Olympus Responds to Rumors That Its Camera Division Is Closing Down

Olympus Responds to Rumors That Its Camera Division Is Closing Down

Last week rumors circulated that on the back of a series of disastrous financial results, Olympus was about to announce that it would be closing its imaging division, ending its production of cameras and lenses. The Japanese manufacturer has since responded to these rumors.

As reported by Fstoppers a few days ago, Olympus’s results have shown a 17% year-on-year decline in revenue and significant operating losses, leading to rumors that the camera branch of its business could be shuttered by the middle of 2020. Speaking to Sina Finance News and reported by 43Rumors, Olympus has responded to questions regarding its plans stating that they will “continue to work on the improvement of profitability and efficiency” (Google translation from Japanese) of both its imaging and scientific businesses. This is essentially a very polite denial.

When asked whether it is planning to sell either of these businesses, Olympus stated that more information would be revealed as part of the earnings report for the next quarter. Olympus has previously proven its ability to ride out a storm after three-quarters of the company's value was wiped out by an accounting scandal that dates back to 2011, and after paying fines of $646 million to U.S. authorities in 2016.

Those predicting the demise of Olympus cameras might want to wait and see what this report brings. Given the size of the business, it seems unlikely that Olympus would bring a halt to production or start seeking a sale, or at least not any time. Furthermore, Olympus would be far from alone in seeking to restructure its company according to the global decline in camera sales. Nikon has recently announced that, following some dreadful year-on-year figures reported in its recent quarterly results, it will be implementing some major changes to the company, almost certainly looking to save costs wherever possible, perhaps scaling down production, and cut research and development budgets.

What does the future hold? 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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Long live Olympus. Looking forward of another few years of Olympus awesomeness.

Not one single company in recent memory has ever copped to getting out of the camera business...Samsung, etc.

One day you wake up and your kitchy camera platform has been discontinued.

I don't consider Olympus to be a kitchy camera company. They designed and built very good products, and their history is well known. They made a decision 10 years ago to go M4/3 which at the time broke new ground. Time has brought many changes and the company has not remained intelligently competitive. We'll see where this all winds up I suppose.

Well that's why it's called an opinion...

I was a M 4/3 user until around 2017 myself. No problems on commercial assignments etc. But the cost vs technology battle make sit unlikely they will survive.

Why would anyone buy M 4/3 at a higher cost in some cases vs a FF or APSc mirrorless?

The entire draw of M 4/3 was smaller, lighter, less expensive with HG image output. The best lenses from Olympus are priced up to the moon...

Why would anyone buy an APS-C with far inferior lens selection and - at best - marginal gain in IQ? Fuji might be the exception though.

What in the world are you basing that on?

Olympus has a huge lens catalog but a relatively small M 4/3 specific set. Those ones are incredibly expensive and LARGE.

Why wouldn't someone buy a FF or APSc at the same or relatively lower cost even when the IQ is exactly the same?

Whatever advantages the M 4/3 system had is gone. That's why I switched to Fuji...and I may switch yet again back to Canon.

"What in the world are you basing that on?"
- I've already answered that. Expensive? Large? Yeah, e.g. those 25mm and 45mm primes are soooo huge & expensive. I mean $99 is awful lot for a f/1.7 lens, right?

"Whatever advantages the M 4/3 system had is gone."
- Yep. Because the older, smaller lenses are being rendered useless with the new, bigger & brighter coming to the market. :)

First time I have actually seen someone write the terribly incorrect use of the english language "those ones". It is simply THOSE!

If they go down I'll snag everything I can get in fire sales. It'll really suck, but I like M4/3 a lot and I'd use the gear 'till it dies. Panasonic looks like it'll probably drop out of M4/3 soon, so that's that.

However I wonder if the Chinese would pick up on the platform. Companies like Yi, Yongnuo, etc. could conceivably start making bodies, who knows?

There's also Japanese pride (and really, pride in general) to take into account. This is Olympus centennial year. It would be an embarrassment to shut it down now. I suspect Olympus will ride this through it's anniversary year and possibly then shut down the camera division.

If they really want to keep the imaging division, they need to weed out their model line, and price the remaining product competitively. That $3000 boat anchor ain't gonna cut it. That's the other thing as well, get back to making cameras that take advantage of what M4/3 is supposed to be in the first place. That means SMALL. And LIGHT. I say make a rangefinder thingie, and E-M10 sized body, and an E-M1 body, and that's it. Throw everything else out.

