Im Rahmen der Fotomesse CP+ hatten wir die Chance mit Ryuji Saigusa von OM System, ehemals Olympus, über Einflüsse der Corona-Pandemie auf die Produktion, die Ausgliederung von OM-System aus dem Olympuskonzern, die Herausforderung immer günstigerer Vollformatkameras und vielem mehr zu sprechen.
Anmerkung der Redaktion: Das Interview wurde auf Englisch geführt. Um den Inhalt nicht zu verfälschen, zitieren wir das Interview ausschließlich im Original und bieten keine offizielle Übersetzung ins Deutsche an.
ValueTech: First of all, thanks for having me. It's been three years since we had the chance to come to Japan and visit the CP+, due to Covid-19. As we all know, due to the pandemic, they were severe supply chain issues in the entire industry – not just for Nikon. The Situation seems to be a better now. But are there still aftereffects and how has it affected you in the past?
Keiji Oishi: First of all, welcome back to Japan. Of course, looking back to 2022, we at Nikon as well as everybody else in the industry have felt this Covid pandemic effect upon the world economy. But in terms of this supply chain issue, affected by Covid pandemic, Nikon as a group, basically did everything that we could possibly do to mitigate the negative effect as such and were able to operate without a large negative effect upon ourselves.
We think that in terms of the kind of aftereffects of Covid-19 and the supply chain issues, we still need to be cautious. But we will continue our very effort to make sure that there's no influence or inconvenience on a part of our customers by looking at what's happening around the globe.
ValueTech: It will soon be 5 years since Nikon introduced the mirrorless Z system. Are you satisfied with the development so far and where do you see room for improvement?
Keiji Oishi: First of all, we are very happy to have developed this expanded line-up, covering the interests from the entry-level to the professionals or enthusiast hobby users, by having our flagship Z 9, the heritage version Z fc and for vloggers the Z 30. And this offer covers all areas of interest of the users in a broad range.
Especially regarding the flagship Z 9: The autofocus function has been enhanced. It can stand up to very long duration 8K movie recording. It has basically gathered a lot of reaction from the market. People have evaluated this feature to be quite a good one. Such movie functions throughout the Z series is quite a feature to enhance, to highlight as our achievement.
And in terms of lenses: Lenses are also very important, we have including teleconverter, all together 36 lenses. And in terms of a mirrorless line-up, we think we are fully equipped.
What's important for us is to continue to offer valuable experiences to our customers. Not just a big one at launch of something, but continuously improving and enhancing it for our user base is what we aim to achieve in the future.
In terms of a system improvement going forward: We are of the position that there is always something more to do to our current status. Because the world's needs are changing, so we need to cope with changing needs and demands. And in terms of the Z-mount system, we are very forthcoming when it comes to firmware updates and by such, we provide new functionality or usage.
At Nikon, we have the spirit of trying to provide this kind of emotional excitement on a continuous basis to our customers. That’s what we call “kando” (感動: being deeply moved emotionally; excitement; passion). Again, on a continuous basis, not just at the time of the purchase of the gear, we would like to make sure that our customers continue to be happy overtime.
ValueTech: It also feels like that the Z 9 was very reasonably priced. Meaning for the features you get.
Keiji Oishi: Indeed, the reasonable pricing was strategically decided, because we think that our admission is to make sure that these gears are used and for that, we need to price them in a kind of accessible manner. So, we did this with an intention.
ValueTech: You already talked about the importance of Nikon Z lenses and the lens line-up. Nikon gradually opened up for third-party manufacturers recently. Especially with Tamron, there seems to be a very close corporation. How's the feedback from customers so far?
Keiji Oishi: Our engagement there is well accepted amongst existing fans and users of Nikon.
And in a way by opening up the doors as such, we are able to provide more options to the users. From the users perspective, they can take a look at the wide variety of Z-mount lenses and then choose the one that is suitable. So we think it's a favorable thing for users. And in addition to Tamron, we have this license agreement with Cosina and Sigma. You probably heard from Sigma last week, that they have announced the development of three lenses.
Such are examples of efforts that we are trying to basically widen this selection, the variety of lenses that is available for Z-mount.
ValueTech: As we understood, the license agreement works on a lens-to-lens basis. Meaning it's not like a general license that, for example, Sigma or Tamron can produce any lens they want, but for each lens at a time.
Keiji Oishi: Regarding each and every detail to the license agreement, we cannot talk in practical senses [due to confidentiality issues]. However, we are always of the position to try to widen the possibilities of selection of for our customers.
