Nikon's 'Hundred's' line to be discontinued?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Everythingisnt, Jul 8, 2008.

  1. Everythingisnt macrumors 6502a

    Everythingisnt

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    #1
    With the release of the D700, Nikon's response to Canon's 5D, I think that we're seeing how Full frame is slowly becoming the industry standard for DSLR systems..

    Seeing as how the imminent release of the D90 will see a d80 body sporting a D300 sensor, and that the D700, D3, and the future D3x form a very encompassing 'pro' lineup, do you think that Nikon will drop their 'hundreds' line in place of cheaper semi-pro FX format cameras and high end consumer DX models? I think that the price difference between the D300 and D700 is to small to discern them, and seeing as cheaper cameras like the D90 will give D300-quality with a smaller price tag, Nikon may decide to drop the hundred's line and widen the gap..



    Any thoughts?
     
  2. yrsonicdeath macrumors 6502

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    #2
    Personally the D700 is too expensive for me right now and the D300 is not so that price difference isn't too little to me. I also think that all of its specs taken into account the D300 holds a place for some users in the Nikon line-up.
     
  3. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #3
    I can't follow the logic here - $1000 is too small a price difference to differentiate between the D300 and D700? And we're not talking about the difference between $8999 and $9999 - we're talking at the low end, $1800 versus $3000. That's a huge difference.

    Do you feel the price difference between the D80 and D300 is too small to discern them? Because that gap is comparable to the gap between the D300 and D700.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Nikon has several different plans written up, and sales from the next 1-2 years may determine which path they take. Some people (e.g. me) wanted a mid-tier full frame camera, but others really do prefer DX. Nikon may or may not have an idea of the respective popularity of full frame and DX will be - but they may want to see how D300 versus D700 sales shake out before committing to how they go from here on out.

    In any case I can't see them dropping part of their price lineup; just possibly moving other items into existing slots.
     
  4. NEiMac macrumors regular

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    #4
    I know that I for sure plan on getting a D300 or perhaps its replacement in the future. The D700 is about $1000 more then I will be willing to spend on a camera anytime soon and to be honest I really don't need the thing. I would much rather spend the extra dollars on better glass. This is all just a hobby to me though, I want the best gear possible but within reason. :D
     
  5. yrsonicdeath macrumors 6502

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    #5
    That's what I was hoping for too, but with the D700 announced I've decided to buy a D300 and just invest in some lenses for my next camera, which with the way cameras are going I can say with some certainity will be FF.
     
  6. Grimace macrumors 68040

    Grimace

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    #6
    Nope. Stratifying the camera lines is not helpful so as many distinct price points as Nikon/Canon can create will actually help them.

    $500-900 Consumer
    $900-1200 Consumer/Enthusiast
    $1200-1500 Prosumer
    $2500-3000 Semi/Pro
    $3500-4000 Pro
    $5000-8000 Pro hi res
     
  7. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #7
    I don't agree with your conclusion: FX sensors will remain a lot more expensive than DX sensors, because the yield is smaller and you fit less sensors on a wafer (this is different from computer chips where the die area tends to shrink -- not an option if you want to keep the size constant).

    I think DX sensors will be here to stay -- as are FX sensors. We might see that a successor of the D300 merges with a successor of the D700, but I don't think neither Nikon nor Canon will go further down than that. You have a full complement of lenses for crop sensor (on both sides of the aisle), sensors that deliver very good quality at a moderate price.

    I'm sure that anything below a D80+/Canon 450D will stick to crop sensors.

    Even if you're right and in 7 years all dslrs will have crop sensors, I don't think it's particularly useful to pretend as if you're going to get a full-frame sensor dslr next month. Unless you really will ;)
     
  8. ksz macrumors 68000

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    #8
    I am not so pessimistic about relative pricing of DX and FX sensors. I think FX sensors are already coming down in price. Canon's 5D started at $3500 and now sells for about $2000. While I'm not sure how much of that decline is due to smaller margins being charged by retailers and how much is due to component cost reduction by Canon, it does seem that a full frame dSLR body can be sold profitably for $2000 today versus $3500 about 18-24 months ago.

