My Three Wishes for Nikon

My Three Wishes for Nikon

It’s the time of year again for my 100% non-scientific, not-based-on-actual fact, purely speculative wonderings about the future of my main camera brand.

Nikon has been on something of a roll in the last couple of years. After a couple years of online pundits seeming to make something of a bloodsport over seeing who could be the first to proclaim the company's early demise, Nikon has hit back with one product after another. They may not have been the fastest in building their mirrorless line of products. But, for those willing to wait, it appears the wait has paid off.

I said it in my Z8 review, but I think, following the release of the Z9 and then the Z8, the company arguably has the best camera in each of their respective classes, those classes being professional and semipro, cameras falling in the $3,500 to $6,500 price range. And at the lower end of the price range, they’ve introduced cameras like the Z fc and Z30 aimed more at the burgeoning social media market and hobbyists who prioritize things like style, portability, and affordability.

They’ve made great strides in developing their lens lineup. I heard someone say once that while other brands focused on their bodies first in switching to mirrorless, Nikon put more emphasis on glass. As a result, some of the early Nikon bodies seemed to lag behind the competition, but the lenses have been top shelf right out of the starting gates. A few years in and Nikon has a very healthy selection of Z mount lenses for everything from the holy trinity of zooms to fast f/1.2 primes to long telephoto lenses that cost more than my Toyota. There have been some complaints about the sheer size of some of Nikon’s fast primes. Having shot with a couple of them, the added girth of something like the 50mm f/1.2 isn’t lost on me. But, the more you shoot with those lenses, the more you realize that the size is simply the necessary price you pay in exchange for maximum lens quality. Specifically, in terms of suppression of focus breathing, which, if you are a filmmaker, you’ll know can be more than worth the trouble of having to carry a few extra pounds. Of course, if you aren’t a filmmaker, there are plenty of recent developments for you as well.  

So today I’d like to have a fun look at where Nikon’s product line stands midway through 2023, consider the trajectory of the product line, and look forward to some things I’m hoping to see in the future. A wish list for the Nikon genie, if you will. This is meant to be fun and purely speculative. Nothing I’m about to say is based on insider tips or in-depth journalistic research. Rather, this is just meant to be a fun forum for us to explore some of the things we might like to whisper into Nikon’s ear for future releases.

Could We Ever See a Nikon Cinema Camera?

Still photography and filmmaking have begun to merge more and more in recent years. You have the advent of the content creator who needs to pump out social content at a rapid rate in both still and moving form. You have shrinking ad budgets which have led large commercial campaigns to merge still and video campaigns into one, often resulting in still photographers (and their cameras) taking on the responsibility of adding motion content alongside their photographs. Many traditional photographers have understandably balked at so much camera chat nowadays being devoted to video, but, in the reality of the world today, any mirrorless camera without significant video features is destined for obscurity.

Nikon has really stepped up their efforts in the filmmaking arena. I already talked about their decision to prioritize features like limited focus breathing, which is clearly aimed at helping video professionals. Cameras like the Z8 and Z9, in addition to being professional still cameras, are loaded with necessary filmmaking features. I’ve shot everything from award-winning festival films, to commercials, to television pilots with my Z9s in the time I’ve had them. And, while I would always prefer to rent an actual cinema camera to produce, well, cinema, the Z9 has proven to be an incredibly powerful tool regardless of the type of project.

But, as I said, especially if I’m shooting a larger scale commercial project, I am more than likely to opt for a cinema camera such as an Arri Alexa or Sony Venice if the budget allows, or even something like a Sony FX6 or Canon C300 for more demanding documentary work. Unlike Sony or Canon, its closest rivals in the mirrorless market, Nikon doesn’t produce a dedicated cinema body. Despite many professional cinematographers I know swearing by Nikon for their personal still work, Nikon cameras don’t currently have a major footprint in the filmmaking world.

This results in a couple of things. One, it means that they can pour all of their best video ideas into the Z8 and Z9. Unlike Canon, who is notorious for limiting their mirrorless cameras in an effort to protect sales of their cinema line, Nikon has no cinema line to protect. So, they can put all they’re got into the mirrorless cameras. This is a competitive advantage for Nikon mirrorless cameras.

The lack of a cinema line is also a disadvantage for recruiting burgeoning filmmakers to the Nikon brand. Logically, if your main goal is to become a filmmaker (not simply as an add-on to your still photography), then you are likely to gravitate towards Sony or Canon where you can start your career with one of their inexpensive mirrorless cameras and stay with the same brand all the way up to something like the Sony Venice. Because Nikon doesn’t have an equivalent to the Sony Venice, there is a built in deterrent to a certain type of buyer who might want to grow from A to Z within the same brand.

