Henrik, in your thought provoking article you challenged Nikon's strategy, production and specifically the logic and performance of the D40/x. You make some good points. I'm not so pessimistic so I've offered my thoughts.D40/x
Regarding the D40/x I strongly disagree with your conclusion and I can only assume that you don't have one or have not spent any meaningful time with one. My wife sold her D50 for a D40x and on a recent 2 week vacation I had the opportunity to use it alongside a D2Xs and D200. I'd urge you to spend some time with one and look at the images it can produce. An A3 print on our Epson 3800 is virtually indistinguishable from the D200 when using the same lens (17-55mm DX 2.
You stated that the D40/x was crippled and in one of your earlier paragraphs that the D50 is more advanced. I disagree with both points. The core features are almost identical. The only 'down' grade is the number of AF sensors. Having moved from the D70 to D200 you'll appreciate why that's not always a bad thing. Is the D50 cheeper, almost certainly, older models are be heavily discounted to reduce stock levels.
Here are some of my observations:
- The buttons and switches are more robust/positive than those on the D50 making them less prone to accidental activation as they could be on the D50.
- Physically smaller, yes, but no less comfortable to hold. Like all Nikon SLR's since the F5 the ergonomics are just about perfect. It's feels very comfortable in the hand and more importantly stable. I can't disagree more strongly when you suggest that the D40 will induce poorer handling. With proper technique it doesn't.
- The brighter and larger viewfinder are significant improvements over the D50/70 viewfinder in use.
- Addition of the FUNC button is also a nice touch.
- Dynamic area AF is faster when choosing the closest subject. On the negative side I do find the need to recompose more often than on the D50 when using Single Point AF.
- The display is significantly better when checking for sharpness. This is due to increased pixel count and larger size. It also works better in bright light.
- I prefer a status LCD, It's what i've grown used to. The ststus display on the D40/x however is very functional and not something the target auidience is likely to miss. It doesn't make it any harder to capture the image.
- Support for older non motor driven Nikkors is a complete non issue for this camera. If a customer expressed an interest in using older lenses, primes or otherwise then as Nikon recommends they should be guided towards a D80.Strategy
It's my opinion that Nikon is ill equipped to compete with the likes of Canon, Casio, Sony and Panasonic etc at the low end of the market. These products have short lifecycles, low sales prices and margins are fashion led and marketing intensive. Nikons industrial engineering led history and product design approach are not suited to these objectives/characterisitcs. Throw in increaced competition from camera phones which are slowly offering more megapixels and features and it's easy to see why Nikon may be better off leaving the digicam segments to someone else. Focusing on the more profitable DSLR market makes sense. Having a genuine entry level product makes sense.
A compact and powerful DSLR like the D40/x is just the sort of camera to appeal to digicam user wanting to 'upgrade' for a reasonable/low price. Recent lens launched also support the strategy. The excellent 18-135mm Nikkor kit lens and 70-300VR Nikkor are just the kind of lenses that will appeal to this kind of customer, and they are available! The target audience for this camera probably doesn't know what a prime lense is and most likley doesn't care preferring a more versatile zoom lens instead.
At the high end Nikon will do what it always does. Quietly develop new products which offer long life-cycles, quality, innovation and durability. Clearly there is a head of steam building behind a possible FF Nikon DSLR. Great I hope it happens, more choice is always nice. Will it be better than Canon's offering? just like today in some aspects yes and in others no. As is the case today some users will switch systems for professional and personal reasons. Core customers will upgrade as and when. The reality is these systems sell themselves. Production
Here you have a couple of good points. In the last 5 years Nikon have announced too many important products only to end up back ordering them for months and in one or two cases, years.
Nikon's been growing DSLR market share globally despite increased competition. For this growth to be sustainable, particularly in the more consumer orientated segments they need to get a lot better at planning demand and the required production capacity.Nikon vs. Canon
I'm not going to enter the debate about which company is ahead on the technological development curve. I'm more interested in the image than the back used to capture it. Infact the last camera bought is a Canon G7.
What I will say - as you addressed this - is like you I hope and I'm sure Nikon will continue to develop the DX format in terms of both sensors and more importantly lenses. To Nikon's credit they have been willing to produce professional grade lenses e.g 17-15mm in the DX format, I hope for more particularly with VR. Canon still don't offer an L series EF-S lens.
I'm also sure that in time a Nikon FF sensor DSLR will surface. Until then most people will continue as they always did using what they have to make the best images they can. Internet ecosystems like this one do not represent the full photographic constituency. It's my experience of busy pro shooters that they get on with shooting, whatever the equipment. Most are not glued to the www wishing for or discussing the next development from XYZ camera company.