Nikon aims to grab 40 per cent share of the digital single lens reflex (SLR) camera market within three years, it said on Thursday.

The company, which has long dominated the digital SLR market alongside Canon, is confident that it can see off competition from general consumer electronics companies, such as Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co (Panasonic), who are about to launch their own digital SLR cameras. Some of the new cameras were on show at the recent Photo Marketing Association's 2006 trade fair (PMA).

"The new entrants to the market like [Panasonic] and Sony will release new models but as far as the prototypes we saw at the PMA go, it seems their concept is not so different from our digital SLRs. So, we are confident we can compete with them," said Susumu Enomoto, a spokesman for Nikon in Tokyo.

Single-lens reflex cameras use a mirror placed between the lens and the film or image sensor to project the image to the camera's viewfinder. The mirror moves out of the way when the picture is taken. They typically support interchangeable lenses and are generally much faster-responding and more capable than fixed-lens cameras.

Companies are rushing to enter the digital SLR space because competition has squeezed profits in the point-and-shoot end of the market. Digital SLR cameras typically have higher margins.

In 2004 shipments of digital SLRs totalled 2.5 million units, to make up about 3.4 per cent of all camera shipments, according to market research company IDC. This is expected to rise to 7.9 million units in 2009, which is 9.6 per cent of anticipated shipments, IDC said in a report issued in 2005.

Nikon's market share is "a little under 40 per cent" at present, said Enomoto. "Forty per cent is our target and depending on market conditions we may have difficulty in achieving it but we will manage our business with this target in mind."

In the financial year from April 2008 to March 2009 the company is targeting net sales of ¥900 billion ($7.7 billion) on operating profit of ¥90 billion, it said. In its current fiscal year, which ends today, the company is expecting to achieve sales of ¥710 billion. While digital imaging makes up Nikon's largest single business sector, the company also has significant sales of precision instruments and equipment used in production of chips and flat-panel displays.