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Canon loses SLR share, as Nikon surges

For 2007, Canon kept its top-dog status in compact and SLR camera shipments. But Nikon gained major ground in the strategic SLR market, IDC said.

Canon remained the top dog in the total camera market in 2007, according to IDC. CNET Networks, based on IDC data

When it comes to the strategically important and fast-growing market of SLR cameras, Canon remained No. 1 worldwide in 2007 but lost share to Nikon, new statistics show.

Canon sold 3.18 million single-lens reflex cameras in 2007 compared with Nikon's 2.98 million, according to a study released Tuesday by market researcher IDC. That represents a 42.7 percent and 40 percent share, respectively, of the 2007 SLR market. It's a much narrower margin for Canon than in 2006, when it had 46.7 percent of the market, compared with Nikon's 33 percent.

Nikon SLR shipments grew at a 71.1 percent rate, much faster than Canon's 29.3 percent rate, IDC said. To be sure, unit shipments don't reflect another important aspect of market share--revenue, which IDC didn't detail. But Nikon released competitive higher-end models, the D3 and D300, in the second half of 2007, so there's plenty of pressure on Canon there, too.

The SLR market is of major importance to camera makers: it's competitive, and the SLR market is far less saturated than the compact camera market, where camera makers are focusing on getting people to buy replacements or multiple models. SLRs offer much faster performance and higher image-quality than compact models, and lenses can be changed for different shooting styles. Thus, photographers have been flocking to SLRs as prices drop.

The overall SLR market surged 41 percent to 7.45 million units, much faster than the 22.7 percent growth to 123.3 million units for compacts, according to the IDC stats.

There, too, Canon faced pressure.

"The larger issue rests on repeat buyers looking for more camera at less of a price in years past," IDC analyst Christopher Chute said, and Canon has been trying to maintain higher average selling prices even as others cut prices.

In the total camera market, Canon's 18.8 percent share of units shipped gave it the top rank. Next in line are Sony with 16 percent, Kodak with 9.6 percent, Samsung with 9 percent, Nikon with 8.4 percent, and Olympus with 8.3 percent.