Saturday, March 25, 2006


Konica Minolta's Garage Sale

Minolta were the first manufacturer to market an autofocus camera, variously produced with the Maxxum, Dynax, or Alpha brands depending on geographical location, and over the years have had many innovative cameras. However sales always placed them a long way behind Nikon and Canon, and their inexplicable decision to hold off producing a modern digital SLR for so long must have led to many photographers deserting their platform for one of their competitors.

(For the curious, they did indeed have an early digital SLR, the RD175 in around 1995, but for that to have been your only digital camera capable of accepting your lenses for a full 10 years in this fast moving market must have been a death knoll. Their second digital SLR was produced for their APS based Vectis lenses, of which there was a very limited range, and so had few attractions).

When it did eventually come out, the Konica Minolta 7d had a few tricks up its sleeve - body integrated anti-shake being its unique selling point. It's a great camera, but came too late to save the company, even with its cash injection from merging with Konica. This has been followed by a cheaper entry level difgita SLR camera, the Konica Minolta 5d, which uses more plastics in its construction to bring costs down, but is otherwise mostly feature comparable with the 7d.

With just these two cameras in its digital range, and much of the entry level (equals huge sales potential) already gone to Canon, Minolta have found that photography does not make economic sense for them any more, and in Janauary 2006 announced their withdrawal from the photographic market. The assets are being sold to Sony, who will be producing new cameras to fit the existing Minolta lenses.

In the UK, Morgan Computers, a well known outlet for end of line equipment at good prices, has secured what they describe as a "massive factory clearout" - they are offering both digital and film camera's for sale. I suspect stocks are limited, especially for the prime items.

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