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Konica Minolta Quits Photography Market 239

Posted by Zonk
from the harsh-world-out-there dept.
halenger writes "Japanese photographic equipment maker Konica Minolta has announced plans to withdraw from the camera business. Konica Minolta said the market had become too competitive, and added it would sell its digital camera business to Japanese electronics giant Sony." From the article: "Its decision to ditch the camera business altogether includes the cessation of its colour film and photo paper business, in which it has trailed Eastman Kodak of the US and Japan's Fuji Photo Film. Instead, it plans to focus on products such as colour office photocopiers and medical imaging equipment." We just recently reported on the decision by Nikon to go completely digital.
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Konica Minolta Quits Photography Market

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  • by advocate_one (662832) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:34AM (#14508985)
    Konica Minolta said the market had become too competitive,

    means the competition's cameras are too cheap and we have no margin left...

  • by carlos_benj (140796) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:34AM (#14508990) Journal
    I knew that they were already working with Sony. Digital has certainly changed the photography landscape. Each year it looks more and more like film will become a smaller niche.
  • by pvera (250260) <pedro.vera@gmail.com> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:36AM (#14509002) Homepage Journal
    Good riddance. Evolve or step aside.

    Notice how right as Nikon announced they would stop most of their film cameras, Zeiss recovered from the Contax failure by offering their glass for the Nikon F-mount.

    Film photography is far from dead, but we are past the point in which you can wrap a business around expensive film-based gear and exotic film types. Kodak killed their B&W paper products, but it was not the end. Ilford is still around.

    The same will happen with film. Now it would be nice if we can get Nikon out of the 35mm frame mindset when designing future SLR gear.

  • by milgr (726027) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:45AM (#14509059)
    I have an old Minolta SLR camera. It is roughly as old as me (well, it could conceivably be older, I don't really know). All the important controls are manual -- focus, aperature, speed. It takes great pictures. Much better than my wife's auto-everything camera. Not that I have a flash.... but who needs a flash when you can brace the camera against a wall or a knee and take really long exposures?

    Upon first hearing the news that Minolta was getting out of the camera business, I thought, time to upgrade.

    On the other hand, the only thing I buy for this camera is film.

    My one complaint is its size. I guess you can't get everything.
  • by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworldNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:56AM (#14509158) Homepage
    That didn't require decoding, that's plainly what the phrase meant.
  • by Control Group (105494) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:59AM (#14509186) Homepage
    *sigh*

    And another one bites the dust.

    I've got two Minolta 35mm film SLR cameras, (an old 7-series, and a much newer Maxxum 4). They're not professional-grade cameras by any means, but I like them far more than any digital camera I can afford to buy. Minolta dropping out of the camera business entirely probably means that finding accessories for them is going to suddenly become difficult.

    And I still need a good flash for the Maxxum, as well as various lenses for each.

    Looks like I'm being left behind by the march of technology, and it's really too bad. I won't argue that digital isn't better than film in almost all respects, but I really enjoy making B&W prints in my little darkroom (and, honestly, I have yet to see a digital camera that can give you authentic-looking B&W. I don't know the technical reason, but I can always tell the difference between a picture that's just been desaturated, and an actual B&W). The more niche it becomes, the less I'm going to be able to afford it.

    *shrug*

    Call me a luddite, but losing the environment wherein you can buy a decent camera and expect your kids to use it after they grow up in favor of the fast-paced furor of modern electronics sort of depresses me. It used to be all about the photographer: a talented amateur with a fairly cheap 35mm camera could take pictures all but indistinguishable from those taken by an average pro if they just used quality film/paper. That is, the stuff that made all the technical difference on the print was the cheap stuff. Now, the stuff that makes all the technical difference on the print is the expensive stuff.

    I'm not a serious artist, and I can't afford to spend serious artist money on just a fun thing I like to do. Looks like the market is squeezing my hobby out.
  • Re:nikon and canon (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:02AM (#14509218) Homepage
    not completely.

