Nikon files patent applications for an interchangeable sensor and 80-400mm f/4.6-5.4 lens (updated)

Nikon filed a patent application in Japan for a interchangeable/removable sensor. This patent application is not yet uploaded in the English language website of the Japanese Patent Office (they update this every few months) and the details are not clear, but it seems that the sensor is inserted into a guide rail and Nikon somehow have also addressed the dust issue (Google translation):

"The imaging unit is inserted into the body along the guide rails until the well-studied material is pressed from the back, the positioning is accurate. It seems that the dust reduction is also considered. The description in the patent literature, but seems to assume SLR conventional and a mirror reflex, to the presence of the reflector from there to the claims, I can say is intended to mirror-less. (Patent application 2010-258657, published on 11/11/2010, filled on 04/23/2009).

Patent application 20100284092 is for a Nikon 80-400mm f/4.6-5.4 lens. This design is slightly different that the previous patent for a 80-400mm lens:

Nikon also filed a patent application for a Nikkor 1500-6000mm f/5-20 and 375-1500mm f/5-20 reflex type lenses. Again, the details are hard to understand - maybe this a telescope with a F mount that will allow you to attach a Nikon DSLR camera - similar to Nikon EDG fieldscopes that have an optional DSLR F-mount adapter. Remember also the Nikon stereoscopic microscope that had a F-mount attachment?

Did Nikon tried to patent a Wi-Fi SD card with this patent application (something similar to Eye-Fi cards)?

"Patent Document 1 discloses a communication apparatus provided to an image capturing apparatus. This communication apparatus can transmit to the outside, via a wireless LAN, a digital image stored in a recording medium of the image capturing apparatus or a digital image recorded by the image capturing. apparatus."

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  • Patrick

    Interchangable sensor…Great for us, but why would Nikon do that when they are able to get us to buy an entirely new body every two years?

    • Oh boy, I always knew it — the D4 will have interchangeable sensors! Why? They probably figured selling overpriced sensors is better money than selling overpriced bodies.

      • Zograf

        Not only that – they will start selling you many sensors for the same body: IR, B&W, Hi-res, Hi-ISO,… you name it. Lots of choices, double the investment..

      • Bryan

        Not to mention it’s probably cheaper for them overall to produce just different sensor backs rather than update bodies all the time. Faster production.

        • To me it looks more like a slide-in module/cartridge rather than a digital back.

          • production vs demand

            tomato/ potato
            the point is they have trouble keeping up with demand. Maybe this way they could keep up with demand and stay competitive.

        • Anonymous

          It may reduce warranty costs as well. When a sensor is defective, it is simply interchanged and the camera returned to the owner. Quicker, cheaper, perhaps even more reliable if the interchangeable module is ruggedized.

    • eyrieowl

      There’s a lot of ways they could make it work. One that occurs:

      If the sensor specs on the interchangable bodies are different than the unibodies, you could get people choosing one path vs another based on the convenience. For example (with numbers from my rear): D4 – 18mp D4x 32mp and assume interchangable is from the Dixxx family – Di800 – 16mp Di800x 28mp. In that scenario, you’ll get people buying one path or another based on their perceived need for extra resolution. And some people will buy on BOTH paths, which makes you even more money.

      Or, you could determine that you’ll make more profit on your high-res chip if the marginal cost is lower. Using D3 line as example: set Di3 no-sensor price at $2500. Sell Di3 cartridge for $1500. Sell Di3s cartridge for $1500. Sell Di3x cartridge for $5000. So…you’ll have some shooters who would have bought all those bodies anyway. And you’ll lose sales on them. But…there’s probably a number of D3 owners who weren’t going to spring for a D3s who might if the extra outlay is $1500. You make money off them. And you’ll have D3 owners who no-way-no-how are going to spend $7+k for a D3x. But there might be a good many more of them who would spend $5k. And if a photographer needs multiple bodies, well, you’re making the same money off that photog you would have before. *Finally*, you make the body only good for a “generation”. I.e., the Di3 body is only good for the Di3 generation of cartridges. For the next generation, you’ll still be selling a new body b/c you’ll need to support higher transfer speeds, different card formats, improved LCD screens, etc etc. So your Di3 sales won’t cannibalize from your Di4 sales. You can still get people to churn from one generation to the next.

    • Jack

      If they are able to pull it off, it makes perfect sense to me from a production/sales standpoint–particularly if they release an EVIL camera as well. Sales of mirrorless cameras are way up–and particularly attractive to Soccer Moms and the like.

      This would provide two avenues–mirrorless for casual photographers and interchangeable sensors for serious amateurs/professionals. Most serious amatuers/pros do not “use up” their camera. I see lots of original 5d’s on Fred Miranda with under 8000 clicks, and that’s an old camera. With cameras as nice as the D700 and D3, I’d be fully willing to pay to upgrade the sensor. Sure, some nice new features come out, but for a lot of photography (except ultra high res), the body, autofocus, and metering does everything I could ever hope for.

      This would probably hurt used camera sales, but definitely help new (which is what Nikon is interested in).

      Addendum–Don’t get me wrong: I would like a serious mirrorless (thank you x100), but most pros will not use them for work, and body size is unbalanced for large fast zooms.

  • charley

    Thoughts on the strange f-stops?

    • iamlucky13

      I’m puzzled by the entire concept…an 80-200 with a consumer aperture range, when they already have the 55-200 garnering good sales. Does that image show two moving groups? Maybe a macro zoom?

      • Eric Pepin

        I agree, with those odd Fst0ps, not the f4 70-200 were waiting for, theres already a dx 55-200 which is cheap and good, and theres a decent 70-300, Id guess a macro zoom, or should i say micro zoom as only canon makes a true macro lens.

        • ZoetMB

          Read what the mod wrote: those are probably lenses for scopes, not lenses for cameras, thus the odd f-stops.

          Or… there’s nothing inherent in an f-stop that’s patentable, so it may be a way for Nikon to disguise what they’re actually working on. But I actually doubt that because there isn’t much of a market for a (presumably absurdly expensive) 1500-6000mm zoom lens, perhaps except among government espionage agencies. So I do think this is a scoping lens.

