Nikon to discontinue some 35mm camera models
January 16, 2006 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I've been hearing rumors for a few days that Nikon was planning to stop manufacturing 35mm film cameras. Apparently there is some truth to this, although it does appear that they will continue making their professional F6 and student-oriented FM10 models, as well as some 35mm point-and-shoots for the consumer market.
posted by atavistech (48 comments total)
At least we still have turntables.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 2:16 PM on January 16, 2006

Ummm...Not to be a jerk but if the rumor was a cessation of 35mm manufacturing and the reality is that most high end and point and shoots will still be made, there is not really any truth to the rumor, contrary to your statement.
posted by rollbiz at 2:21 PM on January 16, 2006

For regular consumers 35mm have no purpose anymore. Turntables are a good example, fairly niche and for professinals or enthusiasts within the field. Simply the market reacting to the demand.
posted by geoff. at 2:23 PM on January 16, 2006

Your third link, on point-and-shoots, is from 2003.
posted by schmedeman at 2:26 PM on January 16, 2006

Your third link, on point-and-shoots, is from 2003.

Aw, hell. Fact-checking is always the first casualty when I start juggling URLs. I should learn better...
posted by atavistech at 2:32 PM on January 16, 2006

Ummm...Not to be a jerk but if the rumor was a cessation of 35mm manufacturing and the reality is that most high end and point and shoots will still be made, there is not really any truth to the rumor, contrary to your statement.

1. See above, RE: old link. The 35mm point-and-shoots could yet be on their way out, I'll try to find out for certain.

2. Even if the rumor applied only to 35mm SLR cameras, I'd still consider it a pretty major move for Nikon. Their SLR line had been a journalistic mainstay for decades, prior to the advent of effective digital alternatives.
posted by atavistech at 2:38 PM on January 16, 2006

For regular consumers 35mm have no purpose anymore.

I agree - my old N90 has been lying dormant in the bag for years now. Still makes me a little sad, as a former retail Nikon pusher 'pro systems expert'.    ;)
posted by atavistech at 2:43 PM on January 16, 2006

Nikon Corporation has made the decision to focus management resources on digital cameras in place of film cameras.

Not rumor - truth. Too bad because Nikon film cameras were always pretty freaking amazing. I know Nikon is making a huge profit on their digital cameras but my fear is they will continue to fall further and further behind Canon on digi-cam technology.
posted by photoslob at 2:45 PM on January 16, 2006

At least we still have turntables.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 2:16 PM PST on January 16 [!]

for now.
posted by wakko at 2:55 PM on January 16, 2006

photoslob: Why do you feel that that Nikon is falling behind Canon in digi-cam technology? Nikon's digital SLR's have the largest number of lenses available for them, they shoot great photos and I think their color quality is much better than Canon's. And I look at Nikon's D50 vs the D70. I wanted the D70 for a long time and just never had the money. Now they've introduced the D50 which has almost every feature of the D70, plus a number of improvents over the D70 and they knock a couple hundred dollars off the price. It seems to me that Nikon is doing pretty darn well in the digicam market.
posted by afflatus at 3:19 PM on January 16, 2006

The FM10 is a Cosina-made camera re-badged as a Nikon, so I guess it costs them little to continue it. The F6 is more camera than anyone using 35mm might ever need, so it makes sense to keep it going for a while yet to satisfy any professionals that still want to shoot 35mm film. The F6 is only a couple of years old, anyhow, and despite the great switch to digital rumor has it sales weren't too slack for a camera in that niche.

As for their other film SLR models, I can't imagine they were selling any in any numbers, so no big surprise, really. Amateur enthusiasts that can afford it have all gone digital, and those that can't afford it, or won't, have a huge and healthy used market to enjoy. Bit of a shame to see the FM3A go, but that's sentimental, rather than sensible business. I suspect it was for Nikon originally, too. If you're thinking of rushing out to get a Nikon film SLR before they disappear, I might not panic. They announced ceasing F3 production about ten years before they were finally unavailable in the shops.

More of a shame, in my opinion, is that they've also announced their axing a whole bunch of their lenses, especially prime MF ones. Everyone wants slow heavy AF zooms these days, it seems.

