Nikon D400: The next Pro-DX Digital Camera from Nikon

Nikon D400This year is shaping up to be huge for Nikon. A tumultuous 2011 brought many setbacks. First a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March which shut down their Sendai factory for several weeks. This halted production of their full-frame pro DSLR (D700, D3S, D3X) which were produced at the facility and delayed the release of the D4 and D800. Then in October, Nikon’s Thailand factory was flooded under several feet of water for weeks, stopping production of the rest of the DSLR line: D3100, D5100, D7000 and D300s. Worldwide shortages hit just before the holidays, severely affecting their revenue.

Amazingly, Nikon has bounced back as if nothing happened. In the first two months of 2012 has announced two new DLSR: the flagship D4 sure to win over sports and action photographers and the D800, the landscape photographer’s dream. Both cameras are scheduled to be delivered in March. What is next? The most logical new camera might be the D400.

Currently, there is a gaping hole in Nikon line. The D300/D300s is long in the tooth and has been technically surpassed by the enthusiast-level D7000. There is no new option between the D7000 at $1200 and the stunning $3000 D800 that was just announced. Nikon may keep the D700 in the lineup for a while alongside the D800, but it can’t sell the D300s or D700 in Japan due to its battery design. A top-end DX camera priced between $1600 and $2000 with pro-quality features and weather-sealed magnesium body would fit nicely in Nikon’s 2012 lineup.

A new D400 DX-format pro camera would fill the niche perfectly. Sony has a 24MP CMOS sensor. But Sony has had trouble of its own since its factory was flooded in Thailand. That same flood drowned Nikon’s facility where the D400 most likely was to be produced. Sony has been unable to deliver enough of their own 24MP-based SLT-A77 and NEX-7 cameras due to the floods. And there is still some doubt whether the sensor with its 24MP are too much for DX. Perhaps the D800 will change perceptions about pixel density.

What can the D400 offer that the D7000 currently lacks? Better video, higher continuous shooting frame rate, more advanced auto focus system, higher resolution, sturdier build as well as incremental improvements in ISO and dynamic range. What would you want in your Nikon D400? What would you be willing to pay?