Nikon enlists new cameras, faces in battle vs Canon

Nikon Corp`s newest advanced cameras and a lineup of fresh faces will help it outrun rival Canon Inc in a scramble for loyal fans throughout Asia, Nikon executives said on Thursday. The precision-equipment maker said it would hold on to at least a 40 percent market share in Japan this year, while winning more customers in South Korea and China, helped by its new D300 and D3 digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, to go on sale in November. "This is the real thing," Nikon President Michio Kariya told a news conference, when asked how Nikon`s cameras were different from Canon`s new digital SLRs targeting the same mid- to high-end market. Nikon held a 47.5 percent market share in January-June, beating Canon`s 36.5 percent, Tokyo-based research firm BCN said. Nikon is pricing its D300 at around 230,000 yen ($1,980) with initial monthly production of 60,000 units. The D3, aimed at professionals, would sell for about 580,000 yen, with initial production of 8,000 a month. Earlier this week, Canon announced the launch of its EOS 40D model from August 31, and the EOS-1Ds Mark III for professionals from late November, vowing to regain its lead over Nikon by year-end. While Canon picked Oscar-nominated veteran Japanese actor Ken Watanabe to promote the EOS 40D, Nikon opted for younger faces, including South Korean actor Bi in South Korea and Taiwanese-American singer and actor Wang Leehom in China. "We want to attract young, hip users, especially in China," Nikon Operating Officer Yasuyuki Okamoto said. "If we do not somehow corner the China market, there is no future." Nikon expects to ship a total 3.2 million digital SLRs in the year ending March 2009, up from 2.6 million this business year. Shares of Nikon closed up 2.5 percent at 3,280 yen, while Canon, which announced a share buyback program, rose 5.9 percent to 6,260 yen.

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