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Nikon's Premium Pricing and Pixel Overkill: A New Dead End Street?
Even without counting new Coolpixes, lenses and accessories, Nikon's 2012 is one of – if not the – most proliferous year in its history.
Sofar, the company has launched no less than 5 new DSLR cameras: the D4 in January, the D800/E in February, the D3200 in April, the D600 in September and the D5200 – in Europe, Asia and Australia – on November 5, last.
By now, the only thing lacking in Nikon’s renewed line-up are a D7000 and D300S refresh or – possibly – a merge of both, which would sound the end for the DX00 APS-C series as we know it.
We will take a closer look at Nikon’s latest in this post, but for now I'd like to examine how Nikon’s line-up reshuffle is panning out.
Together with the upgrade of virtually all of its models – from flagship to entry level – there are two, clearly emerging trends.
One: Nikon has roughly doubled or even tripled the resolution of all its new cameras in comparison with the previous generation and two: this is resulting in considerable price hikes across the board.
I believe it is fair to say that $ 700 (D3200) is not really an “entry-level” price tag anymore, while I also doubt whether its users will be able to take advantage of its 24,1 Mp. resolution, or rather experience it as an impediment, because of the huge file sizes.
Canon is offering at least one camera, the 12,2 Mp. EOS Rebel T3 (kit, incl. 18-55 mm lens: $ 550) below this price point or even the D3100's $ 650, and it is reasonable to assume that Nikon will have to as well, eventually.
Edited to add: Nikon may have heard me, because today I got a Nikon Promotional email, offering the D5100 (Body alone) for $ 450.
On the other hand, Nikon has totally neglected its traditional semi-pro price bracket – from about $ 1.500 to 2.000 – where the company is currently offering only one, five-year-old camera: the D300S.
The announced launch price of the D5200 in Europe is 899 Euro, which translates into a D7000-akin $ 1.150, leaving Nikon still in need of at least one “something” in between the D7K and D600 to compete with the Canon EOS 7- and 6D.
Clearly, the D5200, in spite of a few advances in technology, does not belong in the same price bracket as the D7K, or even the D90.
The camera will probably street cheaper than that in the USA, where it will not launch until January 2013 – apparently, but there will likely still be a premium to be paid over the D5100’s current MSRP of $ 850.
At first sight, the only exception to this tendency is the D600, which streets at $ 2.100 or 600 dollars less than its “predecessor” D700.
However, the D600 is considerably less sophisticated than the latter. It is much closer to a D5200 with some D7K features and a full frame chip thrown in for good measure and ought to have been priced accordingly: in the 1,2-1,5K range.
Thus, I consider the D600 way overpriced (see this article) and would definitely not recommend buying this camera at its current retail price, even though I (and many others) have been waiting for an idiotic amount of time to get a modern, affordable FX or – at least – APS-C semi-pro Nikon.
For all other new models, the price increases are substantial, ranging from 11 (D700-D800), 22 (D700-D800E) to 50%.
With its MSRP of $ 700 the D3200 is 50% more expensive than the old D3000, while the 900 Euro asking price for the D5200 is hardly justifiable, even if only because of the absence of a focusing motor, a remote commander on the built-in flash and the lack of metering with non CPU lenses, which – by now – is absurd, even for a Nikon entry level.
Let's face it: it uses the same 2,016 pixel RGB metering sensor and Scene Recognition System as the D7000 – which does meter with non-CPU lenses – so, how hard or costly can be leaving that in instead of coding it out?
The same is true for accessories and lenses. In 2007, I paid $ 199 for a new SB-600. The very same flash now goes for $241 refurbed, while a new SB-700 costs $ 330; a whopping 66% more!
The latest example of what Nikon pretends to charge us – one that outraged a few Nikonians here and there – is the tripod collar for the new AF-S 70-200mm f/4G ED VR Nikkor ($ 1.400), which is sold separately for $ 225.
That’s right: Nikon pretends to sell us a pretty expensive, kinda slow long lens without a tripod collar. Surely, more than a few will pony up the extra cash for it.
Unfortunately, there is very little we can do about this; switching to other brands is not going to do us much good – they follow the same kind of strategy – while choosing cheaper lenses is not going to favor our IQ much. We all know that the money is in the glass.
Together with its tougher policies on repair, restrictions imposed on retailers, blunders with the initial pricing of the D800, plus pretty shabby and/or expensive customer service, Nikon is clearly on the wrong path in terms of customer relations, in my humble opinion.
Although – curiously – very few people are complaining about this, I can’t help wondering how long this game is going to last.
NOTE: All manufacturer suggested retail prices (MSRP) quoted from official Nikon websites. Actual retail prices may differ.