Rumors Arise That Olympus May Shut Down Imaging Division in Less Than a Year

Rumors Arise That Olympus May Shut Down Imaging Division in Less Than a Year

Olympus' recent financial reports have shown bad news for the imaging division, with a 17% year on year decrease in revenue and continued operating losses. As the mirrorless market continues to heat up and there is increased competition, rumors have emerged that Olympus may soon shut down its imaging division altogether. 

Photo Rumors is reporting that Olympus may be shutting down its camera division in as little as eight months, with unrest within the company. Olympus has been all in on micro four thirds in the digital age, and as prices have dropped on APS-C and full frame cameras, the viability of the micro four thirds market has come into question for some time, as the price advantage has shrunk considerably or in some cases, been eliminated entirely. For example, while the E-M1X is highly capable, at around $3,000, many photographers were left wondering why someone wouldn't put that money toward a camera with a larger sensor. 

Olympus is celebrating its 100th year in operation this year, and while it is unlikely the entire company is in trouble, it would be very sad to see the imaging division and all its history come to an end. 

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70 Comments

So the smartphone photography brings it's first casualty

Not entirely due to phones. Others have jumped on mirrorless bandwagon. My a6000 and a6400 bodies are close in size to my e-m10. They have phase detect as part of the focus system. And if the sensors we're of the same design, the larger sensor would still have a edge in higher ISO.

The Smartphones were responsible for the demise of P&S cameras. Olympus is the only one to blame for their failure. Selling Micro 4/3 at the price of DX is a mistake and they are paying the price. So in 2020, would you spend 800€ on an Olympus OM-D 4/3" with 16.1mpx or a 1000€ on the newer Nikon APS-C 21mpx Z50?

I can't count how many times friends were asking me what entry level camera to buy at a good price and I sent them to Fuji... Olympus lover here by the way, had my first Camedia C4040 as a backup camera in 2001.

ps. I am shooting Nikon for +20 years now, currently shooting a Z6.

I'm not sure phones have a direct effect on ILCs. And it's not just Olympus. Canon was down 81% in the first quarter, 64% in the second. Nikon was down at least 18%, and in the last quarter, 45%! Fujifilm is doing pretty well, particularly in Instant cameras and film, but digital and lens sales have been up.

Smartphones have eaten up most of the compact camera market, and pushed the rest to niches. Olympus left that long ago except for the underwater cameras. Nikon, Sony, and Canon still have full P&S lineups, not sure they sell many.

I think there are factors involved. The film to digital transition was a bubble. Everyone stopped buying film cameras over about 5 years, and then replaced them a bunch of times. But today, you can use an 8-9 year old digital and get decent results (and yes, still much better than a phone). Plus there has been a move to mirrorless. And some product lines are updated annually. Together, that's much less demand, more competition, huge price compression, and just about anything you want on the used market. It should mot be a shock that the volumes go back to those of the pre-digital, pre-electronic 1970s.

I originally figured all these cellphone shooters would mean at least some migration to serious cameras. After all, that's what many of did from 35mm or digital compacts in the past. The problem is, recent phones do so much work for the casual shooter, they aren't forced to learn much of anything. So they jump to a serious camera and get bad results.

Look at Google's Night Site mode. They have an AI that factors in phone and subject motion, decides how many shots to take -- up to 15 -- shoots them fast, stacks them, uses another AI to decide what the color should have been there in the dark, etc. Stacking for low light or DR is certainly common enough a technique, but this automatic is new. Apple made a similar mode this year, and decided that forcing a user to actively set the mode is too much to ask if a phone shooter, so they have some AI that pucks the mode automatically based on the scene.

What does a kid who's used that for years do when handed a DSLR or MILC?

Too slow to react.
Reminds me around 2005 when digital started kicking in for weddings. We bought nikon d200 and we were transitioning from no prints and not developing/scanning/printing and albums were digitally made 4 large print labs just vanished in 1 year. They didnt transition to the changing market. 1 did. He brought staff to only do albums from scratch. design print and make the album

Olympus sadly is the same. Never lept forward. 1 foot in the door for commitment. Look at panasonic and them jumping to ff. Maybe they could have partnered with someone to advance. Maybe with pentax. Who knows. Making a $3000 small sensor camera was a waste of effort but probably in their eyes a hail mary

Olymlus lept forward a lot of times. 5 axis IBIS, till this date unbeaten by the big companies. Also no other comlany has mastered the sensor dust removal as effecfive as Olympus. And so many more forward leaping technologies.

