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Japan's digital camera makers brace for 29% global sales drop

TOKYO -- Digital camera manufacturers are feeling the pinch of a growing consumer trend of using smartphones to take pictures.

     The seven leading digital camera producers in Japan now expect their combined worldwide sales to decline 29% on the year to 64.23 million units for fiscal 2013, some 2 million units less than what they projected in November.

     These seven firms account for 80% of the global market. The data was obtained through interviews and compiled by The Nikkei.

     Industry leader Canon saw its global compact camera sales tumble 28% for its fiscal year ended Dec. 31, and projects the fiscal 2014 figure to slide 20% to 10.5 million units. The other six companies -- Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Olympus and Casio Computer -- begin their fiscal years in April and end them in March.

     Demand for budget cameras is plunging. Consumers are preferring to use smartphones, which are increasingly equipped with advanced camera features, because they can immediately upload photos onto social-networking websites.

     The Camera & Imaging Products Association sees global shipments of compact models decreasing 26% to 33.8 million cameras for 2014 -- or just 30% of the 2008 peak.

     Even demand for higher-end, interchangeable-lens cameras shrank in 2013, with total shipments falling 15% to log the first-ever decline. The trade group forecasts a 2% slide for 2014, citing weakness in Europe and China.

     To stimulate demand, Nikon plans to localize now-universal specifications for each market. It is releasing an interchangeable-lens camera with connectivity to smartphones in emerging countries, where such phones are quickly catching on. Nikon will "actively pursue acquisitions of or tie-ups with app providers," says Senior Executive Vice President Junichi Itoh.

     Canon will expand its dealer network in India and Southeast Asia to around 300 by 2015 from about 130 at present. Sony looks to capture advanced users by increasing its offerings of interchangeable lenses and single-lens mirrorless models with high-quality image sensors.

(Nikkei)

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