On preview: ...not to mention the new D200.
posted by normy at 3:26 PM on January 16, 2006

There are so many great used Nikons out there, the mourning won't really start for some time. I love my Nikon F2. It has a meter, but nothing automatic, and in the process of being careful with exposure, I find myself being more careful with composition. The lenses are great too. I have fully auto digital cameras and film SLRs and so many more (way, way, too many cameras here) and the manual Nikon Fs are my favorite of all, with the F2 my absolute favorite.

My fear is not the failure of camera manufacturers to make film cameras, but the failure of film manufacturers to make film. That will really kill the hobby.

Digital is great, but there are still wonderful benefits of film cameras. I am sure the film will never completely go away, but without the large consumer base it will become very, very expensive.
posted by caddis at 3:35 PM on January 16, 2006

More of a shame, in my opinion, is that they've also announced their axing a whole bunch of their lenses, especially prime MF ones.

I agree -- note that good deals can be had on auction sites, but the D200 availability probably puts a bit of pressure on their prices too.

I'm glad I got everything I wanted for my D1H (some I bought second hand for my FM10 which is now gathering dust.)
posted by NewBornHippy at 3:48 PM on January 16, 2006

At least we still have turntables.

And tube amps!
posted by HTuttle at 3:51 PM on January 16, 2006

I doubt too many people are going to put prime manual focus lenses on a D200, except for those lenses which might already be in their collection.

As for tube amps, you still can't beat the sound of a single ended triode tube amp with anything solid state (well, perhaps some SS amps that cost more than new cars might qualify, but I doubt it).
posted by caddis at 3:55 PM on January 16, 2006

Yeah, makes sense to me. What are the sales numbers for film versus digital? Simple economics, I'd think.

caddis, my old boss would argue with you about amps but that's because he has to justify the five figure price tag of each.
posted by fenriq at 3:59 PM on January 16, 2006

Oh, the sky is the limit on SETs as well: Ongaku.
posted by caddis at 4:06 PM on January 16, 2006

Of course there are bargains as well.
posted by caddis at 4:09 PM on January 16, 2006

photslob: your fears are unfounded. Nikon is barely behind Canon right now, they aren't going to fall any farther behind by focusing all of their efforts on digital.

I don't understand why folks think this is a big deal. It is 100% predictable. In the consumer, point and shoot realm, film cameras are dead. They are no going the way of the dodo bird. I'm not sure how long it will take for complete extinction, but in that realm they are history. That's been clear for a couple of years now.

And this is exactly what Nikon is recognizing: they are keeping the FM-10 and the F6. For the few hold-outs and niche market users, they will still make a manual and an automatic film camera (and two of their best film models). The rest is just dead weight, so it's being cut lose. What remains is great gear, but its appeal will be more narrow with each passing year.

Good. Digital is most certainly the future, and that's where Nikon needs to spend their time and money. Film is already something of a niche market, and it becomes more so every day. Since Nikon does not make much medium or large format gear, they have little reason to stay in the film business.

In 10 years, I'd be really surprised if you can get film processed any where but specialty photo shops. Film will be disappearing from the Walgreens and WalMarts of the world.

As for the manual focus lenses: so what? They make some nice MF lenses, but most of them are largely useless anymore to the majority of their market.

All in all, this is just damn good business sense, and I'm glad to see it from a company that usually moves as glacially slow as Nikon.
posted by teece at 4:14 PM on January 16, 2006

My tutors won't be happy about this.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:11 PM on January 16, 2006

SET amps do have an almost unmatched sweetness but you're really limited in terms of your speaker choices.

I have a tube pre-amp mated with a fairly laid back solid state amp and I'm pretty happy with the results. And I'd have to spend double or triple what my current amp cost to get a tube amp with comparable bass performance.
posted by MjrMjr at 5:27 PM on January 16, 2006

In my view the days of the film camera have been numbered ever since the mid-market digital SLRs came on the market. All of a sudden serious amateurs (such as me at the time) figured that 6MP was more than good enough quality-wise, and that at a price point of about $1000-$1500 we'd recoup the extra cost (compared to film) within a couple of years just by not having to get film processed.

