Life has its ups and downs, as they say. Unfortunately for Nikon, though, it's been solid downs in recent years. The giant has just published its Annual Report for the financial year 2020-21, and it makes sobering reading.
According to the report, Nikon's Imaging Division has been hugely under pressure in the face of declining demand for cameras and lenses, as the focus of photography shifts towards camera phones, and as competition with rivals intensifies.
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As the opening message from President Toshikazu Umatate grimly states, that has involved Nikon writing off a whopping ¥30 billion (around $262 million / £190 million / AU$354 million) in impairment losses and laying off around 2,000 employees during the last financial year.
The latter was aimed at consolidating production operations, and reorganizing Nikon's sales companies. But while these changes are said to have been successful in protecting the bottom line, there's no sign of a fresh and bold new strategy to rescue the division (which, admittedly, is only one of five that make up the company, and now contributes just thirty-three per cent of its revenue).
Instead, Nikon seems content with managed decline, stating that it will maintain its focus on "mid- to high-end products for professionals and hobbyists"... despite that market having become smaller overall, and continuing to shrink.
New camera and lenses
Casting around for something positive to say beyond bland business-speak, the President's statement talks up the new Nikon Z9 full-frame mirrorless camera, which as we've reported looks like it'll have a two-way tilt LCD screen, and be capable of recording in 8K for 2 hours. He also mentions a plan to expand the existing lineup of 22 Nikon Z mount system lenses "to nearly 30".
"Meanwhile, we will seek to expand our base of younger customers by introducing entry level models that are more affordable," he adds, "while still featuring improvements to video and other functions and by supplying software that supports expression through imaging."
There's also mention of "B2B initiatives that utilize imaging technologies". And overall, he says, the aim is for the Imaging division to generate profit in the current fiscal year.
All of this sounds reasonable, but it's not exactly going to set the world on fire. With the market for cameras and lenses a whole declining, and the industry caught between the pincers of supply problems and broader economic uncertainty, we were expecting something a little more visionary, to be honest.
That said, when you consider Nikon's Imaging business has seen losses over the last two years of ¥17 billion and ¥35 billion, a total equivalent to almost half a billion dollars, you can see why it might be playing it safe for a bit.