Having Pioneered DSLR Video, Nikon Struggles to Compete

nikon-dl-line-cameras

The Nikon DL Line of Cameras

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

While everyone is looking at Canon, Panasonic and Sony for their DSLR and mirrorless camera needs, many wouldn’t know Nikon was the first company to add video to their line of DSLRs. Faced with stiff competition and a fast development cycle of the digital revolution, Nikon posted a “notice of extraordinary loss” of $250 million in 2016.

Now the camera company is struggling to with dropping stock, the need to cancel high profile camera lines and lay off valuable staff to stay afloat.

The great irony is, Nikon is still the 800 pound gorilla in the still image category, but has largely been left behind in the video world. And don’t forget it was almost a decade ago when the Nikon D90 introduced HD video to the DSLR world (albeit with many issues), but the Canon 5D MK II in 2008 really changed the world. The digital revolution advanced at a lightning quick pace, and thanks to high profile filmmakers like Vincent LaForet and Shane Hurlbut shooting on Canon DSLRs, which captured the imagination of low budget filmmakers, Nikon cameras were largely forgotten.

Nikon tried a few years back to push their own video initiative to restore market share, including a cool filmmaking kit, but on the whole, it has been largely ineffective. Then filmmakers and videographers moved to using 4K mirrorless cameras, like the full-frame Sony α7 series and the Panasonic GH4 and GH5, and Nikon ended up as an afterthought in the film and video production world.

To that end, Nikon is shuttering is the pocket sized DL line. Designed to compete with Sony’s RX100 and Canon’s M line, the DL line is being closed down before it can even reach the market. This is sad, because the DL offered the choice of three different fixed lens cameras, clean HDMI out and internal 4K recording at up to 120 frames per second. At under $1,000, the DL would have made a solid backup camera for documentary filmmakers and adventure seekers looking to get a nicer image over action camera alternatives. Now it will never be.

Canceling the DL line doesn’t have to be a bad omen for their other cameras like the D5, but it does mean fewer options for filmmakers. In reality, though, the real benefit of the Nikon platform may actually be the glass itself.

Nikkor lenses are still the standard by which all other lenses are judged in the still image world, and perhaps what the camera company can do is literally “focus” on offering lens options like the Nikkor as a high end alternative for DSLR filmmakers. This can be met with partnerships with companies like Metabones and others to provide adapters.

The Nikon D5

The Nikon D5

Whether Nikon sees offering lenses as a viable option, they have more pressing issues. The announcement of staggering losses and closing of the DL line caused a one day stock fall of 14.6% as skittish investors smelled blood in the water. This is fresh off the news last November that Nikon was letting go more than 1,000 jobs, mostly through offering early retirement packages.

That kind of brain drain, however, is going to have an impact, just not the one they were hoping for. It also means Nikon will focus its efforts on their core business of still photography, leaving the video more as an afterthought for their existing clientele. It’s a wise move that will help the company weather the storm, but it’s just a shame they can’t be in the thick of the hunt.

Hat tip: No Film School

 

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.