Nikon, NIK and Strange Things
I just read that the Japanese Government is asking Fujifilm to aid ailing Nikon. Then, Google announces they are not going to support NIK filters any more, but stranger things have happened.
Regarding Nikon, it’s my opinion that they really blew it by not developing a mirrorless option for the serious and professional photographer. And, even with their financial problems, they still haven’t come out with a decent mirrorless camera. (Canon FINALLY has, but will it be enough to lure away Sony and Fujifilm mirrorless users?)
Google on the other hand buys NIK, gives it away, and then decides to drop it? To me, that’s all too strange. Why aren’t they selling licenses to use NIK and thus make it a revenue stream?
Nikon owes a lot of its success to Paul Simon. I know people who think Nikon is the only game in town simply because of that song. That’s not to say Nikon cameras aren’t good, it’s simply brand recognition.
Before rhymin’ Simon sang about his Nikon camera, in the 35mm world, there was a game afoot. Olympus, Canon, Mamiya, Minolta, Pentax, Nikon, and more played the game of cat-n-mouse trying to produce the best 35mm SLR.
They all had their place, time and made their mark. By the 1980s, the dust started to settle and Nikon, Minolta and Canon were heavy hitters. Who doesn’t remember the Minolta X-700, or the Canon F-1 or the Nikon F3.
Digital comes along and Canon and Nikon take the lead in the early 2000’s. Canon for a long time was the clear leader, and then Nikon got with the program and it became a game of leapfrog. That lasted until mirrorless became serious.
Canon came out with their EOS-M and Nikon with their Nikon 1. The problem with the EOS-M was it was aimed at the consumer who wanted interchangeable lenses, but at least it was APS-C sized. The problem with the Nikon 1 was it’s tiny 1″ sensor. No way a pro is going to want to shoot with a 1″ sensor these days.
So, a couple of years ago, the writing was clear. Serious photographers want a fast, SLR-like handling, mirrorless camera with a great selection of lenses.
Enter Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus
While mirrorless has been around for a while, it has got real serious the last few years. Sony, by way of history, took over Minolta and has seriously been pursuing the mirrorless market. Olympus was an early contender, but opted for the 4/3rds form factor. (Along with Olympus, Panasonic and Leica have been in the 4/3rds market, but are Johnny-come-latelies.) Fujifilm has been a sleeper, but not a clear leader and competitor with Sony.
While Olympus and the other 4/3rd makers have a loyal following, I see them as a specialty niche. They kind of live in their own world.
Sony on the other hand gave us the 1st full-frame mirrorless. Fujifilm gave us the first medium format mirrorless. Both are delivering great APS-C mirrorless bodies, and I think it is going to be difficult, if not impossible, for Canon and Nikon to capture that business.
Google has a lot of photographers steaming mad. First, NIK was a filter plug in for photo enhancements. Then, Google bought it and decided to give it away.
Now, Google says they are concentrating on smartphone and tablets and will not continue support of NIK.
You wouldn’t see them doing this if they were selling it from the start. Giving something away, and then dropping it would be like a drug pusher giving someone a few doses of coke, getting them hooked, and then saying, “I’m not dealing in coke any more. Want to buy a vapor cigarette?”
(I’m not advocating drugs, I just want to illustrate the absurdity of giving something away and then abandoning your customers.)
I’ve never trusted Google.
Because they were giving NIK away, it is hard for them to sell the product line. Who wants to buy a product line that has zero income but all of the expense to develop and maintain?
I see their stock is close to $1000/share. Tisk, tisk… the bigger they are, the harder they fall. If they keep making decisions like the NIK one, shareholders are going to question the value of the stock.
Lesson Learned as a Consumer
The lesson I’ve learned as a consumer is this…
Don’t be so brand-loyal that you’re left holding the bag. (Or, in this case camera, software, lens…)
While Nikon isn’t gone… yet… I’m not sure I would be buying a Nikon rig right now. (Yes, I was once a Pentax and then a Minolta shooter.)