Nikon files a patent for a camera with interchangeable sensor

DSLR with the sensor insertedDisconnectig the imaging device unit
How to attach an image sensor unitback view
Nikon interchangeable sensor patentNikon patents interchangeable sensor for DSLR camerasNikon interchangeable sensor patent
Nikon filed a patent applicationย in Japan (2013-187834) for a camera with interchangeable sensor. The patent describes a way to achieve the mounting of the sensor unit with higher accuracy. Here is some of the translated text taken from the Japanese Patent Office:

"Conventionally, there is a digital camera provided with a removable image sensor unit to a camera body. In such a digital camera, an image sensor unit is interlocked with a camera body by electronic contact including an image sensor and its peripheral circuit.

According to the present invention, in a digital camera with a removable image sensor unit, the digital camera which can realize higher mounting accuracy can be provided."

Nikon has filed similar patents in the past - see here and here.

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  • Pasquier

    Now that would be a welcome idea

  • robert

    what? like maybe use an f5 body? or to upgrade a body down the line?

  • Filip

    Interesting! But how do you mount without getting dust on it! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • fancykitten85 .

      Same as using an interchangeable back on a digital medium format camera. Not hard at all.

  • Mike


  • robert

    now that I think about it maybe if future cameras have issue this will allow them to do a quick repair/replacement..

    • Dpablo unfiltered

      This would be a D5.

  • decisivemoment

    I hope they’re also serious about that form factor. It’s the first Nikon pentaprism in a long time that doesn’t foul the PC-E tilt-and-shift lenses. In general it makes a great deal of sense to be able to customize the camera for different tasks . . . . not to mention a lot easier to clean dust off the sensor. I’d love to be able to have something in the eight to 16MP range for events and news and nature, something that wouldn’t overload my hard drive and would also have a higher capture rate, and then one like the sensor in the D800 for landscape shooting.

    • robert

      I dont think its the idea with this patent. I think its basically (now anyway) for repair purposes.

    • fjfjjj

      The drawings are schematic, not proportional.

  • robert

    seems to be too fragile/delicate of a job for someone to do on the go. think about it.

    people are scared shit to clean their you really think nikon will make it possible for people to change sensors like a lens?

    how comfortable are most people replacing their processor in the socket (without fear of bent pins) all day long? I am. but I would not play with the sensor day to day. way too fragile and there would be tons of repair from people screwing it up.

    this is clearly for the repair lab. not for the public to deal with.

    • bob2

      Not fragile at all unless you are really clumsy and/or careless. Think about the medium format or studio/view digital cameras with the interchangeable backs–it’s really no different. But if you are not comfortable swapping sensor or other parts, you’d go to a pro shop, just like going to a camera shop to do a “professional” sensor cleaning.

      Anyway, modern processors use ZIF (zero insertion force) and other user-friendly connectors. Not that difficult to swap, even CPUs as long as you are careful. Mfgs have gone away from using wire pins (except CF cards, but that seems on the way out too with SDXC and newer, faster standards).

      • robert

        you and me feel comfortable enough to do this but the vast majority are not. think vast majority, not “you”

        I can do a cpu replacement but after bending pins on an expensive MB im quite scared to do it.

        replacing backs on a mF is different. not the same thing.

        but again, THIS IS FUNCTION IS NOT GOING TO BE FOR THE PUBLIC. its only for repair people in labs where it will save them time and money. I thought youd see that.

        they would be shooting themselves in the foot if they sold replaceable/upgradeable sensors. they would lose a lot of money, instead of forcing you to buy a whole camera.

  • sd

    Gimmick!!!! Horrible idea. You’ll still be limited by the image processor built into the camera.

    They are pulling a patent warfare move by saying. ME FIRST!

    • gr8fan

      The last 10 years or so, almost every tech company has used that ‘tool’! Look at Apple, Samsung, etc. Look at companies buying patent portfolios just to sue and not use them or bring them to market.

