Olympus shutters camera business after 84 years
Olympus, once one of the largest camera brands in the world, has been selling that part of its business after 84 years.
The company said that despite its best efforts, the “extremely severe digital camera market” is no longer profitable.
The arrival of smartphones, which had reduced the market for separate cameras, was a major factor, he said.
He had experienced losses in the past three years.
The Japanese company made its first camera in 1936 after years of manufacturing microscopes. The Semi-Olympus I featured an accordion-like folding bellows, and it cost more than a month’s wages in Japan.
The company has continued to develop the camera business over the decades, becoming one of the best companies in terms of market share.
“There is a great affection for Olympus, which dates back to the past,” says Nigel Atherton, editor of Amateur Photographer magazine.
The 1970s were the high point, with their cameras advertised on television by celebrity photographers such as David Bailey and Lord Litchfield.
“Those cameras were revolutionary: they were very small, very light, they were beautifully designed, they had really nice quality lenses,” adds Atherton.
A cult following remained at the company despite teething problems with new technologies such as autofocus, says Atherton. But the company had a second wave with digital cameras where they were the first to adopt.
But they targeted their next range of mirrorless cameras in an intermediate market – “people who weren’t serious photographers – wanted something better than a point-and-shoot camera, but they didn’t want a DSLR camera.”
“That market was very quickly swallowed up by smartphones and turned out not to exist.”
The autonomous camera market has declined sharply: according to an estimate, it fell by 84% between 2010 and 2018.
“Olympus I find a company very frustrating,” says Atherton. “In recent years, they have consistently made mistakes, made bad decisions, taken wrong directions, and gone down dead ends.”
One example he cited was the lack of progress in video performance, in which competitors made great strides.
In 2011, the company also faced a serious financial scandal involving senior executives.
Olympus is now seeking to conclude an agreement to carve out part of its business so that its brands – such as Zuiko lenses – can be used in new products by another company, Japan Industrial Partners.
In a statement, the Japanese company said it was as usual so far.
“We believe this is the right step to preserve the brand’s legacy,” said the note.
On social media, however, his British team admitted that fans “may have many questions.”
“We ask for your patience … Olympus sees this potential transfer as an opportunity to allow our imaging business to grow and delight both long-time photography enthusiasts and new enthusiasts,” he said.
Olympus Corporation, however, will continue.
The company has never stopped producing microscopes and has transformed its optical technology into other scientific and medical equipment such as endoscopes.