Its digital models are more popular, but the camera giant is still committed to film Canon says sales of its digital cameras surpassed those of traditional models for the first time last year but it has no intention of abandoning its film-based camera business. 'We have never thought of stopping analogue cameras,' said the president and chief executive of Canon Hong Kong, Hideki Ozawa. 'We are the leader in analogue and there are still many users and buyers of such cameras. As long as we see a market, we will continue to supply the cameras.' At least one Japanese camera manufacturer, Ricoh, has stopped producing traditional cameras to focus on making digital models. Key camera makers such as Kodak and Nikon have scaled back film-based production and increased production of digital models. Canon reported a 14 per cent rise in profit last year due to brisk sales of digital cameras, which almost doubled last year from the year before. The company expects its digital camera business to grow by about 60 to 70 per cent this year, according to Mr Ozawa. It hopes to grab 25 per cent of the world's digital camera market this year, up from 18 per cent last year. 'We sold five million digital cameras last year. We will sell about 8.5 million this year,' he said. The digital camera market has seen significant growth in the past three years. About 24.5 million digital cameras were shipped last year, a 66 per cent increase over 2001. Sony is the digital camera market leader with a 26 per cent share, according to market research firm International Data Corp. Canon is targeting an emerging class of photographers - entry-level digital SLR users. It launched the Canon EOS 300D, a low-cost, entry-level digital SLR for general users, in Hong Kong last week. Digital SLRs have typically been the domain of professional photographers because of their sophisticated functions and high price tags. Canon's top-of-the-line digital SLR, the 1D, sells for about HK$63,000. In comparison, the new EOS 300D is retailing at HK$7,980. Canon also sells a mid-range digital SLR, called the 10D, for about HK$14,000. 'We predict a boom in digital SLR sales worldwide,' Mr Ozawa said. 'Last year, about 228,000 digital SLR cameras were sold worldwide. This year, we think between 800,000 and one million units will be shipped.' Canon is planning to make 70,000 units of the EOS 300D a month. The camera costs 30 per cent less than competing models from rivals Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Olympus. The EOS 300D comes with a 6.3-megapixel CMOS sensor and is the first digital SLR that allows for direct printing from the camera to a printer. Mr Ozawa said the entry-level digital SLR camera would compete with the pro-consumer Canon G5. 'You will have some G1 or G2 users who want to upgrade to a digital SLR, who want to use interchangeable lens,' he said. 'Or you could have some users who prefer to stay with compact cameras like the G5.' One media photographer said he would not touch the EOS 300D, although he conceded its CMOS sensor was 'excellent'. 'Basically, it is a [poor] digital SLR, but it is a smart move because there are so many digital camera users who would want an affordable digital SLR,' he said.