Is Olympus Leaving the Camera Business Forever?

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Gear Focus

Jun 25, 2020

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From their first lens in 1936 to their most recent mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, Olympus has been a trusted company for both professional and hobbyist photographers around the globe. This makes their departure from the camera business that much more surprising, and has both their long-term and first-time customers scrambling. So why the change? Is Olympus leaving the camera business forever?

A Change in Demand

According to Olympus, the unbearably competitive camera market has been slowly hijacked by smart phones. In order to pick up the hobby, amateur photographers no longer depend on DSLR cameras. What was once just a brick with dialing capabilities is now a super-computer. The average user is more likely to have a smart phone with an HD camera included. Even if they never use it! It is more difficult in this digital age to market high quality equipment to people who would rather drop hundreds on a new phone. As the technology in smart phones increases, the market for digital cameras steadily shrinks. At first, the changing market was combated by Olympus' interchangeable lens cameras, and advances on the Olympus PEN. However, it became difficult for Olympus to keep up as the demand for digital cameras slowed to a crawl. Olympus leaving the camera business?

Is Olympus Leaving the Camera Business Forever?

As Olympus signs a Memorandum of Understanding for Divestiture, their imaging branch moves into the hands of an investment company: Japan Industrial Partners (JIP). JIP also purchased Vaio from Sony in 2014 when Sony declared they would no longer be part of the computer industry. Sony is still putting out stunning camera equipment, TVs, sound systems, and more... so maybe there is hope for Olympus after all. While Olympus signs over its shares to JIP on September 30, 2020, they do so with the promise of better things to come. The company emphasizes their new focus on a more productive and streamlined environment for their employees. Olympus writes, "[JIP] will succeed and maintain the research and development functions and manufacturing functions..." and hopefully continue rolling out certain products.

Their Contribution to Film and Camera Technology

Olympus has been making bold moves in the camera industry since 1936. Their contributions to the craft with the OM-1 and OM-2 single-lens reflex models gained them some well-deserved clout with photographers. That being said, it was their Four-thirds sensor system that really began ringing bells for many people. As digital technology dawned, Olympus wanted to set themselves apart from the competition. This new format allowed for smaller camera bodies and smaller lenses that could be swapped out. However, while their cameras could be more compact than standard Nikon or Canon products, the interchangeable lens craze didn't seem to catch on with larger companies. Nikon and Canon were able to maintain a large majority of their film consumers, leaving Olympus to battle the smart phone era on their own.

The Good News for Olympus Enthusiasts

Through all the changes, Olympus writes that they will not disappear for good. Quite the opposite! Olympus places their camera business in the hands of JIP to "streamline" their production. For those of us who know and love the brand, this is a great relief. JIP plans to give Olympus a boost in sales to make up for their three year stint of losing profits. Like many Olympus fans, Gear Focus is excited for this new direction. We look forward to their progress and are ready to see what comes next! If you're looking to sell used Olympus camera gear, list for free with Gear Focus!

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