          • Apertures are usually approximated, 4.6 to 5.4 should be rounded (pardon the pun) to 4.5 and 5.6.

            Take a look at another 80-400 patent, here.
            The table states the apertures for wide angle end state to be 4.6, intermediate focal length state to be 5.3, and telephoto focal length state to be 5.8.

          • iamlucky13

            There’s some slight confusion here:

            The 1500-6000mm and 375-1500mm reflex designs appear to be entirely distinct from the 80-400mm refractive design.

            Also note, when I posted last night, the rumor stated an 80-200mm F/4.6-5.4. The admin has apparently updated this to 400mm on the tele end.

            Knowing this, it seems clearly more likely this relates to the 80-400 replacement, although I’m still curious about the two moving focus groups. Isn’t that more typical in close-focusing, flat-field designs?

            Admin – as a request, could you include the word “update:” in your paranthetical text when you make changes to your posts after going live? I think it would help with clarity.

            Also, your update says “tele focal length of 20mm,” which should, of course, be 200mm. Thanks.

            • sure, I added “updated” to the title and will do the same in the post (usually I do)

            • iamlucky13

              Thanks! Your responsiveness to user feedback is part of what makes your site great.

            • springer

              The f-number has still not been updated; the rumor says f/4.6-5.4 but the patent says f/4.6-5.8 (the 5.4 is at 200 mm).

              Of course, that means it will be marketed as an f/4.5-5.6.

              With this design having an actual focal length of 82-382 mm it will have slightly longer reach than the old 80-400, which had an actual range of 82-371 mm according to a test in a magazine.

  • goose

    in the near future, sensors will be like memory cards. Rad’

    will be just like film, oh yeah

  • gt

    An 80-200mm F4.6 – F5.4?

    talk about useless and redundant. That’s actually a step backward from the optically excellent and fairly inexpensive 70-300mm

    • danpe

      It doesn’t seem to have VR, maybe designed for the rumored EVIL?

      • nobody

        No. It has the FX image diameter of more than 43mm, while the (supposed) patents of the EVIL lenses have a diameter of only 17mm.

      • John

        Yes it has VR – you can see the VR group that is indicated by the line with arrows that points transverse to the optical axis. The VR group is also not floating.

  • nobody

    You’ve got the focal length wrong on the tele zoom, it’s actually a patent for an 80-400mm lens. But contrary to a former patent it does not have a constant build length.

    E.g. the first example has focal lengths from 82.4mm to 388.2mm, with f4.6 – f 5.8, and overall length varying between 219.70mm and 277.72mm.

    I must say I would prefer the earlier patent with a constant build length.

    • springer

      What are the advantages of constant build length?

      A lower minimum length is an advantage for transportation and I personally don’t mind a lens extending during use, but I might overlook some advantages of the constant length design.

      • Anthony D’Atri

        It means that one doesn’t have to worry about physically weak barrel extensions being loose and getting damaged. It also means that one doesn’t have to worry about dirt working its way between the sliding surfaces, and that one can grab the lens barrel at any point to sturdy it.

      • fotosniper

        weather and shock resistance

  • john

    the question now is when will we see a nikon interchangeable sensor camera

    looking at the patent application for the Nikon 80-200mm f/4.6-5.4, from” fig33-34″, it looks like this is for EVIL camera, but what are Nikon think, from “fig33 b 5” looks like they are going to put the zoom control in the camera body.

  • Catastrophile

    too many patents, too little materialization!

  • Theoretical

    This is not an 80-200, it’s 80-400 replacement (really 388). If you scroll down, you’ll see that 200 mm is the midpoint of the zoom and that it looks like an 80-400. It looks like they’ve got several diferent flavors/possibilities for it aperture-wise, but that’s about all I can see of it. To see what I mean, just search for “Table 1” and subsequent ones.

    • GlobalGuy

      82-388mm lens? Go 400mm or longer or go home, Nikon! I find “80” COMPLETELY unnecessary and stopping short of 400 a complete WASTE and misunderstanding of what people want from Nikon with such a lens.

      I would love a “105-450VR” or “135-500VR”!!!!

      80-400 = 5x zoom
      100-400 = 4x zoom, but
      135-500 = just 3.7…..

      So don’t tell me its impossible, Nikon. I want this lens for distance, not to just overlap what 3 of your other lenses already do perfectly well! Think about it before you make it. 135-500mmVR would be a great lens.

      • Eric Pepin

        you do realize all the lens companies round those kinds of numbers as they wish, the lens would be sold as a 400mm and you would never had noticed the difference, just like most fast 50’s arent 50mm at all.

      • Anonymous

        Precisely! Who really needs the low end of 80 mm?

        If Nikon offered a 150-450 mm I think many more people would be interested and it would only be a 3:1 zoom ratio. I know there are a lot of amateur wildlife photogs who would be interested in an affordable lens that has some reach.

        • Anthony D’Atri

          You wrote “Nikon” and “affordable lens” in the same paragraph. Best laugh I’ve had all day.

          • Anonymous

            Me too. I guess you realize I meant “relatively affordable”. If it is another $6K wonder, Nikon will wonder why so few people buy it.

            Canon (cough!) makes a comparatively reasonable 100-400 mm zoom so I do not see that it is an impossible dream.

            • Susan

              “Canon (cough!) makes a comparatively reasonable 100-400 mm zoom so I do not see that it is an impossible dream.”

              And Canon is coming out with an updated version of their 100-400 in January (or Feb latest). I know this to be fact. Nikon is going to lose a lot of wildlife customers to Canon if they don’t come out with something similar very soon.

      • Susan

        YES!!! I too would love a 105-450 or 135-500 VR!!!! No slower than 4.5-5.6 though please. That would be a PERFECT lens for wildlife.

    • fixed that – I did not even see the right column with the 400mm focal length at all (I wrote that at 2 am after a Roger Waters concert)

  • Theoretical

    Of course if it’s really for the EVIL, then it’s a 200-1000.

  • There is already an English version of the page that you are linking to:

    Among others, it states that ceramics are used for the sliding rails – that makes a lot of sense when you want maximum precision. The Contax AX used ceramic rails for moving the film plane back and forth to do AF.

