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Nikon UK surveys medium format cameras

Nikon UK has an ongoing phone survey to professional photographers. The first few questions are about the type of photography and the exact current equipment each of the targeted photographers are using and then... a bunch of questions on medium format, cameras, backs, lenses, etc... This interest in medium format could be based on the fact that the Nikon D3x camera was promoted as an alternative to medium format users or... (and this is where the rumor mill kicks in) Nikon has plans to release a medium format camera and are researching the market.

Flashback:

  • Nikon executive recently said “We have no experience in the niche market of medium-format. It may simply be impossible for Nikon to go on the market.”
  • Back in 2008 there were a series of ads with unknown source and authenticity that featured what appears to be a medium format Nikon camera ad #1, ad #2, ad #3 and ad #4.
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  • Jabs

    Maybe this is the long rumored MX mount camera system similar in scope to Leica’s S2?

    • http://fotografstuttgart.de Hochzeitsfotograf

      Dear Nikon,

      same as with digital cameras, sport lenses, motor lenses, too late to survey now, learn from your past mistakes as you are best when you finaly get it, sincerely yours.

  • longtimenikonshooter

    It’s hard to say whether or not they can do it on the F-mount.

    • Recent Convert

      If the camera in question is supposed to be a DSLR, then you can rule out the F-mount. There is imply not enough space between the f-mount and the focal plane to accommodate the shutter and the larger mirror of a medium format sensor. As it is, the F-mount is already a challenge for the lens designers: we still don’t have an AFS f/1.2 of any kind. The mirror needs to be about 40% longer than the height of the active sensor area. In FX, that’s about 24mm x 1.4 = 34mm. Add to it the thickness of the low-pass filter and the shutter, and you realize that the available distance of 46.5 mm between imaging plane and front of the F-mount flange affords very little margin. The F-mount was a stroke of genius in 1959, affording the designers new freedoms for the 24 x 36 format. When AF was added, Nikon struggled, but managed to offer unbelievable forward- and backward-compatibility (unlike Canon, which ditched its old mount for the EF, then added EF-S, which is not backward-compatible). But it is not technically feasible to keep the F-mount for MX, if a mirror needs to be accommodated.

      • Chris P

        Why, given the D3s, is any f1.2 lens needed. Huge weight, miniscule depth of field and, like the Canon ones, optically flawed on digital.

        • Anonymous

          Sometimes…just because you can…means you should!

        • Bob Howland

          And that may be a general trend. As sensors become more sensitive and less noisy, high speed lenses become less important. Then again, there are those of like to take pictures in dim jazz clubs at 1/15s, f/1.4, ISO3200. Let’s see…with a D3s, I could have used 1/30s, f/2, ISO12,800.

          • Global Guy

            High speed lenses will not become less important. They are important because the narrow DOF. Maybe 2.8 is fine for most people, but 2 is where it gets interesting, 1.8 performs, 1.4 is what you really want, and 1.2 can simply be amazing.

            Anyway, this topic is regarding MX format. If you can make the D3x perform like the D3s, then you have an MX killer AND an MX killer formula if you created MX lenses. Personally, as I wait for Nikon to deliver my TCx2III and lenses to be in stock, I can understand why they wouldn’t want to set up a Micro4/3 and MX format.

            If 4/3 proves to just be a trendy thing without achieving serious sales along the lines of DSLRs or P&S then Nikon is wise to stay away. And if MX formats begin to suffer serious competition from cheap alternatives, including D3xs++ type DSLR models, then there is no reason to go MX.

            I would love to see it, I just don’t see how its practically to rearrange a company which is as focused as NIkon in order to accomodate these kinds of trendy soft-desires, when the solid markets are for DLSRs and P&S. Its one thing, for example, to offer Video in a DSLR and be first to do. Nikon could create an MX or a 4/3. But its another thing to devote an entire division to ensuring that that technology is perfect at the expense of other more profitable channels.

      • alvix

        mmh..and what about “mirrorless MX” ? …

      • PHB

        I agree that the FX format is not going to support MX for a whole host of reasons, not least being that none of the lenses would work on MX in any case (the tilt/shift lenses have the necessary coverage in the lens component but not through the mount).

        But the idea that F-mount is the barrier to f/1.2 AFS is to fall for Canon marketing FUD. The real reason seems to be that Nikon can’t make a design that meets their quality requirements. To have any point a f/1.2 has to be a lot better than the f/1.4 simply to justify the additional weight. And a modern lens would have to autofocus and resolve to at least 24MP digital if not higher.

