Canon has announced today that it plans to roll-out nearly 20 new compact digital cameras in 2004 in an aggressive product push to grab 25 percent of the global market and it seems that this is aimed squarely at Sony. Takashi Oshiyama, head of Canon's digital imaging business group, told Reuters in an interview "Those companies out there that have no experience producing film cameras have yet to create a camera that performs like a real camera should. I won't say who that is." Oshiyama said shipments of digital cameras by Japanese manufacturers would total between 40 and 44 million units in 2003. That compares to last year's 25 million units, according to Japan's Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA).

Canon Plans to Roll Out Nearly 20 New Compact Digital Cameras

By Nathan Layne and Kunihiko Kichise

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's Canon Inc. said on Thursday that it plans to roll-out nearly 20 new compact digital cameras next year in an aggressive product push aimed at grabbing one-fourth of the global market.

Canon, Japan's largest maker of office machines, is also busy jostling with electronics giant Sony Corp. for the top share of the booming digital camera market worldwide.

Takashi Oshiyama, head of Canon's digital imaging business group, told Reuters in an interview that his firm's long history building cameras would give it the upper hand against its rivals, many of which have only been making cameras for a few years.

"We have a 67-year history making cameras and there is still lots of technology gathered over that time stored away in the shed," Oshiyama said at Canon's headquarters in Tokyo.

"Those companies out there that have no experience producing film cameras have yet to create a camera that performs like a real camera should. I won't say who that is."

Oshiyama said Canon planned to launch "about twice" as many compact digital cameras in 2004 as the nine it rolled out this year. That would help it achieve a market share of 25 percent, up from around 20 percent in 2003 and 15 percent last year.

He anticipates shipping "at least" 12.5 million compact digital cameras in 2004, a jump of nearly 50 percent from the 8.5 million it estimates for the current year. Sony is targeting sales of 10 million in the year to next March.

"No matter how big the market gets, we expect to take a share of 25 percent," Oshiyama said. "If the market grows to 50 million units, that means 12.5 million cameras for us. At 55 million, we'll still get a 25 percent share."

Oshiyama said shipments of digital cameras by Japanese manufacturers would total between 40 and 44 million units in 2003. That compares to last year's 25 million units, according to Japan's Camera and Imaging Products Association (CIPA).

CIPA data excludes production by foreign firms, but is considered the industry standard since Japanese companies command a global market share of about 90 percent.

Oshiyama's figures do not include sales of the 500,000 digital single lens reflex (SLR) cameras that Canon estimates for this year. Canon launched two digital SLR cameras in 2003 including the "EOS Kiss Digital" model, which was a big hit with serious camera users at a price of around 120,000 yen ($1,117).

Oshiyama said Canon had ramped up annual production capacity to 15 million cameras. That will eventually reach 20 million units thanks to a new digital camera factory in Oita prefecture, southern Japan, which will begin operations in January 2005.

He believes that China will become fertile ground for Canon and its industry peers, helping drive the overall digital camera market to a peak of as high as 100 million units, possibly in 2008 when Beijing will host the Olympic Games.

"We have said the market would peak at 80 million units, but I see it going a bit higher to near 100 million," he said. "In terms of potential, there is no country like China with its 1.3 billion people and seven percent annual rate of economic growth."

Canon is also banking on brisk sales of its compact digital photo printers, which connect directly to the camera with a USB cable and enable consumers to produce physical prints without a computer.

Oshiyama said they would ship 300,000 units in 2003, but he expects to sell 1.2 million next year.

($1=107.38 Yen)