Commentary

Nikon bails on advanced compacts and that's not good

Opinion: The company announced that it was dropping the attempt to produce its ill-fated series of enthusiast-targeted fixed-lens models and it doesn't sound like it plans to try again.

Cameras
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B&H is happy to help you move on from your disappointment.

Screenshot by Lori Grunin/CNET

This morning I received the sad news: email notifications from B&H Photo breaking that Nikon was discontinuing its DL series of enthusiast-targeted fixed-lens cameras -- actually, discontinuing efforts to produce them at all. This is almost a year since the company announced them at CP+ 2016.

Then came the terse press release from Nikon USA confirming B&H's note, with the disturbing statement

... everyone involved has worked very hard to develop products with which our customers will be satisfied. However, it has been decided that sales of the DL series will be canceled due to concerns regarding their profitability considering the increase in development costs, and the drop in the number of expected sales due to the slow-down of the market.

Although other electronics categories that have products announced with great fanfare may never see the light of day, it's not common for cameras. While I'm sure it's happened, I can't recollect it.

True, the once-promising DL series faced a lot of obstacles, not the least of which was an earthquake. But the cameras were 1-inch sensor models that other companies, including Sony, Panasonic and Canon, have been pretty successful with. Yes, the camera market is contracting, but premium compacts and bridge cameras are a couple of the bright spots.

I couldn't really figure out why Nikon was having so many issues getting it to market after it had recovered from the earthquake, since it was hardly breaking new ground. And though Nikon was late, it wasn't starting from scratch -- its Nikon 1 series of mirrorless models are based around a 1-inch sensor architecture.

However, Nikon is at a real disadvantage compared with the others: It doesn't manufacture its own sensors. Samsung does, and it couldn't even keep its cameras afloat. I was really hoping at one point that Nikon and Samsung could rescue each other.

That statement says to me that the company doesn't think it can make a profitable camera in a market segment where Sony, Canon and Panasonic each have several models. Nikon makes some great cameras. While it could stand to slim down its selection, I hope I'm overreacting and this isn't foreshadowing of things to come.

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