    And this is way more attractive than the Ricoh GXR version of interchangeability, I must say 🙂

    • the English version you mentioned provides less information – compare the amount of text between both posts. Anyway, this is not the official website of the Japanese Patent Office that I was talking about, which has a full text English language section.

  • texasjoe

    People already ask is that thing (300 2.8) a freaking telescope? Now I can tell them, why yes it is. Thanks for noticing. Now get away from me about a hundred yards and I’ll take a headshot of you.

  • Gordon

    Hmm…I wonder if the replaceable sensor is Nikon’s desire to merge the D# & D#X models into one body and just offer customers the ability to choose the sensor they wish to use?

    It is rumoured that Canon will not be releasing a 1Ds MkIV but replace it with a suped up 5D MkIII. If this is true then Nikon offering the ability to swap lenses in a pro-level body will put them in a unique position in the market place. Will such design decision make future Nikon pro bodies more affordable?

    • asdasd

      will never happen. it is too sensitive to be user replaceable. keep in mind that in europe is 2 years required warranty, this would be nightmare for QC and any support.

      • Eric Pepin

        canadian warranty on nikon bodies is also 2 years…

  • Grumpy old Ken

    Replaceble sensor..mhmmm….how much of the image processing electronics/firmware would be in the module and what would be in the body?

    I can see some benefits: low-res/hi-iso/hi-fps module and hi-rez/lo-iso/lo-fps module to be put in one and the same body…..makes sense to those that need it. Or a Dx versus Fx module?

    Or can the module be taken to an EVIL’sh body.

    What would dictate the frames-per-second: the module, the body (electronics, mechanics of the mirror)?

    The module idea is great in a sense when you think as manufacturer that the body design is mature, want to lower R&D costs and time and just engineer modules. Bodies might be around for 5 and more years, sensor may itterate every 2 years.

    Maybe customer can mix’n’match sensor and body to some extend, thus not only choice of sensor but also choice of body.

    But why do I have the feeling that we never will see a camera like this??????

    • WoutK89

      “Or a Dx versus Fx module?”
      Talking about obsolete. If the FX module has enough MP, no one would need a separate DX module. It would also be waste of a big viewfinder, when you put a DX sensor in an “FX” body (not even speaking of the AF-module)

      • Grumpy old Ken

        maybe for those that need/want a D3x/s style body but don’t need/want FX chip (yet). Maybe an upgrade path? buy a FX body (could be they all will be FX anyway) slot in DX chip, maybe later add a FX chip. Take D300/D700: the price difference is probably 80-90% induced by the sensor.
        D700 body $ 2350,–
        D300s body $ 1450,–

        • Just A Thought

          “Take D300/D700: the price difference is probably 80-90% induced by the sensor”

          Larger mirror box – a few bucks
          Larger finder prism – a few bucks
          Larger shutter mechanism – a few bucks
          Larger sensor – a few bucks
          Smart way of marketing FX – a lot more bucks

    • We have 3rd party interchangeable lens manufacturers.. will we have 3rd party interchangeable sensor manufacturers?

      • Eric Pepin

        Ill take a 40 megapixel (true 40 sigma !) foveon please.

    • Ted

      Replaceable sensor would be great. I would still shoot with my F100 all day long if it had the ability to take a D700 sensor. Nikon bodies from the past 10+ years can use all the modern Nikkors and have very decent focus and metering capabilities. I do not think I will outgrow my D300s for many years, however, I will probably upgrade when the next generation comes out (for mostly stupid reasons) and leave my perfectly good D300s (not even close to its shutter life expectancy) on the shelf or sell it for quite a bit less than I paid for it. Swapping the sensor could let me keep using my camera body as long as I did my film camera bodies. The devil is in the details though. As sensors advance how will the digital processing engine speed in the past generation cameras keep up? At some point you will have to start over with a new body.

  • VJ

    It makes sense… Back in the film days, a body lasted YEARs without really changing. In the current digital cameras, the sensor is mainly the only reason people upgrade to new bodies.
    But isn’t it (concept wise) resembling the Leica R9? There was a digital back, that made the camera a digital one. Granted, the digital back module for the R9 was more extensive and included display and so; but I would guess you’d need to replace some additional electronics apart from the sensor (buffer, some processing unit, …) to provide a proper upgrade path. Compare with a PC: upgrading the CPU alone will only get you so far, you need to upgrade other components as well to get a true improvement.

  • Ken Elliott

    The interchangeable sensor represents Nikon returning to their roots. The Nikon F, F2, F3 and F4 were all modular cameras. You could mix and match the components to build some fantastic setups. I miss those cameras.

    With a modular digital design, Nikon separates the body design from the sensor design. This allows much longer production runs (and easier inventory control) of pro bodies, more frequent sensor/electronic package upgrades, and greatly reduces the risk of a flop. It also smooths income because rather than a spike that depends on a new model, you have a lot more upgrades at a lower cost. Pros can build that into their budget (a new sensor every year per body) and may actually buy more bodies.

    This also lets Nikon take more design risks. They might develop a radical new body that would be far too risky at $5000, but sell pretty good at $2500. Like an underwater pro body. A pro will buy a body for a single job, if the job completely covers the cost. I’ll bet for every body they sell, they’ll sell 1.5 to 2 sensors. Pros will flock to such a system, which sells even more lenses.

    Put me down for a pair of bodies, a pair of low-light sensors and a pair of high MP sensors.

    • Discontinued

      “Put me down for a pair of bodies, a pair of low-light sensors and a pair of high MP sensors.”

      Me too.

      Plus I take a pair of movie sensors as well, optimized for the required RES, sharp as a tack with insane high ISO, DR and insane high fps rather than down sampled BS from an overheating high MP sensor.

      And yes, since you are at it, Nikon, please make the viewfinder and screens as interchangeable as it used to be with the F4

      • Grumpy old Ken

        Plus I take a pair of movie sensors as well

        Yup!, that could also be a very valid application for a sensor module: like a sensor which is only has 1920×1080 but very big sensors, faster readout, etc etc.

