc. »

3: Virtual Horizon

This is displayed as one of the functions available on the ‘Disp‘ button at top right near the viewfinder, and not, as you would expect, as a programmable menu function. I find this awkard as it’s something I use fairly often, particularly with ultra-wide angle lenses. and it’s a pain to have to scroll through the display functions. This, unlike the previous elements, could be arranged with a firmware update.

Are Nikon waiting for the first feedback before launching the next generation of these bodies? I personally find this hard to believe – yes, of course they do listen to their user base, but anything coming out now went to design at least two years ago, in my experience. As it is I’ve already been in contact with Nikon France with two annoying ‘problems’ which while they aknowledge the existance, can not offer solutions…yet…

Will there be a more fundamentally ‘pro’ body in the future? A sort of D6/Z? In many ways I’m surprised that Nikon weren’t able to engineer the FTZ lens adaptor with an internal motor to drive the AF feeler – to enable us to use older AF-D lenses with full autofocus. I doubt this is a priority as Nikon know that people LOVE buying new lenses, so why make it so easy to use the older ones. As the electronics are already present in the camera body, and if Nikon aren’t interested, a third party manufacturer could come up with an FTZ-2 which could do this… I for one would be interested!