Oh Olympus! 84 Years in the Camera business comes to an end.

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Oh Olympus! 

Also, I am sure most heard the news about Olympus today.

Read the article at PetaPixel HERE. 

I am saddened by this, but not shocked. I knew it was a matter of time because the competition these days is intense, and with Olympus only sticking with micro 4/3 sized sensors, well, as I said….only a matter of time. As amazing as these cameras are, I believe too many were swayed to full frame for the same or less cost. Now with Canon, Nikon AND Sony making full frame mirrorless on the cheap, there was no way Olympus could compete. 

Look at Panasonic who entered the full frame alliance with Leica. Two companies with low sales in the grand scheme of things and they teamed up to help save each other (IMO). Sure, we can see it as an alliance for the people but the reality is Micro 4/3 has been in trouble for a while, and Panasonic is another (mostly) Micro 4/3 camera company who just announced the worst Vlogging camera ever in the new G100. Their full frame offerings are not selling very well, as good as they are, so I do not see how Panasonic will be able to forge ahead in the next few years either. Just my OPINION though, we will see. 

It’s obvious that phones also played a part in the demise of this iconic camera brand. But 84 Years. Wow. Olympus is getting out of cameras after 84 years! Let that sink in. In 1936 Olympus introduced the Zuiko name. The OM name started in the 70’s and here we are in 2020 and witnessing the end of all of it.

A Pandemic, smart phones and full frame finally did in Olympus. 

Olympus is selling its camera business to Japan Industrial Partners. They acquired the VAIO name from Sony back in 2014. Where is VAIO now? Exactly. While JIP did not say wether they will keep the Olympus brand, they will use current Olympus technologies in future products. Olympus has stated they will go on with business as usual until the sale which is schedule for later this year.

Some of my favorite cameras of the last 10 years have come from Olympus. I have met some wonderful souls within Olympus as well. The memories from media trips and meeting up with other fellow photographers on these trips will forever be in my heart. They will always remain.

Thank you Olympus for 84 years of amazing photographic tools. I love you guys and wish all of you at Olympus the best for the future. It is a sad day indeed, for me at least. Thanks for the memories.

Steve

17 Comments

  1. The market chooses winners and losers and Olympus didn’t have a broad enough appeal to win. No matter if the technology is good or better than the competition (remember Sony Betamax?), Olympus didn’t sell in adequate numbers to survive. JIP can perhaps recoup the purchase price by selling or licensing Olympus IBIS technology, perhaps film simulation software or stripping the manufacturing equipment to sell to some new Chinese company that wants to try selling cameras. I’m sure that Olympus management did not see a bright future and that they will strip the camera division of it’s best optical designers and precision manufacturing engineers to enhance it’s medical imaging markets.

  2. My first camera was an Olympus OM-1, and today it sits on my shelf as a reminder of how far we have come, for better or worse. Since then I have owned dozens of cameras from Leica to Canon to Nikon to Sony, and yes many different size sensors since reluctantly leaving film behind. Sensor size 🙂 like that’s the secret sauce to making great pictures. Anyway I found my way back to Olympus with the introduction of the EM-1 and fell in love with Olympus again. What a great camera! I’ll continue to shoot this format until it or I stop working. Cheers to Olympus and a great run. You’ll be missed by those who saw past the size of your sensor 🙂

  3. They made too many big mistakes to survive in a terrible camera environment like it is now. Plus the virus didn’t help.
    They’re not the first camera company to fail and they probably wont be the last.

  4. difficult question for me at least.
    I’ve had my finger hovering over the buy button for the OMD Em-1 mark 3 for weeks now.
    Now I know why . Is this a good time to buy it ? After all, I strongly doubt
    Olympus will continue past this year and the camera will no doubt last years .
    Or is it just dumb to buy an Olympus product now .

    Ken
    undecided in Napa

    • Ken,

      If photography effects your livelihood, you’ll be buying gear regularly, so it won’t make sense to invest in a dead-end system. But if you’re like me, you’ll carefully buy what makes you happy now – from the gear that’s available now. I did just that 5 years ago, and set myself up with an OM-D, and all the lenses I need, within that year. I still enjoy my system (still works perfectly), and I don’t need anything else for it. So Olympus’s demise won’t effect me. Might be the same for you. But if you know you’ll want to continually upgrade and augment, you’ll probably want to look at a more mainstream brand. Me, I may buy my wife a used OM-D of some kind, compatible with my lenses.

  5. the mentor of camera ibis, the best small form factor, revolutionare camera, small compact lens, “proud of you” . Still waiting for the reborn, take a break for a while, keep on watched the competitor, make prediction competitor, think future always, still on research, and come back with refresh on breathe , like how amd processor comeback and make change. The World still need an Olympus mentor.

