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Konica Minolta Quits Photography Market 239

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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  • no loss really (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Nobley ( 598336 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:37AM (#14509008) Journal
    While their latest digital slr had some nice features such as the built in anti shake feature, they were only ever 2nd or 3rd best to canon and nikon in this department, and as far as their film goes, it is really as 2nd teir as agfa etc. The saddest day for film will be when fuji stops making Velvia and the likes, and 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
  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:39AM (#14509022) Homepage Journal
    the same thing happened to 16mm film in the news business around 1978 - 1979. ENG minicams and tape started infiltrating newsrooms, and everybody was saying they'd keep both. we moved our color processor into the basement, and I built a splash pan for the open-bottom drain. frezzolini was saying their next cameras would be computer-controlled and monitored to the extent that you would know which cell of the battery pack was dying.

    but this coincided with kodak's deciding to drop E4 for E6 color processing, and E6 was desperately sensitive to water pH. in other words, all of a sudden, your film came out either deep blue or wildly yellow.

    this plus the one-time nature of film costs put film out of business in our 8-station tv operation in four months.

    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.

    glorious silver halide photography, R I P. don't dip a finger to taste the developer any more, it's done.
  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:51AM (#14509113) Homepage
    Now it would be nice if we can get Nikon out of the 35mm frame mindset when designing future SLR gear.

    I expect the sheer price of producing digital medium format camera's will safeguard the 35mm format for quite some time. I certainly don't see medium format DSLR's entering the consumer market in the foreseeable future.
    That is assuming you meant them moving towards medium format ofcourse :)
  • by Brunellus ( 875635 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @10:56AM (#14509155) Homepage

    ...and when Ilford isn't around, there might still be Seagull and Foma and Efke.

    Chemical photography is going to become like etching and engraving: a specialized art or trade. This makes me sad, because I used to enjoy chemical photography a great deal...but I just don't have the time/space for my darkroom anymore.

    WRT the withdrawal of Konica/Minolta: I'm not surprised. My next thought is--who's next? Asahi-Pentax? As a Pentax user, that'd make me very sad, as I've always liked their bodies & lenses....

  • by snopes ( 27370 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:10AM (#14509289) Journal
    > if you can find ANY new film cameras, ANY, offered in one year, it will be a major surprise.

    That is a ridiculous assertion. You do know that 16mm motion film is still in wide use, right? You can go out right now and buy a 16mm camera no problem: hp []

    The switch by TV journalists did not end the availability of 16mm film and equipment. The same will be true for 35mm (or other format) still film and equipment. 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.
  • This is really too bad. I've always been a fan of Minolta's photography products, dating back to when I used to work behind the counter in a photo store.

    They were never as cheap as the low-end Nikon or Canon, but for a little bit more money you got a lot more features. I thought this was the case with their digital line as well.

    I think where they failed was waiting so long to bring out a DSLR that was lens-compatible with their Maxxum series of film SLRs. They played around for a long time with the idea of DSLRs that used special digital lenses, a standard lens format that would be brand-neutral (not a bad concept, really). It required them to retool their factories completely, and in the meantime Nikon and Canon brought out DSLRs that were basically a chip shoved into their film bodies and used the film-series lenses. These were a lot more attractive to photographers and left Minolta photographers in the lurch for a number of years.

    Frankly I think the Minolta 7D, the digital version of the Maxxum 7, was sweet -- it was just introduced too late and at too high a price to compete with Nikon. And the features it offered were a tough sell to an "average consumer" whose primary concern is price. (Image stabilization is not an easy feature to sell, altough I think it's a really good deal given that to get the same thing in Nikon or Canon you'd need all new lenses.) I guess I should hurry up and buy one.

    I find it odd that they're selling out to Sony; Minolta's products always seemed to me like the anti-Sony: not a lot of proprietary accessories, inexpensive addons, etc. I would have thought that selling out to Kodak would be the logical step. I guess they got a better offer. I wonder if Sony will retain the digital-Maxxum series DSLRs, given that Sony doesn't have any DSLR history. There are a LOT of Maxxum users in Japan (I've heard that the Maxxum 9 is the most popular film camera for photojournalists there, versus the Nikon F5 in the states.) It seems silly not to continue with it, but Sony has never been constrained by the bounds of what I'd consider to be logical behavior.