      • Elvir Redzepovic

        You are right there. Nikon is just joining the party. But it is silly to see people here thinking that Nikon will give them possibility to change sensors or “uppgrade” which is ludacris.
        Nikon is in this for the money not “to help out photographers” that is something their marketing people use to sell their cameras, and they make much more by selling whole cameras then only sensors. Hell, even sensors are mostly from Toshiba/Sony so Nikon would be committing suicide by allowing this.

        • stoooopid

          Why is everyone missing the point on this. You can have interchangeable sensors for JUST ONE CAMERA. For instance, if I buy a D5 – do I want to be stuck with just one sensor – hell no. Nikon can offer 2 or 3 different sensors for just this camera – not all cameras. So if I buy an uber expensive camera, I can have low MP, high frame rate, or I can have high MP and medium frame rate. Or I can have an IR sensor. If I am paying $8000 for a body, why would I not want this? I think this is an obvious evolutionary step in high end dslr’s. Maybe Nikon will do it first. Canon will quickly follow with something similar. The days of buying the highest dslr in a lineup and getting only the choice of 1 sensor are over. This is a good thing.

          • Sahaja

            They’d never make it user swappable – You can be sure you’d have to send your camera into Nikon to have the sensor changed and they would charge a hefty fee.

            • Theodoros Fotometria

              According to the patent it is user replaceable! ….look at the lever on the top right corner! …it would be much less of a benefit if it wasn’t!

            • stoooopid

              I think if it is technically possible to make a system where users can change out the sensor (and that might be a big IF) then it will eventually happen. Either Nikon will be the first to market with it, or Canon will beat them to it.
              Oh, and I forgot one more application, which is pretty obvious – video. Why not a specialized sensor just for video – high ISO, fat pixels – you get the point.

    • pjapk

      Surely better than being limited by the whole camera…

  • Marcel Speta

    hm… great idea long time known, but this sounds serious. But as far as i know Nikon they will criple it somehow, that won’t be easy to swap several sensors (low/hi res. fast and slow…) or those components will be hell expensive like new DSLR .. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Elvir Redzepovic

    What is the point of this reporting of every Nikon patent out there ? Nikon have been filing patents every week now and how many of those did we see as a available product ? One out of 15 at best. This is just another one of those patented ideas that Nikon will probably be THE last company to actually get it to market. Unfortunatly, I might add since I shoot Nikon but they are NOT known to be a company that is at “the cutting edge” for the last 10 years.
    Every product has been a gentle evolution of the one before it, they need to fire those 100+ years geezers from their management board.

    • bob2

      “NOT known to be a company that is at “the cutting edge” for the last 10 years.”

      I guess you didn’t shoot the D3/D700 when it came out in 2007–being able to shoot reasonably cleanly at ISO 51200 (and 100K on the D3s) was IMHO revolutionary and still is very impressive, and was state of the art at that time, 6-7 years ago. Going mirrorless is not so much innovative as evolutionary (or arguably just copying Leica and Epson’s R-D1)–although the Fuji hybrid viewfinder would be innovative.

      If you think “innovative” means gimmicks and bells and whistles like pet and “Art” modes, WiFi and social media fluff, there’s always Sony–yeah, very innovative. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it is innovative; and just because it’s innovative doesn’t mean it is actually useful. And BTW, Nikon even had an ethernet/WiFi attachment back in the D2X in 2005….So much for innovative.

      • Andrew

        Your argument is interesting but you really missed it when you refer to Sony’s innovation as gimmick. Sony is the very definition of innovation and for me, they are the all around #1 brand. But in photography, Nikon is #1 when it comes to mixing innovation with execution though Sony is doing a lot of innovative things in this space. But Nikon has been too conservative until lately. Now they are showing signs of nimbleness and swiftness.

        Sony gave us the Trinitron TV that took the color television to a whole new level. They gave us the Walkman and put big sound stereo in a portable music player. They gave us the PlayStation and captivated generations of gamers. And now the PS4 is all around simply amazing! They gave us the Blu-ray Disc with 50 GB of storage and are now extending it with Panasonic to 300 GB for 4K television. Their engineering depth and talent is absolutely stunning!

    • bob2

      Admin–thanks for posting without filtering so much. I for one appreciate your providing info without much filtering. It’s up to the reader to consider, interpret, analyze and apportion relative value to the news and information.