    At $2000, the Canon 5D is only about $300-$400 more expensive than the Nikon D300.

    Canon's successor to the 5D may get priced at $3000 or less, and the pixel count may jump from 12.x to about 16 MP.

    As wafer yield matures and unit volume increases, cost goes down.
     
  9. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #9
    Canon sells it at a discount, because the current model is `old' (≠ necessarily bad).
    But not to the degree that it makes financial sense to insist on a full-frame sensor line-up from the smallest to the largest camera. You cannot improve wafer yields beyond certain points and DX sensors will always have a higher yield and will cost less.
     
  10. ksz macrumors 68000

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    #10
    But if it is still profitable for Canon, it means that a full-frame dSLR with 12.x MP can be sold for $2000 (actually, under $2000 at several retailers).

    Wafer yield, which in turn is related to individual die yield, is affected not so much by the size of the die, but by the density of discrete components such as pixels or transistors. If you have a full-frame sensor with 5 million pixels, you will have more interstitial space (pixel-to-pixel gap) than a DX sensor with 5 million of the same-sized pixels. This pixel density, which relates to the amount of space between pixels, also affects fabrication yield because a sparse distribution is less impacted by defects than a dense distribution in which critical dimensions are smaller and hence manufacturing tolerances are tighter.

    But I agree that if we keep pixel density the same or increase the size of pixels on a full-frame sensor, then a FF sensor is more expensive due to both defectivity and die-per-wafer.

    Wafer yields are actually pretty high on long-life parts in 300mm fabs around the world, with greater than 90% sustained yield on even relatively large die sizes. Short-life parts where only a handful of lots are manufactured will most likely not see mature yields, but a part that exists for a long time ramps up to mature yield levels.
     
  11. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #11
    1. Nikon has repeatedly stated that they do not match Canon model-for-model. The D700 is Nikon's response to Nikon's marketing plan- not their "response" to a 5D. A "response" usually doesn't price out at 30% more than the thing being responded to.

    2. Full-frame 35mm will not become the "industry standard," the sensor is still the single-most expensive component, and hence the least-profitable part of the whole deal. Those economics are not destined to change- 2x the sensor, 4x the cost is likely to hold true for as long as we're dealing with CMOS and CCD devices, perhaps longer unless someone creates a magic "make a perfect wafer every time" device- in which case it'll still be 2x the cost.

    3. Doubling from 2 to 4 models is hardly creating a "new standard-" even if you go to six, you're still nowhere near "standard."

    Highly unlikely. There are advantages to having denser sensors in the professional line, and "cheaper" is much, much more difficult to do in FX than it is in DX because you get significantly smaller yields per wafer- I would suggest you read Canon's 2006 whitepaper "Canon's Full-Frame CMOS Sensors." It's the best look into the economics we'll get, and other than narrowing the number of steps for a full-frame sensor, it's still up to date. I suggest you pay particular attention to Section IV, "The Economics of Image Sensors" which includes the following data:

    1 8" wafer ($450-500, $1,000 or $5,000) through 400-600 process steps gives you a wafer of sensor material. If you take that wafer and make APS-C sensors you get about 200 sensors. If you make APS-H sensors, you get about 46 sensors per wafer. For full-frame, you get 20.

    Let's do that again- APS-C 200 sensors, FX 20 sensors.

    That's a base 10x price difference that Canon says goes from 10x-20x because of handling and other defect issues. Turning that wafer into a sensor costs a lot of money- but that doesn't even make much difference, if I make 1M cameras and I can spend $22.50 less per unit on raw materials, that makes me $22.5M more profitable.

    Let's say that in today's market an APS-C sensor is $75 in finished form, an FX sensor is going to be at least 3x and more likely between 6x and 9x that amount. So that'd put it in the $225 and up range. That's a $150/unit price increase before you look at bigger mirrors, hot mirrors, AA filters and prisms. Suddenly, my 1M cameras become almost a quarter of a billion more profitable.

    I don't know why everyone keeps baying for "cheaper" FX cameras like the manufacturers are putting a thousand dollars into their pockets. The economics are always going to be in the APS-C camp- and the margins aren't staggering (they're good, but not phenomenal.) FX sensors are not cheap, they may get cheaper, but not on a ballistic curve and never relative to APS-C sensors.

