No More Olympus Cameras: Olympus Sells Its Camera Division

No More Olympus Cameras: Olympus Sells Its Camera Division

In a move that will upset many and surprise very few, Olympus is selling its camera business to an investment firm. In short, Olympus, a beloved brand that has been making cameras since 1936, is no longer in the camera industry.

Olympus’s camera division had survived various catastrophes in recent years, including several accounting scandals — one of which led to a fine of $646 million — that some thought might irreversibly impair the company. A year ago it was reported that the photography branch of Olympus had incurred $157 million in losses and in November it was rumored that Olympus would be selling off its camera division in as little as eight months.

A mere seven months after politely denying these rumors, Olympus’s camera business is in the process of being sold to Japan Industrial Partners. The Verge reports that this deal is expected to be completed later this year. The value of the sale is yet to be announced, but details will become clear when the definitive agreement is signed at the end of September.

The announcement from Olympus details some of its previous efforts to counter the dramatically shrinking camera industry that has been effectively decimated by the rise of the smartphone, market saturation, and a failure to produce equipment that integrates seamlessly with an increasingly online world.

Olympus has confidence that JIP will “utilize the innovative technology and unique product development capabilities which have been developed within Olympus, and will realize continuous growth of the business by bringing better products and services to the users and customers.” In effect, while Olympus is divesting itself of its consumer photography equipment, production will continue under new ownership. The new company will “maintain the research and development” and “continue to offer high-quality, highly reliable products.”

The announcement also describes structuring reforms to make the new business “profitable and sustainable,” and one imagines that this may involve job losses, office closures, and reduced output.

While cameras with the Olympus name seem set to continue for the immediate future, this marks an incredibly sad day in the camera industry. What do the coming years hold for the new investors, and what should their strategy be? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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Genuinely gutted. Not only have they been a staple of the industry for the best part of a century, they have a rich history, and some brilliantly passionate and talented employees. I'm hoping the buyer puts some of their in-camera tech to use at the very least.

Maybe watch this? Very "Click Bait" ish title and not accurate at all.

I appreciate his words but he acts/sounds like someone, off-screen, is holding a gun to his head. :-/

This will hinge considerably on what JIP intends for the brand. The announcement does suggest they're buying trademarks in addition to tech, which suggests they see this as an on-going business. But my main concern what you pointed to: are they really buying the company, meaning the people who've made these cameras? If so, then there's still an Olympus, even if the name changes. If not, if they're just handing designs off to Cosina or some Chinese megacorp, there's no real Olympus left, name or no name.

I own a ludicrous amount of Olympus gear. It's not going anywhere, I refeshed a few things in the last year-and-a-half. So i can wait. The fear is that, if this is portrayed as "end of Olympus," that sales drop, people move on, and the new company may not even have the option of continuance. I'm surprised the announced this before there was a full agreement and annoucement from JIP as to their intentions.

No more Olympus camera's remain to be seen. As far as the press release goes, there will be new Olympus cameras and lenses. Manufactured by Olympus Imaging division that will be owned by JIT.

Surely the headline should have been "Olympus has fallen" - or is that too obvious??

It's going to be produced under the and brand by it's new owner isn't it?

" Under such circumstances, Olympus considers that, by carving-out the Imaging business and by
operating the business with JIP, the Imaging business’s corporate structure may become more compact,
efficient and agile and it is the most appropriate way to realize its self-sustainable and continuous growth
and to bring values to the users of our products as well as our employees working in the Imaging business.......By adding support from JIP, the NewCo, as the successor of reputable
brands such as “OM-D” and “ZUIKO,” will utilize the innovative technology and unique product
development capabilities which have been developed within Olympus, and will realize continuous
growth of the business by bringing better products and services to the users and customers and by
making itself a productive and rewarding work place for its employees."

This doesn't seem that much different than DJI picking up Hasselblad? I think the title is completely wrong - it seems like there will be more cameras and lenses.

Via Sony Alpha Rumors: "Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) are a Japanese private equity fund specializing in restructuring / turnaround situations. They buy loss-making businesses, strive to make them profitable and, once done, resell them to corporate acquirers.
To give an example: they bought Sony’s PC business (Vaio)."

We all know what happened to Sony Vaio, so... it's very very possible the camera division goes the same way, so my DJI comparison is not at all the same.

Still, however, the title does jump the gun because nowhere is it stated that there won't be any more cameras.

Vaio laptops are still being manufactured and sold in Asia. And again in Europe since a year or so.

