The Pastel Panda 

I've always found it interesting how intensely self- and inwardly-focused the Japanese camera companies are. The Zfc is another example of how the home market has a tendency to distort product offerings.

Overall, the new camera is supposed to evoke the FM2, with design elements inspired by that camera, right down to the way the logo appears (70-80’s style). 

There's little doubt that "retro panda" has a high degree of acceptance within the Japanese photographic community. Retro as in "has marked, dedicated dials" and panda as in “top/bottom plate silver metal, remainder black/color faux leather." (Ironically, sales of black on black still do decently in Japan, but the marketing materials tend to emphasize the panda option where it exists. Meanwhile, the Zfc is available in six non-standard panda options: pastel yellow, green, gray, pink, white, and brown options.)

Smaller is also a top desired attribute in Japan, as well. The Olympus E-M's and Pens and the smaller Fujifilm X's have all tended to have dedicated followings in Japan, probably because those designs (up until the X-S10) closely followed most of the home market preferences. 

Indeed, I suspect that it's Fujifilm's clear rise in the Japan mirrorless market at the expense of Nikon that has actually brought us the Zfc. Nikon simply hasn't had much traction in the home market at all lately, and that has to be weighing heavily on them. Thus, a Zfc re-design of the Z50 makes a lot of sense. In Japan, at least. Maybe much of Asia. 

On a broader, global scale, I'm not so sure. While Nikon loves to obsess over its film heritage, it was actually DSLRs that catapulted Nikon forward again from a very distant second place in the 90's to a real horse race with Canon in the 00's. More importantly, that competition produced a larger installed base of Nikon DSLR owners than there ever was Nikon film SLR owners. One reason why I like the Z50 is simple: it's a very nicely scaled down version of the Nikon DSLR: smaller, lighter, great handling, and with mostly the right feature simplifications rather than crippling ones. While the Zfc is evocative of cameras I grew up using, I'm not sure I'll be as interested in actually using it. 

Interestingly, I kept receiving rumors of a Z50 II happening sooner rather than later. I suspect that some of those folk leaking were actually referring to the Zfc, as it really is at base a reworked Z50. 

Ultimately, the Zfc doesn't address Nikon's long-term needs particularly well (see companion article). Yes, if the Zfc turns out to be a good camera it may help goose sales in the Japanese (and Asian) market. Now that every rumors site in the world is constantly quoting Japanese market sales numbers via BCN and Map Camera, any upward trend in Japanese sales would staunch some of the noxious nellies from nonstop negativism (unfortunately, they'll find something else to grab onto as their new totem). 

Like the Df before it, the Zfc is going to be a polarizing camera. You either love the long-established button+dial interface or you long for something you think is simpler (but isn't). Problem is, dedicated dials is almost absolutely not the future. So just exactly what is Nikon's future? (Hint: it must be driven by internal software sculpted to improve user workflow and reduce pain points. Something Nikon and the other camera companies keep resisting. Better communications with the mobile world would help, too.)

So, welcome Zfc. I hope your life isn’t as much of a struggle as I think it might be.

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