Rumors are Bad for Photography and I’m Tired of Pretending They’re Not

Clipped Highlights -- Nikon Zf rumors

Rumors about upcoming cameras and lenses are a staple of the online photography community. Manufacturers nearly always hate them and photographers often love them. I land somewhere in the middle but tend more toward the idea that rumors, even when intriguing, can be damaging.

Take, for example, the brand-new Nikon Zf, a camera that had been rumored for a long time. Heck, Nikon itself accidentally posted a reference to the Zf on its Japanese website in early August. However, the rumors of the retro-inspired Zf began long before that.

Some of these early rumors are the impetus of this edition of Clipped Highlights because initial speculation pointed to a 45.7-megapixel full-frame camera — a rumor ultimately proved false.

Rumors Can Establish False Expectations

In an post in late July, Nikon Rumors said that a 24-megapixel camera announcement in 2023 would be “strange” and that the most likely choice for a retro-styled full-frame Z camera is the 45.7-megapixel sensor from the Nikon Z7 II. Nikon Rumors also stated that the price of the new camera would be in the $2,000 to $2,500 range.

At this point, people could reasonably start to think, “Oh, wow, a 45.7-megapixel Zf camera for just $2,500? Incredible!” Of course, the Nikon Z7 II is $3,000, so a $2,500 price for a nearly 46-megapixel Zf seems doubtful in context. The idea of it coming in at $2,000 is downright absurd.

This point was addressed in the comments on that rumor post by Jurgen Lobert, who wrote, “At $2,000-2,500, this will NOT be a 45 mpix camera. Too much competition to Z7/Z7ii/Z8/Z9. Makes no sense.” Some people pushed back on this reasonable comment, and many more took the article itself at face value.

Nikon Zf
The Nikon Zf is here and it features a 24.5-megapixel image sensor.

About a week after the referenced post above, Nikon Rumors returned to the Zf rumor well and course corrected, stating that a 45-megapixel full-frame retro mirrorless camera for $2,000 “sounds too good to be true,” introducing new uncertainty and skepticism to the online discourse.

Roughly two weeks later, Nikon Rumors posted a long list of rumored specifications for the Zf, now listing the camera’s correct 24.5-megapixel full-frame image sensor, like the one featured in the Nikon Z6 II.

However, you cannot unring the bell.

Laying the Groundwork for Disappointment

Even though much of the reporting on Nikon Zf rumors has since focused on mostly accurate specs and features, floating the initial idea of a 45.7-megapixel camera for $2,000 or $2,500 established unrealistic expectations, setting some people up for disappointment.

And disappointment is just about the last thing that a camera company, especially one as passionate about its products as Nikon, wants people to feel when it does finally officially announce a new product. A product, in this case, that the company is especially proud of. Nikon’s pride is not unfounded, either, as the Nikon Zf is a very interesting and powerful camera.

Nikon Zf

Most people seem to be responding positively to the news of the Zf, too. But still, I can’t help but lament that there will be people who expected one thing and received another, to no fault of Nikon’s. This situation is by no means unique to the Nikon Zf, either, it happens with cameras from every manufacturer. There are always rumors, and some of them are inevitably wrong — frequently wrong insofar as the rumors are better than the eventual reality when it becomes official.

Several years ago, a similar situation took place around the Sony a7R IV, where the hype and buzz was so strong that rumor sites were posting just about any nonsensical rumor that floated across their desks — including a last minute report that the camera would feature 8K recording. That was, of course, never going to be true and Sony wouldn’t add 8K to the line until the a7R V.

People who read these rumors presumably put some stock in them. Otherwise, what would be the point? Rumors are always framed in the context that there is reason to believe that they are true, even if there is always the chance they are not. They are not just the wishful ramblings of someone with no real information — they are published from a position of some, albeit incomplete, authority.

I’ve been that typical rumors reader many times before. When a new product is announced that does not quite live up to the rumors and hype, I feel a tinge of disappointment. Of course, I have nobody but myself to blame.

It is certainly not the fault of a camera company. Cameras take years to develop, and by the time the rumors start floating around online, engineers are well on the way to making a different product altogether. There is no opportunity for camera makers to react to features, specifications, or prices that people start clamoring about online.

It is important that Nikon Rumors is not at fault here either. The website does not publish rumors as facts and frames rumors as unconfirmed speculation. Besides, the site only exists because people like me click on it.

Nikon Zf

I’m Part of the Problem

PetaPixel is not opposed to rumors. We occasionally write about them, albeit only from extremely trusted, reliable sources. We ignore many more rumors than we cover, including not covering any Nikon Zf rumors.

