Many of our readers are wondering if the Nikon D400 will ever see the light of the day, given that the Nikon D300s is now 4 years old. Nikon confused us with the D7100 announcement (see my review here) when it used the word “flagship” in its product page and announcement, something that once belonged to the D300s, the once DX flagship of Nikon. Because of this, and the fact that the 51-point Multi-CAM 3500 AF system that was only used on high-end Nikon DSLR cameras before, I interpreted the D7100 announcement as the merger of the camera with the D300s line, eliminating high-end / flagship DX line forever. However, after using the D7100 for a couple of months and shooting wildlife with it, I realized that the D7100 seriously lacks the large buffer required for fast action photography (even shooting in cropped mode and smaller RAW files) and its non-pro body build, with the absence of 10-pin connector and important buttons like AF-ON got me thinking about the potential release of the D400. So after a short while, I published an article titled “is there room for a Nikon D400?“, where I posted a poll asking our readers what they thought about the D400. It turned out that a lot of people want the D400, despite the release of the D7100.
Things went quiet for some time and the topic revived last night, when the same source that leaked some info to me about the D400 and D7100 last year sent me an update about the upcoming D400. Apparently, the Nikon D400 has been pushed back at least twice now for several reasons. First, Nikon had some serious trouble with the supply chain when the floods devastated its Thailand plants. Most of the DX equipment was manufactured there (and many parts for the DX cameras and lenses were supplied by smaller companies in Thailand, which were severely impacted as well), so Nikon had to quickly move high-demand items off to other plants. The Nikon D300s was no longer selling well after the D7000 came out, so Nikon Japan decided to shift its short term focus to lower-end DX cameras instead. This basically explains the 4 year delay. Second, Nikon does not want to release the D400 until Canon is ready with its 7D Mark II, the only true competitor to Nikon’s sports and wildlife line. The current Canon 7D is also 4 years old now and it only received a major firmware update since its release date. The D400 announcement will be similar to what happened to the D600, when Canon simultaneously released the 6D at the same time – there will definitely be a Canon 7D Mark II announcement around the same time. Third, Nikon knows that the D400 has to deliver a large buffer with huge processing power in order to accommodate 24 MP files. Apparently, the current EXPEED 3 processor used on the D7100/D800/D4 is not capable of handling that much bandwidth, so Nikon engineers have been working on a new generation EXPEED 4 processor for the D400. This also means that the movie features on the D400 will be stronger, up to 60p in HD will be possible. Third, the 51-point AF system used on the pro cameras (and now on the D7100) is quite old, despite the fact that it got a slight boost with the introduction of the “Advanced Multi-CAM 3500FX” on the D800 and the D4. Nikon is apparently also working on a better and more advanced AF system, which is planned together with the D400 release (this explains why Nikon used the 51-point AF on the D7100). The Nikon D4s is also in the works with the same AF system, scheduled to be announced sometime in 2014.
Nikon was on schedule for an early D400 announcement in 2012/2013 time frame, but it pulled the plug and decided to focus on the D7100 instead (and the current focus is to push as many D7100 sales as possible). It turns out that the camera went through several iterations and the earlier features did not fly with the upper management of the company. The Nikon D400 should be a very strong camera with a very appealing feature set for sports and wildlife shooters. Some in-camera and firmware enhancements are also being worked on. No word on GPS/WiFi capabilities yet, that might be something still in the works. As far as the specifications, they have been slightly modified (new AF, D7100 sensor with no AA filter), but generally the same as posted earlier. I am also told that we should be seeing some great incentives from Nikon later this year, especially towards the holidays.
My source tells me that the approximate date for the announcement has been pushed to September of 2013, with a possibility of a 2014 Q1 announcement (if things do not go as planned, or if Canon 7D MK II is pushed to 2014). Let’s see what happens next, I am sure many wildlife and sports shooters will be excited to hear this news.
My personal addition: we should see some new DX lenses with this announcement.