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Thursday, Aug. 21, 2003

Digital cameras' prevalence a wake-up call for Fuji exec


Staff writer

Film executive Kazuo Nakamura realized how pervasive digital cameras had become when he attended a young colleague's wedding in March and found that roughly one out of the 10 people in attendance who were taking pictures were doing so with mobile phones, not with conventional cameras.

For Nakamura, who heads the film division at Fuji Photo Film Co., to see cell phones equipped with micro digital cameras even breaking into one of the most traditional turfs of conventional cameras -- wedding pictures -- this was a reality check.

"A wedding ceremony is one of the most memorable events people have," he said. "But there were people taking pictures with cellular phones. I felt I had to keep closer tabs (on this trend)."

The nation's top photo film maker this month took observations at major tourist spots in Tokyo. It found that of 1,034 people it observed taking photos with digital cameras, 12 percent used cellular handsets and 30 percent used other digital cameras.

But 58 percent still used film cameras to capture memorable moments, despite the recent dramatic growth in digital camera sales.

Fuji Photo Film, which is also a leading maker of digital cameras, has been quick to address the rise in their use and the decline in their film predecessors, and has combined its analogue and digital technologies to cater to both markets when it comes to processing pictures, Nakamura said.

About 90 percent of Fuji's sales now comes from digital cameras, copiers, fax machines, printers and other information systems, not film.

Fuji Film is trying to woo digital camera users, including those using cellular handsets, to use its photo labs equipped with hybrid processors that can print both digital and analog shots.

Photo labs that have introduced Fuji's hybrid processors get on average 15 percent of their revenues from digital printing of pictures taken with digital cameras and cellular handsets -- well offsetting the drop in sales of film-related business, Nakamura said.

Of the nation's roughly 25,000 photo processing shops, about 12,000 have Fuji photo processors, and 5,000 of them have also introduced the firm's Frontier hybrid processor, Nakamura said.

"A lease usually expires in six years. So we'll replace one-sixth of all the processors every year with (the hybrid ) processor," he said.

Fuji also has also installed some 3,000 sidewalk PrinCiao digital printing terminals, which allow digital and cellular users to print pictures by themselves.

Fuji is meanwhile a major supplier of the charge coupled device, a key component of digital cameras.

"We don't think digital products are the enemy of (analog) products," Nakamura said.



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