      Keep up the good work and disregard the whiners.

    • Cyrille Berger

      Yes, why post about potential rumors on a rumor website.

    • Grey Chen Junyang

      What is the point of reading a rumor site? Rumors come out everyday and how many of those do we see as an available product?


      • I don’t have to put a disclaimer on every post that patents are just that – patents: some of them materialize, others don’t. I will continue to report them, as I have been doing for the past 5 years, because I find them interesting.

        • Grey Chen Junyang

          sarcasm my friend. I enjoy reading this site very much. (: cheerios

          • Aldo

            you confuse sarcasm with douchery… “my friend”

            • Grey Chen Junyang

              Here here, have a cookie

          • Actually I am sorry, this response was for Elvir.

            • Grey Chen Junyang

              No problem =)

            • Andrew

              Anytime I hear someone say “I shoot Nikon”, I am tempted to ask them how extensive their gears of Canon products are. Could you implement some code that will immediately divert their comments to Canonrumors where they will join like minded people? But I suspect they will not mix in there as well also.

    • Jeff

      Get a D800 if you want to be amazed!

  • axeRetro

    Now if this were as a digital back like what Phase One does, that would be pretty exciting. You could buy a light or rugged body, and have a high speed FPS sensor or one that is medium format-like such as the D800 sensor or bigger in the future.
    And would be amazing if you could then build a body that both tilts/ shifts ala medium format. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • waterengineer

      Or a competitor to the Leica S…..a big almost medium format DSLR. This would go along with the medium format lens patent from last week.

  • gr8fan

    At last, Nikon is having some forward thinking! Maybe, next step will be offering interchangeable focusing screens like in the ‘old’ days!

    • Sahaja

      And Canon still do.

  • Toli

    Nikon R&D have been secretly working in their lab for
    while guys before, patent is application thru the channel and they are aware of
    consequence will be easy to changed (is just like CPU) and blow dust off… ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Brendan

    I really wish I could get a consumer level monochrome bayerless, aa-filterless camera. Maybe I could get one as a sensor module one day.

  • Spy Black

    You would really need to have a modular frame to swap out all the components, really. It could be done but there’s no money in that.

  • D400 – where is it?

    It’s only for speedy service replacement. The bottleneck is the low power high efficiency CPU processing in camera not the sensor replaceable density.

  • Elvir Redzepovic

    Nikon makes much more money by selling whole cameras. Their cameras also mostly use sensors from other makers (Sony and Toshiba) so if anybody out there is thinking that Nikon will allow you to “uppgrade” or swap your sensor, you are lying to yourself.
    That would be economic suicide for Nikon and very good deal for their sensor partners.

    • bgbs

      whats the point of this patent if it is an economic suicide? Sounds to me Nikon thinks otherwise.

      • Neopulse

        Just like the U.S. buying the patent for portable nuclear reactors. You do it so nobody else can, and cut you out of your current business.

      • Photo-Jack

        The point of patents in these days is not to build, what it patented but to prevent other to do it!
        Nikon got so many patents out, we Nikonians wish since long they’d be put into practice but nothing happens.

        • Aldo

          to control the market… good point.

      • What is the point?

        So their competition can’t do the same without paying Nikon for the license?

    • Theodoros Fotometria

      Quite the opposite actually… They will sell 3-4 sensors with each camera (B&W, IR, fast, high-res. etc) and retain per body profit as is…

    • stoooopid

      No where in the patent did is say that you could change any sensor into any body. What if the sensor modules are only for specific generations. Like for instance a D7000/D5100 set of sensors. A high MP sensor, a low MP sensor, an IR sensor etc., but only for that particular body/generation. I don’t think Nikon would make a system where you could take a 10 year old body and slap in a sensor from today.
      I like the idea. It invites people to customize, much like the people who build there own PC’s.

    • JorPet

      The bigger issue for most people is that the sensor will be 80-90% of the price of a whole camera. This module is the heart of each camera. The rest of the body, the buttons, housing etc is old news and isn’t the majority of the expense they incur in bringing out a new module. I would expect these modules to still range in the $2-3,000 range with some going up from there for “pro” performance.