    I see lots of the Fuji Finepix S series in pro hands. The older S1 at 3 megapixels kicks the crap out of canon's 6 megapixel cameras and the newest S3 with a native of 12 and interpolated at 24 kicked the ever living crap out of the newest canon pro DSLR we have here in the Graphics department.

    It's a sleeper that you do not see advertised but even the older S1 can serve as a great money maker to a photographer shooting and printing 11X17 photos that wow people .

    Being able to use the cheaper nikon lenses is also a bonus. the IS F1.4 100-300 monster we have here was $1500.00 less than the equlivant Canon lens doe the D series.
  • by Ubergrendle (531719) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:04AM (#14509236) Journal
    Conservative estimates indicate Canon has about 50% of the DSLR market, whereas Nikon has 30-35% at this time. So that leaves a remaining 15% to be divided amongst: Olympus, Pentax, Fuji, KM, Sigma, and a few other minor players.

    I suspect the 'innovations' in the DSLR market are going to slow down a bit now, the 18mo lifecycle for $1k - $10k bodies will probably stretch to 24mos, maybe 36mos. Unfortunately w/ several hundred thousand 350D Rebels and D70s cameras having been sold, the early adopters have already bought into mount systems, making prospects of explosive growth for one of the niche players unlikely... if you're not profitable now, you won't ever be.

    Sony might do something interesting with the KM patents their acquiring, but the odds are against it.

    And yes, DSLR bodies might become cheaper...the D50 is a good entry level, perhaps a D500 for Nikon at the $500 point might be possible in the future... but if you're selling $500 cameras, you're not tapping a segment that will buy $1000 lenses regularly.
  • by Thag (8436) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:04AM (#14509237) Homepage
    if you can find ANY new film cameras, ANY, offered in one year, it will be a major surprise. I suspect canon and nikon will offer one more digital back for their F lines, and that will be it. the major players in one-use supermarket cameras will be offering digital one-shots by next christmas, probably on the order of grill gas bottles... pay $50 up front, swap the camera for $10 when this one is full.

    I doubt the film market will disappear, but it will probably wind up being a boutique industry. You'll be able to find camera places in major cities, and there will be companies that specialize in manufacturing replacement parts for discontinued major brands. That's getting cheaper to do all the time with computer aided manufacturing.

    But yeah, they'll probably stop selling film cameras in the discount stores fairly soon.

    Jon Acheson
  • by ianscot (591483) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:04AM (#14509240)
    I own a Dimage Z5 -- a cool design [dpreview.com] with a nice mix of features, including a 12x optical zoom with image stablization which I appreciate for nature shots. Having said that, it was a camera with some conspicuous tradeoffs. The default image settings simply weren't sharp enough, and bumping them up meant leaving the auto settings which you sometimes do want for snap situations. The manual focus system was worthless. And so on.

    A few months after I bought my Z5, Canon effectively leapfrogged it with their own new IS model, also using AAs which was a selling point for me. Maybe Konica Minolta drove that new model some, so they had their positive competitive effect on the market, but they didn't have a clear winner in my book for more than a few months, and I'm someone who actually bought their product.

    They had their own way of doing things, though. The design of the Z5 is one of those ones you immediately recognize as having some thought to it, even if you don't like it in use (which I did). You hate to see another independent voice vanish.

  • by drooling-dog (189103) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:13AM (#14509313)
    ...but I just don't have the time/space for my darkroom anymore.

    We've become accustomed now to imagery being cheap, fast, and easy. It makes us look at the effort required to achieve a chemical photograph - and maybe even the value of the result - a lot differently.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:13AM (#14509316)
    If my Sony DSC-V3 is any indication, Sony either has a product life cycle that is too short to consider customer support and upgrades or Sony doesn't know how to write firmware which allows the photographer to control the photograph.

    Come on Sony Open up your firmware!:
          Not everyone wants all of their "soft focus" to come from diffraction (Allow the user to shift the default program mode towards wide aperatures)

          Occasionally real photographers want to use an external flash and occasionally that flash should be slave-triggered by the in-camera flash.