When I went to the British Isles in 1993 I must have brought back 35-40 rolls of film (that *was* for a whole summer though). It took me a while before I had enough cash to get them developed :-)
posted by clevershark at 5:34 PM on January 16, 2006

Film is still far superior for art photography- digital simply cannot match the clarity, color richness and versatility, especially for gallery prints. Which is of course what I do- argh! I knew I should have replaced my old Nikon last year, now it's going to cost me a fortune as everyone jumps on these things. Dammit.
posted by fshgrl at 6:27 PM on January 16, 2006

Relax fshgrl, everyone is jumping off, not on these things. It is the ultimate buyer's market, and getting better every day. I am thinking Leica M. Well, they will be one of the last to fall in price, but soon enough it will be mine.
posted by caddis at 7:15 PM on January 16, 2006

My greatest fear (Photo wise, I have many other greatest fears) is that in the many years to come digital photographers will not be able to show their grandchildren any of these digital photos. For example- each of you shopuld turn around right now- Do you see that old Iomega Drive or that Bernouli drive? How bout that old SCSI hard drive that you salvaged out of your 5 year old Mac? Most of them are now virtually unusable. Certainly in 50 years time (The average shelf life of Kodachrome slides) they will be better suited for computer museums than accessing granny's first Christmas.

I came to this realization while transfering several hours of 8mm home movies to Mini DV and DVD. Some were 45 years old. Still viewable, as most analog images will always be, but who knows? When Blu ray HD DVD makes current DVDs about as playable as an old 16 RPM record what will become of them?

What I do is take 35mm and have them developed and ask for a CD of the images at the same time. Yes, a bit of an expense, but now I have my cake and eat it too.

(First Post)
posted by Gungho at 7:30 PM on January 16, 2006

Really regretting selling off some Nikon lenses just a year or so ago... And yeah, these days manual focus is considered passé, but it still has some advantages, especially with wide-angles. It's the lack of fixed, fast, wide lenses for the new breed of DSLRs that bugs me more, though - I don't always want depth of field from my nose to the moon, and there was a time f/2.8 wasn't a fast lens - once upon a time there was a dozen such lenses to choose amongst from Nikon alone, and for most of them you didn't need a bag to carry them around.

I suspect Leica will be out-of-reach for the non-rich amateur for some time yet - too niche, too much status-simbolism and too much brand-wank - but those Voigtlanders are sure tempting.
posted by normy at 7:32 PM on January 16, 2006

afflatus and teece,

It used to be that one could make very definitive arguments for and against different camera makers based on things like lens selection, build quality, auto-focus, etc. but when digital sensors came along all that went out the window to some degree. Auto-focus systems have matured across the major camera companies to make it a non-issue and with digital sensors you're more apt to be worried about a misaligned sensor should you drop the camera than a dented prism. The digital sensor is now the most important element of a camera system. It used to be that photographers would choose film for sensitivity, grain, color, etc and now all of that is tied to the sensor. Nikon has not been able to produce a decent sensor in-house and recently went to Sony for a chip for the flagship D2X abandoning the LBCAST Nikon sensor except for the D2hs. The previous flagship camera was the D2H and it was a disaster - the LBCAST had high ISO noise that made the images unusable for any type of commerce jobs and barely acceptable for photojournalism. You either shot the camera at ISO 200 (there was no 100 or 50 like Canon) or you switched to film. The cameras also had an atrocious record of build quality problems. Canon on the other hand manufactures their sensors in-house and has perfected them to an amazing degree. Canon has an R+D budget that is almost larger than Nikon's yearly camera sales. As Canon develops new sensor technology they pass the older technology down into the consumer line. The consumer G3-5 series Canon's offered a larger file and less noise than the D1X and D2h until the D70 came along.