      • Ken Elliott

        >> “And yes, since you are at it, Nikon, please make the viewfinder and screens as interchangeable as it used to be with the F4”

        I REALLY miss that feature. I still have my F4, and when you get low, being able to pop the viewfinder off makes it a breeze. It’s darn annoying that so-called pro bodies don’t do that. Enough so that I’ll often hook up a laptop because I simply can’t use the the viewfinder or live view. Sometimes its just easier to use the F4 and develop the film. Talk about de-featuring!

  • tsnake

    Shouldnt we be hearing some rumors concerning the D4 about right now?

  • joey

    I would rather buy an overpriced sensor than a new body for a couple of reasons…

    It is safe to assume it would still be less than a body

    I often feel that the body outlives the sensor quality… however, I am very content at the D700/D3 point in all areas.

    You would feel a little behind if a new body comes out with insanely improved AF or something like that… You’d be like hey!… where is my replaceable auto focus?

    It would reduce e-waste

    You could conveniently sell the old sensor when you upgrade.

    I would expect this feature to only be on pro bodies since they have the best lifespan/durability.

    But when your body starts to go downhill you would inevitably be faced with the question of repair or replace….

  • D80 user

    Nobody here read Thom Hogan’s “camera redefined”?

    If memory serves me, he’s presented the idea of a modular camera, with interchangeable sensors, to Nikon executives.

    • Jabs

      @D80 user.
      Nikon started the modular 35mm camera movement back in the 1950’s, as far as I know and the F through F5 film cameras were always modular.
      It is the DIGITAL series and the F6 film cameras that dropped this admired Nikon way.
      I fully expect Nikon to RETURN to that as soon as they catch up with manufacturing their OWN sensors and components AGAIN!
      Nikon stumbled when digital was first introduced and sought the help of others like Kodak, Fuji and now Sony plus others.
      The breakthrough was the D3 series, the D3X and then next the D3S.
      I expect modularity to RETURN starting with the D4 series or maybe even the D5 series – who knows?

    • J

      Thom schmom, The idea of “digital film” has been around for many many years.
      Thom is the guy who “really” invented the internet right? Or was that KR?

      • Modularity has been around as an idea within Nikon for a long time. As Jabs pointed out, to some degree the F series had modularity in it (but not the F5), and Nikon has filed modularity patents before.

        However, what I presented to Nikon executives wasn’t “modularity,” it was the case for combining modularity with communications and programmability. Any of these things by themselves is an incremental improvement to cameras. All of these things combined essentially create a flexible tool we’ve never had before.

        • Jabs

          @Thom Hogan.
          I wrote from memory about the F5’s modularity and you claimed that it was not modular and that is incorrect.

          Look here (though I don’t usually look to or quote Wikipedia as they can be really bad or wrong or off):

          I remember the F5 having less modularity than say an F3, but it still had removable heads and focusing screens plus backs and that spells MODULARITY.
          Because the motor drive was not removable does not diminish its’ modularity but people then complained about that form of a lack of flexibility, as the F4 was an F4S without the MB-23 (I think) enhanced motor drive that gave it faster performance (I think 8fps as in up from 5.7fps) and when I took off this motor drive and grip combination, I actually hated the camera, as it really felt awkward with the other smaller grip (forgot name but was MB something) mounted. I also had Data backs and the back that left the film leader out on the F3, as I shot Polaroid self developing SLIDE film (remember that,as they had a blue and white version, a black and white version plus a color version and I still have many images taken on Polaroid Instant Slide film – though faded) – therefore the F3 Series was to me, the most versatile of all the F Series in usability. Everyone has a different opinion but I used both the F3 and the F4 series and loved BOTH, though for difficult shots I used the F3 as I found it more ‘responsive’ and more versatile than the F4 (plus had a wider array of focusing screens) but the view of the readouts in the prism was better in the F4 (F3 was tiny and that small light and little red push button to light the display would drive you nuts – LOL). I never used an F5, but I might buy one also, as I have an ‘itch’ to buy some film cameras (F3, F4 and F5) and shoot some more slide film, in addition to digital.

    • Duff

      Yep, I remember. I hope they were listening.

      • Steve

        I am sure Nikon waited on Thom’s presentation to start working on a modular camera and if it comes to life one day, we should all thank Thom – sounds like a good choice for his website 🙂 what a joke!

        • Jabs



    • Ted

      We are about to enter the 4th generation of Pro DSLRS driven 80-90% by sensor improvements. I welcome the idea that the D4 will deliver a bit more. As in Thom’s article, the idea of designing a camera around a comprehensive workflow sounds very interesting. Just how a modular camera would be able to better support such a concept seems like a no brainer and has been discussed in previous posts. Right now we are able to swap out different lenses, lighting accessories, and some power options to suit a specific assignment. Sensors are the next logical step. Configuring a camera to align better with the workflow required to support your current assignment or daily shooting needs is another thing cameras can do better. Most of these advances would require the camera to run specific imbedded applications to support your capture and publication needs.
      If you run with this thought, we would be keeping our expensive sensors and upgrading our camera body to get the latest in software and CPU performance.

  • Jabs

    Based upon the past Nikon PRO bodies, I fully expect that one day Nikon will give us removable/interchangeable digital sensors and maybe heads in digital cameras just like they did with the F to F5 Series as far as heads, AF function or focus confirmation (F3AF head) and different metering like they did in the F and F2 series.
    It makes sense from a flexibility standpoint to us photographers, as you would have a basic digital body and then you could put in a sensor optimized for YOUR work then, as in a 4K video sensor, a 30+meg photo sensor, a lower resolution HIGH ISO sensor and other specialized sensors like B+W only, Infra-Red only or 3D sensors.
    Nikon always does this and thus I was waiting for this development. I therefore expect the D4 series to feature this flexibility that was epitomized in the F, F2, F3, F4 plus F5 series and then dropped in the F6 and the digital cameras.
    You buy what you want and need plus you get greater flexibility as in a SINGLE multi-purpose body, sensor/head combinations designed WITHOUT compromises for your shooting style or assignment that day and one able to adjust to a NEW shooting requirement/assignment via NEW parts (addition or removal) which NO Menu can ever deal with, no matter how well done.

