Wednesday, January 11, 2006: Nikon announces via the UK here and USA here that they are going to stop making all but their best film camera body and most manual focus lenses so they can concentrate on making even more digital cameras and lenses for us. Yeah!
So what if they stop making lower end film cameras? The new F6 lives on. When was the last time you bought a new film body or manual focus lens? All the AF lenses and digital bodies are now going to have even more resources behind them to make even more, newer and better lenses and cameras for us. Whoo Hoo!
The release also stated they're going to stop making large format and enlarging lenses. Large format (LF) lenses are for 4 x 5" and larger cameras, like the 300 mm f/9 I use. This has nothing to do with lenses for 35mm cameras. Nikon was never more than a second-tier player behind the German Schneider and Rodenstock lenses for large format cameras. Even Japanese camera makers like Horseman design their cameras like my SW612P to ship with Rodenstock or Schneider large format lenses, not Nikon. Likewise, I sold all my old optical darkroom gear, including my enlarging lenses, back in 2004.
Even with this they're still going to make their current and new AF lenses, the F6, the FM10, and these manual focus lenses: 20 mm 2.8, 24 mm f/2.8, 28 mm f/2.8, 35 mm f/1.4, 50 mm f/1.2, 50 mm f/1.4, 55 mm f/2.8 Micro, 105 mm f/2.8 Micro, and PC Micro-Nikkor 85 mm f/2.8D. WOW! Bet you didn't know they still made these. These manual AI-s lenses, except the 85 mm, have been made unchanged since the 1980s. The optics of the 35 f/1.4 are the same that were introduced in 1969! I got rid of most of these lenses back in the 1980s. They should have sent out a release reminding us all that they still make the stuff most people donated to the Salvation Army 10 years ago.
Of course this all varies by country. Here in the USA we've had to get new manual lenses via gray market for some time.
Nikon doesn't need to build any new film cameras or LF or manual lenses because the world is full of them. I was surprised to see them introduce the F6 which they will continue to make. Guys like me have drawers full of this stuff that we no longer use. You'll always be able to get all the Nikon film gear you want used. My Nikon F2AS from the 1970s still works as well today as when it was new. Of course you'll still be able to buy all the new AF lenses you want for your film cameras.
Nikon's business (amateurs, news, sport and lower end weddings) went digital years ago. Of course Nikon should put their efforts where people care. I haven't bought any Nikon film cameras since the 1990s, and I don't even use what I own.
I did just buy a bunch of Nikon's latest digital. I've spent $7,000 for my D1H, D70 and D200 digital bodies since 2002. I've spent zero on Nikon film gear since 2000. Of course I've spent thousands of dollars on professional film gear in the last 12 months, just not Nikon. Nikon's not a player in the professional (medium and large format) film camera world.
All because a maker of small-format film cameras (Nikon) is giving up on their consumer film cameras that no one is buying doesn't speak for all of film. Nikon's still making what they've always made, which is the best pro film camera there is, the F6. It's good that Nikon concentrate on the products that we care about and buy, which is digital. Nikon is first an optical company and only second a camera company.
Landscapes are photographed on much larger format cameras. Nikon has never made cameras used in the mainstream of serious landscape photography. The artists out there, like Ansel Adams of yesterday and Jack Dykinga of today, are shooting and will be shooting big film for some time to come. See my page on Why Film Isn't Going Away. Film is stepping aside from amateurs and mainstream and moving squarely to the purvey of dedicated artists.
Even if all film camera makers stopped today there is still plenty of film equipment out there to keep film shooters happy for decades. More than one of my lenses for my 4 x 5" film camera is 50 years old!
Who cares that Kodak stopped making slide projectors? The world already has too many Kodak Carousels, and Leica, who makes much better ones, still makes them if you insist on a new one.
Hey - this news release really isn't. Letting the news, or really a lack of hard facts, settle in I realized all Nikon is saying is that they're discontinuing their second rate (and lower) film camera bodies and returning to their heritage of making only the best.
Nikon only made the best and most expensive professional 35mm cameras for the first decades. The past couple of decades they decided to capitalize on their name and make successively crappier and plasticier film cameras aimed at amateurs. Even these crappy cameras, like the N55, made great photos. They just weren't designed to be tough enough to use for self defense.
So Nikon has decided to drop their cheap film cameras into the dumpster of history. So what, no one buys them new anyway — that's why they got dropped. Nikon doesn't even make the FM10; it's made for them by Cosina. The FM3a is a great camera and going away, but so what; it's just a modern version of the 25 year old FM. The world has enough of the FM and FE family available as used cameras to last my lifetime. What we really want is the D3X to come out at PMA 2006 for less than $2,500 and smoke the D200.
Here's Nikon, Canada's details.
Nikon UK were the only ones to list the actual products discontined, thank you.