    Wishful thinking. Nikon will continue to produce what bodies make economic sense in the market, and pro APS-C bodies are "good enough" for lots of folks- I see no reason they'd ditch them any more or less than Canon would- that's where the best margins are, or you can give up some margin for volume sales- I don't see a rational reason for either company giving up that flexibility.
     
  12. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #12
    I don't think I've seen anyone claiming better than ~20% yields for FX image sensors and ~60% for DX- do you have any citations?
     
  13. telf22 macrumors regular

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    #13
    i dont think the 'd90' will have the d300's sensor.
     
  14. ksz macrumors 68000

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    #14
    I am talking about wafer yields in general for relatively large devices with the point being that devices with long lifetimes get ramped up to high yield because of a continuous focus on yield improvement. Costs are reduced as process technologies improve to support fewer mask layers (fewer process steps), provide more resistance to fabrication problems, and reduce cycle time.

    We should not assume that a low yielding part today will remain low yielding forever. That would be crazy.

    A recent example is the advent of immersion lithography for the fabrication of sub-65nm feature sizes, in which a wafer is immersed in a thin layer of water, which has the effect of increasing the numerical aperture of a lithography lens while still using 193nm wavelength of light. Even more recent examples are experiments with double patterning - or pitch splitting - in which 32nm patterns can be printed while again using 193nm lithography. Etch chambers are also under tighter process control, and 300mm wafers live in FOUPs that rarely expose them to the ambient environment.

    The semiconductor industry is never satisfied with the status quo.
     
  15. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #15
    I think it's clear that Nikon does not plan to drop the 100 line. Why else did they leave a hole in the numbers between D300 and D700. They plan to drop in some models There is room to continue the 100, 200, 300 line or make a cheaper FX body.

    When people buy cameras they pretend to think about what they need but we all know they just look at the price and buy whatever matches their budget. Every consumer electronics makers knows this too and is very careful to have a model that fits each price point. My bet is that the mid range price point (where the 100 series lives) at just over $1K is the most profitable. I'm sure a D300 can't cost that much more than the D60 to make. Nikon would not give that up.
     
  16. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #16
    You don't really understand: smaller structures help you keep the die size small while keeping the number of transistors constant/increasing them. The number of defects is strongly correlated to the size of your chip. Larger chips will always be more expensive than smaller chips.

    A simple model: an APS-C-sized sensor has approximately half the area of a full-frame sensor. Since wafers are circular (and do not have a rectangular cross section), this means, you can get less than half of the number of full-frame sensors on one wafer. Then assume you use the same process and that defects are only related to dust on the wafer (there are others, larger masks require more precise alignment to the wafer's surface, etc.). The number of dust particles per wafer area is constant. Then full-frame sensors are twice as likely to be defective than crop sensors while there are less than half of the number of sensors on the die.

    Obviously, larger masks for sensors are harder to handle and other factors worsen the yield of full-frame sensors significantly. Canon/[insert sensor manufacturer here] have already optimized the processes, but you cannot escape that truth that full-frame sensors are significantly more expensive than crop sensors. In the budget segment, it would also make other components (mirror, pentaprism/pentamirror) more expensive, cameras would be larger.

    Agreed.
    Well, I'd be a little more careful about that. The D300 uses a pentaprism viewfinder, the D60 has a smaller pentamirror viewfinder. The D300 has a metal chassis, the D60 does not. There is definitely a difference in cost (although I would bet it's nowhere near as big as the price difference between the two cameras).
     
  17. Hmac macrumors 68020

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    #17
    Absolutely correct IMHO. I don't think either of these two companies are competing for a given market niche...I think they are working to create market niches. Nikon was pretty clever with the D3 - it covered a lot of ground and created a lot of anxiety in owners of the 5D, the 1DmkIII, and even got some 1Ds MkIII users thinking hard. Now, they've created a whole new niche with the D700. The concept makes me suspect that the 5D MkII, if there ever is such a thing, won't be a direct response to the D700. I think Canon will work hard to define a niche of their own rather than compete in the one Nikon created.



