The Nikon Z Shortcomings

The Nikon Z Shortcomings

Nikon has released its Z series Full-frame Mirror-less cameras and while there is significant excitement about the new system, it is also being criticised by professional photographers in the media.

While the shortcomings may be real, potential solutions exist for some now, some solutions exist hypothetically and some things we are just going to have to get used to.

  • Lack of dual memory card slots: This may have been caused by compact form factor of the camera but it is also the easiest one to solve. Nikon can either add a Micro SD UHC compatible slot in the next iteration of the camera or modify the software to perform automatic synchronisation of the memory card with your phone. In both cases, the frame rates may drop but reliability will increase. In fact, implementing a software solution should prove to be a piece of cake and photogs will also get the ability to Instagram their photos quickly.
  • Potential lack of battery life to shoot infinite number of photos: Batteries get exhausted. That’s the truth and that is why we stock up on them. That said, Nikon batteries charge relatively quickly and as technology improves, Nikon can implement fast charging batteries that use USB-C chargers. Its just a matter of time. Apart from that, Nikon can also implement an extreme battery-saver mode in firmware that will disable the LCD, 5-axis stabilisation, Wi-Fi / BT, high-speed shooting etc. – all for the sake of getting a few extra frames in.
  • Large form factor when coupled with FTZ adapter and F-mount lenses or telephoto Z-mount lenses: Well, compatibility has it’s price and it is form factor. The Nikon 1 camera system, the Ricoh GR camera system, may have failed commercially but by removing compatibility requirements, they managed to retain their compact form factor. On the other hand, the current market leader in mirror-less – Sony, often has photogs complaining of the bulk of the system when paired with high quality zoom lenses. Apparently all that was saved by becoming mirrorless was a couple of millimeters of flange distance. In return, photogs have a smaller hand-grip, fast exhausting battery and thousands of dollars of additional purchases in lenses and other accessories.

On a side note, while actual reviews of the camera are still awaited including real-world usage experiences, image samples, lab test and maybe even a tear-down using a rotary saw, I am concerned that the Z series cameras are missing the bus on the actual market requirements:

  • The existing Nikon D-SLR camera line-up is among the best in the world and photogs are more than satisfied with it. It will be a small niche group who will find it absolutely compelling to adopt it right away. The rest of may be forced to upgrade by making legacy D-SLR systems more expensive than the mirrorless. After all, Nikon is hardly accountable for how it costs it’s products and limit it’s profiteering in public interest.
  • Software based photography and inclusion of AI is next killer feature in photography. The Nikon Z system probably does not integrate it at all. It is rare to find a photograph that is published in SOOC format. Photogs spend hours in Adobe Lightroom tweaking the image to make it perfectly out-worldly. A camera system that did it in camera or at-least enhanced it using AI would have been most welcome and resulted in faster turn-around time. If Instagram and Snapseed can do it, it is pity that Nikon can’t.
  • I am unsure if multimedia based convenience features such as instant video stories, slide-shows, voice-notes, contact-sheet, preview emails etc. are implemented in the camera. Asking for a rudimentary video editor may also be an overkill. The whole thing sounds like Nikon did not even conduct market research on it’s biggest competitors.

The Nikon Z system is a late entrant to the mirror-less scene (like Microsoft’s entry to Internet based applications). If they play their cards right (like Satya Nadella leading Microsoft to it’s biggest yearly profit ever), Nikon can win this challenge. If they get it wrong, they will be wiped out. As Mr. Nadella says, to turn-around an organisation steeped in historic culture, you need to start by listening to your employees and your customers and they ready to change from inside out.


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