Sony plans digital SLR launch in mid-year

Sony is on track to launch its first digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera in the middle of this year, a company executive said Friday.

Sony is on track to launch its first digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera in the middle of this year, a company executive said Friday.

The camera will be available in the summer in Japan, and soon after in other markets, said Yutaka Nakagawa, an executive vice president of Sony and president of its digital imaging business group. Sony is hoping to eventually achieve a market share of around 20 percent of the digital SLR market, he said.

Sony started developing the camera with Konica Minolta Photo Imaging last year and on Thursday the two companies agreed to transfer digital SLR-related technologies from Konica Minolta to Sony as part of the former's departure from the photo business.

Single-lens reflex cameras use a mirror placed between the lens and the film or image sensor to project the image to the camera's viewfinder. The mirror moves out of the way when the picture is taken. They typically support interchangeable lenses and are generally much faster-responding and more capable than fixed-lens cameras.

Digital SLRs represent a small but growing part of the digital camera market. In 2004 shipments of digital SLRs totaled 2.5 million units, to make up about 3.4 percent of all camera shipments, according to market research company IDC. This is expected to rise to 7.9 million units in 2009, which is 9.6 percent of anticipated shipments, IDC said in a report issued in 2005.

At present, profit margins are estimated to be about 10 percent to 15 percent but these are likely to drop as more competitors enter the market, said Nakagawa. In addition to Sony, several other digital camera makers have announced plans to produce their own digital SLRs to compete with current market heavyweights Nikon and Canon.

Global demand for digital still cameras was strong in the year-end period, said Nakagawa. He expects Sony's digital camera shipments in fiscal year 2005, which runs from April 2005 to March 2006, will be 13.5 million units.

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