Blog Archive

Nikon's Quality Problem

One of the most impressive things about Apple is that they deliver technology that "just works." Granted, they've had a few flubs here and there, but their remediation in these rare cases has always been swift and painless, leaving their customers wholly satisfied. I am not a professional photographer; I spend my days working in the high technology sector. Thus, I know what it takes to deliver a world-class product, even when you have complicated supply chains and one-of-a-kind manufacturing processes. I am also sympathetic to technology companies and the challenges they face when a product doesn't meet spec. This is why I have a great appreciation for Apple. Sadly, just as I have been consistently impressed with Apple's quality over the years, Nikon has increasingly let me down with theirs. In six years, I have owned four Nikon DSLR cameras that have each been subject to service advisories, making it seem like Nikon's quality problem is incapable of improving.

Digital SLR cameras are complicated pieces of equipment. They are a combination of structural elements, delicate electronics, precision optics, dynamic mechanical systems (like the shutter system), and tons of other technology that combine into the simple tool we reach for to take pictures. Suffice it to say, it's hard to expect that every camera is going to be flaw-free. But in the period of time I've shot Nikon, I've had the batteries from my Nikon D7000 recalled and a service advisory for my Nikon D810 issued. On the D810, I had to send the camera back for repair to fix an issue with electronic noise appearing in certain long exposure photographs. Most recently, when I bought my D750, a service advisory was issued for a problem with light leaking/flaring along the top border of the frame under certain conditions. I was relieved that the camera I purchased was outside the affected batch, but last week Nikon issued an updated advisory for the same issue, and I learned my camera is, in fact, affected. What this means is, like I had to do with my D810, my camera must be packaged and shipped off to the repair center while I wait a week or two for them to fix it. Packaging. Shipping. Waiting. Come on!

Perhaps the most egregious situation was that of the non-recall of my Nikon D800, which I owned before my D810. When the D800 was released, it was the new high-megapixel flagship for Nikon, equipped with a mind-blowing 36.3 MP resolution. It was the first full-frame camera I graduated to after shooting the Nikon D7000, which was equipped with an APS-C sensor. Yet soon after their release, the Nikon D800 and D800E were both widely reported to exhibit an asymmetric focus problem that was almost universally observed by D800/E owners, myself included. Infuriatingly, this was not acknowledged by Nikon for a very, very long time. In fact, I'm not sure an official service advisory or recall was ever issued by Nikon. To me, this was inexcusable, and it sent a message to many Nikon shooters that quality and customer satisfaction simply aren't top priorities for the company.

After this most recent service advisory was announced for the D750, I completed the paperwork from Nikon and prepared my camera to ship back to Melville, NY for the repair. Moments later, I placed an order for the new Fujifilm X-Pro2 mirrorless camera. Previously, I've shot with the Fuji X-T1 and I absolutely loved it. So much so that I could see myself one day abandoning Nikon altogether. Am I ready to make that leap? Not yet, but if Nikon's quality problem doesn't show signs of improvement, it may not be out of the realm of possibility.