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Friday, 23 September 2011


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"We" aren't going to make anything successful by explaining/promoting it to non-enthusiasts. They have their cell phone cameras and need/want nothing more. Not even prints.

"The "it's more efficient" argument turns out to be weak when the savings are going into suppliers' pockets as profits rather than translating to savings for the consumer."

Love it.

These comments re focus groups are right on. There are a number of issues in creating and performing the groups which can kill the validity of the results for marketing. Key ones include:
Selection of participants - proper ID of the groups to be sold to, and the selection of participants in the group. This is especially difficult when multicultural considerations are included. What may be desirable in Japan may not be so popular in South America or Scandinavia.
Group interaction rules: How the participants interact, whether some number are dominant and others passive, the skill of the moderator, and the response format are all critical and need to be controlled.
The "Hawthorne Effect" (named for a famous industrial psych experiment of the 1920's)- where people tend to be more positive and give responses they think are wanted because of the attention they are getting.
Skill of question development and of data analysis are also critical. "Leading" questions may give management what they want to hear, but can be a disaster in the marketplace; also the ability to "read" the responses correctly in a free form response environment.
As implied above, the skill of the group moderator is critical. S/he needs to keep the group on course without giving inappropriate leading. This is really difficult.
And there are other issues, but focus groups remain very popular. Its hard to evaluate the technique overall, but it isn't one that works in all cases.
It also shouldn't be confused with an apparentlly similar technique of queryiing subject matter experts - its a whole different thing.


I've a daily reader for some time. I love your writing style and editorial content.

I don't comment, but do you really mean "insure" in the last paragraph. I know common usage increasingly conflates "insure" and "ensure", but I was always taught one insured against hurricane damage by taking out an insurance policy but ensured a favorable outcome by cutting down dead trees around the house.

In this context, it being a Nikon product might ensure more reviews.....


[My comment is] more about the V1 than this article, but it is interesting that Nikon put VR in the lens instead of the body.

Well, I learned to use focus groups not to design, but to validate design decisions. Customers are generally bad designers. They actually don't know what they really want. But they're very good at responding to good/bad design. They're very good at recognizing what they wanted.

As for the mythical compact-to-mirrorless upgrader. No, they exist. One problem has been that the right camera hasn't existed for them. Two things compel someone to want to move up from a compact camera: focus and low light performance. The problem with, oh, say an Olympus E-PL1 is that it was a marginal step upward in both, and it didn't actually solve the problem that the compact user was trying to solve (think football dad in the stands of his high school son at a night game, for example). You STILL needed a DSLR to solve that problem, and even then you needed a DSLR with the right lens.

Frankly, something is mostly wrong with most of the camera company's research into that mythical compact camera upgrader, because they're not actually fixing the problems those people want solved. Nikon looks closer than Olympus at this, though. But Nikon needed faster lenses, IMHO.

Thanks for another great post and new insight into this Nikon system launch Mike.

So how does an enthusiast explain Motion Snapshot to the non photographer? Here is how Nikon explains it in the press release: "By selecting the Motion Snapshot icon from the Mode Dial at the back of the camera, consumers can capture fleeting moments with staggering depth and emotion like never before. The result unites a frozen still image with a slow-motion movement set to a built-in audio soundtrack to create a portrayal of an occurrence with maximum impact."

Remember what photographs look like in the Harry Potter movies? That's what Motion Snapshot does. Behold: the Nikon J1 has a Harry Potter mode! Move aside GF3, make way for the J1.

My own personal observation mirrors that of Phil Thomas ... I've talked to very few people with any interest in mirrorless systems. But that's a very US-centric view in my case. All I know about other markets, particularly Asian markets, is tidbits I've read that suggest demand for these cameras is much higher.

It's funny, the majority of the people I know or I've met with Micro Four Thirds or NEX rigs (which, admittedly is only about 15 or so people) are either people who didn't want to get an interchangeable kit but didn't want the bulk of a DSLR kit or are people who replaced their DSLR kit with a Micro Four Thirds system. We certainly travel in different circles (well, you are an accomplished photographer and photography writer . . . I'm just a duffer enthusiast; we probably ought to be in different circles :) ).

I'm one of those people who didn't want to deal with the bulk of a DSLR. I felt ready to step up to a DSLR in 2007, but I saw just how big and heavy the gear was that my DSLR-owning friends carried, and I found that rather daunting. The E-P1 promised to be significantly smaller and lighter, and I bought one a week or so after it was announced.

And so far, Micro Four Thirds has lived up to that promise. I can carry my E-P1 with a 14-150 lens on it, a flash unit, 2 other lenses, a rocket blower, PLUS a camcorder in a camera bag designed for just a DSLR with a lens on it and a flash unit. Not too shabby.

Excellent article. Being a brand loyal enthusiast I am always interested in new Nikon products. Corporate executives get paid a lot of money to make big and hopefully correct design decisions. Interchangeable lenses would greatly appeal to the crowd moving up from point and shoot, but why would they settle for a small sensor. With the addition of gimmics to entice the novice and a cost saving small sensor, priced up where it is, seems to be a value for the supply side, not the consumer.

