Whether film or digital, the technologies that support basic camera operation and performance are the same. The optical technologies that form Nikon's foundation will never lose their significance.
Nikon's technological capabilities have been highly regarded since the film camera era. As a leader, where do you believe these strengths lie?
Engineers have a tendency to want to open and examine every new product that hits the market. They enjoy the sense of amazement that comes with finding new technologies or utilizations of technologies. They also take pride in being able to amaze others with their own innovations. At Nikon, we all feel a great sense of pride. I was so impressed by the potential I found around me when I was assigned to the Design Department. Regardless of their age, every single person wants to excel in ways that differ from others. However, though we are all burning with the desire to exceed, we have a tendency to hide this desire as if obvious displays are below us. Therefore, I think it will be important for our future to find ways to draw out the particular strengths of individuals and to find the best ways to apply these strengths to revitalize and increase cooperation as a whole.
Have there been any changes in the vision of technological development since the film camera era?
I believe there are three types of technologies that are essential in the world of cameras today. One is optical technologies, another is technologies specific to the production of cameras, and the third is digital technologies. While an effective mix of these three types of technology is important, there is no difference in the application of a variety of technologies in the compact size required of cameras whether for film or digital. In addition to mechanical technologies, the production of cameras requires technologies related to materials and surface processing, as well as optical technologies, including coatings, that maximize lens image formation. Cameras represent archives encompassing a broad range of technologies that only begins with optics. I think that the variety and importance of all of these technologies are just now becoming recognized, but this is something that Nikon has always been very particular about. The difference between digital cameras and those that came before is that they make images themselves. This in itself is a new technology. Though we didn't begin with a whole lot of technologies for our development of digital cameras, I think that we have reached this point by accumulating know how acquired with development, and by making the most of our abilities to combine technologies and know how in cameras.
If you had to choose just one digital camera technology as the pinnacle and pride of Nikon technologies, which would it be?
- Outstanding optical technologies at the heart of Nikon came together in the D1, renowned for leading standards and innovations in the burgeoning field of full-scale digital SLR cameras.
I guess that would be a technology that we have cultivated since the film camera era, namely the technology that allows our cameras to capture light so well. There is little difference between film and digital photography in the fact that accurate exposure depends on the way shutter speed and aperture are controlled with the measurement of light, or in the way space is captured with focus utilizing light sensing technology. At the heart of the digital camera is the analog technology that allows it to form an image on a CCD or CMOS image sensor by capturing an object as light. Nikon has had this technology since before the introduction of digital cameras.
Of course, optical technologies can never be underestimated. Although the image sensor is an electronic device, no matter how high the electronic performance of the image sensor, that alone does not guarantee a good camera. Image sensors can only fulfill their role with integration of a number of components, including a minute lenslet for each pixel, color filters, and optical filters known as low-pass filters. In addition, optical technologies cannot be overlooked because quality imaging is only possible with maximum compatibility between the image sensor, which can also be called an optical component, and shooting lenses. Therefore, the optical technologies that form Nikon's foundation will never lose their significance.
We are seeing the competitive force of camera manufacturers forming alliances with major electronics manufacturers. What do you think about this trend?
I think the increase in new manufacturers that both energizes the entire industry and broadens the market is advantageous. While it is true that this makes market competition very stiff, I am also confident that most will find it difficult to compete with our strengths, such as our optical technologies and the capabilities we have nurtured over the years spent specializing in the imaging industry. I hope that we can strengthen our position in the market by continuing to offer products that satisfy and delight customers.
I understand research and development expenditure is currently running about 5% of total annual sales. How do you feel about this allocation?
With the switch to digital, development expenditure has shifted dramatically. We have had to increase the equipment used for development of digital and electronic systems, and software development has also proven quite expensive. With these changes in particulars, it would be nice if we had a little more reserve to draw upon.
Do you think that the scope of research and development has increased??
Yes, I do. To add to that, collaboration with third parties has also increased. I think a major issue to be addressed is the way in which we apply core technologies developed in cooperation with third parties to suit our needs in the development of original and innovative new products.