* Nikon expected to take on Sony’s NEX with new model
* Camera bloggers speculate mystery model may come this month
* Nikon seeing no downturn in camera sales in U.S., Europe
* Cameras to earn most of Nikon’s ‘10/11 profit, yen a threat
By Isabel Reynolds
TOKYO, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Nikon Corp (7731.T) is readying a camera model it hopes will create a new market, its president told Reuters, as speculation mounts it will unveil a product as early as this month to counter harsh competition from makers of small, high-end cameras.
But Makoto Kimura, a dapper camera enthusiast named to the post this year after engineering Nikon’s successful transition into digital photography, gave no hints on a launch date for the model.
But several camera blogs expect it to compete with Sony Corp’s (6758.T) NEX by combining a light-weight body with the high-quality images of a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera.
“We want to propose another type of photography,” Kimura said in an interview on Thursday. “I don’t think there is any need to limit it to two categories. We want to create a new market.”
The world’s third-largest camera maker, which vies with market leader Canon Inc (7751.T) in the profitable SLR segment, is seeing no downturn in sales in the United States or Europe despite economic woes, Kimura said.
Sales in developing markets in Asia and elsewhere are even healthier, with growth at double-digit rates.
Camera sales are expected to account for almost all the company’s profit for the current financial year, and Kimura said the company was looking at trying to boost camera sales volumes to offset the inevitable hit to earnings in the second half of the April-March fiscal year from a strong yen.
Graphic of Nikon profit by segment:
But Nikon is eyeing a fresh threat to its joint dominance of the high end of the market, presented by the NEX and other so-called “mirrorless” cameras.
Camera makers such as Olympus Corp (7733.T) and Panasonic Corp (6752.T) have ditched the mirror from the traditional SLR format, allowing them to make the cameras far smaller, although users must compose pictures on a display screen rather than through a viewfinder.
While professional photographers are unlikely to abandon their loyalty to the SLR, the middle way appeals to both compact users trading up and photography enthusiasts tired of lugging around heavy equipment.
Sony says its version is selling well around the world.
Several camera blogs have said that Nikon will unveil its long-awaited new generation model at the Photokina expo in Cologne, starting on Sept. 21, but Kimura declined to comment on the timing of the launch.
Surrounded by a set of rare photographs of Pablo Picasso shot with Nikon cameras, Kimura said he wanted to help change what people do with the photographs they take.
“We have tested things like a head-mounted display,” Kimura said. “We want people to have more ways of enjoying their photos rather than just going home and looking at them on their television or computer.”
(Editing by Edmund Klamann)
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