When I first got into photography more than 15 years ago, I was checking Nikon Rumors daily. I still visit the site often and read the other major photography rumors sites too. Speculating is fun and reading rumors is entertaining. But there is a cost to these rumors.

I wonder about the impact of rumors on photographers at large. The appetite for rumors is driven, at least in part, by the desire to have the latest and greatest equipment. Poring over nitty-gritty technical details is so far-removed from taking photos.

Perhaps it is not the rumors themselves that I am talking about here, but rather what sort of people have this incessant need to constantly think about what comes next. What is the next camera, the next lens, the big new feature, the revolutionary advancement?

For me, I used to read rumors because I wanted to think about what I could buy — or desperately want to buy — next. I wanted to know all about the next shiny new toy on the horizon.

The effect this had on me is twofold. One, I was so busy thinking ahead that I missed out on opportunities to enjoy the gear that not only actually exists, but I personally owned and could be using at any given moment. Two, everything I owned seemed a little more tarnished in the face of constant reports of some new model. Again, this is my own doing. I was a dumb kid with more money than sense, and my passion for photography left me with no money to spare, so you can easily deduce what that says about my reservoir of reason.

These days, I read rumors for entertainment and out of genuine curiosity. I have sold considerably more gear than I’ve purchased in the past five years. “The next great thing” doesn’t matter to me like it used to, but it still matters a lot to some people.

I am not trying to dunk on any website for publishing inaccurate rumors about the Nikon Zf. That is very much part of reporting rumors — they are sometimes wrong. I would know, having reported on rumors about the iPhone 15 last month that proved only partially accurate — a sugarcoated way to say that I reported on something that was wrong.

For what it is worth, Nikon Rumors publishes great content in addition to rumors. The site covers official announcements about all things Nikon and photography, shares some brilliant photography from its readers, and offers an excellent community for Nikon fans to gather and chat. Nikon Rumors was also heavily involved in the early reporting of the Nikon Z8 strap lug issue, something that Nikon ultimately addressed.

This was not the first nor will it be the last time that the popular website covers important news that benefits Nikon owners. In fact, at their core, I think Nikon Rumors and other rumor sites are, or at least started out as, basically love letters to specific camera companies.

Nikon Zf

How Rumors Affect Camera Companies and Photographers

All that said, having worked closely with camera companies, I’ve seen firsthand the negative effect that rumors, whether true or false, have on the people working for manufacturers.

A lot goes into designing, engineering, making, and announcing new cameras and lenses. When a new product is revealed, it is the culmination of years of hard work by hundreds of people, all with unique roles to play.

When a rumor is false, especially when it suggests something better than what ultimately comes to market, it hurts the people behind the product. Even when a rumor is true, it steals some of their thunder.

It is thunder that they deserve to experience in full; something I am grappling with on a personal and professional level as I write this, having covered rumors many times.

Rumors also harm photographers who get riled up in excitement for something that proves to be nothing more than wishful thinking. As I know all too well, it is challenging not to get caught up in the hype. Of course, controlling hype is primarily the responsibility of those who consume content, not the ones who create it.

Assuming that rumor sites are not stealing content or gathering it illegally or immorally, they are arguably not doing anything wrong. Some of their sources almost certainly do something illicit, but that is a different story altogether. Besides, I have covered rumors and will likely do so again, so I should not start hurling stones from my glass house.

Nikon Zf

Nonetheless, when a camera like the Nikon Zf is finally announced after months of rumors — some of which missed the mark — there is a shadow, perhaps only a faint one, cast over what should be a day of celebration on behalf of photographers and a huge sigh of relief for the many people who worked hard on the product.

Having spoken with many product designers, engineers, and managers over the years, one thing they all have in common is that they genuinely care about what they make, and they put a lot of stock in how photographers react to their products. Something else they all share is that for a variety of reasons, rumors bother them.

While it may sometimes feel like companies are not listening to us, I assure you they are. They see the same rumors we do, they read some of the same comments, and their laser focus on the photography community is never stronger than when they unveil something new.

For better or worse, most enthusiastic photographers are like me and read the rumors about new cameras and lenses long before they are announced. These rumors shape our expectations and affect our perception of products before they are unveiled, sometimes to the detriment of the people behind the gear we love.

If there is interest in rumors, there will be rumors to read. When these rumors are false, an inevitable part of any rapidly-spinning rumor mill, there will be harmful consequences. The same love for photography and camera gear that makes rumors irresistible is the same passion that ultimately sets all of us up for disappointment, even when real products are anything but a letdown.

This story is part of PetaPixel’s weekly newsletter Clipped Highlights.

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Image credits: Nikon