Citing the difficulty of remaining competitive in the rapidly changing digital era, Konica Minolta is withdrawing from the camera and photography market. The move followed last year's announcement from Bronica that it was also retiring from the medium-format camera business, terminating a 47-year-old brand.
The surge of worldwide digitization has resulted in a rapid shrinking of the traditional silver halide photographic market, according to Konica management. In such a changing world, profits for camera and photo businesses have worsened in recent years, necessitating a reorganization of Konica's business structure.
At the same time, Fujifilm has reaffirmed its belief in the viability of silver halide photography. The company recently announced plans to continue its silver halide business and to "further cultivate the culture of photography."
Despite the reduced demand for film and photographic products, Fujifilm believes that silver halide photography has advantages over digital in such areas as power of expression, long-term storage capability, reasonable prices, easy handling, and an established and convenient photo developmentand print infrastructure.
Restructuring guidelines devised by Konica include an agreement to develop digital SLR cameras jointly with Sony. In February, Sony, the second-ranking digital camera manufacturer behind Canon, purchased a portion of Konica's SLR business for an undisclosed sum.
In announcing the acquisition, Sony revealed that the company's goal is to corner 25 percent of the digital SLR market.
Konica also plans a reduction in color film and color paper production, with cessation of those operations to be completed by Mar. 31, 2007. Production of the Minilab system has already been discontinued. Reorganization of sales offices and withdrawal from all photo sales activities are scheduled to be completed by Sept. 30, 2007.
In the future, the company intends to concentrate on non-consumer businesses, such as business technologies, optics and display devices, and medical imaging.
Late last year, Tamron discontinued production of the Bronica RF 645 6x4.5 range-finder camera model, along with its relevant lenses and accessories. The RF 645 was the last Bronica model still in production.
Tamron executives blamed the drastic drop in Bronica sales on the quick adoption of digital technology by core Bronica customers, professional and wedding photographers.
Tamron will continue to service Bronica equipment for seven years from the official date of discontinuation of each model.