Oh really? Interesting. I've been a Mac user for a bit over a decade, so I guess I'm out of touch with that (or they're simply not sold anymore in North America). My first desktop that wasn't a family computer was a Sony Vaio - I know they stopped the Vaio desktops a long time ago.

I think what really happened with Vaio's visibility as a company was that Apple came in and ate their lunch. Vaio was at one point the only 'luxury' laptop brand but Sony didn't stay ahead of the curve.

Not everyone does know what happend to VAIO... it's a successful, on-going business. But not worldwide. I absolutely applaud Sony and now Olympus for chosing anything -- absolutely anything -- other than the Samsug plan: Samsung just ended the NX series one day. I'm not suggesting this was positive -- particularly since it was forced by stockholders and not necessarily what Olympus management would have chose.

The big question will be if, after all the dust settles, if the new company is sill fundamentally Olympus, with the same engineers and developers, of if it's just a transfer of names, like so many modern acquisitions -- it's sometimes determined that only the name has value.

Agreed. DJI enveloped Hasselblad and that turned out to be a pretty good thing - they were able to continue making great products, like the upcoming 907x which looks super cool, and integrate some of the Hasselblad tech - particularly their color - into DJI's drones.

Samsung was a sad affair. The NX was so ahead of the curve in many ways; H265 codec for video which no one knew what to do with at the time but is now becoming the new standard, the first APS-C BSI sensor... all of that was a real shame to disappear.

Olympus cameras and lenses may continue on with this new company, or they may just dump it altogether. I hope the former - M4/3 is a great system and Olympus has always had some very innovative tech in their cameras. And great glass.

All this talk about VAIO reminds me of another case: IBM sold their laptops etc to Lenovo. I bet you've all heard of that name before, right? ;)

Doesn't Lenovo still make laptops? Seems like they did not long ago. Maybe not. The most I've looked at Windows computers is when I've bought some for my mom and dad, but I've always gotten them Asus or Acers, after a string of bad experiences with other brands. And I like (and they like) the layout of the Asus and Acers, which seem almost Mac-like. A lot of brands seem to have modeled their laptops and keyboards after Apple nowadays. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

I have a Lenovo Yoga 2 in 1 I bought last year to keep in my camera bag for travel. I like it. Low weight and powerful enough for what I do. I've always been a Windows guy and I'm not used to using a Mac. But, I'm not a "pro", and I wanted to have something that was more powerful than my Chromebook and can still slip into my camera's also good at streaming movies (great display) and music during travel down-time (it has a great sound bar as well!).
On a side mom is 83 and uses an iPhone. I thought about getting her an iPad for the bigger screen. She's surprisingly good at using newer tech with a little coaching!

Lenovo is (still) a major player in laptops and tablets. That was my point. So selling a brand to someone else doesn't necessary mean it's a bad thing.

I condense it further to "we just can't deal with this anymore, maybe someone else will have better luck."

My god. Tony Northrup was right.

There is a saying that; if you throw enough shit on a wall, some of it is going to stick.

Told ya so....

Don't understand so false title that is already denied with the text statements. If they had announced to be shutting down, the title would be fair, now it's deceptive.
Hey guys, you have so much more years of photographic experience than myself, could you reach some more inovative subject in these circumstances?
Something like what those who like Olympus actually need, really need. Service and spare parts support, what else is needed? If you own Oly camera and myriad of lenses, you can use it for decade, and what is the problem with that?
And if you are Tony Northrup fan and die for more megapixels all the time, there are chances you are not using Oly anyhow, or you are not using anything but latest Sony - and you change you gear every few years - and all this won't affect you anyhow.

It didn't help that they had the worst names for their cameras

All manufacturers seem to have mystifyingly bad naming conventions. It's like they all hired marketing people from BMW.

I'm a physician. Don't get me started on how the pharmaceutical company comes up with the names for their new drugs. If the name doesn't have a 'Q', 'Z' or 'X' in it then it can't be any good. Everyone knows that.

That is for trademark pruposes. I was setting up a business some years back and asked the local trademark agency that told me a number of ideas for a good trademark, including having at least one of Q, Z, or X in the name — and obviously not sound or look in the least bit like anything else in this world … reminding me of Mr Mxyzptlk of Superman fame.

Now try to pronounce that.

Sorry, Doc, we can't read your writing 😎

I've read that there is actually some sort of formula they use to name drugs. As a healthcare professional for 33 years myself, I feel your pain! The drug names are almost impossible to pronounce. But, I guess there is actually some sort of "official" naming criteria. If I get bored, I might try and find that article again and post it here.