          There are occasions when a photographer wants to make an exposure longer than 1/30th of a second and not have your patented noise reduction algorithm run on their image.

        There are occasions when a photographer wants to make an exposure longer than 30 seconds.

    Arbitrary decisions made by the camera such as the shutter speed can't exceed 1/1000th unless the aperature is larger than F5.6 should be reserved for program mode, not Aperture or Shutter priority and certainly not for manual mode!

        Sorry, laser autofocus really doesn't work well enough to justify shining a laser in your subject's eyes, regardless of how "safe" ISO guidelines say this particular laser is.
  • Re:no loss really (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:18AM (#14509369)
    "of course the sad day for digital has already come,... all these people with top of the line digital SLRs that have no clue how to use them "

    How typical of the elite mindset. I own a digital slr (proud owner of a Canon Rebel XT) and have no clue on how to use it besides auto mode. But guess what! Digital SLR'S made photography actually fun fun for me and actually pushed me to learn more. So, sad day? I don't know it's your call I guess
  • by Shimmer (3036) <brianberns@gmail.com> on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:40AM (#14509581) Homepage Journal
    It used to be all about the photographer: a talented amateur with a fairly cheap 35mm camera could take pictures all but indistinguishable from those taken by an average pro

    I think this is still true in the digital age. Why wouldn't it be?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:03PM (#14509823)
    Just because every wedding photog in America is going to be shooting digital now does not mean there will be no film equipment and supplies in the future.

    Most weddings I've been to recently, the photographer uses a DSLR for the candid shots, but the posed shots with tripod & lights still use medium format.

    Most people are blown away by the quality of medium format.
  • Re:Disposal (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Glytch (4881) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:07PM (#14509874)
    Color chemicals aren't that bad either. The C41 negative process and RA4 paper process are fairly benign as well, as long one is careful to run the bleach-fix through a well-maintained silver recovery unit before disposal.

    I couldn't speak about slide development, as I've never worked in an E6-process lab. Or a Kodachrome lab for that matter, but from what I've heard, processing Kodachrome is more art than science, and uses some really exotic stuff. Besides, there's something like only 3 labs in the world that still do Kodachrome.
  • by Control Group (105494) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:20PM (#14510036) Homepage
    Because Fuji ISO-100 35mm film yields negatives of the same informational quality regardless of camera. The camera is just a tool the photographer uses to help frame and compose the image, then to help properly expose the film. The difference between a professional film camera and a amateur film camera is only the amount of work the photographer needs to do to get a given photograph. The amateur can buy (relatively inexpensive) quality film, and take up the camera's slack with elbow grease.

    With digital cameras, however, no matter how much work the amateur is willing to do, he cannot make a 3 megapixel camera take 10 megapixel pictures. Other things being equal, a 10 megapixel picture is simply superior to a 3 megapixel picture.

    To analogize: switching from a $200 film camera to a $2000 film camera is sort of like switching from DOS+Assembly to, say, Win2k+IIS+VBScript to generate active server pages. You can accomplish exactly the same goals either way, but one tool makes it easier on the developer. The switch from a $200 digital camera to a $2000 digital camera, however, is like switching from a 486 with 64MB of RAM on a 28.8kbps connection to a Dell Poweredge 6800 on a dedicated OC3 to serve your active server pages. No amount of work is going to make the 486 do as well at, say, streaming video as the 6800.

    The baseline quality is now inherent to the expensive part (the device), rather than to the inexpensive part (the medium).
  • by ergo98 (9391) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:41PM (#14510257) Homepage Journal
    Because Fuji ISO-100 35mm film yields negatives of the same informational quality regardless of camera.

    Image optics vary dramatically between amateur and professional lenses, not to mention that without bright (expensive) lenses one often needed to use faster film, accepting the compromise of visible grain. Alternately they could accept motion blue (which was more prevalent), or they had to accept the terrible compromise that is flash photography [yafla.com].