We'll just have to wait and see what Olympus does

"Panasonic looks like it'll probably drop out of M4/3 soon, so that's that."
That's fake news. Since the announced there FF camera's they stated time after time that they will continue with MFT. Since than they have released the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm F1.4 II ASPH, Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm F1.7 ASPH, Panasonic Lumix G Vario 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 II ASPH Power OIS, and G90/G95 camera.

Yi already released a MFT camera in 2016, the YI M1.

Well, we'll see where it all goes. I give this a year to finalize one way or another. Yi discontinued their M1, but I can see them re-entering if Olympus and Panasonic drop out.

I love my Panasonic GX-85 and my Olympus 60mm macro lens. I hope Micro 4/3 keeps going for a long time, but if not I hope to find some great deals on going out of business sales and used gear. Should be enough stuff out there to keep me going for another 5-10 years, By that time who knows what will be out there, or maybe I'll buy the used stuff of today for pennies on the dollar.

As much as we don't like the idea it could, and will more than likely happen, but when is any ones guess. Remember Topcon, Minolta, Rollie, Yashica,Contax. There are others to be sure, and it's sad when this happens, we all lose, but no one can deny that smartphones are taking their toll, they are the new Brownies. Everyone has a smartphone so everyone has a camera. I used Olympus M1, OM1 OM2 OM3 OM4 in the 1970's and into the 1980's I was on their VIP program, then in 1985 Minolta offered me a position using their new Maxxum AF system and I stayed with Minolta until Sony fired everyone in 2004-2005. After that I was invited to join Dick Merrill and shoot with the new Foveon sensor, at the same time Nikon offered me a position as did Canon. I became a Nikon Professional, but after 43 years I'm retired now and I have enough gear to go the rest of the distance using both film and digital. I hate to see this happen to Nikon, Canon, Olympus and others. Even Sony is in decline/the same state as the others. The younger people I talk with say, all they need is a cell phone, a polaroid camera, and one film camera with 3 lenses and they could do any job. I believe this to be true.

Have fun

What options are open for Olympus?

1. Increase innovation rate, massively invest in R&D. Adopt high resolution sensors in the range of 30-100 MP and AI=powered processing to compensate loss of light per pixel. Highly unlikely for a niche company in the shrinking market, it’s just not a way to go, that’s not how a corporate mind works. Still if Olympus will play high resolution card that would be a game changing event for entire industry.

2. Cut costs, stall, procrastinate, make appearance of innovation by introducing new models with minor cosmetic changes in the hope of better times and to minimize inventory. The most likely course of action that probably will lead to closure anyway in a couple of years.

3. Sell camera business altogether. Highly unlikely option, we just don’t see the buyers.

Source: https://www.marketanalysis.com/?attachment_id=11270

Olympus is making truckloads of money with their scientific imaging department. And they need to be able to purchase sensors for that. And for exactly that very reason Olympus will never ever shut down their consumer business. Because only the consumer business provides them with the opportunity to get access and purchase sensors in larger quantity at a reasonable price. The minute they shut down the consumer imaging business, it will become a lot harder for them to get their hands on sensory they'd need for their scientific products. Because the suppliers will honor requests with larger quantitites from other camera manufacturers first. And yes, while consumer product sales have been on a steep decline, the numbers produced and sensors required are still significantly higher that the ones for scientific products.

And for that reason, amongst the other already mentioned ones, it simply doesn't make sense to shut down the consumer imaging branch. It may only be a cost center at this point in time, not a profit one. But it is crucial to the overall success of the company as a whole.

Source: Own mind and reasoning on Olympus business reports plus a German photography podcast by two German photographers (one of them being Olympus visionary) with some insights and direct connections into the Olympus world.

If Olympus is making "truckloads of money" witheir scientific imaging division, it wouldn't make any difference whatsoever if they dumped their "consumer" division. This is delusional at best.

I suspect M4/3 will remain with us for at least another year, then anything goes, which may possibly be M4/3.

Olympus are still the most innovative camera maker in the world alar, image stabilisation sensors and there pro cameras water and dust proof a complete package.Try lugging a Panasonic S1 with 70-200 lens around an event for 4 hours not fun,bear in mind that all camera makers will come under pressure from the phone companies with huge financial war chests to throw at innovation

"Try lugging a Panasonic S1 with 70-200 lens around an event for 4 hours"

Ya...1D MKII/5D MK2 over many years of weddings...with 24-70/70-200 attached..with flash, etc.

BTW Olympus has lost the "most innovative" title for at least 3 years on the go now...

Maybe or maybe the others are just catching up only time will tell, sensors have reached maximum capacity and improvements are coming through software