On a whirlwind trip to Thailand, Alpha Universe had a chance to sit with Kenji Tanaka, Senior General Manager of the Digital Imaging Business Group. In his role at Sony, Kenji Tanaka heads up Sony’s global interchangeable lens camera business. As Sony has pushed forward with an ambitious range of new cameras and lenses, we wanted to learn more about where the company is going from here.
Alpha Universe: Thank you for taking the time to sit with us and talk about Sony’s digital imaging business.
Kenji Tanaka: It’s a pleasure.
Alpha Universe: Over the past decade, Sony has built the Alpha brand to gain strong recognition in the market place. What’s the next step?
Kenji Tanaka: My goal is to increase the total DI market. To create that big digital imaging market. I think Alpha is at the core of that. The US market is a very, very important to that goal. Important not only because of the size of that market, but also it’s the place where we have the opportunity to create new business.
Alpha Universe: 2015 was a big year with the full frame α7 II, α7R II, α7S II. 2016 was a big year with the α6300 and α6500 and the new G Master lenses. In the midst of these product developments and innovations, Sony DI experienced a significant setback with the earthquake. It was perhaps a bigger setback than many people realize. The factory is now back online, but what has been the effect on DI business?
Kenji Tanaka: Of course, there was a certain impact to our business. But at the same time, we never stopped working on innovating the market. So looking back, yes it was a tough period, but we did what we needed to do and we never changed our strategy.
Alpha Universe: Has Sony come thorough the main business hurdles at this point?
Kenji Tanaka: Yes. Absolutely.
Alpha Universe: Globally the overall camera market is facing a number of challenges and struggles. Having a larger share of declining market isn’t sustainable long-term. What is Sony doing to grow the overall market?
Kenji Tanaka: We’re thinking of many things. And the driver is a younger generation. So, to increase our business, the younger generations are very key.
Alpha Universe: Sony has methodically and strategically developed new camera technology and now new lenses. What's the next phase, what's the next advancement? What can we expect in the way of new products and innovation in 2017?
Kenji Tanaka: We have launched many innovative products, but I think that is not enough. We will produce many more innovative, future-oriented products, as we are committed to earning trust from our customers. We want Sony to be thought of as a dedicated camera company so that when people think of buying a camera, the first brand they think of is Sony.
Alpha Universe: Sony makes their own image sensors which is rare in the business. How much synergy is there between the sensor development and the camera development teams?
Kenji Tanaka: The image sensor is the key. As we create future products, I think the driver is the image sensor. We don’t want to make the same camera as another company. Sony is an innovative company and the driver of innovation for the cameras is technology, and the image sensor is the most important technology for the camera.
Alpha Universe: With the latest cameras and lenses, Sony is pursuing professional photography and pro photographers. Is that a long-term commitment?
Kenji Tanaka: Yes. The prosumers and professional photographers are very important. We see the opportunity not only in the camera bodies, but in the overall systems as well – lenses, flashes and accessories are also important for our customers.
Additionally, we’ve launched and are expanding the global Pro Support program for the professional customer. Our goal is to be best in class in both product and support.
Alpha Universe: The pro market has been dominated by a couple of big players for decades. Does Sony expect to change that?
Kenji Tanaka: As many people know, two giants exist in the market but our goal is to become the overall leader. However, please note how important it is to grow the overall imaging market. Sony aims to push this growth by continuously developing innovative products.