Don't mean to nitpick, but it should be 'ensure' in "It will belp insure reviews" in the final paragraph.

No need to publish this comment!

With respect to Phil Thomas there are people outside of Focus Groups who take that path. I upgraded from an LX-3 as I wanted better quality images. With reservations I bought a Canon DSLR. Two weeks later I sold it (at a loss) - it was just too big and bulky to carry around my neck while doing fatherly duties :)

A bit of research later and I was the proud owner of a GF-1, still a bit bulky but perfect with 20mm lens.

Who in North America that wants a digital camera and can afford one hasn't got one? I suspect this is true for Europe & Asia as well. If this is true, the question who really buys a second (or third) camera. I suspect the most likely individual is a camera enthusiast or pro - not an "upgrader". Most of the latter group are "sufficers" when it comes to photography. As long as their pictures are focused and exposed correctly, they are satisfied with what they have. So if that's the target group Nikon 1 is aimed at, that is a very narrow niche. The whole concept of mirror less ICL cameras was to give DSLR owners a lighter smaller alternative without sacrificing IQ.

I must have been one of the exceptions to the rule about enthusiasts not embracing APS. I took a break from SLR photography between the early 1980s and mid-1990s, during which all my photography was of my kids with a 35mm point-and-shoot. When that camera died, I resurrected my old Nikkormat, now painfully aware of how bulky it was and how slow it was without autoexposure and autofocus.

Intrigued by the just-introduced APS format, I bought a Fujifilm point-and-shoot and loved the features of APS, but found the image quality lacking (mainly the camera's lens, not the 50% reduction in negative size). Two years later, I found the camera of my dreams - the Minolta Vectis S1 - an APS SLR that had all the automation that my Nikkormat lacked and far less bulk. Two compact system lenses took me from 28 mm(e) to 300 mm(e). A similarly compact outboard flash completed my setup, with everything fitting into a travel-friendly gadget bag. Rarely used the Nikkormat or the Fujifilm again.

Sure, every once in a while, I could see that the smaller negative was preventing top-quality enlargements. But heck, I was taking the camera with me to far more places than I'd ever haul the Nikkormat, and getting better shots than the point-and-shoots delivered. For me, it was the perfect sweet spot between usability and quality.

I sang APS's praises, and hoped (as the APS consortium once promised) that chrome films were just around the corner. To my knowledge, they never materialized. A few years later, I bought a CanoScan FS4000 film scanner with APS adapter to bring my APS images into the digital age.

Then, as Mike said, digital happened. When the Nikon D70 body and kit lens dropped to US$1300, I bought it. I was back to the bulk of the Nikkormat, but how much easier it was than scanning negs (APS or 35mm). I never shot another frame on the Vectis S1. A few times since then, I've dug it out and looked longingly at it. But otherwise, it sits there.

"We are quite confident that we achieved almost exactly the same quality as our DSLR."

Most P&S cameras could already be said to do this. The word "quality" (and for that matter the word "almost") has to be defined in excruciating detail to have real meaning. Other than that, it's just a sound bite.

Thanks for the link to the IR interview with Mr. Suzuki. I'm more intrigued, now. May have to start saving my nickels and dimes ... the speed is the only thing I miss from my SLRs and DSLR.

Thom Hogan offers an interesting idea for a sports shooter, assuming the speed claims are valid. Looking forward to seeing some real world reviews, and considering the uproar, there will be reviews.

APS had other problems than bad timing; poor image quality, over saturated colors, and lots of lens distortion, as I remember.

I find it interesting that it's taken as a given that "enthusiasts and pros" are responsible for the sales of products that they'll not only never buy, they'll never give more than a passing glance (if even that).

Such a claim may hold true for SLR's (D and not depending on the era), and maybe true for advanced compacts (like Canon's G series)... But I don't buy it for point-and-shoots or phone cameras. I suspect the average Joe doesn't haunt the semi- and pro - review sites, because he can tell at a glance they aren't reviewing the camera he wants. Rather, I suspect they haunt Amazon and depend on their friends or whatever is on sale at $BIG_BOX the week they decide they need a new camera. Things like the new Nikon blur the line a bit, but they're noticeable because they're rarities and the exception that proves the general rule.

The trouble with "I don't know any who want x, therefore I cant imagine anyone wants x" is that none of us know enough people to make meaningful projections to the wider market. In my group of friends there are a significant number (myself included) who would love a camera that was as capable as a DSLR but smaller. Obviously, this doesn't mean such a thing would definitely be successful in the market as a whole. It would be for us.

If I could have a kit half the size of what I carry now and not lose any capability, I'd grab it in a heartbeat. My camera kit (and there isn't that much of it) weighs as much as my kitesurfing kit. To me that is absurd. But it's the best way to get the images I want, so hump it I do.

As an aside: the word prosumer is one of the more amusing absurdities of the English language. The bigger absurdity is specific to photography - the insidious way in which "creative options" wrt cameras and lenses has become shorthand for shallow DoF.