        What is entirely possible is that Nikon are looking to see if a higher resolution F-mount sensor would sell well enough to be worth making. The theoretical limit on the F-mount is over 200MP. A 50MP F-mount body is entirely possible from a technical point of view even if it would need a whole new set of lenses to make use of it. I suspect though that the f/1.4 series lenses primes will all prove to be up to the task.

        If you look at the ISO performance of the medium format cameras there is no question Nikon can beat them with an FX camera. the ‘blads only deliver 800 ISO. Nikon could easily do better.

        I think an FX mount body makes a lot more sense for Nikon even if they end up being slightly less IQ wise. They will still win on size weight and flexibility.

        Another serious possibility is that one of the medium camera cos is going under and Nikon is being asked to bid on a takeover.

        • Global Guy

          I agree that Nikon is most likely looking into a possible edge over AT LEAST the entry-level medium formats. Nikon doesn’t shy away from attention and the cleavage in the path between D3x and D3s is so stark that someone at the top was very, very likely thinking about going after Medium format while becoming king of DSLR low-light performance. This would entirely explain the pricing of the D3x, which was exceptionally unexpected — unless you are coming from a Medium format perspective. I feel Nikon is deciding, internally, whether or not they are playing the right card and whether or not to market to medium format industry. As Nikon probably already has partial prototypes of the NEXT generation D3x (or at least a very realistic idea of what will be capable within the next 1-3 years), they must be very aware that the capability of the next gen high-end camera will be enormous.

  • nau

    it can take a very looooooong time from market research till the actual product on a market
    Id say dont even wait for that one its way too far

    • preston

      good point, considering how many people absolutely CAN’T wait the couple months till D700 update comes out (or they will supposedly switch to Canon), I’d agree that this probably is too far off to get folks worked up about.

      • Jeff

        Of course they can’t wait for a D700 replacement, in the US summer is nearly here and the D700 is widely regarded as the best landscape Nikon body for most folks looking at that $ range. A July announcement means getting it in time for fall, summer’s over by the time it ships.

        April/May is a much better time for Nikon to release bodies. IMHO

        • nau

          1st time I see D700 as the best Nikon for landscape hm….
          go with D3x maybe ?

  • stepper

    Does anyone know what the imaging circle is on the most current lenses?
    I was just thinking the other day that it would be neat if Nikon had a larger sensor already in mind when they designed/introduced the newest lenses on the market without us even knowing. . . Of course I’m not talking medium format but just slightly bigger than FX.

    • Jeff

      Nikon could easily supply an adapter to mate an FX lens to an MX body. Sure there would be some minor limitations but it’s not like all your lenses would become obsolete if you only had an MX body.

      • PHB

        Sure, you can do this by moving the lens flange forward and adjusting the focus point. But that does absolutely nothing to improve the quality of the image. You won’t be taking in any more light and so you won’t get any better low light performance.

        An FX lens is going to give better results on an FX body than on an MX body regardless of what you try to do to the mount.

        The reason DX lenses are not quite as good as the FX lens is because they have the mirror sweep constraints and flange to sensor distance of the FX format.

        I cannot imagine Nikon coming out with a new SLR format at this point. That space is completely covered. The only way that makes sense for them to enter is in a mirrorless format. But if they go for a mirrorless format they no longer have the lens design constraints of the SLR format and should have no difficulty at all producing lenses capable of 50MP or higher resolution in the FX mount.

        The obsession with huge sensors on the bulletin boards is really quite strange. Film required huge sensors. Digital does not. In fact it is easier to make smaller sensors than large ones. The optical benefits of FX over DX come from not having to work round the constraints of a different format. The low light benefit comes from the fact that for any given effective focal length and f/ratio the FX lens will have twice the front glass area of the DX lens.

    • Dogbreath

      I have never seen a comprehensive list of image circle diameters of lenses, but any lens which currently vignettes a stop or more on FX is unlikely to have an image circle large enough to support anything larger.

      • http://fotografstuttgart.de Hochzeitsfotograf

        unless there is optical adapter

  • Gordon

    Considering the Nikon MX rumour has been kicked around for a while now, I think there is some substance to it. Perhaps the Nikon exec didn’t want to alert their competitors on any impending plans.

    I still refer to this post on the Fred Miranda forums (Sept 09) (http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/814041/0) which seems to alude to something big being released by Nikon in the distant future.

    • http://www.itakeyourphoto.com Dave Gruentzel

      D3s?

