You may call this article an essay, an opinion, or a rant. I hesitated to post this on Photograph IO because this article is probably way too biased for the blog (sorry Nikon owners). Don’t say you haven’t been warned. 😛
Why do some companies flourish (Fuji) while others went bankrupt (Kodak)? How important is market share when it comes to brand equity and customer retention, if at all? These are all questions that I asked myself following the whole Nikon D600 scandal that was finally resolved recently.
When the Nikon D600 was initially released to the public, tests done on the sensor of the camera model revealed that there was a dust/oil problem with the shutter and sensor. Despite many complaints from users, Nikon did nothing at all to help existing D600 owners, telling them instad to clean with a “rocket blower” and never acknowledged officially the problem. Instead, Nikon quietly released a newer model, the D610, a year only after the release of the D600 that magically fixed the problem and added a meager 0.5 FPS increase from 5.5 FPS to 6 FPS. Unusual? Indeed. Of course, they justified that the D610 was made because their customers wanted a “faster burst rate”. Sure, the D610 is an excellent camera on its own, but they way Nikon acted is very disrespectful of existing D600 owners. As one of world’s largest camera companies, this is utterly disappointing. The folks over at Nikon thought they could get away with the issue by covering it up and totally ignoring ethics and customer service. What a joke.
Of course, Nikon didn’t want to spend money on calling back the camera and repairing them, but in the end, the small gain they wished for costed them several times more than they wished to save by not addressing the issue with honesty. Several customers who purchased the D600 were then very frustrated about the fact that Nikon didn’t want to address the problem properly as they were getting no compensation for their mistake in manufacturing. This is a prime example of bad customer service. Class action lawsuits were filed against Nikon for this issue and ultimately, Nikon had to make a service advisory for all D600 owners. First, by offering free sensor cleanings for any D600 user, whether new, grey market, refurbished. And now, according to Nikon Rumors, existing D600 owners just need to file a form here to get their model replaced for a D610 free of charge, that is, until November 30th. As far as we know, this only applies for US customers only so international Nikon owners are out of luck.
The D600 story could’ve ended so much better. Compare Nikon to Fujifilm. While Nikon is stuck in its rigid Japanese model of business, Fujifilm acted very much like an american startup and shaked-up the mirrorless camera industry ever since the X100 came out. While Nikon was ignoring all its loyal customers affected by the D600 problem and busy releasing tons of entry level D3XX’s and D5XX’s that don’t add that many features, Fujifilm was focusing on making breakthrough X-Trans sensors, cameras with excellent controls and build quality, and phenomenal lenses for its lineup. In one of the rare cases in digital camera history, a company actually released firmware updates that added value and features to existing cameras, especially for the X-Pro1. When Fujifilm released the X-T1, some units had light leak issues and Fuji quickly responded and offered to repair the affected models for free, while D600 users were left in the dark for nearly two years before getting compensated. The difference in customer service is unfathomable.
Truth to be told, last november, I was deciding between the Nikon D600 and the Fuji X-Pro1 as an upgrade to my D5100. And I chose Fuji. Yes, it’s a crop sensor instead of a full frame sensor. Yes, autofocus is slower than a D600. Yes, it has less resolution than a D600. And yes, I can’t use any of my existing Nikon lenses on my Fuji (without an adapter). But having shot with it for nearly 8 months, I do not regret my decision at all. “You don’t invest in a camera, you invest in a system”. I do find this statement to be totally true, but a system is only as strong as its manufacturer behind it. What is the point of investing thousands in a company that doesn’t even respect their customers? It’s not even about the D600. It’s about their whole mentality. If Nikon continues like this, they might just become the next Kodak very soon.
Would I have switched to Fuji had they not released tons of firmware upgrades to the Fuji X-Pro1 that improved the autofocus speed (drastically), added custom auto ISO settings and focus peaking? Probably not. But the commitment that Fuji made to its customers was outstanding and convinced me to switch. Even though the X-T1 was released shortly after my X-Pro1 purchased, I never felt the need to sell my X-Pro1 because I know that I am within good hands with Fuji. I know that I will continue to receive firmware updates – possibly even after the release of the X-Pro2 – and great customer service if anything bad happens.
If I were to upgrade today, I wouldn’t be sure to get a Nikon, and I’m saying this a as former Nikon customer. Go with a Fujifilm X-T1 for top notch quality and value for its price. It’s totally worth it.
The bottom line
Nikon ruined a lot of its reputation and disappointed its loyal customers by chasing short term profit by choosing not to recall the D600 initially, while Fuji built brand equity by focusing on attracting and retaining customers through great products with great service.
Having a large market share as is the case for Nikon is not a reason to get conservative (i.e. lazy) with innovation and to disrespect your customers. I am honestly not surprised at all that neither Nikon or Canon has succeeded in penetrating the mirrorless market while smaller camera maker like Olympus, Sony and Fuji flourished. Did no one at Canikon learn anything about the fall of Kodak? Innovation is golden, and customer service is king.
Update : It appears that Nikon has removed the D600 from its official website (USA at least) while older models like the D5100 and D3100 are still there. Judge by yourself.