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Nikon, Canon sparking competition in high-end mirrorless camera market

A shopper takes a look at merchandise at a mirrorless camera booth at a store in Tokyo's Yurakucho district on Aug. 9, 2018. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Competition for high-end mirrorless cameras is intensifying, as Nikon Corp. and Canon Inc. are entering the market to challenge Sony Corp. and other digital camera makers.

Entering the market for mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras marks a strategic shift for the two major Japanese camera manufacturers. Nikon and Canon had been concerned that mirrorless cameras could eat into sales of single-lens reflex cameras that they have long concentrated on.

But the two companies are now looking to respond to a shift in demand to mirrorless cameras from SLR cameras, capitalizing on their advanced technology and brand power.

Unlike SLR cameras that use a mirror and prism system to enable the photographer to look through the lens, mirrorless cameras show an image through an electronic viewfinder and are smaller and lighter than SLR cameras. They also feature silent shutters that can be used in a quiet environment.

The overall digital camera market has been sluggish, with sales of compact digital cameras dropping on the back of a surge in demand for smartphones equipped with cameras.

But global shipments of mirrorless cameras by Japanese makers grew 29.2 percent in 2017 from the previous year, while those of SLR cameras fell 10.1 percent in the same year, according to the Camera and Imaging Products Association.

Nikon is re-entering the market with its first full-frame mirrorless camera after pulling out of the business in 2017.

The company said last Thursday it will release the Nikon Z7 in late September with a price of 440,000 yen ($3,950). Another high-end mirrorless camera, the Z6 model, will also debut in late November.

"We want to take advantage of our leading optical technology and deliver new value to the mirrorless market," Nikon President Kazuo Ushida said at a press conference in Tokyo.

Ushida said Nikon is looking to grab the biggest share of the market which he expects to grow for the time being.

Canon plans to introduce a high-end mirrorless camera later this year following the successful launch of the EOS Kiss M in March. The entry-level mirrorless camera became the best-selling model in the first half in 2018.

Sony -- the maker of the world's first full-frame mirrorless camera rolled out in 2013 -- has seen strong sales of the a7 III mirrorless camera since its release in March.

Other camera makers are also ramping up production of mirrorless cameras and widening their lineups to meet increasing demand.

Fuji Film Corp. plans to invest more than 1 billion yen to nearly double its production capacity for interchangeable lenses for mirrorless cameras at a plant in Miyagi Prefecture.

Panasonic Corp. and Olympus Corp. have been expanding their lineup of mirrorless cameras costing more than 100,000 yen.

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