Nikon plans to corner ailing compact camera market (interview)

With many camera makers forced to cut lower-end compacts, as smartphones take over, Nikon has signalled that it plans to do just the opposite.

Nikon Coolpiix L29

Nikon launched no fewer than nine new Coolpix cameras into the smartphone/compact warzone at last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

These include a budget-end £69.99 model called the Coolpix L29 (pictured).

The move comes as smartphone-scarred camera brands including Fujifilm and Olympus pare back their compact ranges, focusing instead on higher-end models and interchangeable-lens cameras.

So, what is going on?

Hidehiko Tanaka, managing director of Nikon UK, said he still sees a demand for a full range of compacts as the smartphone boom triggers an interest among consumers in taking better photos using a dedicated camera.

Furthermore, he expects the pull of the Nikon brand to prove appealing enough to justify so many new models.

Speaking at CES, Tanaka told AP: ‘Nikon started its business with optics and... as long as there is a customer need for higher quality pictures, we will keep on responding to this.'

Nikon UK's group marketing manager Jeremy Gilbert added: ‘The market might be smaller but we are still talking millions of units in the UK...

‘Does Nikon want a good slice of that? Yes.

‘Why have we released a range of cameras? As other brands reduce their range, it actually gives us some opportunities to fill the gaps that are still there.'

'We can own that market' 

Nikon's investment in compacts over the years has paid off, adds Gilbert, by raising customer awareness of the brand in this area.

‘We can be a strong player and, hopefully, own that market for as long as we can.'

Gilbert said people tend to treat smartphone photos as almost like a ‘text message' or a ‘Post-it note'.

‘But if it creates an interest in photography among a small percentage of all the millions of smartphone [users], that's still a large number of people we can target to migrate to a camera.'

Nikon is not alone in this view.

JK Imaging, the US firm that makes Kodak-branded digital cameras, has indicated that it has a similar plan to grab a chunk of a market in which rivals are heading for the exit door.

Last year, JK Imaging unveiled three lower-end compacts including the PixPro FZ41, priced at $90.

‘We want to be the last man standing for the entry class,' JK Imaging's sales and marketing director Austin Kazami told AP at CES on 7 January.

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