    Yeah, that may be right, but I doubt it. I think market forces will decide whether or not the move is to full frame, not economics of sensor manufacturing, which have been, are, and will be subject to change over time (with traditionally decreasing cost). Obviously, those economics will affect the market, but I think it's clear that the market interest these days is on full frame and I suspect the camera-buying public won't be denied. I would be surprised if, in 3-5 years, it would be possible to even buy a professional-level cropped sensor camera from either Canon or Nikon.
     
  18. ksz macrumors 68000

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    #18
    You keep missing the point... :(

    Process technology continues to improve. Yield on long-life parts continues to improve. Cost of production for these parts continues to decline over time. Sometimes process improvements and cost reductions are dramatic, sometimes they are more subtle.

    You seem fixated on the idea that full-frame sensors will never reach a price point where they can be sold to the masses at price points of under $1000. I just don't know what fuels your pessimism about the yield and cost of full frame sensors.

    Large die sizes are more of a challenge, but the challenges are workable. The semiconductor industry has always innovated itself out of brick walls. The examples I gave above regarding immersion lithography and pitch splitting techniques are examples of such innovation which keep costs down by extending the life of 193nm lithography.

    With the use of FOUPs, wafers are not subjected to the environment, and so dust or fall-on particles are not the yield-limiting factor. Systematic issues, particularly with etch and CMP (chemical mechanical planarization), are more of a concern although even these process steps have seen significant improvements. At sub-45nm, lithography remains a challenge because a 193nm lithographic wavelength cannot be squeezed too much further. Nevertheless, when it comes to manufacturing yield, there is significant progress made over time.

    Again, to argue that 20% yield on full frame sensors will remain that way indefinitely is kinda foolish. :)

    I agree that larger masks are more troublesome, but not because of stepper alignment issues, but because of edge defocus issues. A larger reticle will be more in-focus at its interior, and focus will drift near the edges. But if the pattern to be printed is symmetric on the left and right sides, a smaller reticle can be used that exposes the left and right sides in two steps.

    I don't argue that full frame sensors will be more expensive than crop sensors. My argument is that full frame sensors can achieve economies of scale (and also inherent improvements in yield) to allow full frame dSLR bodies to be sold at near-DX prices of today.

    The Canon 5D is already close to the price of Nikon's D300. As more full frame bodies are introduced and more consumer interest is generated by continuing declines in prices, I fully expect full frame bodies to break through the $1500 barrier and subsequently break the $1000 barrier.
     
  19. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

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    #19
    I don't keep missing the point: any improvement in the manufacturing process will apply to smaller sensors as well. I don't expect full-frame sensors in anything below a D300-class camera any time soon. It might become a feature of most pro bodies (i. e. a common feature in $1300+ cameras) within the next, say, five, six years (two generations).
    It's not pessimism is math and facts.
    I don't argue that companies even could (if they insisted) put full-frame sensors in virtually all bodies -- but it wouldn't make too much sense.

    The high quality of crop sensors coupled with most consumers using cheap lenses doesn't give a lot of advantages to full-frame sensors (if any) if you use low quality glass. It's like these compact cameras with 12 MP sensors and lenses smaller than most coins. So even if there was a way to offer full-frame sensors at a similar price point than crop sensors, even then I'm not convinced they'd be put into consumer-oriented dslrs.
    It was a simple example. In real-life applications, the size of the sensor correlates not just linearly with size.
    I haven't made that claim.
    But any improvement in processing larger sensors will also apply to smaller sensors and I doubt the offset (relative difference in yield) will decrease substantially.
    The Canon 5D is old and is sold `at a discount'. Most people expect its successor to be sold at a similar price point as the Nikon D700 (which was the same price point the 5D started selling at).
     
  20. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #20
    Not that it's going to stop you, but I don't believe either of you is going to convince the other of a) which one is "missing the point"; and b) your individual position on this. :D
     
  21. ksz macrumors 68000

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    #21
    ^^^ I agree with Westside guy, but I want to address one comment before dropping the argument.

