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.

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54 Comments

Robert K Baggs's picture

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.

Jamie MacDonald's picture

Maybe watch this? Very "Click Bait" ish title and not accurate at all.
https://youtu.be/cG4pHik-bUg

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?

Matt Williams's picture

" 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.

Matt Williams's picture

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.

Matt Williams's picture

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.

Alex Herbert's picture

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.

Matt Williams's picture

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.

Teemu Paukamainen's picture

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? ;)

Matt Williams's picture

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.

El Dooderino's picture

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 bag....it'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 note...my 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!

Teemu Paukamainen's picture

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.

jim hughes's picture

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.

Hans J. Nielsen's picture

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

LA M's picture

Told ya so....

Drazen Cavar's picture

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.

abderrahim bacha's picture

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.

Marko Medić's picture

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

El Dooderino's picture

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.

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