In some ways the Nikon 1 is a game changer. Primarily due to all that stuff around speed (autofocus speed, image processing speed, etc.). That speed stuff enables the other new features; namely Motion Snapshot and that thing where it takes a whole bunch of shots simultaneously and chooses the top three or whatever. Basically, this is a video camera that shoots each frame with the quality of a still camera.

That's big news for a lot of people. In particular, the kind of people who are always missing the shot. It also plays into the hands of the kind of people who wish they had a camera embedded in their eye and could just selectively off-load images.

In other words, these cameras will appeal to people who want to "take pictures" more than those who want to "make photographs." Nothing new there -- point & shoots are the same. But what's new (I think) is the sheer volume of people who are snap-shooting and sharing on social media. Those people are tired of missing the shot with their clunky and slow P&S cameras, and are maybe a bit envious of people with sexy cameras like the GF2, Olympus EP2, and Fuji X100.

In yet other words, it's a camera for the gadget crowd.

So those crazy new high speed features are game changers. But i'm not entirely convinced it's a game that people really want changed. At least not people who like to make photographs.

I have a Gh2, and a Pentax DSLR. I plan on buying more of the same. The Gh2 for street photography and the movie/music video stuff I do, and the Pentax for the landscape. I love the ability to use my Super Takumars and K mount on both systems. BTW Mike, I bought a radioactive version of the 50/1.4 awhile back based on your affinity for it. One of my most used lenses for my infrared Kx along with the Super Takumar 35/2.3.

"MS: We are quite confident that we achieved almost exactly the same quality as our DSLR."

Sell pictures, not specs.

Focus Groups: Imagine leading a focus group 15 years ago and asking, "Who wants a camera in their phone?"

I think the important point that's usually missed by pro's here is the transformation of photography. You, Mike, along with many others talk about this all the time, which can be summarized as "Cameras don't take pictures - you do..."

See, people (consumers) are becoming less interested in the ultimate technical picture quality, but care more about the content! That's what we've been waiting for, and the new Nikons are proving it with all the extra stuff that the pro's do not want to even look at.

Like the "Pick the best frame" feature, or like the "Motion Snapshot" thingy in V1 -- these are all testaments to the New Photography: driven by the content, originality and personality, rather than still image quality we're all used to as the defining quality of images lately.

Where am I getting all this? Ever heard of the "Cinemagraph"? Check it out: http://cinemagraphs.com/
These are not your normal still photos, but they arguably tell an interesting story too (in some cases more interesting).

There are pro's that do street photography exclusively with an iPhone, like this guy: Richard Koci Hernandez http://instagrid.me/koci/
Check out his video: http://vimeo.com/25280731

Have you heard of Instagram? Millions of people creating millions of photos daily on their iPhones, and sharing them instantaneously with the world. They get real feedback in how many followers they have.

Finally, there's a conference (a first one) on iPhoneography coming up in a month: http://1197.is/

I love TOP, read it daily, and get a lot of enjoyment from it. I also love being a photo geek and have my own extensive Canon FD system that I use very often. But I can't help noticing that the Photography landscape is changing as we know it. And it's not about the Image Quality anymore -- it's about the Content Quality.

As for that iPhoneography conference -- I'm going. I want to see the new photography in the making :)

The more I read about the new Nikons the more I like. I just wish they hadn't been so conventional.
With the tiny sensor they could have revived their twist in the middle camera design, which had about the best ergonomics of any camera I can think of. Instead they went with yet another hump in the middle of the camera's top design.
I find it hard to believe that there is still a demographic that remembers that once upon a time hump in the middle = serious camera and does not know that now all the hump in the middle means is that you'll keep cleaning nose grease of the LCD.
They could have put the shutter release anywhere they wanted but they continue to place it convenient to the ghost of the tensioned drum that rolls up the non existent first shutter curtain.

From what I have read, Steve Jobs doesn't bother with focus groups. He uses his intuition and good taste in knowing what consumers will like.

Alan and Ben,
I think you're right. Thanks.


An interesting tale. But then, one could argue that the happy users of systems that gets lots of development money but flop overall are getting a whole lot of value for the cost to them. Like buyers of the Porsche 928--into which Porsche poured many millions. The relatively few people who bought them got many dollars' worth of R&D value for every car dollar they spent. It's not their fault there weren't enough other buyers to share the cost.


Mike, I think you wrote several pieces concerning the perceived loss of control some film photographers felt when digital cameras became competent image capture devices. Suddenly good pictures could be made without the secret knowledge amassed by years of experience in the darkroom. The case could be made that something similar is happening with the Nikon 1 and other non-SLR digital image capture devices. The resistance to change of enthusiast photographers is quite astounding. The small Nikon may or may not be a good camera. What seems clear is that the wailing and gnashing of teeth over it seems to be as much about insecurity as any technical faults of the hardware.

APS would have been wonderful if it had the same frame size as 35mm. I would've killed for film with metadata back then! My photo diaries and copious scribbling on the back of contact sheets is evidence of this. I remember drooling over the professional data backs which would record date, shutter speed and aperture information in between the frames.

