With their businesses threatened by the growing popularity and ubiquity of smartphones, Japan’s major camera producers are now doing the best they can to fend off the threat by ramping up the functionality of their camera units, offering expanded lens lineups, and enhancing their after-sales services. Smartphones have been giving consumers the easiest ways to snap and share pictures, and it looks like camera manufacturers will have to dig deep and offer strengths and features only available on cameras.
Canon, the world’s largest camera seller, is expected to act on this situation by introducing more new lenses this fiscal year. Canon is set to unveil 10 new lenses, roughly double what it typically offers in a fiscal year. The renowned Japan-based camera manufacturer is looking to strengthen its entire lineup, from lenses for beginners to high-end models. Another focus area for Canon will be its after-purchase servicing, looking to increase its service and repair staff by 30% at its chief production base.
Sony, on the other hand, is looking to focus on interchangeable-lens cameras with full-size image sensors. It says that it will start selling five new lenses this fiscal year, including super wide-angle and macro models, giving consumers more options for taking panoramic and close-up shots. Nikon, which typically offers the highest number of lenses, around 10 every year, will continue on that pattern. Meanwhile, Ricoh Imaging has started a service that allows consumers to “borrow” and try out some of their cameras before they purchase. Lastly, Olympus is set to expand its famous free lens-cleaning service that it has offered in Tokyo and Osaka to include regional cities.
The camera market is shrinking, that much is agreed upon by observers in the industry. Smartphones are already closing the gap with conventional cameras as photographic technology becomes more and more advanced. U.S.-based market research company IDC shows data that global camera shipments in 2013 decreased to just over half the peak volume in 2010, falling to 81 million units. “With the spread of smartphones, there are more opportunities to take pictures,” Masaya Maeda, senior managing director at Canon, said. But by expanding the lens lineup, Canon “would like to offer more ways to enjoy the kind of fun that can only be had with cameras,” Maeda added.