    • Simon

      You are worst than NR

    • Twoomy

      Yes, but it’s always a question of WHEN or IF. Some people have obviously seen and touched “tomorrow”, but nobody really knows WHEN or IF. Some people have stated that the D700x (a small D3x) was being tested in the field LAST SPRING. But for some reason, Nikon decided not to release it (probably because it didn’t have movie mode and they want to stuff movie mode into every new camera). So will that camera come out this year or did they completely tank it in favor of a lower MP D700s or D900 (16-18mp) upgrade? We’ll see in a few months… or another two years. :)

      I believe there is an MX project going on but that it’s also quite possible it will be tanked if Nikon believes that it’s just not marketable. With all the whining that the D3X is too expensive, how much whining will there be if Nikon releases a $15k camera that takes $3k lenses…

      • Anonymous

        I havent heard much whining outside of the forums, its mostly people that dont NEED a D3x that whine about it being too expensive, djeez, learn to read with sense and filter comments! Wasnt the D3x outselling canons flagship?

      • T140Rider

        It is quite possible that a Dx00 replacement for the D700 with something like the D3x resolution was in field test last year. If it was and was canned it could be purely down to the yield ratios for the sensor. If they are not good enough then each one costs more to produce thus pushing up the price of the camera into D3x territory.
        Remember that when you compare the D3x volumes to the D700 volumes, the latter is a mass market device. The margins are smaller leaving less room for issues with sensor yield.

        I am sure that Nikon will have many prototype cameras & lenses in test all the time and in various parts of the world & envirnments. Perhaps we should put people with Camera (nikons naturally) at strategic Nikon facilities all over the world in the hope of ‘snapping’ new bits of kit just like all the Car Mags do already?

        • http://fotografstuttgart.de Hochzeitsfotograf

          your comment would make sense, well maybe in imaginary world. In the world where A850 is not sold with (huge) profit

    • nau

      New Nikon lens super zoom … like 1000mm ? its big :)

  • Simon

    This is sign that Nikon can no longer hack it in the dSLR market now Canon has trumped them market wise with superior HD video so they are exploring other alternative in the smaller niche market segment like medium format.

    • Chris P

      I don’t know which country you live in, but here in the UK the D3s outsells the 1DMkIV, the D3x outsells the 1DsIII and the D700 outsells the Canon 5DII to photographers, the only people buying the 5DII in preference to the D700 are videographers and landscape photographers to whom the poor build quality and near useless autofocus are outweighed by the video feature and 21Mp sensor. That is what I would call been trumped and settling for a niche market.

      • Anonymous

        Chris P, get your figures right! The 5DII outsells the D700 in the UK at least 2:1.

        • Chris P

          Note I said the D700 outsells the 5DII to photographers, i.e. those who are looking for the best all round photographic tool for still photography. I specifically did not mention overall sales, which includes those who are looking to use it for video, i.e. those who are not really bothered about the build quality, only the quailty of the video output, and landscape photographers who want the 21 mp sensor and are not bothered by the fact that it has difficulty in accurately focussing on a moving object.

          • Anonymous

            Chris, valid point. OTOH, unfortunately this may not help Nikon at all because at the end of the day everyone looks at the final figures and in that area Nikon right now is a very poor perfomer. In fact, the sales of the D700 according to some experts (overall) is 5 to 1 against the 5DII. They sell 5 5DIIs while Nikon sells 1 D700. It is a disaster for Nikon.

            The reason for that is because people who already have a D90 or D300 are not likely to make the switch just to get the FF. Many of those want at least better resolution and Nikon just milked too long this 12MP sensor. Now, the big issue for Nikon right now is to at least match the 21MP of the 5DII. If Nikon does not match at least the resolution more people will go to Canon. Some say that the new 1DsIV will have 32MP. If that’s the case then I wonder how long it will take for Nikon to match that. 2-3 more years? I am afraid that when it comes to resolution and video C is one step ahead of Nikon which is about 2-3 yrs.

  • NoSayer

    Guys, don’t get too excited, this all sounds like market research were you also explore upmarket and downmarket. It could well be that all those pro’s said they don’t need bigger chips in the camera……

    • TheIncredibleUlk

      Depends on how many photographers do mf. It’s a rather small market with small sold quantities where already a strong, excellent and an established competition exists, so i agree with you: it’s just survey.

      • TheIncredibleUlk

        But maybe, just maybe, they want to poach the neighboring megapixelarea, say 30 Mp?