  • R!

    I DREAMED OF THIS an F6 BODY WITH INTERGENGEABLE SENSOR.would be perfect Santa claus!!

  • Theodoros Fotometria

    This should have been into production some years ago… Next step is an interchangeable processor block… (even easier to do – no calibration needed). I want a B&W sensor, an IR sensor, a 32mp non AA filter “true color” (no BP) and a 16mp “fast” sensor with the first body (when can I put an order?) … Aaaah… and another one for astrophotography!
    P.S. I’ll change the processor every 2 upgrade stages and the sensors every three!

  • John Chea

    Make a camera that is similar to a PC in terms of customization Going to a wedding? That’s fine, just throw in the sensor with lower megapixels, better ISO performance and speed. Doing a studio shoot? Throw in the sensor with higher megapixels. Shooting landscape? Put a sensor with high dynamic range in. Change the shutter, upgrade the memory, change the chassis, and change any part of the camera to your needs. Even the processor.

    This is what they need to do. Personalize the camera. This is just one small step forward.

    • This seems nice but it’s not sensible.

      Pixel-binning gets you the benefits of bigger pixels and the flexibility of more pixels when needed. Memory โ€” just put in enough to begin with. If Apple/Samsung can stick 2GB of RAM and 64GB of flash RAM into a smartphone then it can’t be that hard to put a decent amount into a camera. You’ll make more savings on not having to wrap everything up in extra packaging, economies of scale, etc.

      It would be cheaper to simply mass produce overspec cameras and disable features until users license them (which is how calculators and even cars have been made for years — you can flash a VW Golf into an Audi A3 โ€” minus the upholstery).

      Modular stuff is more expensive to make, bigger, weighs more, and is less robust than integrated stuff.

    • I would love it if we could just throw in a bigger “buffer module” every few years, or a snap-on snap-off IR filter for when we want to have some fun shooting IR, maybe thrown in a black and white only sensor for super clean, bright astro photography.

  • R!

    The best is to have a digital back like middle format with the capacity of upgrading the sensor ,the processor,the AF(contrast or insensor phase detect)and the screen!
    …keeping the mechanical unchanged and unbeaten technology of the body.
    It would be Economic and Ecologic at the same time.

  • bgbs

    Its a great idea, but I think it needs to come with its own processing unit to handle the load.

    • Neopulse

      It’s going to be like a Ricoh or digital back

      • Theodoros Fotometria

        Nothing to do with a DB… DB is a camera without body, this is only sensor. It’s like having the ability to change sensor on a DB….

        • Neopulse

          Yeah, but not all processors can handle it. Can’t stick a 36mp sensor on a 10fps body. You get me?

    • Theodoros Fotometria

      No it doesn’t… the sensor can self calibrate the processor every time a different sensor is used… no big deal. It is also possible to upgrade the body (or the processor only if they make this interchangeable too) and keep older sensors to use with it, or the opposite… The only thing that is required is the processor to have “sensor recognition ability” (easy to do via firmware upgrade). There will be (obviously) some performance dropping if a modern sensor is used with previous generation processor, or there will be sensor performance improvement if older sensor is used with modern processor… but the benefit is huge anyway! …Back to the film days! …now, where is that B&W sensor I was using last month… Hope I didn’t loose it!

  • tim

    It took them ONLY 15 years to realize this is a good idea??

    Imagine able to swap things like:

    Dedicated B/W sensor (every pixel counts)
    Lpass/no Lpass
    Different MP counts (super low light, or super high res)
    Pethaps even dedicated sensors (like more green or more red dedicated sensors ETC…)

    • Julian

      Dedicated infrared / UV sensor would be really useful.

    • Nobo Griffin

      “It took them ONLY 15 years to realize this is a good idea??”

      Maybe. Sometimes, other technology improvements have to occur before your idea can be realized.

  • Neopulse

    This was made for the D700 whiners.

  • Steve

    Would have been nice to have this on the D600. At the end of the day, you just snap out the sensor and pop it in the dishwasher…

    • skaarj

      That is the funniest thing I have heard in a while. Thanks for the smiles.