Personally, I prefer Arri Alexas for cinema cameras. But since Arri doesn’t make a still camera, my love for Nikon in all other use cases isn’t a conflict of interests. I’m already going to be using two different sets of gear. But, if Nikon were to offer a full-fledged cinema camera body that was compatible with the already amazing Z lenses but came in a form factor more familiar to traditional film cameras, they would take a major step towards establishing themselves as a realistic option for those whose day-to-day job is filmmaking with photography being in second place.  

This move, by the way, would not be meant to replace the company’s focus on still photography. Rather, offering a cinema camera would help increase the breadth of the product line, recruit new customers, and position the company better versus Canon and Sony which both offer products in both categories.

Can I Get a Nikon Zf please?

I have no idea if this is actually something Nikon is planning or not. But, as someone who absolutely loves the Z fc for fun walkabout street and travel photography, the idea of having a similarly sized body with a full frame sensor would be a dream come true.  

Not that there’s anything wrong with a DX/APS-C sized sensor in the Z fc. It produces beautiful images. And it allows you to have even smaller lenses potentially as well. But, because I am admittedly a bit of a snob and used to having full frame sensors with all my work cameras, I am partial to FX.  

In my head, I’m picturing a camera that would have similar features to the Z 6II. Similar megapixels, but in the stylish body of the Z fc. Fully articulating screen for content creators. I’d have to think a camera like that would be relatively expensive (as compared to something like the Z fc) due to the larger sensor. But I can’t help but to think there would be a line around the corner of Nikon buyers that couldn’t wait to get their hands on one. Myself included.

Bring the Z8/Z9 Focusing System to Future Nikon Cameras

The biggest complaint that early Nikon mirrorless cameras faced was that their autofocus was not up to snuff compared to the competition. Much of this was overblown. If you took the time to learn how Nikon implemented its autofocus system, it was not difficult to get great results. But, having used the competitors' cameras as well as Nikon cameras, I will admit that the competitors’ autofocus systems were more efficient and easier to use than Nikon’s early efforts.

That all changed in an instant with the Z9. Immediately, Nikon had a camera body with autofocus that could hang with any competitor on the market. It even outperformed the competition in a number of circumstances. With the Z8, Nikon continued this amazing autofocus and only added to it.

But, as someone who owns the original Z6, I think it’s fair to say that the drop off in autofocus abilities between the Z8/Z9 and the Z6/Z7 is tangible. Much of this is likely due to the new Expeed 7 processor in the newer cameras. But, however it happened, Nikon has clearly taken major strides forward in its capabilities. Such a step forward, I think, that it simply has to offer this level of autofocus performance in all of its cameras going forward. There are likely processing limitations with existing lower end cameras. But the Z 6III and Z 7III, whenever they are announced, should hopefully have the same autofocus performance of their bigger brothers.

I’m not a Sony owner. But I’ve shot with many of their cameras. And it’s true that from the bottom of their camera line to the top, most all of their camera bodies have top-notch autofocus. They may come with other issues. But the autofocus is universally sticky. The bodies within Sony’s lineup are differentiated in other ways. But the autofocus is always excellent. I’d expect Nikon to take this tact and allow what it’s learned about autofocus with the Z8/Z9 to trickle down to its entire lineup in the future.

Okay, these are just my own personal wishlist items. I think these things would help bring new Nikon customers into the fold as well as strengthen its position in the marketplace. But what do you want to see from Nikon going forward? What products would be on your own personal roadmap? You never know, they might even be reading.

Christopher Malcolm's picture

Christopher Malcolm is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle, fitness, and advertising photographer, director, and cinematographer shooting for clients such as Nike, lululemon, ASICS, and Verizon.

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The last one is my biggest wish. From what I've heard, even the flagships (Z8 and Z9) struggle if you compare their AF to the flagships of competitors. Much improved but still well behind the curve.

For my part, I feel like my experience with Z7II autofocus has been one of frustration. As you learn to use it better you def get more keepers but it is still terrible when compared to the competition and in some situations, you are just kind of screwed.

For example, I was in my canoe last night shooting a small bird on a branch. It wasn't moving at all. I had the camera in single-point autofocus with the square directly over the bird, and it was refusing to focus on the bird. The background was perfectly in focus and the bird was a blur. I had to manually swing the focus ring to get it to finally focus. This shouldn't happen. I can see subject detection struggling but if I have the focus point on something and the camera just stays blurry when I try to focus, that is a big problem. (if you are curious, this is the shot: )

I also constantly struggle in portrait situations with a narrow depth of field. Canon and Sony seem to lock on and nail focus most of the time. Nikon just seems to miss as often as it it hits. (Not to mention the fact that subject detect on Nikon doesn't have any clue how to handle a human face that is at a profile angle)

Nikon is incredible for many reasons, but until they get their AF issues resolved, they will lag behind the competition. Flagship cameras should be for elite pro features, they shouldn't be the barrier to entry to have a camera that can focus reliably.