    Go for it Nikon – about time!

  • Jari

    About wlan and interchangeable sensor,

    To me combination of “interchangeable sensor” and “or a digital image recorded by the image capturing. apparatus” mean that;
    – Image sensor can be attached way more diversed applications than traditional camera body (slr, mirrorless, whatnot)
    – Image could be delivered immediately somewhere else; away from vicinity of sensor/lens itself.

    Wlan would give quite nice space (as in 3D-area, like house) to locate small sensor/wlan-card/electronics combination to create images and to further handle them somewhere else (like portable computer).

    This would include commercial wlan services or proprietary wlan services by Nikon.

    This in practise (if combined to mirrorless, small, optics -architecture) would create market to relatively cheap image creating units which can then transfer (raw, or raw-like) picture to be processed/stored/displayed in some existing unit (iphone, laptop, photoshop, web-service) at fraction of cost compared to, say, D7000 with unlimited upgrade possibilities.

  • Doctor

    I’m not so sure about the interchangeable sensor thing. Sensor technology is constantly improving, but so is body technology. Look at the D40 vs. D3100. The list of new features is huge.

    Take 2 sensors – one hi-res, and one lo-res with better ISO performance. How big a difference will there actually be in ISO performance? Is it really worth it?

    • But how many of those are imaging-chain related? Most if not all. They added some focus points, gave it full-time AF in video (which is an imaging-chain related issue anyway), and made a few ergonomic changes in, what, 4 years? That sounds about right on.

    • Jari

      I’d forget the idea of conventional, indipendent camera bodies and replaceable sensors. It makes so much more sense to use same sensor in variety of applications; traditional dslr, mirrorless, security cameras, social media (like facebook) or photo extension for mobile devices. Basic benefit is as amount of manufactured sensors or sensor units increase, price decreases. On the other hand there would be possibility to select cheap sensor or ultra high-end sensor or special sensor (e.g. IR or low light/low resolution)

    • > Look at the D40 vs. D3100.
      But other than video, which is a sensor change, almost all of those differences already existed on other Nikon bodies. Nikon is following the traditional Japanese consumer electronics tactic of “upgrading” each new generation with features from the products above it in the previous generation. If you look at the D70->D80->D90->D7000 progression you can see that Nikon has clearly pushed the camera capability upwards with each generation. But much of that new capability is coming downwards from the higher products in the line.

      You’re also getting close to one of my core tenets: that modularity doesn’t gain a lot if it isn’t accompanied by communications and programmability. It’s that last bit that answers your complaint.

      > Take 2 sensors – one hi-res, and one lo-res with better ISO performance. How big a difference will there actually be in ISO performance? Is it really worth it?

      The answer is yes. It’s the reason why so many of us pros have both a D3s and D3x. There are benefits to alternate sensors, and it’s not just in high ISO performance. But sensor modularity also opens up many other choices: forensic (no filtration), monochrome, IR, alternate Bayer patterns, and much more. Believe me, when the rose comes off the bloom in DSLR sales in the next few years, and it will, a camera maker is going to need something to keep sales moving. Modularity is the best bet.

  • ZoetMB

    While I’m certainly in favor of interchangeable sensors, the particular design in the patent does not look like it would be easily user replaceable – certainly not like popping a hood off and on or changing the focusing screens back in the prime of the F series. But still, I suppose, better than continuing to force body purchases simply in order to get the benefits of newer sensor technology. Note that over the life of the F-system – there were fewer changes you could make to the body. The original Nikon-F was probably the most flexible.

    However, be careful of what you wish for. In the Nikon F days, major body changes were on 8 to 12-year cycles (Nikon F 1959, Nikon F2 1971, Nikon F3 1980, Nikon F4 1988, Nikon F5 1996, Nikon F6 2004). Would you be happy returning to long cycles (even if it were “only” a 5-year cycle) even if you could change the sensor? Because without sensor changes, there’d be far less reasons for Nikon to have frequent updates to bodies. Let’s say Nikon releases such a new body, but there’s a major function that should be on a physical button that they’ve relegated to a menu. We’d be stuck with a mis-design for a long time.

    Hmm…. according to the old schedule, a new Nikon film body is “due” in 2012. Could an interchangeable sensor body also accept film? (Probably not…the space formerly used for the film cartridges and takeup is filled with electronics.) But if it could, I think this would really please high end (and older) users – even if it would be more of a marketing gimmick than a practical benefit that most photographers would actually use.

    • Hellen Greenspam

      However, be careful of what you wish for. In the Nikon F days, major body changes were on 8 to 12-year cycles (Nikon F 1959, Nikon F2 1971, Nikon F3 1980, Nikon F4 1988, Nikon F5 1996, Nikon F6 2004).

      that could well were Nikon wants to return too as it eases up on many parts of the company.

    • NascarGeoff

      I would love it if Nikon went with interchangeable sensors. For pro and pro-sumer bodies, I would much rather be able to replace just a sensor every 2-3 years and only have body changes every 10 years. The cameras that are being made today are leaps and bounds ahead of what was available previously and also leaps and bounds more than what most of us ‘need’.
      Having the option of using a basic camera with the best available sensor is something sorely lacking in today’s market.

  • “Nikkor 1500-6000mm f/5-20 and 375-1500mm f/5-20”

    That’s effin’ insane!!! I would like to see these.

  • Seeza

    I think eyrieowl has nailed it – certainly, I’d be tempted to buy different sensors for a single body if it worked as planned, especially if crop factors as well as high-sensitivity vs. resolution were part of the range. Then I could heave a single body wherever and swap sensors when required. If this is Nikon’s ‘new big concept’, then wow, I’m sold!!!

  • design.matters

    any new FX sensor would be welcome –

    1.) 18 MPXL at real 16bit to have a small twin for Hassi
    2.) 24 MPXL at real 16 bit to have a mid-size twin for Hassi

    no 14bit sensors please – improved noise reduction and photon-efficiency please!