    • Nobo Griffin

      Actually, every DSLR that I have owned, has had a dust problem. Normally, I tend to shoot wide open so it doesn’t affect me, but I always get pissed off when doing macros, landscapes, air shows, etc…

      They really do need to fix the “clean sensor” problem. Using a crappy piezo crystal to shake the dust off just doesn’t work that well. Old fashioned film was awesome; you’d be almost guaranteed a fresh frame with each shot.

      • Hugo

        What are you doing wrong? I’ve never had even a speck of anything on my sensors. I change lenses often too but always with the camera switched off as someone told me that the sensor has a charge that attracts dust. Maybe not newer ones but that’s what they used to say.

      • Jeff

        Old fashioned film was not so awesome. You must not have ever done any darkroom printing. Getting and keeping dust off a strip of negatives was a constant challenge and a time consuming nuisance!

    • Theodoros Fotometria

      LOL…. but if it was an ability for the D800 too, you could use the sensor on that! …Perhaps even sell D800’s sensor into the D600 body and even make money while keep a …better D800!

      • StarF

        LOL…have a nice day!

    • pablo

      Awesome — I guess some of these folks don’t understand gallows humor. I own a D600 and laughed my @$$ off. Absolutely love the camera, but it has some real issues with this. Now that I think about it, these people might not be parents as well as not having much of a sense of humor ๐Ÿ™‚

    • koenshaku

      lmao I clicked to type just that.

  • g.h.

    Novel idea but this will never happen. Why would Nikon sell only the sensor when instead they could sell a whole camera?

    • tertius_decimus

      Lemme put it this way: why would Nikon sell whole new camera (design expences, R&D expences, etc) if they can sell only the sensor for the price of new camera? I bet Nikon’s greed will kill company someday.

    • John

      Because digital camera features are becoming very mature, just like in the film days, and it takes a lot of resources ($$) to design a new body every couple of years. The sensor is really what’s been changing in the FX and DX bodies, so why not put less time and effort into iterating the bodies and allow the sensor to be changed out – charging a premium for sure. In the end they may feel they make (net) more money this way. We’ll see if it comes to fruition.
      There certainly are some advantages to such a thing.

      • g.h.

        Definitely there are advantages, however there are also numerous potential problems with compatibility, interchangeability, etc. Which model(s) will a given interchangeable sensor fit? Will the D6 sensor work on a D5? What about a D7 sensor? Processing power is big part in advancement, what processing capabilities are going to be on the sensor model and what parts in the body? Would you design a body capable of running future sensor modules knowing you might be overbuilding processing power and adding cost? A large part of cost of a camera is the sensor and electronics and the development and design cost associated with them. Nikon isn’t inventing new tech in a new body and buttons, just making new molds and minor changes. What makes a D800 cost several times that of the D3200? Certainly not the body materials, buttons, etc. Sure, some weather sealing and magnesium separate the lines, but that is relatively minor. Nikon is already in the business of mass producing cameras, so making more bodies isn’t an issue.
        Another way to consider this: Would you pay 25% today more knowing you can buy a sensor upgrade to the next line for 65% of the next model? That’s nearly the cost of 2 complete cameras, and you’d only have one camera. And who knows after two generations the sensor may not be compatible anymore.

        • John

          Good points. I suspect that the sensor likely will not be usable across different models, but will afford one to use a sensor that is optimized for different things within a certain camera body.
          Probably a high end option for super users of gear.

        • Sahaja

          Something like this might allow them to more easily offer one model with two or three different sensor options – like we now have the D800 and D800e or Leica have a monochrome version. It might also make camera assembly and repair easier for Nikon.

          You are not going to be able swap sensors between different generations of camera

        • Michael Sloan

          B.S. – If Nikon reduces their total lineup to three DSLR frames, consumer, enthusiast and PRO, they would significantly reduce manufacturing costs. Among the three frame types, you could have two or three different models of internal components. It would permit them to also keep smaller inventories and let them respond quicker to market demands by just manufacturing the brains and hearts for each frame type. The frames could transcend three generations of internal components. Not to mention this would spawn a whole new business for Nikon service centers. Just think about what modularity did for the computer industry!