Disagree on the well behind on AF for Z8 and Z9.

Z6/Z7/Z6ii/Z7ii absolutely agree, not terrible just not very good, as primarily a sports photographer could not rely on the AF on any of those cameras. Finally ditched my z6ii and now have the Z9, totally different beast the AF and the many options give you so much more, you just have to pick the right AF mode for the situation and that I am still learning.

Yeah I mean Z8/Z9 def seems much better, I just think its ridiculous that you have to spend $4k+ on a body just to access semi-reliable AF. I knew when I bought Z7ii that it wasn't amazing (but Z9 was out of budget so I didn't really have options) but I guess I was naive to think it just struggled in extreme situations. I was shocked to learn how much it struggles in common ones.

Not wanna step on people's toes, but maybe spending more time learning about their camera will help. I have a Z7, shooting hockey (pretty fast pace) and soccer games for fun and have no problem with the AF. One just has to learn and figure out which one the AF options will work best for what scenarios. I have yet to find a situation where I can say that even a Z6 has struggled to produce professional/magazine grade photos. The Z8 and Z9 are obviously amazing cameras, but I'd rather go for great glass if I have to spend big $. Just my opinion, happy shooting everybody.

Do you have photos of these fast paced hockey and soccer games we can view? I get the sneaky feeling they are out of focus and you don't know it; or shot at small apertures so everything is in a smart phone.

Have you ever used a superior AF camera? Once you have you will see thehuge difference.

Totally agree that the Z9 and 8 AF still lags behind Canon and Sony.
Virtually every honest review makes a big point of making sure this is made aware to potential buyers.
As to video, if Nikon made cinema cameras I am sure the Nikon cripple hammer would be beating on the hybrid cameras to protect the cinema line.

You haven’t read very many reviews then. Both Thom and Steve Perry think the Z9 the A1 are roughly equal. If I have to explain who they are and why you should trust them then you are not qualified to make the statement you just made. The only thing I will concede is that if you are incompetent at focussing and/or are unwilling to learn the system (as many self proclaimed honest reviewers are) , then the Sony might be a better choice.

I have read dozens of reviews on the Z9 and now Z8 and the concensus among every reviewer is the Z9/Z8 AF is not accurate and way behind Sony and Canon to this day.

I am one of those who couldn't care less about video. But I am resigned to the fact that video technology will be built into what ever camera I will be using, even though it is totally useless technology for me. I never shoot action or nature, so rates of 20s/sec it also wasted technology me. A great sensor with high dynamic range, low noise, sharp as a scalpel, yes. Dead accurate autofocus, also yes. But need to track an F1 car? Nope. Other stuff, yes, but I will leave it at that for now

Isn't that sort of what Nikon is giving you right now?

I don't need massive frame rates and auto-focus for hummingbirds either. I do stills & architecture mostly.

What would you like? (not what you don't like)

Don't get greedy.

I wish Nikon would drop the crop sensor or more clearly segment it. It's a distraction. Focus on a full line of full frame. Two lines of lenses is one line too many.

The Z5 is already an excellent anchor on the low end - there's no real need for a Z50/ZFC. It's the same reason micro4/3 failed. It didn't really deliver on being more compact or affordable and it lost on "sensor size".

I'd rather see a Z4. Something compact, rugged and cool - I'd buy that (I once owned an OM-1, which was a very cool little camera). And more compact f2.8ish slightly less $ lenses to go with it, like the 26mm pancake. The current Z 1.8 or faster primes are great, but as said in the article, massive mostly.

Z4 could be something like a Ricoh GR for Z mount, or Sigma FP. The cool kids would love that. Me too, I could take it with me on a day long bike ride perhaps.

Everyone focuses on the top-line performance, Z8/Z9, where is my Z10 ! That's fine, but don't miss on having a full system that will attract more sales volume from more types of users will help the total system, including the stuff at the top. -->DX does not do that IMHO, it has become anachronistic, I don't get it.

What makes you say M43 failed? Panasonic still releasing M43 cameras with tons of video features. OM System still releasing rugged bodies and lenses for outdoor enthusiasts along with a ton of point and shoot cameras.

It failed. Olympus selling out is a good place to start for an explanation.

Zf FF would be amazing, and pancakes 1.8 🥰

It is all down to individual use case. My Z6 and Z7 bodies are perfect for me - my subjects don't move (and I try not to move as well), but often involve clambering to get to. So light weight and battery life and accurate (speed no matter) autofocus is all I need. Do I want a faster and more power-hungry processor? No!!

