Thoughts, Responses

[dryly]

I’m unsure how many people are interested (or care) about my thoughts on the D40, but I’ve a need to respond to the howls emanating from various forums over its specifications.

It’s interesting how often new cameras are unfairly vilified. I think it’s a way for people to justify their present camera and justify not upgrading. In the process they get riled up, putting down the new model in the strongest terms possible without giving credit where due. Is it too much to consider a new camera on its own terms?

That aside, the D40…

If priced right, it will hit a market segment that needs something better than a point-and-shoot but not as full featured as higher priced models. These buyers are unlikely to be interested in photography for photography’s sake – they may get there – but do want good photos. Judging from the specifications below, they’re price sensitive, want something small, light and are unlikely to buy lots of extra lenses.

They want the ideal vacation and casual snapshot camera.

Assuming that this is Nikon’s positioning, that this is their target market, are the D40’s specifications reasonable? Yes, and that’s what detractors miss. So the in-body AF motor was dropped. So what? The future is AF-S…has been for some time now. It’s been the case for Canon and I hope to see the same for Nikon and (hopefully) the third-party manufacturers. Dropping the motor probably allowed for:

  • Reduced manufacturing cost
  • Reduced weight
  • Reduced body dimensions

Those are all relevant for the target market. Size and weight aren’t at E-400 level yet – that model’s almost 100g lighter – but I’d like to see a future model get there. The plethora of scene models including Child (!) make perfect sense, as does the purported Hi-1. If you’re in auto mode, having up to ISO 3200 is crucial for low-light indoor shots like, say, my niece’s birthday :P Even the assumed ergonomics are targeted towards first-time buyers. The top status LCD, ISO, WB, bracketing and other buttons are conspicuously absent; it’s obvious that you’re meant to use the menu for changing settings. Those moving from a point and shoot will find that a natural and comfortable way to work. There also seem to be a few concessions to those interested in experimenting…

My interest in the D40 stems from another perspective – that of a sign of things to come. I’m extremely interested in smaller, lighter DSLRs and hope the D80 and D40 represent Nikon’s first tentative steps there. I also hope that the missing in-body AF motor means a complete lens lineup transition to AF-S and AF-S primes for us long-suffering advanced amateurs. I’d also like to see if high ISO performance has improved.

As spec’d the D40 looks like a good camera in its own right. We’ll soon see what the consumers’ take is.

Comments

  1. paul - November 5, 2006 @ 08:57

    thanks for writing in defense. there was similar outcry over some of the features of the d80, and that’s turning out to be a great hit. and i would go even further than you do about the decision to drop AF-S: i think it is a major strategic decision that will give them a short term advantage over the other manufacturers, who probably haven’t thought about reducing costs in this way. a short term advantage is all they will need to capture what’s left of the gowing market — which they desperately need to do after the success of the rebel.

    also, if they make a cheap AF-S normal prime, i will probably buy one myself, just because it will be so portable. and i am definitely not the target here.

  2. Allen George - November 5, 2006 @ 11:34

    Ah yes…there was an outcry about the smaller D80 grip, the Retouch menu (strangely enough!) etc. I’ll admit, I never understood the very few people who derided the Retouch menu. To me it’s nothing but a win; if they didn’t want to use it…they didn’t have to! :S

    No idea how the D80’s selling but regardless, it’s a solid D70 upgrade.

    The idea of competitive advantage you’ve brought up is overlooked in many D40 discussions. Dropping the in-body focus-motor is a short-term strategic advantage and one that Nikon – unlike Sony, Pentax and Samsung – can pull off. Heck, compared to Canon, Nikon’s very late to the AF-S party. Also, in the entry-level market pricing is key and removing a component your buyers are highly unlikely to use is a given. You’re spot-on about Nikon needing a Rebel competitor – Canon’s had a strong grip on that segment for a while now.

    You’ve brought to mind some interesting thoughts on the D80 reception and I’ll soon write about that…

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