  • dv

    About this 80-400. Look at Fig.34 of patent 20100284092 (pdf)
    About previous 80-400. Look at Fig.53 of patent 20100214667 (pdf)

  • Jabs

    A Reply to almost all of you posting after me:
    The way that I see it at least in the PRO ranks is that Sensors are rapidly developing as a commodity and bodies are taking too long to bring to market. If you have a removable sensor in a Nikon PRO body, then this would make sensor technology quickly available as bodies do NOT become obsolete quickly, especially in light of the 300,000 shutter cycle now – up from the 150,000 shutter cycle of the Nikon film days.
    Removable sensors and even shutters would greatly reduce costs plus allow greater flexibility in both design, specs., re-purposing and a ‘mix and match’ ease of use scenario as when I used my F3’s and F4’s, I was immediately struck by the F3’s greater versatility (as that is why I bought it over the F and F2 series) and disdained the backwards push by Nikon AFTER the F3 in giving me LESS versatility in a more “Canon-like” fixed head limited accessories manner. I used everything from an F3AF head, a DE2 (non HP head), a DE3 (HP head), a DE3T (Titanium HP ‘Chrome’ head from F3HPTC), and all the other heads PLUS almost every focusing screen on ANY F3 body – to get what I wanted or felt comfortable with shooting.
    This tremendous versatility made it very easy for me to get CONSISTENTLY ‘spectacular’ images, as EACH body (shot with four bodies at once – F3HP, F3HPTC, F3AF and F4S) was set up for a particular use plus film stock and I could just look at the body (or the back of the body with the film box tab inserted as identification) and shoot accordingly, as each one had a specific film TYPE in there plus also a HEAD designed to shoot with that lens (or situation) I was using then.
    THAT is what I miss and want from Nikon – a DIGITAL F3 equivalent, as I considered that camera to be Nikon’s MOST versatile camera EVER and I still miss it so much, that I plan on buying a few early next year – just to shoot some Fuji Velvia Pro 50D, 64T and Neopan 100 B+W (lol).
    I also don’t see a need for a camera to enter the workflow via WI-FI or such, as hackers would wait for you and steal your images (duuuh), as that has been DONE before by Nikon and Fuji. I just want a MORE versatile camera that I can set up with different FOCUSING screens and possibly HEADS, just like the F3 series ALONE did plus it metered with all of its’ heads unlike the F and F2 series.
    To integrate into the workflow better = LEARN how to use a computer, monitors, scanners, printers and other measuring devices and leave that integration to the SOFTWARE Engineers.
    Stop expecting automated everything and go RETRAIN yourself, as this is almost year 2011.

    • st r

      “Modular” sounds very nice, however I agree with you: I think this kind of modularity is likely to be aimed at configurability once and for all (as per the scenario you describe), not at interchangeability, like lenses, as some comments seem to imply.

      After all a single sensor is incredibly more flexible and adaptable than any single type of film (think for instance about ISO and WB). No need to change sensors again and again, as you can (must) do with film.

      I also don’t see a need for a camera to enter the workflow via WI-FI or such

      I figure a photographer moving around on a football field, an assistant in the press room, and an ADSL link to home. News get published in real time with high quality photos. Encryption will be there by necessity. That’s the “secure” part in “secure digital”.

      Stop expecting automated everything

      …but this is what we are going to get. It is good to be able to be in charge, but it is also good to be able to think about the “big picture” (sorry) while the camera does the dirty job. Both have their place, and automation improves more and more (do you know of any journalist who would give up a word processor, maybe with spell checker, and go back to the typewriter?) This is almost year 2011. 🙂

  • someone
    • PTG

      You are right. Maybe they have just realized that they had forgotten to file the patent for the old one. 😉

  • Just A Thought

    People do not buy a camera just to be able to take photos. They buy it to hang around their neck as a fashion accessory. That’s why the camera manufacturers, like Nikon, include brightly colored camera straps with model number logos – to better show the world what new fashion accessory the poser has.

    Look at the recent mad rush to get a D7000 before the official release date. People running around for hours hitting Best Buys. So that they can take better photos? Who cares about that when you get bragging rights to owning the latest trinket and can show off the camera and bright camera strap with logo to the world. Will these same folks take better photos, of the family cat, with the D7000 than they preciously did with their now on eBay D90?

    If you keep the same body you change the marketing dynamic which propels consumers to “WANT” your latest marketing offering. If you just replace the sensor then the poser will never be able to inform the world that he/she got a new sensor. Oh, look Johnny said he got a new sensor but he’s still using the same old camera – he he he. Even if they included a new camera strap with a new logo, the world will still see the same old camera body. Nope, the camera consumer is programmed to get a shiny new marvel to show off. How do you show off you shinny new sensor? Do you remove it from the camera and wave it around yelling that it is really a new sensor? Doing so might get the Poser arrested and taken for examination at the local mentally challenged hospital ward.

    The US market is of major importance for camera manufacturers. US consumers will balk at this idea, even though techie users may like it. Would the US Consumer buy a new engine and drive train for their old car? Technically possible and yet no auto manufacturer would dare try it. Consumers want their shinny new toy to show the neighbors and friends and the world their new purchase.

    • Jabs

      @Just A Thought:
      That is why they have PRO bodies and pro-LOOK bodies and REAL photograph takers versus POSEURS – lol!

      You need a Leica to be poseur or the latest ‘IN’ camera.

      To MAKE MONEY and deliver consistent results, you need a PRO camera like a D3, D3S or D3X or even a D700 with the motor drive plus maybe a D300S.

      Big difference!

      • ed

        “To MAKE MONEY and deliver consistent results, you need a PRO camera like a D3, D3S or D3X or even a D700 with the motor drive plus maybe a D300S.”

        That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. You don’t need a pro body to get consistent results. You need to be a better photographer! It is sad when people have that pro mentality. Stop listening to kelby, peterson, and the rest about what you need to get paid.

    • Because the average consumer really knows the new D7000 looks so much better then the D90?…

    • st r

      Speaking from Italy… when we say “fashionable” we usually refer to something a bit less screaming than the yellow+black Nikon straps and shirts. Think of the Nikon body overall design, for instance (by the way… it’s Italian, by Giugiaro), which is worlds apart from the rest of the corporate image.