I know it seems like everyone this side of the moon hates the Nikon 1, but I really like it. I'm not into bird photography but I keep looking up at my Nikon 135mm f3.5 lens, which easily slips into a pant pocket, and realize that with the Nikon 1 I have a 364mm f3.5 lens that fits easily into a pant pocket! Only 2/3 of a stop slower than the 300mm f2.8 and you know how big that thing is. And if that isn't enough, I could rip off 60 frames a second! (unless I misunderstand that part) I think this camera will have some very useful applications.

I am also disapointed, because now we have the mess of different lens mounts all over again... I don't mind different sensor sizes for fixed-lens cameras, but if you have exchangeable lenses, please stick to some common standard (such as M4/3).

btw, talking about large-sensor compacts:
I have a recommendation: you can find at the moment new-in-box (old stock) Polaroid x530 cameras for 29 EUR on German Ebay, including shipping!

This underrated camera has a foveon chip (you can use the latest Sigma SPP 5.1 software for developing the raw format), it has a comparatively fast zoom lens (f2.6-f3.4, 7.3 ~ 21.9, 38-116mm) and an optical viewfinder!

seems to be a precursor of DP1/2 but with zoom lens and OVF:

here are some images from flickr:

“Do I shoot video or do I shoot stills during this onetime event? Ach, I wish I didn’t have to choose!”

Millions of parents say that every day, as do countless professional photographers who (like me) work solo yet are responsible for daily generating high-quality video AND print-ready content for companies, nonprofit organizations, newspapers and news websites, brides and grooms, event hosts, and colleges and universities.

Frankly (young photographers take note), that’s where most of the future paying jobs in photography lie. Those video-and-stills-shooters-who-work-solo are a very plausible market for the Nikon 1 and future more-professional iterations of this format, much more than those whose primary interest is solely "still photography" (in my personal work, I fall into the latter category, as most TOP readers probably do).

Printwise, there is no doubt in my mind that the Nikon 1-sized sensor can produce 13x19 prints that will satisfy 99% of the meat-and-potatoes needs of the clients listed above (see also Ctein's comments on that). Videowise, the Nikon 1's specs indicate nothing worrisome either; quite the contrary.

I understand the APS film analogy, but only to a point, as I’m not sure that any APS film camera was ever the “best” at anything. That mediocrity doesn’t seem to be the case here. I daresay that it would be quite enough for many potential buyers if a $1000 camera had either autofocus that was as fast as that of any camera on the planet OR the capability to simultaneously shoot HD video and full-resolution stills.

Since the Nikon 1 claims to have both of those things, it and its future variants may have a very bright future indeed among the constituents described in the first paragraph above.

...having been involved with more than a few focus groups while working in senior management in a few advertising departments, I have to say, we all realized they are 'fraught-with-peril'; not least of which is that they drive the participants into feeling that they must make some sort of a comment, whether they are interested in what you're doing or not; or else they aren't fulfilling their duty. Believe me when I say this can be a struggle for the participants and is responsible for a lot of off the wall data! Tread very carefully!

Second, what a lot of people don't seem to be realizing about all these newer cameras and systems, is that they are at least 'taxing', if not 'over-taxing' the development and manufacturing of most of these companies. Nikon still doesn't have a complete line of more inexpensive f/2.8 'G' lenses for their full frame and APS-C cameras. I don't think any of the manufacturers have a more 'simplified' pro version of any of their bodies without all the multiple menu screens and a million things that I never use and don't need (which many on here have also lamented). Etc. Etc.

I can't help but think that all this multi-format mayhem and constant introduction of newer higher megapixel sensors and multi-features have kept the manufacturers from developing the truly 'full-depth' camera systems we were used to in the past!

Don't forget Camera Store retail nerds like myself! I talk people OUT of systems they've come in intending to buy on a daily basis if I think I could suggest a better alternative that would fit their needs. It sounds arrogant, I know, but people expect this kind of guidance when they come to the store. And you're absolutely right. I will NEVER advise someone to buy the new Nikon mirrorless system while the NEX and M4/3rds systems exist. Just as I've ALREADY started putting the advising the potential G12 owners that Fuji has a really neat camera coming out in November.

I'm a big believer in Halo products. I think people buy Rebels and D3100s not because they're good cameras, but because pros use D3S, and 1Ds and 5Ds, and D700s. Nobody buys the D-Lux 5 because Leica did a great job rebranding a Panasonic, its because of the M system.

The Nikon 1 system actually on paper does look like it has neat features, but unless they manage to do SOMETHING to make it interesting to people who care about photography, I think it'll flop.

The IR interviewer sure has a fixation with image quality. I suspect most consumers just want to be told that it's really good, even if they never put it to the test.

I'm going to put my hand up here and say I'm one of the people who has been waiting for an interchangeable lens camera without the bulk of a DSLR. I still have my original film SLR, a Nikon FE2, and what always annoyed me about DSLR's was that everything was so much bulkier. This year, what I wanted has finally arrived. A fast focusing camera with a 24mm equivalent prime.. (i.e. the E-PL3 and 12mm) I'm now in the process of selling my DSLR (a nikon with a bulky 12-24 because they don't have a small 16mm APS prime, and a rather nice 105mm VR macro lens) to help finance the purchase of an Olympus system...
Having said that, if Olympus hadn't produced what it had, I was going to go the Pentax pancake route....