In the last two years more photographers than probably ever before have switched to Canon. I'm not just saying a few buddies of mine have switched - I'm talking just about every ad and commerce shooter I know has a 1Ds MKII as at least a backup to their $25k medium format digital backs and some of them have dumped the expensive stuff because they love the freedom of shooting with the smaller camera not to mention they're nearly disposable at $8k a pop. The AP, Getty, Reuters, AFP and nearly all other agency shooters have gone Canon. It's unprecedented - even when Canon developed the first truly fast and effective AF system Nikon photographers didn't switch in these numbers. Nikon simply decided to rest on their laurels as a company known for great cameras while producing truly lousy digital SLR's and they got hammered by Canon. It's an amazing fall from grace because the original D1 was ground breaking in 1999. Nikon has done some catching up with the D70s which is truly a killer little rig and the D200 looks promising but the D2X is far from perfect and still boasts a 1.6x magnification when Canon's flagship is full frame and a larger file which ad agencies and stock houses demand. I really want Nikon to turn it around because Canon having a lock on the market is not a good thing. The fact that Nikon is cashing in on entry-level DSLR's is great but it worries me that if they can't hold the pro market they may choose to abandon it sometime in the future. (I'd like to note that I've owned more Nikon gear than I'd like to admit due to losing money every time I switched back and forth. Furthermore, I learned photography on an FE2 and I have a special place in my heart for the Nikon F4.)

And fshgrl - film is definitely not superior to digital these days. It's more on equal footing and it's wonderful to have the choice to shoot film when the job or image calls for it. With that said - I'll be putting the remainder of my medium format film gear on ebay this week because practically no one wants me to shoot it anymore. The market for film gear is flooded and just about any film cameras can be bought at bargain prices with the exception of anything that might take a digital back now or in the near future. If you need pointers on where to look for the stuff let me know. :)
posted by photoslob at 7:53 PM on January 16, 2006

One more thing and I swear I'll step away from the keyboard - is an amazing resource for DSLR photography and probably deserves a FPP of it's own. The forums contain an incredible wealth of knowledge and are guaranteed to get you a leg up on your annoying know-it-all uncle who just bought a Canon Rebel XT and wants to tell you all about why it's better than your Nikon D70s!
posted by photoslob at 8:09 PM on January 16, 2006

Gungho: I actually think that problem is vastly over-hyped.

Digital will be easier to show Grandma than film -- it will still be the same image in 100 years, as opposed to the very degraded film. Further, keeping 1 million digital photos is almost trivial. Keeping 1 million film photos, not so much.

As for the archaic and changing digital media: it's a red herring if you pay attention to your data. I have stuff that I wrote in WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, stored on 5.25 inch floppies. If I had just thrown it in a closet and forgot about it, that would be a problem.

But I didn't do that, and nobody should. I cared about my data. I've backed it up to newer floppies, and hard drives, and later to CDs and DVDs, and printed the important stuff. Further, I've shifted the format as soon as I've come to a new text tool.

I can, and will, do the same thing for my digital photos. When I'm dead, my digital photos will be available for anyone that wants them. And they could be easily maintained, in the same way I did, for as long as anyone cared.

Computers change on a continuum. As long as you don't just stop using your stuff altogether, you can easily move your stuff along in that continuum.

A lot of the old-school film shooters gripes about digital are really just fearful of change. There will be problems, they are all surmountable. The archival problems with digital are VASTLY easier to deal with than those of film.

photoslob: the sea shift to Canon was borne of impatience, not a vastly superior camera system. I've read all the arguments as to why the Canon's are better. But in the end, they're pretty easy to erase if Nikon quits moving too slow. Ending effort on many film cameras will only help that. As for the 1.6 crop factor -- don't get me started. Most people there confuse "backwards compatible" with better. 'Tis not necessarily so.

And I have to chime in too, fshgrl. Unless you are exclusively shooting medium format or above, film is most definitely NOT superior to digital these days. They are, at least, on equal footing. And if you can afford the astronomical price tags, there are digital medium formats that can shoot some crazy pictures.
posted by teece at 8:49 PM on January 16, 2006

"photoslob: the sea shift to Canon was borne of impatience, not a vastly superior camera system. I've read all the arguments as to why the Canon's are better."

