Camera Makers Look To CSC, D-SLR Profits

By Greg Tarr On Jan 11 2012 - 12:20am




LAS VEGAS – For digital camera news, the 2012 International CES will be more about unveiling new entry-level point-and-shoots than the higher-margined and better growth-oriented interchangeable-lens camera categories.

But the show is not without a few d-SLR and compact system camera attention-grabbers.

In the past few days, both Nikon and Fujifilm made important introductions that are likely to impact the market for the next 12 months and longer. (See related stories in this issue.)

Like many camera manufacturers, both companies will be looking for the new offerings to help overcome the hardships imposed by the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami and, in Nikon’s case, the Thailand floods that hampered production for some models last year, limiting expected growth.

Chris Chute, IDC digital imaging manager, said he is calling for “a slowdown in the first quarter for Nikon and Sony, but we expect supplies to get back to normal in Q2.”

Liz Cutting, The NPD Group imaging analyst, agreed: “While detachable-lens cameras continue to grow, this year the issues first from the Japan then the Thailand crisis certainly impacted the business. I don’t know if Q1 will be the end of supply issues, but we can be confident that consumer demand for higher-end cameras is alive and well.”

With or without new model introductions at the show, camera makers will be pushing the compact system camera portfolios this week, Chute said.

The biggest profit opportunities in 2012 “are still in interchangeable-lens cameras,” he added. Sales of such cameras bring them numerous add-ons that are also in growth mode, including premium bags, memory cards, flashes and lenses.

Nikon answered Canon’s new flagship d-SLR introduction last fall by unveiling its own new flagship model D4, offering significantly advanced step-up features, including a next-generation 91,000-point 3D matrix metering sensor, and an improved autofocus system designed to work with f/8 lenses and faster. It will include a full-format 16.2-megapixel CMOS sensor.

Nikon will also be promoting its new J1 and V1 mirrorless compact system cameras, which it introduced in the fall. The compact interchangeable-lens models are positioned for advanced amateurs looking to step up from point-andshoots without going into a full-fledged d-SLR outfit.

Fujifilm is making big news by stepping out of its pointand- shoot comfort zone and returning to the interchange able-lens camera segment with its first mirrorless compact system camera.

Fujifilm was less impacted by the disasters, but Nikon said the D4 should not suffer from any production setbacks, enabling good supplies for anxious professional photographer and advanced amateurs looking to upgrade.

But the story is not the same for some other d-SLR models from Nikon or those of several other manufactures.

Meanwhile, Sony will be promoting its advanced flagship Alpha A77 d-SLR, which received a number of favorable reviews for its advanced high-speed autofocusing system and shutter speed (12 fps). It also features a 24-megapixel CMOS sensor, OLED electronic viewfinder and other advanced features.

Sony is also pushing its recent NEX-7 compact system camera introduction, which will begin shipping in January. The camera features an “industry leading” 24-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, and will shoot in both JPEG and RAW file formats.

Phil Molyneux, Sony Electronics U.S. president, said the introduction of the NEX-7 was impacted by the flooding in Thailand, “so we had some supply-line issues,” which pushed deliveries back to January.

He added that while supplies will be “very, very limited” on the NEX-7 to start, “we believe that will improve come January and that we will begin to ramp up the volume.”

Meanwhile, Canon will show its new flagship 1-series d-SLR, designed to “reinvent the 1D and 1Ds series” cameras, the company said.

The Canon EOS-1D X features an 18.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor that can capture up to 14 fps using dual DIGIC 5+ processors, along with a third DIGIC 4 processor.

The camera has an ISO range from 1,00 to 51,200 — expandable to ISO 50 to 10,2400 (H1), 20,4800 (H2), 14-bit RAW capture in M-RAW at 10 megapixels and S-RAW at 4.5 megapixels. It captures video in FullHD 1080p/30p/25p/24p and 720p/60p/50p.

Olympus will show its E-P3, E-PL3 and E-PM1 Micro Four Thirds digital cameras. The “mini Pen” E-PM1 ($500 with 14-42mm II lens) features a 12.3-megapixel high speed Live MOS sensor, TruePic VI image processor and 3-inch LCD.

Panasonic will showcase its Micro Four Thirds DMC-GF3 ($600 with 14-42mm lens) with a 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor.

Samsung introduced in the fall its MX200 ($800 street retail with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens) 20.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with high-speed continuous shooting (7 fps) with 100ms Advanced autofocus, wide-range ISO (100-12,800), FullHD movie recording, Samsung’s i-Function lens system, and a 3-inch VGA AMOLED smart-panel display.

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