Nikon’s Acquisition of Mark Roberts Motion Control

There is a part of Nikon’s Photokina 2016 presentation that has been ignored by every mainstream photography news site and blogger I can think of. Nikon had announced that they have agreed to acquire all of the shares of Mark Roberts Motion Control Limited, a manufacturer of robotic motion control solutions. No one really offered up any more commentary and analysis about it.

Well, mainstream media is mainstream media. Questions about the non-obvious don’t usually get asked. πŸ˜›

To quote from Nikon’s acquisition statement:

“MRMC designs, develops and manufactures robotic solutions which enable remote and automatic capture for an extensive range of clients, from broadcast and film production through to product photography. With its award-winning technology, MRMC has established a strong reputation for engineering excellence within the motion control industry.

There is a growing demand within the imaging industry for automated solutions to provide unique perspectives and increased production efficiencies. Nikon will continue to strengthen MRMC’s leading market position within the film and broadcast sectors. In addition, Nikon and MRMC aim to develop this new market further by utilizing MRMC’s robotic motion control solution together with Nikon’s imaging related technologies and its broad sales channels.

Nikon believes this acquisition will lead its further expansion into new fields of imaging product solutions.”

To a long-time Nikon observer, this is an unexpected and pleasant surprise. Up till now every camera company has focused on acquisitions and partnerships that involve components which have a direct physical/virtual connection to their products – sensors, lenses, bodies, video codecs, etc. The MRMC acquisition definitely qualifies as thinking out of the box.

An obvious question is whether this acquisition suggests that Nikon will start to incorporate more serious video capture capabilities into their products demanded by videographers. I do not believe there is sufficient evidence in this acquisition announcement to back-up this hypothesis. However, Nikon could stay out of having their products compete directly in the serious videography business, yet still profit from the growth of the industry itself by supplying essential equipment for the operation of video cameras. Like how Manfrotto profits from the photography business even though they don’t make any cameras and lenses.

Having said that, there is still a distinct possibility that Nikon is making preparations to introduce more video-centric products to complement the solutions MRMC sells. Or they might not. πŸ˜› I won’t advise anyone to bet on it. We’ll just have to wait and see.

A little research also reveals that MRMC was involved in underwater capture footage of swimming competitions in the Rio Olympics. Since the 2020 Olympics is going to be held in Tokyo, one wonders if Nikon is making preparations to make some ambitious tenders on their home turf. In fact, this might also up tie nicely with the launch of the KeyMission action cameras. Nikon could respond to an Olympic tender with a somewhat complete suite of recording equipment – robotic equipment for still and video capture, still photography capture cameras and lenses, plus a range of action cameras.

I will be looking forward to how this turns out. Nikon’s president Kazuo Ushida has released an updated company message recently to the public. I’ll write about that soon. – WY

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