    I had been afraid this was going to happen though, ever since Konica and Minolta merged. It's really too bad, though. They made good gear, and I hope that Sigma and the other aftermarket manufacturers will continue to support their lineup in the future.
  • by Penguinisto ( 415985 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:28AM (#14509461) Journal
    I have waaaay too many Minolta lenses for my film cameras to not buy a new DSLR. Even if they stop making them, I'm quite sure that there are way too many silver nitrate addicts like myself who have lots of Minolta bodies, lenses, and accessories to simply ignore as a potential customer base.

    And if they decide to cut us all off? Oh well - I'll still be using my shiny new Maxxum 5D (picking it up Saturday) until it finally dies and Sony decides to not support it anymore. This will likely be quite a long time, because in my experience almost every SLR I've owned was built to last. My old Maxxum 7, Maxxum 5, and Maxxum Qt-si are still cranking away after literal years of abuse (the old Maxxum 7 most of all - it's been beaten to within an inch of its life on my trips to the backcountry throughout the US West, and it still happily comes to life whenever I want it to).

    Sad to see them go, though - it's kind of cool to have image stabilization without the need to buy image-stabilized lenses.


  • by Ceriel Nosforit ( 682174 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @11:45AM (#14509623)
    I wield a KM 5D, and I dread naught. In fact, I find the move rather delightful in what promises are held for me. For one, I'm likely to be able to use my lenses on an SLR equivalent with an EVF (Electronic ViewFinder), meaning that lacking a mirror in front of the CCD I'll be able to capture high-res video. This basically turns what used to be a still camera into a HDTV video camera. Couple it with KM's Anti-Shake system and suddenly a world of new possibilities open up.
    Another benefit I get is better support for my camera. Yet another the name recognition to increase the second-hand value of my gear. Further Sony's hit-and-miss tendency technology-wise means I'm likely to see all sorts of experimental features in models that come and go, giving new photographic opportunities. All point toward a bright bright feature.

    My only concern is that Sony might jump on the Microsoft-only bandwagon, with encrypted file formats & ilk. Yet, with Sony marketing the PS3 as a computer, Linux support might not be a mere pipe-dream. If they do support Linux they will be the only manufacturer to do so, and might grab some additional market-share because of this. This would be enough to redeem them from the rootkit fiasco in my eyes.
  • by psybertech ( 926732 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:09PM (#14509901) Homepage
    I am shocked everyone picked up on the camera part, but KM is also withdrawing from the mini-lab side of things. html []

    That leaves two major players (Noritsu & Fuji) and a revamped comppany (DigitalPortal - aka KISS) still producing traditional labs. (and yes, they all print from digital images as well as film (neg/pos).

    No one is printing images on real, traditional (cheaper) photographic, silver halide paper. Everyone seems content with spending their time and money on home solutions when they finally decide to print anything at all.

    It is funny to me that most people take more pictures now on their camera or device since they don't have to buy film or pay for processing, but no one has a single print to show me!

    I HATE seeing your family or fun shots on your 2.5" Horiz. - MAX size LCD! (even worse 1.5"!!!)
    Come on!!! Get real!

    Make prints people!!!!

    Support your local lab or even local wholesale or major retailer and make some 4x5.5 or 4x6 or larger prints!
    It still is cheaper and faster than doing it yourself and people can actually see if your eyes are open in your images.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:12PM (#14509935)
    I happen to own a Maxxum 7D and an "old" Maxxum 5... Unfortunately, I do not expect the 7D to outlast the 5 as it is way more fragile, internally at least. A film camera has a lot of mechanical parts but it can be easily repaired by a technician. Digital cameras are way more sensitive to operating conditions (such as cold weather, humid conditions, condensation) and fixing them is usually much less obvious, especially considering the short manufacturing life of most chips they contain (especially the sensor).
  • by podperson ( 592944 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:27PM (#14510114) Homepage
    Now it would be nice if we can get Nikon out of the 35mm frame mindset when designing future SLR gear.