  • Spy Black

    Why bother with a pentaprism? Just make interchangeable EVFs like the old interchangeable prism bodies so you can update the viewfinder and perhaps other pertinent processing circuitry.

    • tertius_decimus

      Nothing ever will compete with optical view. Period.

      • John

        Really? So an OVF is superior for seeing the actual depth of field with really fast glass? It’s superior for focusing accuracy? It’s superior for finding focus in really dim light?
        OVFs certainly have some really great features that are hard to beat, but they also have some serious drawbacks that many people forget because they’ve lived with OVFs for a very long time AND the first EVFs were very immature.
        EVFs are developing at a incredibly fast rate and some are more than good enough now to replace an OVF. I.e., the advantages of the latest generation of EVFs are at or close to tipping the balance in their favor over OVFs for many applications/uses.
        Silly statement.

        • tertius_decimus

          > Really? So an OVF is superior for seeing the actual depth of field with
          really fast glass? It’s superior for focusing accuracy? It’s superior
          for finding focus in really dim light?

          Words of someone who isn’t aware what focusing screen is.

          • John

            No, I have owned a D300 and D700 along with FM3A, F3HP, and now a D800. I’ve have had various focusing screens in them (except the D800) and I own a lot of very fast glass. I know what I’m talking about.

            I also own m43 gear so I know what an EVF can and can’t do.

            So, I’m not a noob by any means.

          • John

            Oh, and I’ve also shot 4×5 and certainly know how to use a REAL focusing screen.

        • Sahaja

          OVF is fine for seeing actual depth of field with really fast glass – if it is has the right type of focusing screen. Real ground glass screens will do this – though standard “bright” focusing screens won’t. Don’t know why Nikon stopped having interchangeable focusing screens – something Canon still have.

          Though they are getting better, EVFs are still immature technology. It is a matter of opinion when they become good enough to replace an OVF. Many people will prefer an OVF for a long time to come.

          • Michael Sloan

            Just do Fuji thing, you get both OVF and EVF in one camera; best of both worlds…

          • Spy Black

            Hence why you should have interchangeable EVF “prisms”.

      • stoooopid

        Be careful about saying “Nothing will ever…(insert claim here)”. There is no fundamental law of nature that insures OVF will always be better than EVF. In fact, in some ways EVF’s already surpassed OVF (information overlay). I admit I still like OVF better than EVF, but EVF’s are sure to get much, much better with time.

  • Grey Chen Junyang

    about damn time

  • John

    I like it. I think it will make:
    – Sensor cleaning far far more easy. No worries about killing the shutter or damaging the mirror system (if it has a mirror)
    – Repairing the sensor – easy to replace w/o having to take apart the entire camera
    – Great ability to have custom sensor modules: B&W, no-AA filter, low resolution/High DR/low noise, video-optimized, cooled sensor?, versions.

    Of course one will pay a high price for the capability.

    I don’t think Nikon makes that much $$ on bodies like it does on lenses. They could then focus resources on producing interchangeable sensors and keep the bodies around longer. I think they see that the body features are maturing to the point where it takes more and more resources to make a new body where most of the magic is really in the sensor.

    So they may be doing far less iterating on new bodies and more iterating on sensors – thus generating more revenue from sensors than bodies.

  • fjfjjj

    Nikon will not cannibalize its camera body sales. If this patent ever makes its way into a product line as a user-serviceable feature, expect either (a) new sensor modules that require an in-body “feature” introduced less than 3 years prior to their announcement, or (b) sensor modules that are priced like camera bodies.

