Olympus PEN Mini

If you’re not making a “mirrorless” / “compact system camera” (CSC) (or ILC*) then you’re not making / growing profit, and you’re not going to get very far in the digital camera market… particularly in Japanese or UK style markets (Europe for example).* see notes on Canon.

Lets look at some of the digital camera companies, and some of the things that have been happening over the last 12+ months:

Olympus: Ignoring all the bad stuff, they have grown to be the biggest selling Mirrorless camera company in Japan for 2012 (and possibly Europe / Germany – or at least Micro Four Thirds combined). Strengths in waterproof compacts. Extremely good range of mirrorless cameras this year – catching up with Panasonic for focusing speeds.

Panasonic: Growing Mirrorless market, particularly strong in the UK. The combined forces of Panasonic and Olympus on Micro Four Thirds (M43) makes M43 the most compelling mirrorless system, with sales in Japan for 2011 for Mirrorless 1. Pana, 2. Oly, and 2012 for Mirrorless 1. Oly, 2. Pana.

Nikon: Growing market share thanks to competitive DSLR products, and entry into Mirrorless market. Entry level mirrorless said to be selling increasingly well. Increasingly popular Coolpix range of compacts (year on year growth).

Sony: Bought Konica Minolta’s DSLR business, then launched the Sony A100, they said they were going to challenge Nikon and Canon for the top spot, and considering they came from nowhere, they’re now No. 3 in DSLR sales, it’s pretty impressive and something I didn’t expect if I’m honest. Extremely innovative with traditional DSLR, then the ultra fast “Translucent Mirror” SLT / SLRs with electronic viewfinders. Also No. 3 in Mirrorless after Olympus / Panasonic / Micro Four Thirds. Some would say leaders in the image sensor business (selling sensors to Apple for the iPhone, APS-C to Nikon/Pentax, Backlit CMOS sensors to everyone etc)

Pentax / Ricoh: Profitable DSLR business, fresh investment from Ricoh should inject new life into this area, and additional mirrorless APS-C camera should improve business further (with the potentially game changing camera). Ricoh are more of a niche market with premium GR Digital series (with cult following in Japan), and Leica M mount GXR (with APS-C sensor). Ricoh are profitable with a very successful print/copier business that is used in corporate and government environments for things like sending out mailings to 40,000+ people etc Serious stuff. Pentax / Ricoh combined could be a very interesting company to watch over the next 12 months. I expect growth. Pentax Q has some success in Japan as the smallest mirrorless camera.

Kodak: Ouch (recently filed for bankrupcy protection). Here is the perfect example that backs up the following statement: You don’t make profit from cheap “and cheerful” me too style point and shoot cameras. Sold sensor business (doh!).

Minox: Recently announced they aren’t going to make “cheap and cheerful” point and shoot cameras. Instead they’ll keep making those interested “Spy cameras” and “retro classics“.

Agfa/Vivitar/HP: See Kodak.

CASIO: Recently decided to close the Casio Exilim division in the UK (still available to buy through European distributers). Some innovation in High Speed cameras, but it’s very difficult to make profit from point and shoot cameras. Strong in Japan though. A mirrorless camera would really help you grow! (Why not bring high speed sensors and image processing to Micro Four Thirds?)

*Canon: Recently the CEO stepped down as profits aren’t growing as quickly as expected. Canon are being challenged by Nikon on all DSLR fronts, and then also challenged by Mirrorless cameras. So whilst DSLRs was (and is) a profitable area, Mirrorless is challenging both compact cameras, and entry level DSLR. And at the bottom end of point and shoot, this is being challenged by smartphones with decent(ish) cameras. A mirrorless camera would really help your profits!

Fujifilm: Making a market for itself by selling premium compact cameras, X100 (selling like hotcakes, in the 100k region!), X10, X-S1 (Premium Ultra Zoom Bridge camera), X-Pro1 Mirrorless, and strong in Bridge / Ultra Zoom cameras that look like mini-DSLRs. Strong in waterproof market as they can undercut competitors on price, and presumably still make profit from it?

Samsung: Sells the NX mirrorless system, with a decent range of lenses and good image quality. Not sure how well it is doing worldwide, but a good system, that can often undercut competitors on price. Compact cameras seem to be leading the way for features: WiFi, App / Phone style GUI. Samsung don’t seem to be rated in Japan though, rest of world, yes. Compact cameras can undercut competitors, making them a popular buy.

Leica: Premium ILC / Mirrorless cameras, with a premium price – growing and profitable (as far as I’m aware). “Me Too” Panasonic cameras. Really they should get back into “bed” with Fuji and make “Me Too” (premium compacts) products from the Fujifilm X series (X10, X100, X-S1,X-Pro1) or join Micro Four Thirds 😉

Others? BenQ / Aigo / GE / Polaroid / Rollei / Praktica : – see Kodak, see Casio, unless you have an extreme niche (Ricoh) and are popular in your home market (Casio/Japan), or make a mirrorless camera then how will you grow?

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