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August 01, 2004

PRICING MYSTERIES: In the Sunday ad supplement to my local paper, a Nikon Coolpix 8700 (a fancy 8 megapixel all-in-one camera) has dropped from its debut price of $999.95 to $799. Even on Amazon (which for some reason doesn't usually feature the best prices on camera equipment) it's dropped to $889.94. (And Amazon regards this as so low that you have to add it to your cart to find out what it costs).

The Nikon D70 outfit, on the other hand, is holding firm at $1299.99.

So the Coolpix has dropped 10-20% in price, while the D70 hasn't budged, though they hit the market at about the same time. Is this because the D70 is priced close to cost to begin with, and there's no margin? Or is it because the Coolpix is more of a consumer camera, and their prices always drop? Beats me, though there's probably an explanation. It's not quite the great cookware mystery all over again, but it's close.

UPDATE: Roger Simon emails: "The answer to your conundrum, I think, is simple. The D70 is outsellling the Coolpix - as well it should." Hmm. So maybe the D70 is just a lot better at being what it is than the Coolpix is at being what it is. And speaking of photography, here's a cool gallery of photos from high atop various buildings and structures in New York. (Via Jeff Jarvis).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Mike Marten observes:

I sell cameras for Ritz/Wolf and can tell you without a doubt that the D70 is outselling the 8700. We can't keep the D70 outfits on the shelf, while the first 3-4 8700's we received are the same 3-4 we still have.

Competition for each model may be an important factor to consider in looking at the demand. The 8700 has competitors in Canon, Sony, Olympus and Minolta in the 8MP field... and honestly, it's not the top of the game there (Minolta has a very nice camera in the A-2). In the entry-level DSLR realm, it's basically the D70 and Canon's Digital Rebel - here, the D70 is the clear champ in every area aside from the Rebel's slightly lower price.

As a needs-assessing salesperson, I also feel that the 8MP cameras appeal to only a niche market (the big barriers being size, price and complexity) where the DSLRs are much more versatile and familiar, so are excellent for a wider range of users.

Several readers also think the name "Coolpix" is a turnoff. As reader John Roney observes: "Name screams amateur. The high end Coolpix however is at a price point and capability that is not targeting the casual user." That seems right to me. And sure enough, the comparable Sony DSC-F828 isn't discounted nearly as much. And reader Richard Avery notes that there's more Coolpix discounting on Amazon than I realized: "The Amazon site also includes a link to a $200 dollar rebate coupon. I assume that would make the final cost $689.94 which would be a 30% discount from the original list price." Yeah, I guess the 8700 just isn't doing as well -- though I've seen some absolutely superb photos taken with them.