      That design is not fashionable for the user: it is profitable for the company, since it bears their name (and even the name of the camera) and is visible from far away. As soon as you wear it, you become an ad.

      I always keep my strap around my wrist, or, when strolling around, hanging from my shoulder; never around my neck. I hate being an ad.

      • Just A Thought

        “As soon as you wear it, you become an ad.”

        Nah, put black electrical tape (has the same sheen as the camera paint) over the logos on the prism and body.

        Then check eBay for some Praktica camera straps to replace the bright Nikon. Praktica straps are better than blank no name straps because they tell would be thieves that you have a camera that no Poseur would ever be seen in public with, hence hard to get any money for it from a fence. They don’t know a D3 from a D90 but they do know their camera straps. With the Praktica strap you just have a cheap crappy big camera in their eyes. Posers will also steer clear of you as it would reflect poorly on their self esteem to be seen in public talking to a Praktica owner.

        Of course the above does not apply to consumers who would never dream of leaving the house without their bright yellow straps. Maybe with a modular sensor they could package straps with different yellow stripes – like in the Army. Low cost sensor module comes with a one yellow stripe strap and one yellow stripe medal. The top of the line sensor module would come with a very wide strap with many yellow stripes and a huge medal also with many stripes and maybe a baseball cap with many stripes and the company Logo and a decal for the car bumper and a second decal for your front screen door so the mailman can see that the consumer bought the more expensive sensor module. This way the consumer will clearly have incentive to buy the most expensive sensor package. Without such incentive, we’re back to problem of the consumer being seen by friends, peers and neighbors as using the same old camera. In such a case there is no point for the consumer to upgrade the senor module as no one will be able to see the expensive new sensor module – only the same old camera.

        • Try personalised NR straps with embroidered screen names.

          • Just A Thought

            Interesting. Would you have a web link? Thanks in advance.

    • zoetmb

      I disagree with your marketing theory because even though they’re sized differently, most Nikon bodies look pretty much alike. When I see someone walking around with a Nikon body, I always have to look carefully to see which model it actually is, especially within each series.

      In fact, one could make the opposite case: that a modular camera permits a poseur to make people think they’ve got a more upscale camera when they don’t, especially if they add a battery grip. This was true back in the Nikon F days as well, when there was a fairly wide price range of bodies, depending on which metering system and hood you bought the camera with.

      When I see someone with a Nikon strap, I always think that they’re an amateur, regardless of which body they’re carrying. I never use a Nikon strap. In fact, I never wear anything with a logo. I’m not a walking advertisement.

      This is true in other consumer products as well: Apple MacBook Pros, for example, have a wide range of pricing and capabilities, but they all look alike from the outside. Same for most car models: 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder models look alike from the outside and the only way you can tell the difference between standard and deluxe models is either checking for such items as moonroof, leather and satellite systems or by figuring out the meaning of the model nomenclature: DX, EX, etc.

      What Nikon is “selling”, regardless of the body one chooses, is “Nikon”. There will always be demand for new models because people need an excuse as to why their photography is not the best, and it’s very convenient to blame the technical capabilities of the camera.

      If Nikon indeed releases a modular camera with removable sensors (which I would expect will be priced at about half of the full body cost), what will be really interesting is whether Nikon permits third-parties to provide their own sensor models to Nikon cameras. (I doubt it, but you never know.) Or, the opposite: a third party camera manufacturer makes a camera that optionally takes Nikon sensors. (I doubt that one also.) What would be nice is if the industry got together and came up with a standard for “plug-in” sensors so they would be interchangable across brands, but I doubt this would happen either.

      • Just A Thought

        “In fact, one could make the opposite case: that a modular camera permits a poseur to make people think they’ve got a more upscale camera when they don’t, especially if they add a battery grip.”

        A D3S looks different than a body with an attached grip. In any case, the point is that consumer will want the new sensor only if they can advertise it to the rest of the world. Put in a new sensor and their friends and neighbors only see the same old camera. Who is going to believe the Poseur that they got a new sensor model?

        As for pretending, it is far cheaper to go on eBay and buy a Nikon D3S or D3X camera strap. The bright yellow letters and numbers tell everyone what camera you supposedly are using in a much clearer fashion than an internal sensor module.

        There would be no incentive for the consumer to buy a new sensor module. Just as there is no incentive for consumers to buy a new engine and drive train for their old car. The world would still see them as driving the same old car and who in their right consumer mind wants that, especially after paying thousands of dollars. They want a shiny new car to show everyone. The car makers realize this and I think so do the camera makers. Consumers will want a shiny new camera over just a new sensor module.

      • st r

        I disagree with your marketing theory because even though they’re sized differently, most Nikon bodies look pretty much alike

        I agree with your disagreement, and I have indeed already considered strap design AS OPPOSITE to body design, which is nice, has a strong family feeling (i.e. all are alike from a distance) and is elegant but extremely functional at the same time – the way I like it.

        Earlier I didn’t mention functionality, but my D40 falls in my hand so well, and all commands are naturally within reach, that it seems custom-made on my size and proportions. In my short career as a holiday/family shooter, as I said earlier, I never kept the strap around my neck or shoulder when shooting, and not even once in 3 years and 50000 shutter activation I felt the camera less than secure in my hand.

        THIS is design, not (only) the color scheme.

    • That’s such a good idea. I’d happily take an old D2h body and stick a D7k sensor in it and a new processing chip so I got 8fps out of it 😉

  • Todd

    What’s the difference between announcing the 80-400mm update patent today and the one announced on Sept. 1st?

    Sept. 1st announcement:

  • I think the concept of inter-changable sensors on Nikon is extremely exciting. I’m glad they picked up that idea from Ricoh… this will only allow more customization to our desires as Photographers. Maybe we want a CCD which is great for in the studio, but then also want a sensor like the D700’s which is great in low-light. No need for two camera bodies!

    • Jabs

      Nikon did NOT seem to be picking up the idea from Ricoh, as we don’t know how they are going to implement it.
      Ricoh has delivered optimized UNITS consisting of lens and sensors COMBINATION units – though interesting, I don’t see Nikon doing that in the PRO ranks, maybe with a mirrorless camera BUT it is too expensive, so you could probably buy TWO different cameras for the price of their system (Ricoh’s).