    Crop sensors have improved and likely will continue to do so. But as I argued elsewhere in this forum, a full frame sensor has more headroom for future advancement in pixel quantity without sacrificing pixel quality. As full frame camera bodies become more plentiful and more affordable -- the cost of the sensor is irrelevant to customers -- it makes sense to invest in full frame lenses for people like me who would like to move into medium format territory.

    Crop sensors for DSLRs were invented in the first place to address the cost issue. At a time when everyone with film SLRs had an investment in full frame lenses, and film SLRs were priced from a few hundred dollars to about two thousand dollars (for the Nikon F5), digital SLRs would not have been able to succeed in the market if they sold for $8000 to $10,000 with full frame sensors. Crop sensors were therefore invented, along with DX lenses.

    This wasn't a bad idea. I have a D200 and I've enjoyed using it for the past 18 months. But I have also been concerned about the longevity of crop DSLRs and have limited my DX lens collection to merely 2.

    Looking forward, I am much more excited about the potential of full frame sensors and I feel more comfortable investing in full frame lenses (specifically, I want to replace 3 of my 6 full-frame lenses with new models).

    I also see full frame DSLRs becoming more mainstream as prices decline. If the D700 becomes a runaway success for Nikon, it will send a clear message that there is a good size segment of the market that is willing to spend 50- to 70-percent more (and eventually less) for full frame over cropped frame (but not 100% or 300% more).
     
  22. Hmac macrumors 68020

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    #22
    The D3 has been very successful, the D700 apparently so (according to Adorama anyway), and judging by the tone of the FX/DX remarks on DPR and the many, many enthusiastic comments on the D900 and/or D3X that I see there, there's a lot of interest in a 24mp full-frame Nikon as well.

    I think the handwriting is on the wall, but time will tell.
     
  23. QuantumLo0p macrumors 6502a

    QuantumLo0p

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    #23
    Would have been nice for full frame to be standard from the start.

    From the Art Bell voices in my head: Perhaps the big OEM's revenue stream was a bit flat so they simply decided to to manufacture DX lenses to supplement revenue.

    :eek:
     
  24. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #24
    But we are discussing imaging sensors, where the pixels have to be mapped to a particular geographic location on the sensor, not yields for general semiconductors. Claiming that there's a possibility of a 90% yield in the current CMOS processes for 35mm sized imaging sensors is disingenuous.

    We're nowhere near 90% yields for 35mm sensors- heck we're nowhere near 50% yields for 35mm sensors. Most improvements are modest- 2-3% other than cutting where we're seeing maybe a 20% improvement. The fact that every fab focuses on yield and we're at about 20% for 35mm sensors seems to indicate that leaps and bounds are not likely, and the delta will remain rather significant for the time being. Any process improvement also applies to smaller sensors, so you really have to get APS-C to near 100% then make more improvements, then go to square wafers before you get parity.

    Nobody has advanced that position yet. The position advanced is that the _delta_ between APS-C and 35mm sized imaging sensor yields will remain relatively high for the foreseeable future. If we see a 30% improvement at the 35mm end, the APS-C end should gain enough that you're still talking a significant difference, perhaps even a larger delta- and that still only puts you at a 50% yield for 35mm sensors. Costs will certainly come down over time, but that won't be short-term without some real groundbreaking advances in sensor creation. Nobody in the fab industry seems to see anything groundbreaking coming. There's also a good bit of profit margin in the prosumer market that can be traded for sales volume with APS-C that isn't going to be there anywhere near as quickly or proportionate with 35mm.

    Going to smaller process sizes for imaging sensors really doesn't affect yields like it does for other semiconductors because you can't remap a pixel somewhere else on the sensor and get the same results. The smaller your photosites the quicker diffraction rears its ugly head, and the more photosites are likely to be affected by a single defect on the wafer. That's why image sensor defects that aren't manufacturing process issues (like damage while cutting the wafer) have kept yields relatively static between different sized sensors. If it were otherwise, you'd see Hasselblad taking on the full frame folks at the high end and kicking their butts- but they're penalized even more than the 35mm sensor folks from yields.
     
  25. cube macrumors G5

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    #25
    I am not saying that full frame sensors are going to become affordable any time soon, but where do you get your yield figures from?
     

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