ValueTech: Got it ;) One last licensing question. It seems like there's a deeper corporation with Tamron, looking at the 17-28, 28-75 and 70-180 mm. Is that official or not?
Keiji Oishi: Well, speaking of such lenses, of course we cannot speak on behalf of another company other than Nikon. So we cannot speak on behalf of Tamron either. But whatever that we make available in the market, if it's Nikon lenses that we sell, then it's something developed so that they adhere to our own high standards of quality and spec fulfilment.
ValueTech: Talking about markets, it seems like the market has shifted away from entry-level cameras and moved into the high-end segment. Further, full-frame seems to be the new normal. So, is there still need for a new high-end APS-C camera like we had with the D500?
Keiji Oishi: Well, our strategy now, based upon an observation of the demand out there, is very strong in the areas of those who are deeply involved in this hobby of expression. The ones that you see here [points to the Z 30 and Z fc on the table], in terms of category, I think they will be quite friendly to the entry-level users. In other words, they could kind of enter the world of expression by these cameras.
And these could be the first camera to be held, but they would certainly want to step up in the hobby levels. And going full-frame is one direction. At the same time, we understand that there is a reasonable ratio of them, wanting to go to high-end APS-C. Like the D500. So we do recognize such voices as well.
We want to plan products according to demand and the voices we hear from customers. In both directions of going full-frame or going high-end APS-C.
By the way: I worked in the product development of the D500, seven years ago.
ValueTech: Is it true that, for example, Europe and East Asia often have different preferences for new cameras lenses? And how does that influence development/product planning?
Keiji Oishi: Yeah, you’re precisely right in terms of country trends are different from one country to another. In other words, when it comes to the market trend or the customer profile, each country is different.
But there's something that we see in common, despite country borders. And that is this passion and energy that we feel from those who are into photography or movie capture as hobby. And they tend to be younger generation and the customers that we see as commonality, around the globe, are young and they kind of shift from smartphones to Nikon.
We strategically put together an approach, so that we will satisfying both existing customers as well as those entry-level newcomers of Nikon gear.
ValueTech: In our opinion, the last few years in camera development have been dominated by better autofocus systems, especially better object recognition through deep learning algorithms. Now that almost every manufacturer has managed to achieve high AF accuracy, speed and tracking: What is "the next big thing" in camera development? I know, a tough question – once again.
Keiji Oishi: It is indeed a difficult question [laughs], to address something that is to happen in the future; planning for the future.
But in terms of really seeing what could give us a good kind of guidance and insights for the points of future development… Since we have launched the Z 9 about a year ago, we have received many reactions and words from photographers. In the past, the tendency of voices of the photographers used to be asking for more. More in terms of basic functionality: Megapixels, ISO, Autofocus. Such things.
But since we have launched the Z 9, photographers been using the Z 9 in a wider variety of situations. The diversity of the usage has basically triggered them to want other things in addition to those basic function enhancements.
Those voices are actually good pressure. We capitalize them to be for the development and planning division. It's a new discovery. It's a new perspective that they are giving us.
In terms of what's at the very center of our future development planning: We simply want to provide the equipment that is suitable to fulfill the needs of our customers. And we want to live up to our customers expectation.
ValueTech: It can be tough to meet customers' expectations [laughs].
Keiji Oishi: However tough it might be, we welcome them because it's always new awakening to us. Keeps us busy.
ValueTech: We already talked about younger generations, SNS users. What can the traditional camera industry learn from the success of smartphone photography?
Keiji Oishi: In terms of what such thing portrays is this tendency of the last several years, we have seen smartphones and SNS penetrate all over the world. And as a result, people are very close to anything that is captured visually.
Capturing of imagery had progressed over time, so that the demand for even higher quality has increased, both in the areas of still photography and movie, especially amongst the youth. Such demand for even higher quality is so prominent. And I think that has created this new space of demand for mirrorless cameras.
In terms of the demand horizon that we see, as I said earlier, Nikon focuses upon the product range of mid to high-end. And they had always been this very stable basis of existing customer demand. But on top of that, we are seeing these young SNS users who want to have very high spec cameras.
And they're typically really into movies. And so that's an area that we would like to strengthen our efforts. As we continue to focus upon mid to high-end range, we think that there is a much room for us to acquire those young generation fans of movie taking for SNS purposes.
For example, the kind of finding that we encounter is when we talk about stills photography, it used to be in landscape mode. But because this younger generation, they want to post it on SNS, they like this vertical framing. These are kind of new finding that we’re encountering.
ValueTech: Thank you so much for answering all our questions.
Keiji Oishi: Thank you for your visit.