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Nikon's Mystery Device Could Be a Smartphone

By - Source: Bloomberg | B 14 comments

Makoto Kimura (Bloomberg)Makoto Kimura (Bloomberg)At one point, Nikon was at the top of the point-and-shoot camera market. But like many of its competitors, Nikon has taken a hit in the wallet thanks to the rise in smartphone use. Customers no longer need to carry a bulky camera around their neck, but instead can whip out a smartphone packing high-resolution camera sensors. And it's only going to get worse for the traditional camera maker.

In a July 4 interview at Nikon’s Tokyo headquarters, President Makoto Kimura told Bloomberg that point-and-shoot camera sales across the industry have dropped about a quarter in April and May from a year earlier. Meanwhile, smartphone shipments jumped up 46 percent last year to 722 million units. Obviously Nikon needs to change its direction in the general consumer market at the very least.

"The number of people taking snapshots is exploding by use of smartphones that sold 750 million or so last year and are still growing," Kimura said. "We’ve centralized our ideas around cameras but can change our approach to offer products to that bigger market."

The company's high-end camera portfolio with exchangeable lenses, like the D4-SLR costing $6,000, is expected to gain 9 percent in the current financial year. However it's the company's consumer-focused compact point-and-shoot business that's taking a hit, and this portion of the market is expected to shrink 12 percent in the same financial year. Kimura said sales of the higher end models will help compensate for the lack of sales in the point-and-shoot division for a few more years.

Meanwhile, Nikon's imaging division and a new business team are developing new products that should become available in less than five years. Kimura said Nikon is looking to create a product line that will change the concept of cameras, and could even be a non-camera consumer product. Naturally he wouldn't elaborate any further.

Does that mean Nikon may be developing a smartphone? The president declined to say, only stating that a rapid expansion of mobile devices is a change in business environment given to Nikon. "Our task going forward is to find an answer to that change," he said.

The company may also expand into production of medical devices, following Canon Inc. and Sony Corp. Rival camera maker Olympus Corp. is already the world's largest maker of endoscopes, a device with a light attached that's used to look inside a body cavity or organ. Ouch.

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  • 0 Hide
    dalethepcman , July 9, 2013 10:33 AM
    "change the concept of cameras, and could even be a non-camera consumer product"

    I know, lets make a pair of glasses that users can interact with by talking to them, view the web on, and take pictures/video with.
  • 0 Hide
    djfv , July 9, 2013 10:46 AM
    Well, good companies should follow market changes.
    Kodak didn't transition to digital photography quickly enough, unlike Nikon, and therefore - it went bankrupt.
    There is a new change in the photography world, and this time it is caused by smartphones. We will see how traditional photo companies will fare.
  • 1 Hide
    pbrigido , July 9, 2013 12:19 PM
    I've been shooting Nikon FX DSLRs for years, and there is no way I would trade out my gear for a camera phone. Some phones out there take good pictures, but until the sensor size equals what is in my D800 (which won't happen), image quality will never be as good as a full frame camera.
  • Display all 14 comments.
  • -1 Hide
    JPNpower , July 9, 2013 12:36 PM
    Quote:
    I've been shooting Nikon FX DSLRs for years, and there is no way I would trade out my gear for a camera phone. Some phones out there take good pictures, but until the sensor size equals what is in my D800 (which won't happen), image quality will never be as good as a full frame camera.


    You don't understand. Your full frame camera is going nowhere. This is how Nikon needs to survive to be able to keep selling awesome cameras.
  • 0 Hide
    JPNpower , July 9, 2013 12:37 PM
    Come to think of it. Nikon's competitors have great products to help their camera department when the market fluctuates. (Sony TVs, Canon printers). Nikon needs some kind of buffer too.
  • 0 Hide
    __-_-_-__ , July 9, 2013 1:47 PM
    nikon 1 was really great. a product with lower specs then the competition at the same price. keep it this way. also don't forget not to add gps and wifi like real modern cameras have.
  • 0 Hide
    JPNpower , July 9, 2013 3:09 PM
    GPS on cameras is epic, and one of the greatest things that happened to digital images. Wifi... is a waste of battery
  • 0 Hide
    mman74 , July 9, 2013 6:37 PM
    Horses for courses.
    If I am in a bar for example and don't have a camera with me and want to take some snaps, I use my smartphone.
    If I am on a day out, say a hike and don't want to carry a bulky camera I take my point and shoot with me.
    If I am going to an important event and need good pictures say a graduation ceremony, a school play etc, then I'll bring my DSLR and lenses.
    Personally I think I need all 3 cameras, but I can understand why people work with just their smartphone, or smartphone plus DSLR and never buy a point and shoot.
  • 0 Hide
    okibrian , July 9, 2013 7:27 PM
    "Customers no longer need to carry a bulky camera around their neck"

    The bulky cameras are most of the time dSLR cameras and in no way can a, "smartphone packing high-resolution" replace it. It can however replace most point and shoot cameras.
  • 0 Hide
    Marcus52 , July 10, 2013 12:46 AM
    I find the idea of a Nikon smart phone intriguing. On the other hand, Nikon doesn't mean to me what it used to when their only product was high-end cameras.
  • -1 Hide
    pbrigido , July 10, 2013 5:06 AM
    I've been shooting Nikon FX DSLRs for years, and there is no way I would trade out my gear for a camera phone. Some phones out there take good pictures, but until the sensor size equals what is in my D800 (which won't happen), image quality will never be as good as a full frame camera.
  • 0 Hide
    JPNpower , July 10, 2013 1:57 PM
    Quote:
    I find the idea of a Nikon smart phone intriguing. On the other hand, Nikon doesn't mean to me what it used to when their only product was high-end cameras.


    People like you who care so much about image amaze me. I was just talking to a person who thinks the Nissan GTR is not cool, because it is made by the company that makes the Versa. Same thing with cheap macbooks and stuff too I guess. I personally think the opposite way. I don't see a diluted high end camera maker. I see a smartphone made by the people capable of making legendary full framers.
  • 0 Hide
    JPNpower , July 10, 2013 2:00 PM
    Quote:
    "Customers no longer need to carry a bulky camera around their neck"

    The bulky cameras are most of the time dSLR cameras and in no way can a, "smartphone packing high-resolution" replace it. It can however replace most point and shoot cameras.


    Not sure about that. Take, for example, skiing, snowboarding, any winter sport, swimming etc. All of these aren't ideal conditions for LCD touch screens. My skiing pics are mostly taken blindly, as there is no way I can make out anything but washed out shadows on the LCD of my rugged pocket Nikon (AW100). This camera also happens to have glove friendly buttons. Smartphones will never have these, and shouldn't either as they are bulky.
  • 0 Hide
    beayn , July 11, 2013 11:52 AM
    Cell phone cameras are such low quality. I hate seeing people's pics that look like they are from the 80's but they took them with their brand new iphone or android phone. As the quality increases they may replace point & shoot cameras but never DSLR ones. I have a 9 year old Nikon D50 which is 6mp and it still takes better quality outdoor pics with vibrant and rich colors than my Sony Alpha NEX C3 16mp camera. And the Sony isn't a cheap point & shoot camera, it also has interchangeable lenses. The only place the Sony beats the Nikon is on low light, indoors pics. It excels at that.

    Anyway my point was they really need to increase cell phone camera quality. It's like traveling back in time when people post these crappy pics all the time.