    No ... I suspect 35mm will become *the standard* in digital for the same reason that it did for analog. The only reason smaller sensors are being used in some 35mm form-factor cameras right now is that larger sensors are too expensive. Olympus has made a new camera system around a smaller sensor, and it isn't much smaller or cheaper than 35mm cameras.

    The size of the light-sensitive area dictates the size of the lens. The size of the lens dictates the size of the camera, the user interface, etc. 35mm cameras were the smallest film cameras that were still not too fiddly to use. Indeed, since a digital camera doesn't need to spool film or (necessarily) require a complex shutter assembly -- a 35mm sensor can give you a FAR smaller camera than it currently does (and take a look at some of the Minox 35mm cameras from the early 80s -- they were already too small to use comfortably).

    Today, a lot of competition is centered on the size of the preview LCD, which is now getting large enough that it is the dominant design element.
  • Sad... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mislam ( 755292 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @12:35PM (#14510200) Homepage
    This story made me a bit sad. In the 80s Minolta was the pioneer in SLR business with their innovative autofocus system. The 7000, 7000i(I used to own one) was quite advanced. I still have a Maxxum 5 that I bought few years ago. But truth be told once I moved to dSLR with Nikon D70 I have not taken any picture with my Minolta. I wonder if they had released their 7D when market was not that saturated they may have had survived. But from what I understand Minolta never wanted to get into digital SLR. Only after merging with Konica they came up with their 7D. O well lets see how sony handles this. Maybe a good thing for the consumers.
  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @01:15PM (#14510605)
    And they just released their own 5D, decent camera (the built in anti-shake tech is cool, i hope canon licenses it), but they started too late, wasted too much time on the merger, and have their first generation cams fighting gen 3 and gen 4 cameras from Canon and Nikon. No chance.
  • by joneil ( 677771 ) on Thursday January 19, 2006 @01:17PM (#14510630)
    Konica films in general, were not, IMO, that great to begin with. Compared to other colour films from Fuji and Kodak, they always seemed a step behind. Thier one, unique product, Konica 750, was a black & white, near infra-red film.

            But Konica 750 was usually only available once a year, while other IR and near IR films could and can be bought year round. Also, other near IF films from other companies, were, IMO, overall better films. I know, I used Konica 750, Maco 820, Ilford SFX, Kodak HSI (no longer made) and more. Konica 750 was pretty much my last choice for near IR films.

        So for me, hearing that there is no more Konica film, while, that's almost like saying "sorry, no more Lada's". Yes, I did drive a Lada once, a famiily member owned one. the experience was "interesting".

              Bear in mind that it's basic marketing 101 to make the "death of film" a self fullfilling prophecy. My 25 year old Nikon 35mm cameras works just as good as the day they were brand new, and i know guys using 50 year cameras they bought used. But my 4 year old Olympus digital camera, soon to be 5 years old, while it works fine, is pretty much toast. The memory cards are hard to find, and everybody tells me "soon no longer supported", and the specific USB cable to connect it to my computer is no longer made, and parts for it, should it break, are no longer supported, the drivers for it are all Win 98, etc, etc.

        Think about it - you own a big camera company - what makes you more money in the long run? A camera that is useable for 25 + years, or a camera that needs to be replaced about every 5 years?

        Also, the finer, higher quality, double weight, black & white photo paper you can buy for a wet darkroom, on a sheet by sheet basis, is still less money than most comparable, high quality, "photo grade" papers for inkjet or laser printers. I've done some side by side comparisons in the past - colour or black & white - it is more money to run a "digital darkroom" than a "wet darkroom" in terms of both hardware and consumable supplies.

          I am not here to fence with anybody on which is better, film or digital. totlaly useless arguement - there is room and need for both, and i use both. I just feel, reading posts here and elsewhere on the internet, that many people seem to avoid or skim over or not pay enough attention to the fact that there is a real, definite, * long term * financial advantage to all the large companies to convince John Q Pulic that film is "no good" and go all digital on many different levels. ths is the driving force behind the "death of film" or whatever you want to call it.

          Film still has several advantages, and always will, but these advantages for differnet situations, IMO, are totally ignored in the marketing rush to digital.

          Put it this way, the fact i own a car does not mean I was ever in a rush to dump my bicycle. In fact, I seem to be using my bicycle more and more these past few years. We may find the same is true for film.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982