    If you spent the money in the 35mm space, there were a lot of things you could do to vastly improve the quality of your work. Even simply buying better film, and then getting better (more expensive) processing hugely altered the quality.

    With digital cameras, however, no matter how much work the amateur is willing to do, he cannot make a 3 megapixel camera take 10 megapixel pictures. Other things being equal, a 10 megapixel picture is simply superior to a 3 megapixel picture.

    Take a look through Flickr's interesting picture catalog, paying attention to the camera used to take the pictures. More often than not it's an almost disposable low-end camera, not an ultra-expensive pro camera. It really is eye opening that the equipment isn't as important as some people imagine it to be. [flickr.com]
  • by Hans Lehmann (571625) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @01:24PM (#14510703)
    Now it would be nice if we can get Nikon out of the 35mm frame mindset when designing future SLR gear.

    Ask any professional photographer; the collection of lenses is a bigger investment than the camera body. Newer Nikon digital camera bodies, for example, are designed to accept many of the existing Nikon lenses. These lenses were all optimized for a 35mm film frame, so it only makes sense to use a digital image sensor of roughly the same dimensions. Photographers can make thew jump to digital without throwing away their expensive collection of lenses. This also allows them to use their existing experience when selecting lenses, e.g.... this is a long shot, I'll probably need my 150mm lens for this one.
    Aside from these considerations, does it really matter what the physical size of the sensor is?

  • The second leaving (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jerry Coffin (824726) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @01:38PM (#14510837)
    Quite a few comments, but none has noted one interesting point. At least AFAIK, this makes Konica the first company to truly leave the camera business for a second time.

    There have been a number of others that have, for example, started out as German companies, then the name was bought and a Japanese company sold cameras under that name for a while, and finally the whole venture died, but Konica (the company itself, not just the name) has now exited the camera business for a second time. I'm not sure, but offhand, I can't think of anybody else who's really done that.

    My other minor observation is that this seems a prime example of a theory I've been building for quite a while: to do well in the market, doing brilliant things matters a lot less than avoiding doing much that's really stpuid.

    Konica and Minolta combined absolute brilliance with astounding stupidity. Canon (for one) has never introduced a feature like autofocus that has completely transformed the market, but they've mostly avoided massive stupidity, so the dominate the market.

    Those who care to look might easily see something similar in comparing Apple with Microsoft.

  • Re:no loss really (Score:2, Insightful)

    by carlos_benj (140796) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @02:46PM (#14511567) Journal
    There is that, but for teaching/learning the fundamentals I think digital has been a real boon. You want to demonstrate the differences between small and large apertures and you take a shot, make the adjustments for the second shot and then bounce back and forth between them for immediate feedback. Even the DOF is limited on smaller sensors you can at least demonstrate the difference and then talk about the even bigger differences on other types of cameras. Plus you can go to the EXIF info and recall your settings. No more carting a notebook around to record exposure info.
  • by winwar (114053) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @03:44PM (#14512244)
    "My other minor observation is that this seems a prime example of a theory I've been building for quite a while: to do well in the market, doing brilliant things matters a lot less than avoiding doing much that's really stpuid."

    I suspect you are not the only one with that theory :) Of course, if you are going to make mistakes, it helps to be large and/or brilliant. Prolongs the end. Like Kodak.
  • by theoldmoose (553227) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @03:51PM (#14512298)
    Consider that Sony supplies virtually all the sensors used in digital cameras in the world market, including Konica-Minolta (Canon is a notable exception).

    KM, as a camera manufacturer, must buy a critical (and highest-priced) component from Sony, who not only sells the same components to all their competitors, but also competes with KM in their own market (digicams).

    Makes it kind of hard to make a buck, see?

    Sony, who is working hard to knock Kodak out of the number one spot for digital camera sales, needed an entry into the DSLR market, and KM, having lost USD$407 million in the last year, was ripe for the picking.

    It's telling that of all the business that Sony was interested in acquiring from KM, the only thing they took was the DSLR business. That nicely fills in the current hole in Sony's lineup.

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