I'm afraid this is the sort of thing Apple will start creating now that Steve Jobs has left.

Contrast that to Cosina-Voigtlander, led by someone who's still passionate about photography. Or maybe the engineers who worked on the original Hexar AF?

As others have said, no focus group would've predicted a phone should have a camera, much less a pocket music player!

I do give them props for making "moving stills"- like images from a Harry Potter newspaper. This is a step in the right direction, but only furtive. I think what you want is something that really busts the paradigm- completely rethinks photography and the interface-

(using our fingers to zoom, or to select focus, or set exposure, on the screen; imagine dodging and burning right there on the screen, or vignetting, right before you shoot)

Being standards unfriendly for its own sake doesn't bust paradigms. It's actually either cowardly (forcing people to live in a world of mutually exclusive standards- how very 1980s), but more likely, completely without vision.

The nikon 1 is really going to appeal to some niches within the enthusiast/pro market. The long lens crowd has already been mentioned, together with high frame rates the small sensor is ideal for photographing birds, surfers, etc. The other niche that will appreciate it is the macro crowd. When strapped to the bellows it will give them more magnification, longer working distances and most importantly more depth of field.


This discussion and its focus on senor size plus Ctein's post this week, reminded me of a somewhat similar case in the past. Remember the Olympus Pen F series half frame (actually single frame re movies) cameras. Small, light, with excellent optics and very good overall performance. I used one extensively when traveling, including to Europe, in the '80s. Image quality was top notch. The biggest problem I had was getting the film processed either with half frame slide mounts, or uncut, so I could mount them myself. Unfortunately they weren't that popular, as I guess most people didn't want to bother with the printing or projection of half frame pix. But again, it illustrates Ctein's thesis that size does and doesn't matter....depends on your criteria.
Now with such tools as Genuine Fractals, it is possible to create larger image files for good resolution from smaller file sizes, and the smaller sensors are still hgh in pixel count.
And there are days when I do wish I had my old Pen FT instead of the DSLRs. After all, a good film scanner permits good scans from half frame negs. I know, I've done a number of mine.

I think all these custom scene modes must be focus group driven, as well. Most of my non photographic enthusiast friends have never taken their cameras out of the "easy" mode (and have absolutely no desire to, either), while anyone with the slightest bit of interest in photography probably shoots in either manual, aperature or shutter priority.

It's amusing that the great legacy of APS is as a designation for a digital sensor size. Maybe an APS (film) camera should have been included on the Adorama "most influential" list.


Since the iPhone has been mentioned a couple of times in the comments above, I mention this because I just saw this new adaptor in my latest computer magazine, of all places, (and apologies if this has come up before in another topic). There is an iPhone adaptor you can get which allows you to use any of your Canon or Nikon SLR lenses on your iPhone camera. Its called an "iPhone SLR Mount" and you can see it here:

and I thought I'd seen everything ...!

Since my childhood the name Nikon means "future proof professional quality". I think this is still valid for the "1".

I strongly believe that:
1. "1" will get Camera Awards everywhere for it's unconventional and new features.
2. Nikon's big name will attract customer prefer Nikon "1" system.
3. Asian particularly will be the markets since Asian loves to explore new things.
4. Big "1" user base will not only bring cash but also learning curve for new technologies embedded in V1 and J1
5. Everything works in "1" will be seen in future DSLRs

I read people's anger everywhere against "1" system. I think most people always look back and cannot digest that things continously change and people have to adapt to it as well.

Regarding "digital images get lost more easily":
I don't think that's correct. The only problem is, that people tend to not print their pictures any more. Which is a shame, since to me that's all photography is about. But even if you don't print your pictures, you have more and better options keeping your digital pictures save, than you have with film. If you don't use them, it's not the mediums fault.

"we're the ones who are going to explain the appeal of the product to the non-enthusiasts who are supposed to buy it." Not just that, we are the one who bought it. I am a Nikon guy but I bough the Canon G12 and Nikon dSLR for my wife.

People who shopped around usually asked around. Guess who they are asked. Even though they are or we are atypical, we are the one interested and hence we know something we should not waste our time with e.g. Canon digital camera. It is just of know and sometimes even do show-and-tell automatically.

Hence, we are who we are.

(Apple is a bit unusual in this aspects as it does not need us. Android is not as it really need this "us". In fact, I am finding one of these after getting my LG 3d and Asus Transformer. Without this people who are interest, you have a hard time to jump in. There is no one around you tell you know to answer call - two way one press and one slide. Also, there is no way even to turn into the silence mode - you cannot, mostly you can but the sound are decentralised. When someone fighting to turn off her phone in a meeting I just there, I said "getting an Android lately" ...

Most product with some sort of technical / knowledge, except Apple, need us!)