At least every letter in the name stands for something that's been mostly consistent for years, if not decades. Olympus Maitani Digital E System* Micro makes a certain kind of clunky sense. Personally I'd have lopped off the E and the second M and just gone with OM-D [n] but it's not anywhere near as random as Canon or infuriating as Panasonic. It's still a little infuriating once you include the PEN line, though. E-P, E-PL, and E-PM all kind of make sense on their own, but why does the OM-D line need the second M if the PEN line doesn't? For that matter, why do both lines still need a vestigial E at all when none of the original Four Thirds lenses work without an adapter, and Sony pretty much owns all the mindshare for its own E-mount?

* The E doesn't seem to have stood for anything originally. The original press releases called the Four Thirds line the "E System" and the first Olympus DSLR was just called the E-1. Some of the Four Thirds cameras Olympus made took on the "Evolt" name, but that seems like a backformation and it wasn't applied to everything. In Olympus naming, "E" stands for "E System" which more or less equals "Four Thirds" and E-M is "Still Four Thirds but also Micro Four Thirds." I guess E-P is "Still Four Thirds, but PEN, which means Micro Four Thirds, Only Smaller." E-PL is thus "'Still Four Thirds, but PEN, which means Micro Four Thirds, Only Smaller,' Lite" and the late E-PM is "'Still Four Thirds, but PEN, which means Micro Four Thirds, Only Smaller,' Mini (Even Smaller Than Lite)." What's not clear about that?

Truly a sad day but an understandable sign of the times.

A sad day. I went from Canon to Olympus OM-D many years ago and never regretted the move. My camera bag is full of Olympus kit, all exceptional well made. I was planning to upgrade to the EM-1 Mk iii but now I'm not so sure. Once it's restructured I'm worried that it will be yet another brand like Minolta that gets acquired by a competitor for its intellectual property and slowly gets run down.

I'm sure my E-M5III (and the dozen lenses) will still be functional in 5 years from now. What are my options when that camera stops working? I don't know - and ATM I don't care either. Meanwhile I'll enjoy my lightweight equipment and take the pictures I want.

Keep in mind, just two months ago, Olympus overtook Nikon, Canon, Fuji, and Sony for most mirrorless units sold in Japan:

You can bet your hard earned dollars on JIP attempting to improve the OMD product line. The sales potential is there. The bummer is, the super-techy amateurs are the ones who drive alot of sales. This is why Sony has done so well, they pack a ton of features that are great on paper into a lousy tool.

I bet this same thing will happen to Nikon in the not-distant future. A pvt equity firm will buy it for the brand equity, and try to make it work, then flip it for more.

Canon, Fuji, Sony, they have enough diversity in their businesses where they'll survive, in the same way Olympus used their medical divisions to help them last this long.

The simple reason I expect they plan some product future: they're buying the trademarks: Pen, OM-D, Zuiko. You don't need that if you're raiding tech. My real question is whether they'll actually be those things. Will the people who made Pens, OM-Ds, Zuikos be going along? Or will it just be a name slap, like the Poloroid CE products that just made me sad, seeing that great man's name put on random cheap CE crap.

It better not be a name slap.. That would just be sad

It is a bit sad, especially since my “envy” of a friend's Olympus OM-1 led me to become a Fuji shooter.

I'm thinking of Schwinn bicycles and how that great brand name ended up being bought and sold and slapped on junk until it no longer meant a thing.

Does anyone have an example of a major brand that went on to have a second life?

Everything with the name "Kodak" in it is 3rd party trash these days, except commodity printing ink.

Yep, the only valuable thing they had left was their name, and they decided to whore that out and use the cash to go full in on commodity commercial printing ink.

IBM Thinkpad

I thought it became Lenovo and the IBM brand name died.

I had a Thinkpad once - a good design at the time.

You're right, IBM doesn't make them anymore Lenovo does. But Thinkpads are still alive and generally still great.

What about Leica didn’t have the same going, and it has gone pretty well

I love my Oly camera, but Oly royally fucked up going the E-M1X route, and pricing their gear up in the stratosphere. Panasonic seems to have come to their senses when it comes to M4/3 cameras and just introduced the G100. That's a how an M4/3 camera should be sized.

I wonder what impact this will have on Panasonic's commitment to MFT development and innovation.

We'll get the answer in the next 1-3 years.

Who says the new company wouldn't use the name Olympus anymore? The company called Nokia sold their Nokia phones to MS (and later to HMD) and we still have Nokia phones on the market. This could happen with Olympus too.

I hope so the only one i seen in costa rica was the omd mark 3 sold here once i dont see the mk1 2 3

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