    • Michael Sloan

      It’s the high number of individual components which make the PRO DSLRs so expensive to manufacture. The pro DSLRs have very limitted manufactoring runs making it harder to amortorize the costs. The fewer total parts there are per body, the more profit Nikon makes. If you look at the PRO DSLRs, they don’t change significantly from one model to the next. Modularizing the sensor makes sense as well as modularizing other key components, such as memory, CPU, Video ASIC Codecs, AF modules, and memory card slots. Does this mean the should all be user replaceable? Probably not, but Nikon could easily offer an exchange program. Basically, you buy a PRO DSLR and use it for 3-6 years, after which Nikon offers you $$$ discount on your next purchase in exchange for your old DSLR to be used as a core for a new product. CNC machined chunks of magnesium have to be the most expensive component to manufacture in the PRO models, but yet the could be reutilized 5 times over. Remember, the modern day DSLR is really no different than a computer; basically IO devices surrounding the CPU, memory, and storage. The body is no different than a computer case that provides a chassis to mount everything in.

      • fjfjjj

        If the cost of SLRs is due to number of parts (true in part) then modularization would add cost because it adds parts. A soldered chip is one part. A socketed chip is at least 2, and as many as six.

        However the idea that Nikon would recycle used SLRs into new ones is interesting and believable: strip and re-paint the chassis, replace wear parts like the shutter and backlights, and swap out the sensor.

        By the way, magnesium chassis parts are created mostly by molding, with minimal machining.

        • Michael Sloan

          Having worked 15 years in the electronics industry, I saw the progression from drilled boards with pass throughs all the way to multilayered boards with surface mount technologies. If you look at most of the internals on all electronic devices today, they already are largely modular with ribbon cables for interconnections. Nikon only has to standardize their intermodule interfaces, physical mounting characteristics, and communications from one generation to the next. The expectation would be a single frame could support 3-5 itterations of internals; thus a camera body could last 9-15 years. The ergonomics on cameras are very mature and just about all of the buttons we need are there (at least on the pro bodies). If Nikon would create a standarized communications bus, all the buttons, knobs and rotary dials on camera body could be fully customizeable through software; very much like the input devices on a computer. Keys on a keyboard can easily be remapped, as well as that for scroll wheels on mice. It would only be on those rare occasions that a new camera body gets some new kind of IO capability, like maybe a compass or gyroscopic sensor. Depending on your processor and firmware build, it will either detect and use the new IO devices, or will ignore them. Nikon doesn’t have to look very far for inspiration and expertise. The auto industry uses CAN bus to detect and control things from Air Bags to Radios to dual climate control zones. The home computer has many standarized speedy bus technologies from USB to Firewire.
          The machining that has to be done on a camera body is greatly reduced by molding process, no doubt there. However, those 4 axis mills are very expensive as well as the skilled works to operate them. Reducing the total number of parts to be machined in the first place seems like a win-win to me.
          I paid $6K for my D4. After 3-5 years of use, I would happily pay $3K to have it completely refurbished with the latest internals. Anything more than $3K and the cost benefit is significantly reduced.
          The real question is, “Would this model be profitable for Nikon and would Nikon’s customers want this product?”
          There is another advantage to this, Nikon would be removing older DSLRs from the used market and existing DSLRs would have greater value than they do now.
          The disadvantage would be for all those individuals that are all about brand name and having the latest and greatest. After all, Nikon would probably forgo putting model badges on the cameras. The only indicator would be the splash screen on startup as seen on the back display.
          And as several others already pointed out, they would pay extra in order to customize the camera to their use (i.e. bigger buffer, faster AF, etc.)
          The real complexities in designing such a modular system would be placed on the software engineers at Nikon. But hey, if they would just open that up to third party developers, like the group who did Magic Lantern for Canon, we would see newer features and capabilities on faster cycles.

  • tifkat

    Do these diagrams show DX and FX bodies? Seems to be one of both, but not the Pro level with built in vertical/battery grip.

  • Glen

    This could be a great way to increase revenue, especially if they make each sensor single use only and sell them in packs of 36.

    • Dr. Research T. Hogan

      Maybe they will pack more with this removable image sensor… for example: sensor + exposure meter + AF focusing points. Then the body will be truly interchangeable.

      Or, maybe, they are thinking of two different quality of senors… one for low light, one for wide gamut/rich. Sorta like high-speed and regular-film

  • The time to do this would have been ten years ago. Sensors seem to have plateaued out and aren’t improving as quickly or significantly as in the past. The action is mainly in software.

