Eastman Kodak informed dealers earlier this month that the company is discontinuing the manufacture of the 14 megapixel (MP) DCS Pro SLR/n and DCS Pro SLR/c 35mm digital SLR bodies. Kodak brought the SLR/n and SLR/c camera bodies to market with pricetags under $5,000.
The SLR/n, based on Nikon's F lens mount and the SLR/c, with a Canon EOS lens mount, both utilize the same full-frame, 24mmx36mm CMOS imaging sensor that delivers a top resolution of 14 megapixels. The full-frame sensor allows photographers to use lenses at their true focal length, with no magnification.
Citing a combination of old technology and the desire to focus on the consumer digital camera market for the time being, Madhav Mehra, general manager, Digital Capture, Professional Business for Eastman Kodak, explained the company's reasoning behind the decision. "The technology [that the cameras are based upon] has been in the market since the beginning of 2003." According to Mehra, with no immediate successor to the SLR/n and SLR/c, Kodak felt a clean break was in the company's best interests, rather than continuing to offer a camera that contains mature technology.
"This decision has certain implications for retailers," Mehra said. "A certain amount of inventory has to be sold off." Product will be available until the remaining stock is depleted. That remaining inventory, as well as cameras that were previously purchased, will be fully supported through warranties, technical support, and any necessary software/firmware upgrades through the end of the year—2008. Mehra explained that while Kodak will be supporting the cameras' firmware and Photo Desk software, both are very mature and stable, so little may be necessary in the way of upgrades in the future.
Kodak currently holds the number one position for consumer digital camera sales in the United States, and the number three position worldwide. A reassessment of Kodak's path forward in the digital camera market was also cited as a reason behind the decision to cease production of the Pro SLRs. For the immediate future, Kodak will be concentrating on the consumer digicam market.
Eastman Kodak's Image Sensor Solutions division is unaffected by this decision and will continue development of image sensors. The Image Sensor Solutions division has developed sensors for a range of Kodak and other manufacturers' branded cameras including both consumer and professional models; as well as sensors for use in key markets, including industrial, scientific, and mobile imaging, among others. Kodak's recent announcement of intent to aquire Creo will bring additional imaging sensor technologies to the company's portfolio.
Mehra also said the end of production of the SLR/n and SLR/c will in no way affect employees of the company. "There will be no downsizing due to this decision," he said.
The Kodak brand is not as well accepted for its pro cameras as it is by consumers. According to a recent survey of professional photographers by InfoTrends/CAP Ventures, only 5.8% said they used a Kodak as their primary digital camera, compared with 36.9% for Canon and 28.12% for Nikon.
Mike Wolf, director of Digital Photography Trends for InfoTrends commented, "The camera [SLR/n, SLR/c] was well reviewed, but they obviously didn't get the penetration they were looking for. I think Kodak will probably introduce another pro camera in the future, but will tread carefully."
As to whether Kodak's absence in the DSLR arena will be noticed by other manufacturers, InfoTrends' Wolf noted, "There may be an incremental pickup in share for the big vendors in this space, but it will be small, given Kodak's share."
Mehra wouldn't elaborate as to any future Kodak brand DSLR camera introductions. Kodak has in the past pulled mature products from the market when no longer viable—and without a successor ready—only to introduce future models when newer technology developed.
With Kodak exiting the DSLR market for the time being, Canon is now the sole camera maker to offer a 35mm DSLR with a full-frame image sensor, in its EOS-1Ds Mark II.