In an announcement today, Konica Minolta has said that they're exiting the camera business. Since they announced their "partnership" with Sony in July of 2005, they've been working to sell a portion of their assets to Sony. Sony is expected to continue to develop digital SLR cameras using the Maxxum/Dynax assests from Konica Minolta.
While this may be a surprise to some, the pricing competition in the point and shoot digital camera market is very fierce. It has become so tight that if a company doesn't have good sales of higher end digital SLR cameras, it becomes very hard to survive. From the announcement: "in today's era of digital cameras, where image sensor technologies such as CCD is indispensable, it became difficult to timely provide competitive products even with our top optical, mechanical and electronics technologies: "
As of March 31, 2006, Konica Minolta will leave the camera business. The upcoming Sony digital SLRs will use the Maxxum/Dynax lens mounts, so current users of the system won't be left out in the cold.
Konica Minolta will also be stepping down production of color film and color paper and will cease production by March 31, 2007. The current minilab customers will be supported by Noritsu Koki, who will provide maintenance and customer support. Konica Minolta will also be reducing the worldwide workforce of 33,000 by 3,700 people.
To me, it seems as if Konica Minolta is making a graceful exit from the market. They're really making an effort to support current customers. However, it is disappointing to see such a top brand leaving the market. I was always impressed with their sensor-shifting anti-shake system and I imagine that we'll now see it in the Sony digital SLRs.
For more details, see their announcement: Konica Minolta Announces Withdrawal Plan for Camera Business and Photo Business