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nikon.pngI got an elaborate package this morning, via Fed Ex, inviting me to test Nikon’s D80 digital SLR camera and an 18-135mm Zoom lens as part of a blogger outreach program being run by the PR firm, MWW Group.

I said yes, and can’t wait to try the camera.

Nikon had given the D80 to a group of heavy Flickr users in October 2006, and I said at the time that I wished I’d been one of the testers. And voila!

I like the openness of the blogger outreach, and have included an email exchange I had about it earlier today, below. I am used to a smaller camera, as I’ve been using a Canon A-85 for a while. I bought it because I could run it manually and it has video. It’s shutter speed is slow, but that’s my only complaint. I’m not sure how much I will like using a bigger camera, but that’s why this is a test. I’m certainly willing to see if it’s worth the size and weight in exchange for the semi-pro features.

Nikon can count on my honest opinion, starting with the programs. Just as with the Flickr program, there is no community being created with this one, and I think that’s a mistake in both cases. I also think the extremely slick kit sent with the invitation to the program was a large waste of money, but I like to keep things simple and not kill trees.

Photography is a long-time serious hobby of mine. I studied photography as part of my journalism BA, and used to print my black & white pix until I became wildly allergic to the chemicals and had to stop going into dark little rooms full of chemicals. I’ve gone to the Maine Photographic Workshop to study photography, and taken many courses at the International Center for Photography. So I am really looking forward to trying this camera.

Unlike the Microsoft/Edelman laptop giveaway, and perhaps having learned from it, MWW Group, Nikon’s PR firm, says:

“…The only request we have of you is that you please make sure that, if you choose to write about the camera, you make it clear how you got it. We would never ask you to cross any ethical lines, so openness and honesty on all our parts is in everyone’s best interest.

The camera is essentially being loaned to you for six months at which point you have three options:

1. Return it to us
2. Re-up for another six month loan period, or
3. Buy the camera at a significantly reduced editorial discount.
Should you opt for #1 or #3, the camera or the purchase price will then be donated to a photography education program that Nikon supports. That’s it.”

I asked Tom Biro, of MWW, some questions about the program, and include them in the interest of full disclosure:
BL- how many bloggers are in the program?
Biro Ultimately, 50 bloggers, photobloggers and other online personalities will participate in the program.
BL- how were we selected?
Biro There is a healthy mix of individuals who are heavy photo takers and publishers, individual bloggers, and people who do interviews and other in-person activities that they share online.
Some are sports bloggers, others run local citizen journalism sites, others are involved in marketing or are just outspoken and opinionated users about everything they touch, and we wanted to try and get the best cross-section of feedback we could about this digital SLR.
BL- I see that the camera is already being sold, so why do the blogger outreach now?
Biro This is the pretty much the second step of efforts that Nikon has done for the D80. Last year, the company ran an ad campaign (you mentioned it here:) where they offered cameras to a number of people to show them what kind of pictures it would take, and this is a much bigger extension of that.
We believe that the camera will speak for itself in the hands of any user, and this is one of the best ways to show it.

BL-does Nikon have any plans for photos we take?
Biro The photos are the property of those who are participating, and Nikon does not have any plans for utilizing them.

Should an opportunity arise where the participants were to have an interest in developing something with Nikon, then we would be open to discussing this, but just as there are no other strings with participation as far as asking people to write about the campaign, or doing reviews, or anything of that sort, there are no strings with regards to what you do with the camera, beyond the simple terms outlined in the letters that everyone received.

BL- how will you measure the impact of this blogger outreach?
Biro There are multiple ways we’d look at “impact” for this program.
Obviously, the reactions in the marketplace, including emails from participants (or those who may opt out), blog / forum postings, as well as how the community at large (beyond the participants) sees the campaign will all be reviewed.
The ability for people to take great pictures will be another impact point, especially if participants are posting their photographs online for others to see.

Lastly, the choices that participants make as the program moves into its next steps – renewal, purchase, or return – and the feedback associated with that will all be valuable to Nikon.

BL- what’s the budget on this campaign?
Biro We are not making the budget for this campaign public at this time, as is the case with almost every other Nikon project.
BL-has Nikon done previous testing with bloggers?
Biro Not to this extent. There are other bloggers who have tested products at launch time before, but nothing like this program.