It's one thing to read about why one system is better than the other but until you actually make your living with a camera you might actually want to shoot with a Canon before passing judgement. The sea change had absolutely nothing to do with impatience. When your clients look at your images and ask "why don't your colors, file size, digital noise, etc. look as good as Joe Canon's?" you tend to pay attention. I was a Nikon as well as a Hasselblad shooter for a long time and finally gave in to Canon because the product was years ahead of anything else on the market - including Phase, Leaf and Imacon. The Canon 5D at under $3k with a full-frame sensor and little-to-no high-ISO noise will revolutionize photojournalism the same way the Nikon D1 did.

All that said, the day someone stuffs a 6x6 sensor into a digi back that can do what the 1Ds MKII does I'll be back to shooting with a Blad with a big grin on my face.
posted by photoslob at 9:17 PM on January 16, 2006


What teece said. Plus, there's even a method I've read about where old records can be restored by taking super close up scans of the grooves and then converting it to sound. I think the method is called VisualAudio.

So I'm fairly comfortable that the problem you describe can also be overcome, should it ever arise in the first place.

photoslob (regarding your "Monica" link),

What teece said. Moral of the story: Don't delete anything. There is no reason to.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 9:31 PM on January 16, 2006

The problem with not deleting is that it get's expensive. With film your biggest expense was buying flat files every few years and keeping the AC on year round. Now you've got to invest in mutliple HD's, RAIDS and even rack mount servers. One photographer I know is actually looking into an Xserve RAID that will set him back about $9k. My files compressed come out of the camera at 8-11 megs and uncompressed weigh in at about 48 megs. At 300 to 4000 images a shoot depending on the job it adds up quick.

The one thing I miss about film is how simple it used to be. No computers, software, endless external HD's, CD's that go bad, endless upgrade cycles, etc. I remember the early days of digital when it was alledged digital would save money because one would no longer be paying for film and processing. Ugh.
posted by photoslob at 10:09 PM on January 16, 2006

1000 frames per shoot is 10GB of RAW files, which is maybe $5 in HDD capital costs assuming you keep every crappy frame; be conservative with RAID & the like, call it $10. 1000 frames of Provia and development for it is a hell of a lot more than $10 and takes up a hell of a lot more room than 5% of a 3.5" HDD. Say you do that daily and fill a drive every 4 weeks, that's 15 (tops!) drives a year to put in a safe. $10 in storage costs is nothing on the probably $1000 daily fee you'll get for taking those frames.

Next year it will be half as many drives unless your sensor size doubles. At the end of the decade when storage bus technology is moving on, say ATA is becoming rarer, you buy probably one big new drive and copy the last decade's worth of data to it. And that's assuming you want to keep every client's data.

You can't tell us film is cheaper or requires less storage overhead.
posted by polyglot at 12:17 AM on January 17, 2006


Sure its all easy if you're an ubergeek, but my Sister can't run her PC for two weeks without having to reformat her hard drive. (Spyware/Adware). Believe me the vast majority of digital camera owners will have nothing to show in ten years time.

Another thought: Local camera stores are a dying breed, and when it becomes unprofitable the Supermegawalkmart will stop offering C41 print processing sooner than you can say cheese. Thank Jebus that InkJet technology is finally becomming archival. Unfortunately for now at least noone prints their own pictures (in quantity) because of the cost and the learning curve involved in maximizing the inkjet's capabilities. So at least in that sense I am going digital.
posted by Gungho at 4:49 AM on January 17, 2006

Maybe this is a question for the green rather than here, but having some aftermarket lenses for Pentax SLRs, I wonder why there aren't more digital cameras that can use those lenses -- is there some fundamental disconnect between digital and film technology, or is it a better deal for camera makers to make consumers buy different lenses?
posted by alumshubby at 5:09 AM on January 17, 2006

how can an xserve RAID at $9k be prohibitive yet a camera at $8k almost disposable?
posted by andrew cooke at 5:34 AM on January 17, 2006

"Next year it will be half as many drives unless your sensor size doubles."

