TOKYO — Pentax Corp. and Samsung Techwin Co. Ltd. have signed an agreement to jointly develop digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, the third such camera alliance announced in recent months.
The partners along with Canon and Nikon hold an overwhelming share of the SLR camera market. Other alliances among camera makers and electronics manufacturers are aiming to combine the complementary effects of optical and electronics technologies.
Olympus and Matsushita allied in January to develop interchangeable lens-type cameras based on the Four-Thirds System standard, which are scheduled to hit market next spring.
Konica Minolta and Sony teamed in July to develop SLR cameras based on the alpha mount system, which Konica Minolta has been using for its film cameras. Jointly developed cameras will hit the market next summer.
The digital SLR camera market is growing rapidly from an estimated 2.7 million units worldwide in 2004 to 4.5 million this year and 5.5 million next year, according to estimates by Olympus and Matsushita. Despite rapid price erosion in compact digital cameras, SLR cameras remain expensive, thus provide relatively high profit margins.
Samsung Techwin is a top supplier of digital still cameras in South Korea, but does not currently offer SLR cameras. Pentax said it expects to sell about 120,000 SLR cameras in its fiscal year ending in March 2006. It depends on suppliers for electronics devices such as image sensors.
Pentax said it expects its optical technology will complement Samsung's electronics devices and image processing firmware for digital cameras.
The partnership's first product work will be available next fall. For now, Pentax's SLR cameras uses a KAF2 lens mount. Whether or not the joint product will inherit the mount will be decided soon, according to a Pentax spokesman.
The partners will both sell the jointly developed SLR cameras under their own brand names.