Olympus is rumored to shutter its camera business - that's why we think it's not

We ignored it at first, but rumors of Olympus shutting down its Imaging division (aka 'camera side stuff') are gaining momentum over the next eight months, although there are a few real facts (not to mention any official announcement) to back them up.

It started last weekend when the site administrator's personal view published a speculative article alleging Olympus and the imaging division was in turmoil and that employees were trying to find other jobs. It was picked up by other rumors and news sites and has since spread like wildfire across the internet.

At a time when most other camera makers are focusing on developing their range of full-frame mirrorless devices, it's understandable to think that the decision that Olympus sticks to the micro four-thirds (MFT) ecosystem could be hurting its sales. However, it's important to keep in mind that Olympus has been in business for over 100 years, and has successfully weathered tough times before.

In fact, we really don't have to look that far into a company's history to see how viable it is - just look at the last decade.

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Money on mirrorless

It wasn't too long ago that DSLRs were the go-to camera type for most photographers (from hobbyists to professionals), but despite this clear consumer preference, Olympus was able to think outside the box and, in 2008, created the MFT standard in partnership with Panasonic . In 2019, Sharp joined the alliance, clearly showing that this smaller, more compact interchangeable lens (ILC) system is here to stay.

But we digress a little, so let's go back to 2009, when Olympus created its very popular series of pen cameras, starting with the e-P1 pen. While Panasonic is technically the first company to launch MFT cameras in 2008, the Pen series of cameras were the ones that really helped popularize the format – and showed Olympus' willingness to innovate and experiment as a way to compete with industry giants like Canon and Nikon.

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Since then, the fragmentation of the ecosystem has grown and matured, and today has numerous bodies and lenses that users can choose from. In fact, we like to go ahead and say that this is perhaps the most complete and flexible mirrorless system, with full-frame cousins ​​still playing catch up.

New Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III

Focusing on survival

Olympus may have faced a big problem in 2011, however, when then-CEO Michael Woodford exposed a $1,7 billion fraud in his company. The Wall Street Journal called it "one of the largest and longest-running losses of lurking gear in Japanese corporate history".

This scandal almost destroyed Olympus, with the Tokyo Stock Exchange warning that it can do a delisting. However, the company survived, and in 2012 came out with its first groundbreaking OM-D camera in the form of the E-M5.

The E-M5 single-handedly changed the fortunes of Olympus and became its most successful camera to date. This was soon followed by the e-M1 in 2013 and the first E-M10 snappers in 2014.

Since then, he has been constantly experimenting and busting, with the latest ITF perch joining the growing stable released this year. The OM-D E-M1X has been designed with professional wildlife and sports photographers in mind. Given that specialist audience, Olympus must have known that its appeal would not be as broad as the larger offerings. But the company went for it - and it's one of the best, most innovative snappers from a Japanese camera manufacturer so far.

Last month, Olympus launched the OM-D E-M5 Mark III, which is aimed at the average consumer but includes many extra features not found in similar competitors - and still offers a great value for money. Does this sound like a company that is in decline? In fact, there are many conflicting rumors about whether Olympus still has more to come in 2020.

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It's official

В press release from Olympus issued on November 6, 2019, clearly states that "the imagery and scientific solutions of the division remain critical components of the overall Olympus Business".

While Olympus admits it struggles to be profitable when it comes to selling cameras and lenses, the imaging department only makes up 10% of the company's business, with its roadmap showing it has clear division plans through 2023. of the year. So if Olympus plans to shut down its imaging arm, it most likely won't until then.

It's also worth recognizing that the current camera market is, in general, quite challenging for manufacturers, and that Olympus isn't the only one losing money. Virtually every camera manufacturer has reported a year-on-year drop in sales - something that is most likely due to increased competition from smartphones, with most flagship models today offering impressive video surveillance systems. And yet, these phones are still quite far from matching the flexibility of a dedicated DSLR, mirrorless or MFT camera. And what does the latter need to keep innovating and turning to offer features and capabilities that their smartphone partners can't, it doesn't mean that dedicated cameras are on the brink of extinction and we should take Olympus' track record as a good sign that it is. probably not going anywhere anytime soon, either.

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