I'm interested mainly in photographers and what they do with cameras, rather than cameras and how they're made.
Of course the two aren't mutually exclusive. What I'm saying is that I'm not an industry analyst like our friend Thom Hogan, who knows ten times as much about the industry as I do. (Is this humblebrag? No.)
Still, I'm very curious about one particular question. It came up in our recent informal survey of readers' favorite cameras that the two oldest cameras in the top dozen were the Canon 5D and the Nikon D700.
Canon beat Nikon to market with its full frame camera for advanced amateurs (or "AdAms," as Kodak used to call them). And then Nikon didn't follow up for a while, but left that valuable niche to Canon all alone for something like two long years. Isn't that right? I'm just going on memory.
The advent of the D3 so obviously begged for an amateur-sized and -spec'd camera with the same sensor that a "D700" was forecast as an obvious product move even before it came out. Even by me (I referred to the then-future camera as an "FX light" in that article).
Then, after the D700 did come out, it was hugely popular...and obviously well-loved by AdAms. It placed either first or second in our informal poll (depending on whether you choose to count the Fuji X100 and X100s as two different cameras or the same camera).
Yet whereas Canon realized what it had in the 5D and carefully cultivated a lineage for that model, first with the 5D Mark II and now with the 5D Mark III, with upticks in sensor resolution (13 MP in 2005, 21 MP in 2008, 22 MP in 2012), Nikon essentially abandoned the D700 when it was discontinued very early in 2012.
Of course, the D800 was supposed to be the successor to the D700, but it isn't. It's a very different camera. And the D700 name was history.
Then came the problem-plagued D600 and its make-do replacement, the D610, which by model number are slotted below the D700. The D610 seems positioned as detuned consumer version of the D800. A FF price leader. The D610 is a really nice camera—I like it—but it doesn't seem to channel the same vibe as the D700, which was more of a "pro sensor in an AdAm body" kind of thing.
To parallel the D700, you'd think Nikon would put the 16-MP CMOS sensor from the new D4s into an F100/D700 style body—with the same basic sensor performance and responsiveness as the big pro camera, but aimed at non-pros who don't need the rest of the big-time pro camera performance features—and call it the D710 or (better yet) the D700 II. (Another grand tradition. You get a hit, milk it.) And it would come out c. 2015, if the D3–D700 sequence were observed.
But will it? That's a question. Now with the D800/D610 pair covering AdAm FF, it seems unlikely. It would just crowd and confuse the lineup. Even though there really isn't a true D700 successor in that lineup.
Big "hits" in the camera universe are as rare, and should be as prized, as big hits anywhere else—pop music, bestselling books. They're not something that can be totally gamed—there's a mysterious element of luck and convergence involved. Fuji's X100/s was clearly a great big hit if our readers are any indication. Fuji was as surprised as the rest of the photo world, and couldn't believe its luck. Certainly the original Canon 5D was a monster hit. And Canon clearly knew it.
I guess I just don't understand why Nikon would have such a big hit with the D700 and then wander away from the model designation and the spirit of the product.
But then, as I say, maybe I don't understand the industry.
P.S. The Canon 5D Mark III just went on sale. $500 off.
Original contents copyright 2014 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Tommy Brown: "They do, it's called a Df and it works perfectly."
Thom Hogan: "I'd say it's more curious than that. As I wrote somewhere else yesterday:
- Nikon has continued to update the D3xxx, D5xxx, and D7xxx bodies on the same regular basis and with the same expected changes.
- Nikon appears to be continuing to update the D# and now the D800 bodies (rumored D800s) with mid-term upgrades, much as we came to expect from before.
- But Nikon has completely botched the middle: no D300s upgrade, no D700 upgrade, a D600/D610 fiasco, and a Df that's not like anything they've done before.
"The whole area between US$1100 and US$3000 (body only) is highly confused for Nikon at the moment and appears to be going to continue that way. Yet I'd have said that this is exactly the price range that Nikon had been most successful at in the past; it's the core Nikon Enthusiast audience. Clearly, something changed around 2009 with Nikon's strategy in the middle. Coupled with the D600 dust/lubricant fiasco, Nikon now has a serious problem with what should be a strength in their lineup."
Ray Hunter: "As a long-time (40-year) Nikon customer, I too puzzle over Nikon's market behavior. Add to your examples the Nikon Coolpix A, a well-designed camera that came to the dance too late and with too big a price tag. However, Nikon seems determined to maintain the design and price, and sort of leave it twisting in the wind.
