This past weekend, The Olympus Corporation turned 100 years old. A review of Olympus' history is eye opening. I didn't realize that Olympus was originally a healthcare company, and it remains a leader in certain healthcare fields today.
Olympus recently released a fun info-graphic covering their century long history. Take a moment to check out their timeline.
Of note, Olympus was making microscopes and other medical equipment for 17 years before they released their first camera in 1936. Initially, Olympus only wanted to manufacture and sell lenses, but it seemed nobody was interested in purchasing lenses without an accompanying camera. So, Olympus designed and built the Semi-Olympus.
It's interesting to note that, at the time, most of the Japanese camera manufacturers were building cameras based on German designs. Instead, Olympus designed its own camera. In the words of Eiichi Sakurai, Olympus' design engineer, to make cameras the same as the others was not interesting. I didn't realize it, but did you know that name brand for Olympus' lenses, Zuiko, translates into light of the gods? What a great name.
In my research rabbit hole, I also discovered that Sakurai was an amateur photographer whose work was exhibited at the Art Institute in Chicago.
To make cameras the same as the others was not interesting.
Although Olympus never did manage to wrestle control of the market from Nikon and Canon, it's OM line did have its adherents, including London's official photographer of the swinging 60s, David Bailey.
There was a bit of a rocky period for Olympus in the 2010s in respect of their accounting methods and potential involvement in organized crime. The accounting scandal ended up reducing Olympus' value by 75%. However, the company is currently going strong, holding 70% of the $2.5 billion endoscope market.
Even if its photographic business isn't the driving engine of its success, Olympus' commitment to cameras seems to be in no danger with money coming in from other enterprises.
I simply can't leave this article without sharing another ad with David Bailey, James Hunt, and Eric Idle...