    Nikon needs to get on with job 1 — building a camera system that you can slide a smartphone into and publishing a halfway decent SDK so that someone else can write software for it.

  • erland

    Its like film! Start up with Kodchrome 64 and Ilford HP5 later.

  • You know, bespoke cameras are an un-tapped revenue stream for the major camera companies. Most of us reap the benefits of mass-production in that we can get a D7100 with more performance than a D700 for essentially the same inflation-adjusted cost as the D90. I’ll bet that there would be people willing to pay more to take a stock part and modify (sort of like how Leica’s MP program works). For this to happen, there has to be a way to swap parts easily on a low volume basis that isn’t time consuming.

    Say you want a D7100 with a D4 mirrorbox and sensor; a unit could easily be diverted to a “bespoke” production area, but the cost would probably be prohibitive if Nikon themselves didn’t have a way of swapping sensors easily themselves… installing something and installing something precisely at the micron level are two different issues. Considering how much circuitry there is in a DSLR, I’m not sure that we are close to seeing a user-swap-able sensor, but a factory-swap-able unit seems more likely. For the sake of argument, say you wanted to upgrade the sensor in a D90 to the one in the D7100. It’s not that simple, as you would have to change the EXPEED unit and likely most of the memory subsystem.

    • Sahaja

      Plus the firmware.

    • Sahaja

      Bespoke cameras – sounds like something from Leica

    • BroncoBro

      Plus a new buffer and other electronics. This ain’t that simple.

  • Mardock

    What’s the point? Presumably if you upgrade to a better sensor, you’re going to need a more powerful processor, too. These cameras today work a lot more holistically when it comes to the final output product.

    • Sahaja

      Something like this seems more likely to be used as a way of making assembly and repair of cameras easier rather than as a way to enable users to swap sensors.

    • BroncoBro

      Depends on how you define “better”. Better for what? Perhaps I’d like to change a camera over to be my “low light” tool. Another could be my “high res” tool. Another for portrait work. Of course Nikon would rather sell you complete cameras for each need.

  • FilmGuru

    Finally !!!!…its about time someone starts making CCD chips replaceable, so many people asked for it already a decade ago…LOL

  • areader

    Too bad and also little too late. dSLRs have already become obsolete for the unwashed masses.

    • Batsy

      true in 2 years.

  • Vic Lau

    It is about time. My money is on the new Nikon

  • Sundra Tanakoh

    On behalf of dissatisfied Nikon Users, I will file a patent:
    “Nikon Users File Patent on Interchangeable Camera” The application will allow Nikon users to switch to Canon.

  • J. Dennis Thomas

    This is what you call a “defensive patent”. Nikon has no plans of implementing this for public use. Patenting the technology and idea is just a way to make sure no other manufacturers can do it.

    • zoetmb

      Wrong. It doesn’t stop any other manufacturer from implementing a removable sensor. What it does is stop other manufacturers from implementing a removable sensor using this method. The problem is that it can also give a competitor a recipe for implementation in which they can modify the method just enough as to not violate Nikon’s patent.

  • Duncan Dimanche

    Ricoh much ?!!!

    It would be nice to snap on a low light CCD on my D800 once in a while….

    having the 36mpx and with the D3s 12mpx low light king….. sigh

  • Batsy

    Didn’t nascar already get this patent for windshields?

  • Julian

    A dedicated astrophotography sensor would be great, one that is designed not to overheat for long exposures and cut down on noise without noise reduction algorithms.

    • BroncoBro

      Heat is an enemy for the astro photo folks. Check out the products from SBIG and similar.

  • aarif

    I’ll get the D800 body and trade the
    sensor with the D4 or D600 sensor

  • mikegorton

    Welcome to Ricoh’s idea from 5 years ago…way to innovate Nikon.

    • BroncoBro

      DaVinci had an idea for a helicopter…but he never made one.

  • Lee

    Ricoh GXR, is that you coming back?

  • Shamael

    Imagine a roughed bdy, solid as a rock, and all you do is buy the latest sensor for it, at Nikon street price , for sudre, of 2000$, sic.

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