Following in the footsteps of camera giants Nikon Corp. and Konika Minolta Holdings Inc., Canon Inc. will stop developing new film-based camera products because of the shrinking analogue market and dramatically growing digital demand, the company’s president said Thursday.

“It is difficult to develop new (film-based cameras),” Canon President Tsuneji Uchida told a news conference.

Uchida pledged, however, to continue Canon’s film-based photo business as long as demand exists, the firm’s public relations office said.

But Uchida also predicted that film-based cameras will soon only be the realm of enthusiasts and other select users, and will be unprofitable.

“In the future, demand will be limited only to special needs, and new (film-based cameras) won’t be profitable,” he reportedly said.

In January, Nikon Corp. surprised the industry and camera buffs by announcing plans to stop making new film cameras. It has since stopped shipping film-based cameras, except for the cheapest and most expensive models.

Later the same month, Konica Minolta Holdings Inc., another big name in the film-photo business, also announced it was quitting the camera and photo film business.

Konica Minolta Holdings Inc. was born in 2003 through the merger of 130-year-old Konica Corp. and Minolta Co., which in 1985 debuted the world’s first practical auto-focus single-lens reflex camera.

Currently Canon has four film-based single-lens reflex camera models and five compact cameras. Those analogue cameras, together with interchangeable lenses, accounted for only 17 percent of all Canon camera sales in fiscal 2005.

“Digital cameras are better in such points as ease of printing. Scaling back the film camera (business) is a sign of the times,” Uchida said.

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