Mike, You are becoming a mythical entity. So many good posts in one week! And a very good knowledge of the photographic industry and it's development. I MUST agree with You.
Allthough I never lost any negatives or slides (they are somewhere in my closet) but I lost digital files due to disk failure and due to CD/DVD failure (2 year old unreadable)...

Ah, the Hifi branch of Philips did something similar in the late 80th (if memory serves). They held customer hearings and interviews and found out what the customer really wanted and that was to listen to music without the hassle of pushing 7 buttons to hear an audio tape. So they designed a very sparsly buttoned but great sounding line of new products and were sure that this was wat the public really, really wanted. Only to find out that in the store no one bought their stuff despite being easier to use and having supperior sound quality. So they did their market research all over again this time targetted to the moment of purchase. Now the man in the house (or the brother or nephew or whatever male creature is around even the salesperson will do) seems to have a large influence in buying stereos. And guess what males are male chauvinistic etceteras, and they are ashamed to admit that they don't like to overwhelmed by buttons and sliders and pots on the surface of a hifi system. So while in the comfort of the home the simple layout won in the store it took a beating. And that's were the money is. It is not even the focus group here, it's purely the situation in which the focus group was presented with the product that mattered.

Greetings, Ed

It looks to be an excellent video camera with adequate stills capability. Being a press photographer I understand that short video bursts will fast become the norm. These little cameras do lead the way. The ability to splice a large still image into the video moment makes this a very practical tool for photojournalists, proud parents, journalists and the average tourist. Basically anybody who is into capturing moments. It's the kind of tool which will play a supporting role to other photographic equipment. I won't be selling the Leica M8 or the Nikon D3 anytime soon, actually I would see myself upgrading both of these to their younger siblings soon enough.
I will have to consider this new system seriously, when canon had all the bragging rights regarding low iso capabilities, Nikon did what it always did best, it produced really tough cameras which focused accurately. So this system should be more than adequate in this regard. For 99.99% of people, content rules quality, for the rest there are larger formats.

@Steven Palmer,

My thought exactly. Small Sensors rock at telephotoranges. My longest lens is a Nikon 75-300 4.0 5.6, and with a TC201 converter I get a 1200 mm f 11 I can carry around on my bike. Now a 1200 f 11 for full frame is kinda unwieldy (to say the least).

Greetings, Ed

To test the effectiveness of your focus grouping, run a focus group and note how many people report that they would indeed buy your proposed product for $X.

"Great!", you say, "I actually happen to have a box of proposed product units right here! Just give me your $X and it's all yours."


In 2003 I bought my then girlfriend a fuji APS "Nexia Q1" camera with a fixed focus lens and no control over anything - 3 rolls of film and in a draw it went when we got our first digital - every shot was in "focus" though.

My now wife has since managed to be frustrated by every single digital camera she's ever picked up. Her inability to get anything is focus is mindblowing, and the anger towards my 5D and NX10 when she finds it set to anything other than Auto... geeezzz

As soon as I saw the Nikon announcement it ticked alot of boxes she requires in a camera
• small sensor = better depth of field
• no M,A,S or P modes to confuse her
• simple layout on top of camera
• built in "spray & pray)
• ultra fast Dual AF system

Is there hope for her yet?

Ken Sky touches upon something interesting.

It is the job of vendors to convince us we are inadequate without their products. We, being consumers, are always eager to buy new stuff, especially when it means gear we get to fiddle with and form opinions over.

Thus it has been the job of companies not having viable DSLR gear to convince us that DSLR gear is 'bulky,' and something else is needed. They have created a segment that we now feel it is our part to support. Brilliant!

Now Nikon wants to create a new segment. It will make us and the pointers feel that they are inadequate photographers without owning stuff in that segment.

We all already have too much stuff, and need no more. It's their job to always convince us that there is always one more thing for us to part our money over. And for us to have more toys, it is important for us to be convinced that this is all... important. Even while we realize inside that despite these unexamined rationalizations, we're already all set anyhow.

So it's all brilliant on the part of the marketers. They make some profit, we get to play with new toys and express opinions and convince ourselves to be consumers.

And I say this as one of those avid consumers.

Not sure why Steve Jobs is always brought up as the exemplar of successful products.

I guess no one remembers the awful market bomb that was his NeXT Computer company.

Remember the time when even a $70 camera was full frame?
The churning is on...new products will be launched...the battle will intensify...the march of technology will continue...and eventually, we will have what we had 20 years ago: a small full frame digital camera for the masses.

As to who is likely to do it first? Panasonic and Olympus are tied to a format, Canon is calculated...they will keep throwing small bones and will do it only when the time comes: an evolutionary rather than revolutionary approach. Nikon is slow, and they will wait for the Canon to do it first, or maybe vice-versa.

My bet is on Sony. They don't quite behave like a seasoned corporate. They are innovative. Rule breakers. They make mistakes also. They are likely to introduce a mirror-less full frame camera first, even when market is perfectly happy without it.

