Sources at Kyocera have confirmed that the company is to cease production of film and digital cameras, putting a huge question mark over the future of one of the oldest brands in photography, Contax. Contax cameras have been produced since the early 1930's, when the brand was launched by German optical legend Zeiss Ikon. Contax joined forces with Japanese manufacturer Yashica in the 1960's, becoming part of electronics giant Kyocera in the mid-1990's.
Kyocera has had some success in the digital camera market with models bearing Yashica, Kyocera and Contax branding, though the company's first foray into the digital SLR market (the Contax N Digital) was widely regarded as an expensive failure. There is some confusion over the future of the Contax brand, or the widely anticipated digital rangefinder (G digital) and Mark II 645 cameras. When we spoke to a Kyocera UK representative at the UK's Focus on Imaging exhibition this week, it was made clear that there may well be a future for Contax under another owner, with one rumor mentioning Sony as a potential buyer (the company already uses Carl Zeiss branded lenses on some of its digital compacts).
Kyocera has already stopped production of film and digital cameras, and the various international operations are being prepared for closure. The reasons given were purely market-related (in other words not because of financial difficulties), with Kyocera now concentrating on its mobile phone and semiconductor business.
Kyocera Corporation, parent and global headquarters of the Kyocera Group, was founded in 1959 as a producer of advanced ceramics. By combining these engineered materials with metals and plastics, and integrating them with other technologies, Kyocera has become a leading supplier of telecommunications equipment, cameras, laser printers, copiers, solar energy systems, semiconductor packages and electronic components. During the year ended March 31, 2004, the company’s net sales totaled $10.969 Billion with net income of $654.673 Million. Kyocera Corporation trades on the NYSE, Tokyo, and Osaka stock exchanges under the symbol “KYO”.
UPDATE: Kyocera Japan has officially confirmed that it is to quit production of digital cameras.