        • PHB

          30MP is too close to the D3x. But 36MP would probably be enough. If the D4 and D400 are 18MP, a 36MP D4x model in 2012 would make complete sense and be more than capable of most applications the medium format cameras currently handle at a much lower price.

          • Anonymous

            18MP in a new FF flagship is a joke. Ok for you 12MP lover it is fine but for those who want a bit more they will not wait until 2012. They will simply switch to canon’s new 1DsIV.

            I think it is pretty much the last minute for Nikon to show that they can do something serious because keep in mind approx the same number of people want more resolution than those who want more iso at 12MP. I am sorry but Nikon has been serving the latest for the last 5 years. If no small body FF

          • Anonymous

            If no small body FF within 3 months, quite few more people will switch to Canon.

    • Bob Howland

      I agree. It sounds like pure marketing research. For all we know, the responders all said that they want much better dynamic range over high pixel count and high ISO.

  • TheIncredibleUlk

    If Nikon is surveying NOW then a possible product would hit the street when exactly?
    I remember how long it took Pentax to finish their new mf…

  • Anonymous

    …and as Nikon always does it all at 12MP!!!! Long live the 12MP!!!

  • http://www.thefactory21.com Jay

    MF sensor would make sense 12mp is perfect for photojournalism.
    Leave DSLR’s to that and for the studio types go with a 40mp MF sensor with something like a Hassy mount.

  • Jesus_sti

    They have said they never go into medium format market but …
    - They recently said they will surprise everyone
    - Nikon have new president
    - Pentax finaly made un medium format
    - everyone ask for more MP …

    • Discontinued

      Pentax has a history in MF. Nikon hasn’t.

  • Zen-Tao

    I don´t believe a single word. Nikon is jammed in DSLR´s production. The mesage was clear in this point. “Maximun quality: D3x.The rest of the business (Nikon real business) is wedding, press a nfew more” So that improving video features the next cámera will be a D700 tweaked with 1080p 30 fps and that will mean a hard work that I´m not sure that Nikon will be capable to make. Develop a medium format camera? Don´t make me laugh.

  • m35g35

    I really don’t care. Can’t afford the D3x anyway, so what is the point? If Nikon did come out with a MF the cost would be… well out of reach I would think for most. The Pentax MF is over $10,000 (USD). I can’t even afford that one. I have to hit the lottery to afford a MF camera. Even at that point I doubt I would spend that much. Interesting concept and fun to think about, but not realistic for me.

  • hybris

    dont bellive ti for a sec!
    the mf marked is already floded
    and there is no way nikon can reuse the fx lenses in mf

    the fx circel is 36x36mm

    • Mike

      How does a circle have 2 dimensions?

      • Discontinued

        FX Diameter is 43.something (same as the diagonal of the rectangle). A 36×36 square has a diagonal of about 51mm. FX lenses don’t serve that. F-mount and lenses for larger formats than FX is simply out of question. At least hybris has guessed that right.

  • The invisible man

    That may be related with the new Nikon 3 sensors DSLR.
    The camera is physicaly HUGE, probably because of the 3 sensors design (or it may use new lenses with larger mount.)
    Anyway, Nikon will probably sell that camera for over $10.000 so it’s not in my buget (especially if I have to buy new lenses with it).
    Only 25 more days until my birthdays, the D800/D700x/D900 better show up soon.

  • humenbean

    Wish we could actually get off the kick of pointlessly talking about a d700 release and when you think it should be done. I actually enjoy reading meaningful posts for users.

    Just gets frustrating when every third post is “I think nikon should release the d700 in spring cuz that is like when they should cuz thats the bess time you kno?

    Stick on topic please.

  • Zoetmb

    You guys are dreaming again. Nikon is NOT going to do a medium format camera simply because it’s a niche market and Nikon does not do niche markets.

    Anything they do medium format is going to cost more than D3x/D3s territory and the lenses will be more expensive as well. With today’s (and especially tomorrow’s) high resolution, low noise, 35mm frame sensors, medium format is simply not necessary. The only place where it might be needed is in high-end advertising, but as the traditional magazine publishing industry collapses and as more periodicals move to the web, it’s not even really necessary there any more.

    And Nikon seems to still be having problems keeping their current lens line in inventory.

    Furthermore, Nikon is trying to cut costs. Which do you think they’re going to invest in: a high-end medium format body and lens system that while expensive, will probably sell far less than 10,000 units a year or the equivalent of an EVIL camera, which could sell a million units?
    Not going to happen.

    • The invisible man

      I see many people talking about the “EVIL” camera ?
      What is that ? Is it a compact camera or a DSLR ?
      What’s special bout it ?

