Really, How Hard is it To Grind Some Metal?

Nikon has again issued an apology to Nikon 1 customers, this time for the 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, which is still difficult to find in many places around the world, including here in the US. So let’s start with that: how is it that Nikon didn’t know what Nikon 1 users were really using their V series cameras for? A highly competent 189-810mm (equivalent) lens for a small camera that can follow focus and even manage 20 fps doing that is a birder’s dream was going to sell in significant quantities.

But apparently management didn’t realize that, and now has to apologize for not keeping production up to demand. Good thing I haven’t written my review yet, otherwise the darned lens would be completely sold out everywhere (yes, it’s a very good lens that allows you do do things that are otherwise difficult to accomplish; see shot below; yes, think about where I was when I took this shot and why it is at 810mm equivalent).

INT BOTS Moremi Aug2014 V3 12187.jpg

But here’s the thing I don’t understand: the optional metal tripod foot for the lens has been on backorder now for three months, and I don’t know of anyone that has received one. See the headline: how hard is it to grind out a small hunk of metal and deliver that?

This actually repeats a pattern that is disconcerting to say the least: Nikon accessories are notorious for being late and in short supply, including such things as extra batteries for cameras. Over the past three years, I’ve had five different Nikon accessories end up with backorder deliveries of more than three months from when they were supposed to appear, and one took over a year for them to produce.

Then we have the close up lenses. Many years ago Nikon had a popular set of 52mm and 62mm close up lenses. It was pretty much a “must have” in every camera bag. Canon’s 77mm 500D version was another must have, mainly because Nikon didn’t make one that size, even though Nikon had more 77mm filter rings at the time when Canon introduced that filter. Sometime early in the digital age Nikon decided that the close up lenses weren’t necessary any more (wrong) and stopped making them. At Photokina they reintroduced a 52mm version. I wonder how fast this will sell out and become backordered? And why isn’t there a new 62mm version? Even the hard-to-get 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 CX lens could use that ;~)

What Nikon should be apologizing about is losing the pulse of the camera market. The product delivery problems (over and under) Nikon is having is because they’ve not rationalized their product line nor have they coordinated it well, and that comes mostly by not understanding the changing (and in some cases like the close up filters, non-changing) customer desires. Nikon got into a “just push boxes” phase (clearly evident in the Coolpix and initial Nikon 1 releases) rather than stay in tune with the photographer. It’s about time they get back in tune with the photographer.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, I don’t understand why every pro sports photographer doesn’t have a Nikon 1 somewhere in their kit. There are things the V3 can do that no other camera can (60 fps silent golf swing shots, for example). Yet Nikon doesn’t seem to be able to market to those that actually might purchase the product. The 70-300mm is another good example: it’s a better choice for birders than digiscoping, in my opinion. Of course, that brings up the internal competition problem, as Nikon makes scopes ;~). Still, that’s what top management is for: resolving how and why companies make and market different products.

Update: Amusingly, I got emails from two readers outside the US who received their tripod mount for the 70-300mm lens, but not the lens itself.

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