“A Tale Of 2 Titans” Who Competed For World Dominance In The Photography Industry

Based on the attached article from LightStalking

A friend of mine who has been in the photography business for many years and who was one of the best photojournalists I had the privilege to know in my travels within Nikon circles sent me this article about Kodak corporation vs. Fujifilm corporation and one continues today as an industry giant and why one lies at the bottom of the gone forever corporate scrap heap.

While the story is pretty much spot on it misses some fine points.  Fuji for the longest time could not put a dent in the United States market which was dominated by Kodak even though they were a giant in the Asian markets where they were based.  But Fuji eventually did find a way to increase their penetration by joining with a very dominant camera supplier called Ehrenreich Photo-Optical who also happened to be the original importer of Nikon products in the United States and was the company that created the acceptance of Nikon cameras worldwide as well as many other products.  But when Fuji signed on with them, they were now with one of the best marketers of photography products and it put them in a position to enter the majority of cameras stores in the USA.

Jumping way ahead, Kodak was one of the first if not the first to produce a working digital camera.  They had the head start and they too eventually partnered with Nikon Inc to incorporate Kodak sensors into modified Nikon cameras providing the professional market with very expensive digital options.  Kodak eventually did the same with Canon cameras.  And Fuji later on coupled with Nikon to produce the Fuji DSLR which was not based on an original Nikon body design but on a whole new concept body.  It had the Nikon mount and used Nikon lenses and was really a great experience to use.  The camera was sold by both companies and eventually, conflicts between the two brought an end to the partnership and this new concept product.

But Kodak, even though successful with their pro digital products still felt that their fortunes would continue with film and that digital was not their future. Fuji, on the other hand, embraced digital as something they had to be involved with for the long-term and started to treat digital sensors with the same voracity as they did film.  Kodak who everyone thought was too big to fail suffered the same fate as other large companies buried under tons of corporate bureaucracy and competed within their own ranks for top positioning of products instead of working together.  Ultimately the importance of digital was pushed way down the priority list by the film mongers who refused to accept the change that was taking place right in front of them and by the time Kodak to shake up the status quo of their incredible levels of management it was too late and they gave away what could have been a top position in the digital concept to Nikon and Canon.

However Fuji, a rather quiet company in regards to their photo endeavors, was busy figuring out what “photographers” wanted and finally jumped in with both feet several years ago with a camera called the X100 and while not a Nikon, Canon or Sony who based their digital lives on existing camera designs, they did base their design on the esthetically wonderful old world rangefinder design and have now carved out their place in the overall digital marketplace.

Now remember this is about Kodak, a company that buried their head in the sand and about Fujifilm, a company while continuing to want to be the biggest film company in the world, embraced the digital concept.

Did others also do what Fuji did?  Of course and they actually secured their place in the digital marketplace before Fuji.  Olympus, Panasonic, Pentax, etc. but unlike them Fuji drew on historical design as well as current design of camera bodies to carve out a very special nitch which Kodak simply stayed with the management snails that ultimately brought them down.




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