In David's comment, he mentions that if Nikon had come up with an APS sized sensor, everyone would be queueing for one. That might be true, but if I am understanding their strategy well, this new technology is really just the testing field. Just scale this up to APS size and you can see that with the natural evolutionary improvement of technology, we won't have any more DSLRs around in 3 years time. All the technology they have included is downsized slr technology. They want to field test it in the Market, see how it fares, and then plug it into their next (i.e. The one after the next upgrade) generation pro cameras. I'd bet the next APS SLR sensor will be developed by Nikon and contain advanced live view options including phase detection focusing and very high data rates.

Dear Kwasi,

A very clever friend of mine pointed out that the companion to “prosumer” was obviously “confessional.” Since then, I have yearned for a confessional camera.


Dear David Bostedo,

I was having very similar thoughts. Small sensor cameras that can perform as well as DSLRs (at low-moderate ISOs) are nothing new. There may not be a lot of them, but they're out there; when I reviewed the Fuji S100 3 years ago, I demonstrated that it produced image quality essentially identical in every respect to the Nikon D200. Since then, this camera has not proven unique. Yet we don't see any of these taking the market by storm.

pax / Ctein

Dear ronin,

And there was also the Lisa... but give the guy a break. NeXT was 25 years ago!

(And we shouldn't entirely forget that NeXT OS became MacOS. Fun story behind that.)

Job's track record in the past 15+ years has been way beyond merely impressive. No one said he's perfect. He's merely so astoundingly good at this that trying to use him as a standard for evaluating market approaches is like trying to use Einstein as a standard for how to do physics research. Way off the end of the bell curve, approaching uniqueness.

BTW, Lisa and NeXT were market bombs because they were way too expensive. People loved'em, but they couldn't afford them. It took Steve a long time to figure out how to sire products he thought were cool that mortals could afford.

pax / Ctein

With all these posts consuming your time, I wondered if you had a chance to read Gordon's recent post on his site at Shutterfinger entilted "The DGAD" syndrome. Rather pertinent to this discussion I thought.
Regards, David.

Compact cameras advantages:

    • They are, well, compact (duh)
    • Lightweight
    • Perceived to be fairly easy to use

Compact cameras disadvantages:

    • Slow reaction times (slow starrtup, slow autofocus, slow zooming)
    • IQ might be lacking in low light situations

SLR advantages:

    • Good IQ
    • Large range of accessories
    • Fast reaction times (startup, AF, manual zoom ring)
    • More scope for DoF control

SLR disadvantages:

    • Bulky
    • Heavy
    • Perceived to be complicated to use

What an amazing number of people seem to not understand are the following four points:

Point 1:
A market segment might exist for a camera that is better than a compact, but less bulky than a SLR.
Those who deny that such a segment might exist are fools because either:

    they do not know the first thing about market segmentation, and based on their infinitesimal, whimsical or anecdotal experience, are conceited enough to deny the potential for such a market anywhere on the planet
    they have a divinely accurate understanding of present and future camera market segments, but haven't grasped that they're unable to present any plausible evidence as to why their insight is more credible than, say, a camera manufacturer's.

Point 2:
Today's small sensor-compact cameras often deliver a more than good enough IQ, and the Nikon 1 happens to have a sensor that is more than four times larger than the typical compact's 1/2.5" sensor size.

Point 3:
There is also a perception among normal people, who are not camera aficionados, that buying a DSLR and:

    eventually not being able to competently operate it
    ending up taking pictures that aren't that different from those taken with a compact camera
would make one feel quite foolish and disappointed.
Most people do not like to feel foolish and disappointed, hence their hesitation or reluctance to purchase a DSLR even if they are somewhat dissatisfied with their compact camera's performance.

Point 4:
Whether a picture is interesting and valuable is generally determined by its content, and not by the sophomoric, ossified and superficial considerations of dynamic range, resolution or noise considerations that pervade most digital photography forums.
Interesting picture content, for the average camera user on this planet, is born at the intersection of:

    • a suitable photographic subject
    • the availability of a camera
    • the compositional decisions of the photographer
    • the camera's capability to properly focus on and expose the subject.
For anyone with some real world experience of photography, it's obvious that DSLRs often tend to be left at home due to their sheer bulk and weight.
Smallish and easy to carry cameras like the Nikon 1 would naturally get more turns at the bat, and, at the end of the day, it's quite possible that they'd deliver a larger number of interesting, engaging pictures than a DSLR, which is what ultimately matters for normal people who aren't blinkered pixel-peeping camera geeks.

Anyway, when I look at the Nikon 1, I see:

    • a camera with very compact lenses, except for the 10-100mm
    • a planned release of seven additional lenses in addition to the four already announced, including "snap" and "portrait" primes of unknown focal length. Rumor sites have noted that Nikon has already filed patents for mysterious 18mm F/1.4 and 32mm F/1.2 optical formulas with short back focal lengths and covering a 17mm image circle.
    • the ability to "take pictures in the past", as the camera is continuously buffering twenty full-resolution pictures, taken at 30 frames per second, before the shutter button is even pressed
    • a sensor size and IQ that are good enough for most applications — this sample picture, for example, would yield a perfectly fine 30x40cm print.
The combination of picture pre-buffering before shutter release and fast autofocus means that the user, not the camera, is probably going to be the bottleneck as far as reaction times are concerned. These compact Nikons thus go a long way towards addressing the IQ and reaction time limitations that can frustrate compact camera users; in fact, it is probable that no other still camera on the market today matches the Nikon 1's ability to capture a reliably focused "decisive moment".

