When Olympus announced the sale of its imaging division last month, which included Olympus cameras and lenses, many photographers were concerned. With its small size and weight, Olympus had become a favorite of many nature photographers looking to lighten their loads. Would Olympus cameras gradually fade away? What would this mean for the industry as a whole?
Camera companies are struggling. Sales are down almost across the board with many consumers opting for the cameras in their phones. It’s a tough business to be in right now and the financial results of several brands reflect that. Olympus’ imaging division had recorded losses for three consecutive years. Did June’s announcement mean the end of Olympus as a viable camera brand? Not necessarily.
One reason for optimism, and to hang on to your Olympus gear is that the buyer is Japan Industrial Products (JIP), which has a history of buying divisions from well-known brands and operating them successfully. JIP took over Sony’s Vaio laptop business in 2014 and, after a couple of quiet years spent reorganizing and retooling, came out with several new models. Maybe they will do the same with Olympus. It certainly sounds like that’s their intention.
Another reason comes from an interview last week with Mr. Aki Murata, president of Olympus America’s Consumer Products Group, by our friends at B&H. Murata assured photographers that Olympus service and repair centers would continue business as usual and all warranties will be honored. In addition, Olympus released a roadmap of future M.Zuiko lenses and a software update for bird recognition.
A final agreement between Olympus and JIP is scheduled for September, spelling out all the details, and the sale is expected to close before the end of the year. Whether JIP can make a camera division profitable remains to be seen, but we’ll be watching with interest.
And Olympus? After more than 80 years in the camera business, the company is focusing all its resources on becoming a sustainable global med-tech company.