February 20, 2006
Source: The New York Times
Written by Ian Austen
Like many serious amateur photographers, Chad Marek has a sense of brand loyalty that rivals the attachment of many sports fans to their home teams.
But the reasons for his commitment have as much to do with practical matters as emotional pull. The 10 Konica Minolta digital and film cameras owned by Mr. Marek, a 35-year-old quality-control engineer who is also the president of a Chicago camera club, work only with lenses designed for that brand. Similarly, Mr. Marek’s collection of about 33 Minolta lenses — he’s lost count — will not fit any other make of camera.
So Mr. Marek was more than a little concerned when Konica Minolta said last month that it was abandoning the photo business — both digital and film — and selling some of its camera technology to Sony.
“Minolta had a great name in photography — they were No. 3 in the market when I bought my first camera,” Mr. Marek said. “I can’t imagine being without it now.”
Not all of the traditional leading camera makers have taken Konica Minolta’s drastic step. Faced with brutal competition in the consumer market for compact digital cameras, several have turned to high-margin, digital single-lens reflex, or S.L.R., cameras, which feature interchangeable lenses, to maintain their profits.
Those high margins have not escaped the notice of relative newcomers like Sony, Panasonic and Samsung. At the annual Photo Marketing Association International show next week in Orlando, Fla., all three are expected to further outline their plans to move into photography’s top tier. When that occurs, the challenge for some of photography’s most venerable brands may be simply to survive.
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