Time up for camera film? Nikon focuses on digital

TOKYO (AFP) – Nikon, the iconic Japanese camera maker, has put another nail in the coffin of traditional photography with plans to stop selling most of its film models in favor of hot-selling digital cameras.

Nikon said it will end production of all but two of its eight single-lens reflex (SLR) analogue models and axe all of its non-digital compacts, signaling the end of its more than 50 year history of selling film cameras.

Sales will end when stocks run out — news that could trigger a rush by camera buffs to snap up the remaining ones.

Experts believe the days of conventional film cameras are now numbered.

“Only film camera maniacs and a limited number of professionals will buy film cameras now,” said Kouichi Fujimoto, an analyst at Okasan Securities.

The F6, Nikon’s top-of-the-line professional camera, will continue to be produced for the time being along with the FM10, an entry-level model.

“As the market for film cameras has been shrinking, we would like to spend financial resources on the digital camera market,” a Nikon spokeswoman said.

The decision reflects a wider shift away from film to digital cameras, which have won over consumers by eliminating the need for rolls of film and allowing users to view images immediately and delete unwanted ones.

“The trend of shifting to digital cameras is a common phenomenon in the world camera market although the trend is led by Japan,” analyst Fujimoto said.

“Most of the camera market in Japan is taken by digital cameras so it is natural to expect that other camera makers might take the same decision to withdraw from film cameras,” he added.

According to Japan’s Camera and Imaging Products Association, shipments of film cameras here in November stood at just 457,819 units — far below the 7.72 million figure for digital cameras.

Nikon, along with Japanese rival Canon, is increasingly focusing on high-end digital SLR cameras which are more profitable than cheaper digital compacts where competition is fierce.

Nikon made a record net profit of 9.37 billion yen (82 million dollars) in the six months to September on sales of 342.85 billion.

The company aims to boost global sales of its SLR digital cameras to 1.6 million in the year to March 2006 from 1.05 million in the previous year.

While Nikon and Canon are enjoying robust sales of their digital cameras, other Japanese rivals are faring less well.

Konica Minolta slumped into loss in the first-half as sales of conventional photo film fell and a price war in digital cameras intensified, while Olympus saw a sharp decline in net profit.

US film and photography giant Eastman Kodak, one of the best-known global brand names, also failed to adapt to the digital age quickly enough and has long struggled to catch up with competitors.

The shift from analogue to digital is taking the heaviest toll on those manufacturers that also produce camera film.

“It must be an annoying problem for companies such as Fuji Photo Film and Konica Minolta on whether to stop producing film cameras,” said Fujimoto.

source – AFP