My work is all about detail and I am obsessive about sharpness.The Z lenses provide this, better than anything I have used in my last four photography decades. I don't need fast lenses; the Nilkkor Z mount F/4s are just perfect! Again, this is just my use case, but for me, Nikon has got it to perfection. I am a professional photographer, but do not want the so-called "Pro" range of bodies and lenses, and am very grateful that Nikon provides me with an alternative.

Nikon should (and does) have a *range* of cameras that suit different purposes. For me, the Z6 and Z7 are just perfect, and I have no use for a Z8 or Z9. For others, it is quite the opposite, and it fantastic that Nikon is now offering something for everyone.

I note your argument for a separate video camera, but some people hardly if ever use such features. With several film cameras (35mm, Medium format) and digital (D850), as well as a wish for Nikon to once more produce a reasonably-sized film camera like the F2 or F3, at the back of my mind I would like Nikon (or any camera manufacturer) to release a camera without video features. I bought the D850 when it first appeared here and have used the video only 2 or 3 times. While many love such features, it may be wasted on others.

I posted this before reading the comments of Robert Simpson (I saved the link earlier), so that is 2 of us on the same page.

Excellent article.
I do think a portion of the bad press Nikon has received is partially due to misunderstandings about how the Nikon mirrorless focusing system works.
I put out a couple of detailed videos on the subject (links below), to help people who might have questions or struggle some with it.

Nikon Z System focus settings talk:
Part 1

Part 2

At the same time, the mirrorless landscape and competition isn’t going to let up and Nikon must continue to invent.

In this regard, IMHO, Nikon should take a lesson from Sony and Canon, and begin to replace all their current Expeed6 bodies, with Expeed7 processors. Differences in capabilities can then be managed in firmware, based on market needs and any limitations based on heat/body factors.

But the most important result will be consistent auto focus modes up and down the line. IMHO, as an example, all future Nikon bodies, from the Z30ii all the way up to the Z9, should have the same performance with the same base focus modes. Wide area small, wide area large, face/eye auto area, subject tracking, etc, should all perform the same.
Clearly there will be some limitations based on body size, battery performance and memory card options, but the overall experience should foster a sense of confidence for the users up and down the line.

I’m personally patiently waiting for the Z6iii. From my research it’s going to be the highest demand body in Nikon’s history, and I hope Nikon takes the time (like they did with the Z8) to have wagon loads of supply when it’s finally announced.

But I think Nikon is well positioned to dominate if they are smart. Every future release is going to be a hit! It’s really just when, not if.

I think thats somewhat fair, but as someone who has spent a lot of time learning the AF. I'm still amazed at how often it fails.

For example, take the situation of single point autofocus in AF-S. If my camera is on a tripod and I put the box over a subject and hold the focus button until the box turns "green". I feel I should expect that the item under the box is in focus. That isn't an assumption I can make with My Z7ii. Far too often the object under the focus point is fuzzy even though the box is green.

Another example is in subject detect. If the box is over the eye and green, I should be able to presume that the eye is in focus. The reality is, it is out of focus about 50% of the time at least.

In well lit situations with high quality glass. Canon doesn't have that problem. If the camera thinks it is in focus, it almost always is in focus.

Ryan, the symptoms sound like you have your shutter release still set to activate focus in addition to your AF-ON button. If you're using the AF-ON on the back of the camera to establish focus and then pushing the shutter button, the shutter button may be activating the AF as well and doesn't have enough time to re-establish focus. Go to Custom Settings -> A (Focus) -> AF Activation (A6?) and see if it's On or OFF. If it's ON, switch to AF-ON Only and press OK. See if that helps.


For decades I wanted Nikon to start making cine cameras. Still waiting. As for bringing the AF of Z8/9 to future cameras.....I am quite sure that will happen.

I wish the executives at Nikon will continue to build ad promote the DSLR FX the Nikon D6 and it's Lens and Accessories. I use the DSLR FX and I love it. The SLR and DSLRs are the best and collector items. I am sick of the mirror less cameras as they are over rated. If I wanted a Mirrorless camera which I would never consider or buying I would go with Leica. Stop the BS on mirrorless cameras. That is reverse technology at it's worse.

1. A worthy APS-C camera with IBIS for wildlife shooters, with a worthy midrange zoom.
2. A quality 70-200 f/4. This light tele has been a landscape basic of my DSLR kit for years, but it broke.
3. A 28mm PC-E.

I’m wishing for Nikon to stay with high end dual cameras for photography and videography and not a Cinema camera. Yes like you said not to make it where they have a line of cameras to protect .
Now they can sell accessories for their hybrid cameras.
1) Power Zoom Lenses
2) A Power Zoom and Control Grip(s) Zoom and Focus if they want .
Just on the vastly growing lower budget that start up or mid sized video companies with Super 35 and Full Framed camera needs.