UPDATED 11:00 EDT / JULY 08 2013


What Chance a Nikon Smartphone?

More than a few consumers these days are content to give up on the idea of buying a camera, instead settling for whatever happens to be built into their smartphones, especially now that the quality of these optics has improved immeasurably in recent years. From the consumer’s perspective, it’s cost-efficient and convenient, as it only means carrying one device arounnd with them. But for the companies that build the cameras, it’s becoming a problem.

To that end, Nikon is said to be creating a new division that’ll be charged with creating a new kind of camera that’s “competitive” with smartphone optics. The firm’s compact camera sales are said to be shrinking fast, admitted company president Makoto Kimura in an interview with Bloomberg. Hence, it’s planning to create a product that will “change the concept of cameras” altogether.

Kimura declined to reveal anything else about what this game-changing camera/device might be, though he did hint that it might be some kind of smartphone. The way Kimura sees it, it’s not about making cameras seem relevant – they already are – but rather the firm needs to encourage consumers to buy Nikon ahead of other companies’ products:

“The number of people taking snapshots is exploding. We’ve centralized our ideas around cameras but can change our approach to offer products to that bigger market.”

The immediate guess is that Nikon is thinking about making some kind of smartphone, but such an endeavor would be incredibly difficult to pull off in today’s super-competitive mobile market, even if Nikon’s phones would undoubtedly have one beast of a camera to entice buyers. The problem is there are so many bad precedents for this option, as we’ve seen numerous companies from Dell to Garmin attempt to break out of their main niche with poor results.

A second possibility could be a type of ‘connected camera’, complete with a big display, high spec innards and running the Android OS – a little bit like the Samsung Galaxy NX. This is an interesting option, but also risky as people are still going to need phones, and it would seem unlikely they’d settle for a cheap phone and high-powered camera.

The third option for Nikon could be to team up with an existing smartphone maker like Sony or Fujitsu for example, and providing their camera-making expertise to help them come up with a smartphone that appeals to Instagram lovers. There’s a precedent of sorts for this idea, with the lens maker Zeiss teaming up with Nokia to build the cameras on its smartphones.

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