Of course, phase detection AF at the sensor level and fast image processing electronics will probably be quickly adopted by competing manufacturers, including the APS-C and M4/3 camps. As such, they are but temporary advantages for Nikon.

One other advantage that could be more difficult to match for Nikon's competitors might be video quality.
According to the published specs, the Nikons uses a sensor area that is 3840-pixel wide to capture 1920-pixel HD video. That simple 2x integer ratio, combined with the sensor's published ability to deliver thirty 10MP full-resolution pictures per second, make me suspect that the Nikon V1 and J1 might be the first DSLRs on the market that are actually doing some decent sensor data filtering — e.g. via 2x2 averaging — while creating a 1920x1080 video data stream.
The development effort expended on that Expeed 3 image processing engine will probably also benefit Nikon's future APS-C and full-frame DSLRs.

Today, due to sensor and image engine processing power and bandwidth limits, all the competing DSLRs perform a farily mediocre downsampling of their sensor's pixels, leading to pictures with low effective resolution, annoyingly twittering lines and fine detail, aliasing artifacts like heavily pixellation along slanted edges and unisghtly mobile moiré on repetitive patterns.

If they want to deliver decent HD video without artifacts, Nikon's competitors would probably have to come up with image sensors with an even multiple of 1920 pixels in horizontal resolution and extremely high-bandwidth sensor data channels and powerful image processing / digital filtering / convolution engines.

One area where the Nikons might enjoy a fairly enduring advantage is IQ at the tele end, thanks to the immutable laws of physics:
Popular consumer-grade APS-C zooms with a 18-200mm range generally have a fairly low IQ at their longest focal length, and must often be stopped down to f/11 to achieve an even rendition across the entire APS-C picture frame.
The Nikkor 10-100mm f/4.5-5.6 has a 72mm filter diameter, several times larger than its image circle's diagonal. This might be the result of Nikon trying to improve optical quality by exploring a lens aberration correction parameter space much larger than would typically be possible with an APS-C or full-frame sensor.

From a simple physics point of view, that 72mm front diameter would be equivalent to a 2.7x72mm ~= 190mm front diameter with a full-size sensor. Such a large front diameter, while possible, would yield an overall lens bulk far beyond what most people would consider acceptable as a walk-around lens.

The Nikon 10-100mm might thus have been designed to deliver an extremely even IQ across the frame at f/5.6, whereas an equivalent APS-C zoom might require stopping down to f/11, thereby negating the theoretical photon noise and DoF control advantage of the larger-sized APS-C sensor.

In conclusion, if tests show that the camera has a decent battery life, decent video quality and doesn't have spurious operational problems like overheating when taking videos during the summer, I won't have any qualms recommending it to my non-geek acquaintances seeking to upgrade from a compact camera. Even if they subsequently outgrow the 1 series and move on to a bulky DSLR, they'll probably still find uses for the Nikon 1 as a compact "take everywhere" camera.

Hi Mike - It was a pleasant surprise to see my comment inspiring an interesting new post. I'm glad it prompted some discussion.

Bruno - Everything you have said is logical and describes quite well why a compact camera upgrade market should exist for the Nikon 1. However, people don't really purchase many goods using logic and often their wish lists and pros and cons lists don't translate to real world purchases.

This is kind of the point really. If a camera manufacturer spent a day with me It's easy to list certain features that I really want in a camera but even when that camera gets released I may not buy it.


Note - I did not suggest that a market for better than compact but smaller than DSLR does not exist. I suggested that a market for small interchangeable lens cameras as an upgrade route for compact users might not exist (an exaggeration really, I suspect that it exists but might be a much smaller market than Nikon's focus groups or research leads them to believe).

If there are a significant number of people out there who want interchangeable lenses without DSLR bulk as an upgrade from their compact it puzzles me why m4/3 isn't a much bigger market segment. It already offers just that yet seems mostly to appeal to DSLR and ex-DSLR shooters (i.e. enthusiasts) rather than dissatisfied compact camera users.

I suspect that interchangeable lenses is, at best, low down most non-enthusiast's lists and that when they buy a DSLR as a compact upgrade, they rarely buy a second lens.

What it comes down to is that. I think that lens interchangeability is, by and large, an enthusiast feature and that the Nikon 1 cameras have otherwise been designed mainly to appeal to a non-enthusiast market.

Time will tell. I don't mind being wrong. As I said in the full version of my comment I know perfectly well that my experience does not reflect the entire market. Maybe there's a huge market out there currently sitting untapped or maybe these cameras will sell well to a completely unintended market segment. I'll be interested to see what happens.


About APS, I still do have an expert APS compact camera. Did a roll with it, got totally ripped of as it was far more expensive than 135 (on a x2 factor where I lived then) then stopped shooting film as I got totally disgusted of it as a teenager.
Thank you APS.

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