Recent Nikon Interview Leads to Question: ‘Where is the Differentiation?’

Nikon China recently invited members of the media to its headquarters in the region where the developers of the Z7 II answered many questions about the new camera and Nikon’s future. After reading responses, Nikon expert Thom Hogan questions what Nikon has done to differentiate itself.

Hogan may be familiar to some thanks to his editorial last month where he encouraged Nikon fans not to panic at Sony’s Alpha 1 announcement. Hogan claims to be plugged into Nikon’s plans for the future and offered several answers to pressing questions about what the company might be producing in the near future.

But even Hogan seems unimpressed and a bit confused with what he is hearing out of Nikon engineers during media briefings. With regard to this set of answers in particular, Hogan seems concerned that Nikon poorly differentiates its products from competitors’ offerings.

“The thing that struck me most about the overall interview, both in context and specific answers, is that Nikon doesn’t have a strong sense yet of differentiation, at least at the marketing end,” he says.

In the interview, Nikon Z7 II engineers state that the primary benefits of the new camera are improvements to focus and image processing, better battery life, better buffer and continuous shooting performance, and improved video functions among other things. All these adjustments are modest improvements and while welcome, are not particularly impressive when compared to the competition.

“That’s not a great ‘marketing’ list, as all those things are mostly subtle changes to edge cases,” Hogan writes. “The heavy-hitting improvements aren’t really there — pixel count, global shutter, improved low light capability, better viewfinder (no blackout), and so on.”

There is some sentiment in the photography community that the Z7 II and Z6 II feel like they mostly have improvements to functionality that could have been implemented via firmware update. Based on how Nikon responded to the Chinese press, Hogan believes that the reason Nikon did not do that was to create a more defined line between the older models and new ones. Without that, there would not be much in the new cameras worth upgrading for.

Whatever the case may be, Hogan seems to be arguing that Nikon isn’t doing enough with its features to compete well with market leaders. Incremental, modest updates are always welcome, but Nikon is seemingly lacking direction with why its cameras are better than those from Sony or Canon.

Additionally, Hogan admits that Nikon seems sincere in its attempts to understand user requests for its cameras and regularly seems to be addressing specific concerns, but fears that Nikon may be approaching the problem the wrong way.

“If you poll users about things to add, change, or improve, they’ll give you a list, but that list probably isn’t as important as finding the pain point the user doesn’t realize they have, or can’t express well, and fixing that,” he says.

Hogan’s full reaction piece to the Nikon interview in China can be read here.

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