"I don't know anything about the camera making industry, but as we all know it is part of the 21st Century electronics industry. I imagine them trying to design a horse, with Legal telling them to eliminate the tail because it might inadvertently harm a bystander, and Finance telling them to only have three legs instead of four to keep the costs down, and Marketing introducing it six months after the first car is sold. It enters the marketplace to an indifferent public. Trying to figure out why the horse is not selling, they all go on corporate retreat to Hawaii. Unable to reach agreement on the public's response to the horse, they give each other some awards, pay themselves bonuses (the horseshit division made money even if the horse division didn't) and begin the design of 'the smaller horse,' or 'Horse II.' The designer goes along with all this because, hey, what's an out of work horse designer going to do?"
Mike replies: Made me laugh. Thanks for that.
Dennis (partial comment): "Why they haven't developed a D400 is a mystery as well. Oh well, let mysteries be mysteries; I'm happy with my D7000 and if I were to ever move up the food chain, I'd be happy with Nikon's choices."
Derek: "I too was a bit disconcerted that Nikon seemed to abandon the D700 lineage. And then I really took a closer look at the D610 and realized it is a true successor in everything but name. The great oil sensor fiasco really tarnished the camera's image (forgive me) which is a shame. But what spec would you name that doesn't put it as a D700 successor? Beast of a sensor: we're talking some serious chops at 24 MP; this sensor is the fourth highest rated sensor ever made according to DxOmark! In a sub-$2,000 body. And it scores slightly, granted unnoticeably, better than the D800 at high ISO. It's got a last-gen autofocus system, but with 39 AF points who cares? I also love the fact the AF points are tightly grouped because I always focus and recompose, I never move between individual sensor points. The 100% viewfinder is gorgeous. It got the high end treatment. It shoots 6 FPS without the extra grip. It's close in size and weight to the top-end DX bodies—huzzah! This is personal preference, but I prefer to have gear that doesn't stand out anymore than a full size SLR already stands out. I also appreciate the lighter body for dragging through the mountains as I'm wont to do.
"OK, I'll stop spouting specs, but I think the D610 is the D700 successor, Nikon just named it wrong. The D800 is great, but I don't need the extra pixels and I don't want the extra weight."
John Brewton: "Seriously missing my D700 after getting the D800 and selling the D700. The D700 is the better camera in so many ways. Listening to that siren call of megapixels will not trip me up again! (Very famous last words.)"
Rob: "I sold my D700 after the D600 came out. I was disappointed with the lack of and AF ON button, the cheaper viewfinder, and the general feel of the D600 (I thought the D700 was about as perfect as a camera could be ergonomically). However I have come to love my D600. Nikon replaced my shutter and did a clean and overhaul for free long before the recall. The files are amazing. The D600 does everything I ask it too. I'm sticking tight until there is a camera that can do everything the D600 does and weighs significantly less for half the price. Fuji is getting close, but I'm hoping that camera is a Nikon."
Chris Grover: "As a wedding shooter, I will mourn the D700 on a weekly basis—each of mine are nearing the end of their expected life and as a camera it just works and doesn't get in the way (apart from the hotshoe wobble issue). I get by with the D800 and love it for its dynamic range on a sunny day, but the files just clog everything up. I need 12 or 16 MP, a decent buffer and frame rate for the confetti moment and a reasonably solid body: I don't need the weight or intimidating bulk of the D4s! When the D700 mkII is out, I'll be first in the queue!"
Jack Foley: "I think Nikon didn't replace and upgrade the D700 because newspaper photogs like me bought it over the twice-the-price D3s. I've used them both (and just recently the D4) and still prefer the D700. The image quality is as good as the so-called professional grade bodies.
"With the battery grip, I get 8 fps for my sports assignments. And, that amateurish little built in-flash is a very useable commander for any number of slaved strobes ( including studio strobes )—as well as coming in handy when just a tiny lick of light is needed. The only drawback to this camera's design is that the shutter is not as long-lasting as the top-tier boxes. I've had my D700's shutter replaced twice by Nikon now, and very reasonably. The long awaited D800 can't reach the speeds I need for sports, probably because of having to write those enormous files. So, if I needed a camera right now, I would go on eBay, and for maybe $1,200, purchase one that's five years old, but with only as many shutter actuations as I'd put on my main camera in one month.
"The D700 is Nikon's best value ever, in my opinion."