My Tiny Nikon #1 – How To Re-Launch The Nikon1 System

There’s certainly been a lot of buzz lately about a potential re-launch of the Nikon1 System.

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Talk of a new, impending, larger sensor, mirrorless system from Nikon is nothing new, but whether that system will house a full-frame, APS-C, or other sensor has been the burning question on the minds of Nikonians.

The latest speculation, that the sensor will be a larger (possibly 1.7x crop factor) for the CX mount originates from Thom Hogan and ‘talk from the trade floor’.

How likely is a Nikon1 re-launch?  We can only speculate. And those who know, aren’t saying.

But it does make sense to me given (what appears to be) the future direction of photography: smaller and sleeker,  more and better features, intuitive to use, and, above all, convenient. This is after-all not only the recipe for the iPhone’s success, but really the digitization and moderation… the evolution… of virtually all personal devices (and ‘yes’, for the majority of people, a camera is a ‘personal device’).

Add to that the R&D Nikon has already invested in the CX line, and the need for a successful innovative product to re-invigorate Nikon’s sales, and a Nikon1 re-launch seems all but inevitable.

Do I think a new, 1.7x crop-factor sensor will allow the 1 System to become successful?

Yes – I think it’s exactly what’s needed!

I love the small 1″ type sensor cameras (both Nikon and Sony) – the small bodies and lenses that it allows (re: the future of photography – smaller and sleeker…)

 

But the problem with Nikon’s implementation is that it is too far reaching.  That is to say, Nikon is too far ahead of its time. People are slow to adapt to change. Photo enthusiasts in particular can be quite Luddite-ish.

Sony took a small step into the future in offering their 1″ fixed lens cameras (RX100, RX10).  To DSLR shooters looking to ‘downsize’ to a travel- light option for more casual shooting, and for iPhone photographers looking to ‘upsize’ to something more photo-centric, the RX100/RX10 (and Canon/Panasonic/Other similar 1″ cameras) requires these shooters to take but a small baby-step.  A relatively minor adjustment for both groups.

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Nikon’s ask is much greater. They are asking iPhone photographers to not only carry an additional device (the camera) but also a handful of interchangeable lenses.   They are asking DSLR users to not just buy a fixed-lens back-up camera to throw in their bag as a one-and-done purchase, but rather to invest in a 2nd system of bodies, lenses and accessories just as they do with their DSLR system. In both cases, it’s a deeper dive down the rabbit-hole!

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Will a 1.7x crop factor sensor help the iPhone photographer make the jump? I think it will. A good (re: larger) sensor paired with a good kit zoom lens will give iPhone photographers the true (notable, better yet ‘comment-able’) bump in IQ they’re looking for, yet still be a smaller and lighter option than a DSLR. Let’s face it – these shooter are likely only going to use the camera with the kit lens. What Nikon needs to offer this group is a small, light, feature-rich, easy-to-use, convenient camera with much better image quality than their iPhone. A 1.7x crop factor sensor is a good foundation to work from.

But the biggest boon of using a 1.7x sensor may be its appeal to the DSLR shooters. DSLR shooters are willing to invest in a 2nd, smaller and lighter, system (including lenses and accessories). Many already do. There are plenty of Full Frame shooters who also have and use an APS-C or Micro Four-Thirds systems. But… investing in a ‘system’ is a commitment. An expensive commitment. Full-frame shooters know this, and deliberate long and hard before doing so. Yes, Full Frame shooters will invest in a 2nd system – but only one that meets their stringent requirements for image quality, lenses, design, features, and support. And the real truth here? The real truth is that most full frame shooters harbour the dream that this smaller system will one day even supplant their heavy, bulky, full-frame gear. They want to believe. The smaller system is, in essence, an understudy… an apprentice… the prodigal son… a proof-of-concept… the ‘reboot’.  However you want to say it, most full-frame shooters have high hopes and expectations of their secondary system. And I think a larger 1.7x sensor would be of great help in appeasing them.