  • That Guy

    EVIL = Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeble Lens.
    Not a dslr nor a compact. Not even a rangefinder.

    The “special” part is that it can be very compact but with a large sensor.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you.

  • Victor Hassleblood

    A survey only makes sense if you can listen …

    What people really want has been said often enough here: one half just wants to cheer Nikon for clean 12 MP till the end of time and will be happy anyway. Others have explained different demands and reasons for it. A Nikon MF is simply not on the list of wishes. END OF SURVEY.

  • Nikola

    yup, Nikon will make what’s most profitable. Read Thom Hogan’s take on this, and he’s very right I think

  • ArtTwisted

    Most people talking about costs are coming at it from the wrong angle here, they are thinking if they replaced all of there gear for mf it would cost more which of course is true but you need to think of that applications. MF is for landscape, portraits, weddings, studio. You do not need nearly as many lenses and they do not need expensive things like SWM or VR. Not to mentio you can keep the body which costs a few grand and swap out the backs when you upgrade. I think if you are a specialised photographer such as a studio portrait shooter you could get away with one camera and two lenses, maybe even one lense to start with. How many pro nikon shooters have a body and ONE lens. its a different way to shoot in general.

  • Ren Kockwell

    And let’s keep talking about how print is dead and everything is moving to the web. Have you passed a newsstand lately? The numbers don’t bare out your theory. There’s still plenty of use for quality MF photography. But Nikon doesn’t have the horses or the guts to go there.

  • Discontinued

    @ArtTwisted
    I don’t know a single pro who is pleased with just one MF-lens.

    @ArtTwisted & all others
    Pretty much every MF-shooters dream is to have the handling and possibilities of smaller systems combined with the IQ of MF without it’s limitations, weight and bulkiness. And this is exactly how MF gets advertised ever since …
    Even the old analogue 6x7s from Pentax and Mamiya claimed to have 35mm like handling and to offer endless possibilities in lenses. Ridiculous of course and far of the truth. New HBs and Leica S2 got closer to this, but MF is still getting used for three reasons only: IQ, IQ and IQ.

    I have worked with various MF systems in the past 18 years. The Idea, that any of those could make 35mm equipment obsolete has never occurred to me or any other photographer I know. The idea of purchasing a D3X is something that doesn’t really cross the minds of most MF-shooters either. Such a huge 2nd investment today just doesn’t make any sense economically. You can buy two or three HB-MF-lenses (H-series) for the same money and still get a much much better IQ.

    But I really wouldn’t mind the hole MF-thing to become obsolete to me and many others in 6-8 years from now with a D5X and some lenses, made to deal with high res crammed to a FX-sensor. MF has always been a love-(IQ)-hate-(handling and limitations)-relationship to most photographers.

    For the same reason I would purchase a D700X right tomorrow and use it to get done what can be done by a 24 MP-sensor and leave my HB-equipment locked up much more often. Doing it even with a smile and no regrets. Times are changing.

    • http://fotografstuttgart.de Hochzeitsfotograf

      truth is different. When you compare MF cameras with beasts like D3x or 1dsmkIV, the difference is small. Sure i would love D700 like MX camera but that is tough to pull and would carry with it.
      Personally i like big cameras for everything i would use MF for. Reportage will never be MF domain because there speed matters and 135 is already good enough.

      • Victor Hassleblood

        @Hochzeitsfotograf

        I think you didn’t read Discontinued’s comment carefully. Reportage is no subject of it. A D700 like MX camera isn’t.

        He clearly speaks of a D5X and FX-format as an option for MF to become obsolete in a fairly distant future.

        What he says (as I understand it) is basically, that he would buy a 700X but no D3X as long as he feels the necessity to own an expensive MF-System anyway. Nothing wrong with that.

        In other words: He is not going to buy any Nikon right now. Just as me. Just as many. Neither rebates nor survey is going to change this.

  • Discontinued

    “He is not going to buy any Nikon right now.”

    Victor,
    simplified but true.

    “Personally i like big cameras for everything i would use MF for.”

    Hochzeitsfotograf,
    and what advantage do you get out of it? Have you ever even used one of the mentioned systems? Again, MF gets used for three reasons only: IQ, IQ, IQ. Handling, seize and weight are not among these reasons. Just do a single day shooting a HB (V-System) with a CFV-39 (digital back) handhold in the studio for vertical shots all the time. Use a 45 degree viewfinder with it too. I’m sure you will enjoy it ;-)

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