Unfortunately, instead of concentrating on updating lenses, software or ergonomics most camera manufacturers are happy to just keep bumping up chip sizes every year or so. Bigger is better right? Canon should be announcing an update to the 1Ds MKII in Feb that I assume will contain a 20+ megapixel chip. Phase just released a camera with a 39 megapixel chip. Even the super high-end ad photographers are starting to cry uncle.

"how can an xserve RAID at $9k be prohibitive yet a camera at $8k almost disposable?"

I should have qualified that. For me and even the guy I know looking at the Xserve $9k is a ton of money. I paid $8k for a 1Ds MKII about a year ago and to this day it's the most I've ever spent on one piece of gear. To think that I put together my Hasselblad kit for half that is enough to make my stomach hurt. To think that in the next few years I'll probably pick up a digital back that will cost more than the car I'm currently driving makes me want to puke.
posted by photoslob at 8:03 AM on January 17, 2006

Quite the gap between a FM10 and a F6. Like Ford coming out saying they are only going to make Echos and Excursions.

teece writes "As for the archaic and changing digital media: it's a red herring if you pay attention to your data."

But people don't, anyone who has ever pawed through a shoe box of grandma's war photos knows this. Heck even when people are being paid to pay attention they don't. Ask anyone in tech support about users, data and backups. Digital is much too fragile, I mourn for future generations of historians, amateur and professional. In 2500 everyone will know what the 1900s looked like but the 2100s will be a fragmented blur of lost files, incompatible file and media formats, and degraded media. Film archives are so easy and forgiving, digital so brittle and attention demanding.
posted by Mitheral at 12:38 PM on January 17, 2006


Don't mourn, start collecting and archiving machines, so that twenty years from now, you can charge One Billion Dollars to retrieve an image off someone's 20-year-old platter :)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:19 PM on January 17, 2006

Though, in 20 years, that One Billion Dollars will buy you a movie ticket and a nice meal at a fast food joint.</small
posted by -harlequin- at 1:20 PM on January 17, 2006

I take about 3-4 years to get a new computer. By that time, the entire contents of all HDDs of my old computer is a drop in the bucket of the drive in the new, so I just copy the lot over. It's not organised, but it means that nothing gets missed, and everything is kept up to date. (I have a more organised system for photos, but this is in addition to that).

I'll be getting a new computer this year, it's hard drive will have 4-5 generations of earlier computers on it :)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:24 PM on January 17, 2006

Gungho and polyglot are both right. Most people are clueless about the real nature of information, and hence don't take any precautions. They don't understand information technology so are content to treat it as some kind of magic. I expect there to be a 15-20 year gap, roughly from 2000 to 2020 from which comparatively few amateur photographs will survive.

On the other hand, if you expend the effort and treat your files properly like a good geek, there's no reason why all the hype about digital shouldn't really come true. But you still need that effort; digital still isn't magic.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 1:31 PM on January 17, 2006

Gunho, mitheral,

I get your point now. And I'm a good example. I have some VHS-C tapes (I think that's the format) but the adaptor to play the VHS-C tapes in a normal VHS player is broken.

I want to watch the contents of the tapes… but I really can't be arsed trying to locate another adaptor. If I procrastinate any more then VHS players themselves might be hard to find.

That data isn't lost, but the more time goes on the harder it is going to be to extract that data.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 3:50 PM on January 17, 2006

but those Voigtlanders are sure tempting.

OK, I want one of those.

I've got an old Leica 111, but it isn't really practicable to use. I picked it up for thirty quid a very long time ago, and I've never been able to bring myself to part with it. I always wanted an M3 or an M4, but could never afford to buy one.

But those Voigtlanders look like an absolute bargain. OK, so it isn't a Leica, but it probably doesn't have the Leica's drawbacks either -- like being scared to use it in case you get mugged.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:17 PM on January 17, 2006

Interesting article about the use of a Canon digital camera with Nikon lenses here.
posted by juiceCake at 4:46 AM on January 18, 2006

In related news, Konica-Minolta have announced they're quitting the consumer photo market. It seems they've decided they can't profitably compete with the big boys in the current digital market. Another shame, they made some respectable kit in their time.
posted by normy at 12:50 PM on January 19, 2006

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