"Konica Minolta Holdings" Launched As Two of the Imaging Industry's Oldest Companies Tie the Knot
by Dan Havlik
"While today's get-together is new product [oriented], we have to take this opportunity to brag just a little bit about the anniversary of Konica Minolta," said John Sienkiewicz, vice president of marketing for Minolta's Consumer Products Group.
"As of this moment, based on the announcement and what is happening in Japan, Konica Minolta is officially about 48 hours old."
The new holding company, formed through an equity swap, was announced in Japan on August 5th, two days before the New York press conference. The company, which is being created to compete against larger manufacturers such as Canon and Fuji, will cut 4,000 of its 38,500 employees worldwide over the next two years, according to published reports. The merger makes Konica Minolta the fourth largest camera and office equipment company in Japan.
"We propose to bring a fresh surprise into every arena," he said, while displaying a slide of the logo to about 100 journalists who attended the press conference at Tavern on the Green in Manhattan.
According to a press release from the new holding company about the logo, "the 'Globe Mark'…represents the limitless expansion of Konica Minolta and the new value it offers to customers around the world. "
The announcement of the new name and logo is the latest stop on an eight-month journey for the two companies who signed a letter of intent to merge on January 7, 2003. The European Union Commission approved the merger just last July after Konica agreed to divest its stake of Sekonic, which makes light meters for professional photographers. The Commission initially balked at the proposed merger, claiming the new company would have gained a "dominant position" in the photo meter market. The merger got the green light though after Konica agreed to sell its 40 percent piece of the Japan-based Sekonic. Under the new joint venture, the Konica brand will be used for film sales and the Minolta brand will be used for cameras.
"As we stand before you today, we are a new company, but a new
company with outstanding and powerful bloodlines," said Hiro Fuji,
senior executive officer of Konica Minolta Holdings, at the press
"We are two of the oldest imaging companies in the world, and have a combined history that covers more than two hundred years-and at the same time we have the newborn strength and power that comes from being the newest imaging company."
In discussing the merger, Henry Okamura, president and CEO of the Ramsey, New Jersey-based Minolta Corporation, called it an "amalgamation of expertise in film manufacturing, photofinishing and minilab technology, and world-class input devices."
While talk of the merger was the buzz of the press conference, the crux of the event was to discuss new products. Okamura noted that Konica Minolta's "six exciting new digital imaging products" expand the company's "product lineup into nearly every market segment, from the young, 'on the go' crowd through the serious, dedicated expert."
At the top of the line, Minolta introduced the five-megapixel DiMAGE A1 digital camera, which is being targeted toward more advanced, prosumer-type photographers. The camera features what Minolta claims is "the world's fastest" autofocus speed "among five-megapixel SLR-type digital cameras." Other highlights of the A1 include a speedy, built-in f/2.8-3.5 7x optical zoom lens, a top shutter speed of 1/16,000 of a second, a dual-focal macro system, an extra-fine image-quality option, Minolta's new CxProcess II and 3-D Predictive Focus Control, Subject Tracking AF, an anti-shake function and compatibility with portable and studio flash systems.
Also in the five-megapixel vein, Minolta introduced the DiMAGE G500, a sleeker, stylish compact digital camera with a range of basic functions. Some of the features of the G500 include a 1.3-second startup time, the ability to create manual exposures, and a dual card-slot system for both Memory Stick and Secure Digital (SD) Cards. The camera, measuring only 3.7x2.2x1.2 inches and weighing just seven ounces, also sports a snazzy metal exterior.
As far as design is concerned, perhaps the most radical-looking camera in the new lineup is the "phaser-like" 3.2-megapixel DiMAGE Z1. With a 10x Mega-zoom lens, the camera comes equipped with what Minolta claims is the "world's fastest autofocusing among digital camera with a built-in 10x or greater zoom." The Z1 is also able to record TV-quality 30-frames per second VGA movies.