Bronica, Disruptive Innovation and Digital Imaging

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Why Bronica went out of business in 2004.

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Bronica, Disruptive Innovation and Digital Imaging

  1. 1. RIP Bronica
  2. 2. Bronica used to be one of the dominant players in the medium format segment of the camera industry.
  3. 3. The cameras were mostly used for wedding, studio and portrait photography.
  4. 4. Bronica died in 2004.
  5. 5. quot;Since the advent of digital photography, medium format sales have declined at a rapid pace. Imports today are just a fraction of what they were even two years ago“ // Mr. Takashi Inoue, president of Tamron USA (Tamron owned Bronica)
  6. 6. quot;For Bronica, that slip has been faster since our core customer base, portrait and wedding photographers, has adapted well to digital SLR equipment.quot;
  7. 7. quot;These photographers are now providing customers with a quality and cost-efficient product that has virtually eliminated their need for the higher quality results that medium format film or digital backs can provide“ // Stacie Errera, Chief Marketing Officer
  8. 8. quot;While some customers are faithful to the format, the current sales volume and devastating purchasing forecasts cannot sustain the production of Bronica SLR products.quot;
  9. 9. “I believe we all understand the issues at hand when it comes to the business of medium format. We have been struggling to find the best possible solution for the medium format camera business under the Bronica brand, but after careful study and the comprehensive consideration of the market situation, we have concluded that there is no other choice but to end this business.” // Kenji Nakagawa, Sales Manager of Tamron
  10. 10. The last model, the Bronica RF645 was terminated in 2005, only a few years after it had been launched.
  11. 11. What happened to Bronica?
  12. 12. Bronica first appeared in 1958 and became an immediate success.
  13. 13. While some people claimed that Bronica was just a cheap copy of Hasselblad, the cameras actually had unique features and were very appreciated by wedding and portrait photographers.
  14. 14. Well, the Hasselblad and the Bronica are rather similar, at least in their looks…
  15. 15. Just like the Hasselblad system, Bronica had a great advantage in the complete flexibility in terms of changing lenses, film magazines etc.
  16. 16. Bronica later on developed their own lenses as well and thus obtained a strong knowledge base in optics.
  17. 17. This may be one reason why Tamron acquired Bronica in July 1995.
  18. 18. Tamron is a Japanese company, manufacturing lenses and optical componentes for industrial and commercial use.
  19. 19. Sony is a major shareholder in the company and the firm has helped Sony to gain market shares in the camera industry.
  20. 20. Having a foothold in the camera business and a strong brand like Bronica seemed like a good idea to Tamron.
  21. 21. Pity that this was going to happen. 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 Number of film and digital cameras sold in the United States
  22. 22. Before the revolution, digital imaging actually prospered in Bronica’s camera segment.
  23. 23. ’Digital Backs’ could be attached to medium format cameras from the early 1990s and on.
  24. 24. These backs were mostly provided by firms with little past experience in the camera business.
  25. 25. Leaf…
  26. 26. Imacon…
  27. 27. Phase One…
  28. 28. Kodak also developed some digital backs…
  29. 29. In the beginning, digital imaging did not pose a threat to Bronica or any of the medium format players.
  30. 30. It was rather an add-on, which increased the value of medium format cameras compared to SLR cameras.
  31. 31. It looked like this.
  32. 32. Yes, big and bulky.
  33. 33. The photographer could decide whether to be digital or to use film by simply removing the film magazine and instead attach a digital back to the camera.
  34. 34. But the solution with a digital back was inconvenient, heavy and expensive.
  35. 35. The Nikon D1 from 1999 was the first true alternative for photographers who wanted only a digital camera.
  36. 36. From this point and on, Canon and Nikon launched digital SLR cameras that got better and better at a furious pace.
  37. 37. Within a few years, the SLR cameras were much cheaper, lighter and more convenient than the digital back solution.
  38. 38. quot;These photographers are now providing customers with a quality and cost-efficient product that has virtually eliminated their need for the higher quality results that medium format film or digital backs can provide“ // Stacie Errera, Chief Marketing Officer
  39. 39. Needles to say, Bronica’s revenues collapsed in 2000-2004.
  40. 40. Tamron knew about optics and Bronica was based upon optics and precise mechanics.
  41. 41. Thus, the company had no competence in electronics and had to rely on the solution with a digital back that was manufactured by someone else.
  42. 42. Bronica was trapped, and there was no way out of it.
  43. 43. Their last model, the Bronica RF645 suffered from the same problem and was terminated in 2005, only a few years after it had been launched.
  44. 44. Did Bronica have any chance to survive?
  45. 45. Maybe Tamron didn’t invest as much as they needed to keep it alive and execute a digital strategy.
  46. 46. Hasselblad survived by collaborating with Fuji and thereby develop a new camera system. Once this system was in place, it was natural to merge with Imacon, one of the manufacturers of digital backs.
  47. 47. Maybe this solution could have kept the business running for a bit longer in the Bronica case, who knows.
  48. 48. But the medium format segment would still have been very competitive and shrinking every year.
  49. 49. And fighting the SLR battle with Canon and Nikon can not be regarded as a real alternative.
  50. 50. The Bronica cameras created fantastic memories for people all around the world for more than 40 years.
  51. 51. Bronica is gone now.
  52. 52. Image attributions
  53. 53. Christian Sandström is a PhD student at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. He writes and speaks about disruptive innovation and technological change. www.christiansandstrom.org christian.sandstrom@chalmers.se

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