  6. I really wish they would have leaned into their heritage designs like the Pen-F. Go niché, rather than trying to compete. Fuji really turned their business around with the X100 line, and a similar effect I think could have made Olympus and M4/3 as a consumer-oriented entity a more powerful presence. My favorite camera, of all, is my Olympus XA10. A digital M4/3 equivalent would have taken about $1500 from my pocket. I hope the Private Equity company has some intention of turning their situation around. Maybe Ricoh can scoop them up too? 🙁

    • It would not have mattered. The camera market has shrunk so severe due to smartphones. In the past, the money to invest and innovate came from simple compact cameras. That market has vanished. Olympus shrunk from a 3 billion a year revenue stream to only 400 million, but still has largely the same overhead. You need to be a startup to survive with that little revenue. No matter what Olympus would have done, it’s hard to convince people to buy a system camera, or compact camera, and no sensor size or even awesome lowlight performance out of tiny sensor would have convinced the mainstream public — computational photography is giving people good enough results. The same goes for every other camera company. The camera crowd is really a niche now, as smartphones has replaced most of it, and also the camcorder market. So building a niche camera for a niche market is nice and all, but you need a company that is streamlined and has a following that doesn’t contract. Leica survived because it is relatively small, is aimed at high end users, and is now privately owned, but I’m sure they don’t make any real money. On Leica’s revenue of 400 million Euros, the profit would at most be a couple of million. There’s no room to scale up. But they’re happy, so that’s that. Other players in the camera market have also pro divisions. Canon sells pro video and cinema cameras. So does Sony. So does Panasonic. The entertainment world still needs video cameras, so they can hook onto that revenue stream. Players like Olympus, Nikon, Ricoh/Pentax never could. So that’s where the fault of Olympus mostly lied. The only relatively steady and rising market is that of video. While the home camcorder market has shrunk, the people who produce videos has only risen. Vloggers use cameras, not just phones. They need their flippy screens, external mics, IBIS, etc. And it is here that Olympus should have sailed many years ago. Going for the perfect middle market ($1000) vlogging camera solution to at least get some revenue stream back. And this is where they could have competed against other brands. But notice how the E-M1 II from 2016 had PDAF in video turned off until recently. Phase detect autofocus that vloggers had been begging Panasonic to implement. Olympus could have ridden the wave of vlogging. But alas, it’s not in their DNA. They are a photography company at heart. But that said, no other company really does cater to vloggers right now. Solutions are half baked. And that’s because they are afraid to give people what they want, because next year they need to bring MK II to the market. And that’s also another fault of the camera industry. Constantly holding back on features, because they’re afraid of not being able to sell a new model next year. But you don’t see much of this behavior from smartphone manufactures. They aim each year offering to be their best complete solution. How can the camera industry compete with that kind of mentality? Camera companies have in their DNA to protect their high end video solutions, so they can hardly give complete video solutions at even a $1000 pricepoint. Something has to be left out! Entry level iPhones right now can do pretty much the same as high end ones, albeit with a smaller screen. There’s tremendous value to be had with phones for people. Where’s the value of a separate camera? Not saying that Olympus would have ultimately survived if they aimed at video, it’s still a small market, but some larger market share could be had. Most people agree Olympus IBIS in video is so great. That was the thing in which they could compete. Not in photography, but in video.

  7. Interesting observation regarding the “L”Mount Alliance” (Leica and Panasonic teaming up to save each other). Maybe some truth to this. The L Mount Alliance makes sense as alternative lenses for Leica cameras but not much sense to make camera bodies (Panasonic and Sigma). Of course all this came before Covid which will probably take a toll on the L Mount Alliance when the dust finally settles (Goodby Leica TL and CL lines).
    I’m waiting for the shoe to drop at Sony. Their camera sales are in decline and Sony management has not been slow to pull the plug on products with declining sales. Sony makes most of the imaging business profits selling sensors and imbedded processors (in tandem with their sensors).
    Considering the social, environmental and health issues facing all of us, the next few years are going to be dangerous and challenging. Stay safe.

  8. For me, Sony’s Rx100 and Rx10 cameras have crowded out my use of Olympus cameras for general photography when I want to go small. I also use the Sony A6400 as a smallish camera when I don’t want to carry full frame.

    I will continue to use my Olympus with the PL 100-400 as my preferred birding camera as is just small/light enough for me to carry on birding hikes and it performs well.

    I wish Olympus could have come out with a new sensor which might have kept them in the game a bit longer.

  9. Really curious to see how this is going to work out. I love Olympus OM-D & Pen camera’s and their glass and, analog aside, haven’t used anything else in over ten years. While I understand the reasoning for this from Olympus, I really hope this isn’t the end of the system. However, my OM-D bodies and glass still have plenty of years of life in them, and I am also planning to buy an extra lens or two in the coming time, so whatever happens, I’ll be enjoying my Oly gear for some time to come :).

  10. Oh man.

    I hope olympus employees are still in a job.

    M43 live view revolutionised camera industry to this day every mirrorless camera.
    Pen EP1 live view completely changed my camera world.

    EM1/5 series with it’s class leading IBIS as well as see as you photograph long exposure.

    Yoshihisha Maitani designing smallest slr OM cameras.
    OM4Ti what a dream camera.
    OM1 i had.

    Silver nose 50mm F1.4 smallest slr F1.4 my favourite affordable F1.4
    contrasty puncy colors dreamy bokeh.

    Ive made some of my favourite images of past decade with Olympus.

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