Every camera systems has a thousands improvements or ‘tweaks’ that the users would like to see. No system is perfect, and the more we get, the more we want. I’d love to see the 1 system support Nikon’s CLS flash. I’d love to see it autofocus old, manual c-mount lenses. I’d love to see focus peaking… I’d love to see… well… you get the idea.  It would be easy for a camera manufacturer to become distracted by this long (often contradicting) ‘wish-list’. But let’s not.  Here are what I believe are the  CORE   things Nikon needs to do to re-launch the 1-System:

For iPhone Photographers:
1. Notably improved image quality from a larger sensor (has to be substantially better than an iPhone)
2. Better kit lens (they’re likely to only use the kit lens)
3. Better user interface including direct uploading to Instagram, Facebook, and the like.

For Photo Enthusiasts:
1. Notably improved image quality from a larger sensor (better IQ than the competing Micro 4/3 systems)
2. More and better lenses of all type (always the war cry of the enthusiast!)
3. Retro Nikon rangefinder design including integrated viewfinder (What? Something so superficial is ‘core’? Absolutely! Photography is meant to be cool… sexy – which includes camera design. Design sells. Sex sells. Yes, right now you’re vehemently denying the role that ‘looks’ play in camera design… you’re going on about ‘function over form’, ‘poser, hipsters and real photographers’, etc. You’ll never admit out loud what you know to be true. But we both know it is.

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4. Accepted By Professionals – Really?  This is ‘core’ to success of the Nikon1 system? Again – yes.  I know the Nikon1 is (currently) targeted to enthusiasts and not professionals. I know that most enthusiasts will never become professionals. But every enthusiast dreams of taking professional quality photos! Some will put in the time, effort, and hard work to improve their photo technique. Others (many?) will not. It’s a personal choice. But no enthusiast will buy into a system where the equipment limits or prevents them from doing so. And in fact, they want to be inspired by the equipment. They want to be inspired by other users of the equipment… by what the system can, potentially, do!  Sony knows this and have recruited ‘Ambassadors’ whose work they highlight on their Alpha Universe website. Fuji knows this and have done an excellent job highlighting talented photographers on their X-photographers website. Olympus knows this and has implemented their ‘Olympus Visionaries’ program and website.  Nikon not only needs professionals to endorse and recommend the 1 System, they need them to accept it. To use it in their daily work. To highlight it. To show what it can do. To inspire.

Will a Nikon1 re-launch inspire? I, for one, hope so!

Mars Observer

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “My Tiny Nikon #1 – How To Re-Launch The Nikon1 System

  1. Great insight. I hope Nikon figures it out in the end.

    I would like to add, because this seems to be lost on most westerners, that my understanding was and is that the real aim of the Nikon 1-system was to try to excite the Chinese consumer to get on board and start buying cameras. The whole system was not meant for us, it was aiming for a potentially far greater market than America or Europe. It would be a game changer if they pulled it off.

    Nikon seems to struggle to even register on their radar, however, and these are people who for the most part have no preconceived idea of what a “real” camera would even look like. Their only photographic reference would be the smart phone. Could it be that we will end up with two systems when the dust settles – one for us and one for “them”? Only time will tell, I guess.

  2. The crop factor on the old Nikon 1 sensor is x2.7. I always thought that it was directly related to the size of the sensor. So if the new cx sensors is also 1 inch, how can it have a 1.7 crop factor?

    • Hi Ivan – yes, the rumour is that Nikon will put a larger sensor in the Nikon1 system (a sensor that would fall somewhere between Micro 4/3 and APS-C in size). Although we tend to think of the common sensor sizes / crop-factors (1″, Micro 4/3, APS-C, FF) there are actually a wide variety of others sizes on the market, including some that are pretty close to the new rumoured sensor. Many of the Sigma cameras use a 1.7x crop factor sensor. And many of Canon’s cameras use a 1.62x crop factor. I guess time will tell 🙂

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