      I see Nikon going after INTERCHANGEABLE modules geared towards specific things like 4K video in one and 30+ megapixels and 16 to 24 bit RAW OUTPUT in another or even 3D, so you use the module that you require THEN and you lose the compromise of a multiple AIM body.
      I also expect it to be very expensive BUT incredibly versatile and way beyond any other Manufacturer in performance, when released.

      The electronics being in the body, can easily be UPDATED via firmware to match or use NEW modules, as it is a computer basically.

      I see this as the FUTURE of Pro photography to ME, that is.
      I see consumers as stuck in cute cameras with huge megapixels and always changing designs while PROS look to functionality and repeatable PERFORMANCE – That is where Nikon has ALWAYS been the best (better than both Canon and Leica, in my opinion)!

      I would say that Medium Format digital cameras is more the model for Nikon Pro digital cameras. Maybe that was what that Nikon ‘MP’ or whatever moniker a while back here, was all about – MODULAR cameras.

  • Astrophotographer

    The telescope, to quote the application, is “A diffracted-light study system”. It appears to be for analyzing diffractive optics like Canon’s DO lenses.

  • Well we don`t have an interchangeable sensor camera but right now we have an invisible camera called the D7000!!!

    You cannot see that camera anywhere!!!

  • randyravener

    Wireless capable SD-card?

    Could it be why the D7000 has dual SD slots?

  • i think the removable sensor is just so they can easily refurbish stuff cheap and then sell it expensive. i don’t think we’ll be switching out sensors.
    or maybe so you can clean it? just put it in the dishwasher and let er spin for a bit. and all your images will be squeeky clean!

  • My dream is an FF sensor that I can put in my Nikon FM with about 16 steps of dynamic range… Give it 16mp to while your at it 🙂

    BUT, an updated D700 (D700s /D800?) in a D3100-body with 16 steps dynamic range would suffice.

    • Hmmm….. I don’t think you’d want to forego weather sealing and have no manual controls in your £1000 FX entry level body would you?

      FX sensors and lenses cost a bomb compared to their DX equivalents…

      • francois:

        What do you mean with “no manual controls” ? The D3100 has manual controls. Shutterspeed, aperture, focus and iso is all the controls that are needed for full control!

        I have a D3 and a D5000. Have put them through the same weather-treatment. No problems with any of them, of course Im careful with my equipment and always will be, therefore, wheatersealing is apparently not an issue for me.

  • Mock Kenwell

    You lost me at 80-400 f/4.6-5.4. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  • edward nafzger

    Nice all of this i still have time waiting for Nikon´s 80-400 update but for this moment i think i will buy the new 120-300 F2.8 ex dg os hsm lens from Sigma iff the price is right but i stay with Nikon for the bodies

  • CamaJan

    I would find this useful if they were also planing on making: upgradable CPUs, open source OS for the camera and indestructable long lasting 10yr warranty body!

    • Just A Thought

      “indestructable long lasting 10yr warranty body!”

      Nikon used to make bodies like that. The F series bodies were on an approx 10 year replacement cycle. Took about 10 years before you saw the F3. Just have the bodies cleaned and lubed every few years and they would last almost forever.

      You also had modularity back then. You could replace the prisms, update light meters, change focusiing screens to many provided from the factory, got a waist level finder when prism was removed, could change backs for long roll film backs or data backs, add real motor drives, add new technology like AE aperture control unit and had full compatability with every Nikkor ever made.

      Modularity is a thing of the past – long gone, likely to never return.

      Can’t change prisms. Can’t change light meters, Can’t add motor drives. No waist level finder. Adding new technology means buying a new camera. Even lens compatabilty is a thing of the past. No more Per-AI lens on any body. Some consumer bodies require AFS lenses only – screw drive will not work – bet that gets moved to pro models in the next generation or two. They have steadily moved away from all forms of modularity. Even the simple battery packs from old models often can’t be used in new models.

      • Mock Kenwell

        Hello? Ever heard of RED?

        • Just A Thought

          Ever actually seen/touched/used a RED? Ever seen one at the local brick and mortar? People here complain about Nikon announcing stuff and then taking it’s sweet time to start delivering it. Nikon is a speed demon compared to RED in my opinion. RED has some amazing ideas and I wish them luck in translating those ideas into actual products for sale.

  • carlgo

    Yes, I want a small, quality rangefinder style body with interchangeable innards!

    Sure, why not offer 50 MB sensors for those who need them and, say, 12s for most people. No need for an entirely different camera.

    Talk about sucking people into a system! If your camera is basically future-proofed you are more likely to get that new lens or some accessories.

    I not only want one, but could justify going into debt on a quality, future-proof camera. And, like many others, I wouldn’t be caught up in the “a better design is right around the corner” thing like so many amateurs are.

  • It seems to me that it would be an increase of complexity (and cost) with no advantages…

    • pethunia

      “It seems to me that it would be an increase of complexity (and cost) with no advantages…” That is a remarkably simple (as in: too simple) sentence after over a hundred posts summing up the advantages of a modular system.

      So: please elaborate. Why “no advantages” ?

      I am also a fan of the F3. And likewise, would very much appreciate a modular Nikon, especially modular sensors.

  • zen-tao

    I’m planing to make an exposition of my fingerprints and this is exactly what I need.

  • Tord55

    Seems a practical version of the Ricoh idea, where you essentially change the sensor, and the lens, as a unit, after the demand.

    I essentially use the same lenses for all my needs, but have to change the camera to do it. This way you can have different types of sensors (say conventional, B&W, IR, high-ISO, or movie-optimised), and different sizes as well (say CX, DX, FX, and APS-H) using the same body!

  • Tord55

    This super-zoom lens seems to have an aiming/focusing device on top, with a retracting mirror that moves out of the main light path! Without such a pre-focusing/aiming device, such a gigantic lens would be very hard to use, unless it is a telescope, that is. with a computer controlled stand. Weight must be quite impressive, no doubt about that!

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