Adrian Bateman's picture

IBIS is great but dust removal is kinda gimicky and doesn't actually sell cameras. It's so easy and cheap to remove dust yourself should your sensor ever need cleaning. It really doesn't weigh on a consumer as a strong purchasing decision.

Thats all nice but not enough. They didnt do anything that stood out. They didnt push for ff the lens lineup/flash isnt amazing. It's good but not enough. You know that sooner or later people are slowly moving to ff and you plan for that by developing something foward. Panasonic moved to ff and fuji themselves moved to mf. Olympus who already had a small market share just stayed the same.

If you're a small company or have small market share you have to be smarter and work harder to get others to notice you. The pentax ff was a nice start. They kinda fell asleep since the release but still, theyre trying

Olympus? You know what? We dont have a ff camera so lets throw a hail many and try a $3k camera the size of one. Did they really think people would buy it in quantity..? They could have brought anyone to the meeting when they thought of the idea to raise their hand and say "eh olympus.. What are you thinking?"

I feel bad for Olympus. Enjoyed using my pen and epic 90 back then.
BB/windows mobile/nokia. Fell asleep at the wheel and felt too comfortable. Not an apple fan but give them credit for pushing the envelope back then

Like FF is the only way to go. Actualy a good number of former FF shooters moved to MFT. Why should I carry a FF camera with FF lenses with me? It's bigger, heavier and far more expensive. In 30 x 40 cm prints there is no difference for me.

Olympus camera's has nice features you don't find on FF camera's. But if it's not for you it's okay. Just don't try to sell BS.

"Like FF is the only way to go."

Nope but its another way to go. They didnt go anywhere . Stuck in the same place

chris bryant's picture

I have loved Olympus cameras since the E-1 (which I still have). Currently have an EM1 (together with a 5DSR and D7200). Tragically sad day if they go under.

Come on best camera company in the world get that Yoshihisa Maitani hat on and make a small FF camera the size of the original OM to save the day.

I have loved Olympus since my OM-1 in the mid 70s.

One that uses the OM mount so I can use all my old glass while they make new lenses would be nice...

Spy Black's picture

If Olympus had the brains and used the kind of chutzpah they used on that E-M1X embarrassment, and indeed make a FF body with an adapter for the old Olympus mount that would be backward compatible with all old Zuikos, as well as a new mount for a new line of mirrorless AF lenses they could compete. They could have done that within the specs of the S alliance, so why they didn't join is a mystery.

Except, of course, if they just want out.

Around 20 years ago Sega Entertainment was bleeding money, they realized that that their software sales where being hindered by their low hardware sales. They were saved by selling their games on other consoles and PC.

Olympus has been making amazing lenses since I can remember. They should continue doing so as a third party lens maker. They could make lenses for Sony E-mount, Canon RF, and maybe L-mount.

Andy Day's picture

Great shout. I wonder how feasible that is.

Brian Stricker's picture

A repost on a site with the word rumor in it's name of a post with no actual facts or reporting...yep must be true. LOL

chris bryant's picture

and rumour being the first word means its even more true. Would a be a great shame if it was.

Will Murray's picture

However, the word "rumour" does not invalidate the article.

Time will tell.

I think they would do well selling glass for other formats, after all Olympus glass is some to the best out there...

Adrian Bateman's picture

I'm not saying they shouldn't but almost all brands make great glass these days

Olympus's imaging division is used to promote their brand. They make their money in the medical imaging division. Think of it as a loss leader, or where they can do some R&D to apply over to their medical imaging side. They aren't closing doors on the imaging division anytime soon.

Except is the imaging division actually losing money or just not making the profits they'd like?

Rob Davis's picture

It’s a shame that camera makers are so reluctant to do real innovation. Everything is incremental also-rans. Its all Bayer sensors and 14-bit raw which means every image from every camera can basically be identical. Fuji has done well with X-Trans to differentiate themselves, even though those differences aren’t revolutionary. Start making infrared, black and white only or a new color array. Aim for a $1499 price point being the affordable enthusiast camera.

And yet all the Fujifilm users complain about X-Trans... at least Olympus introduced Bayer-free multishot hires in 2015. And Live modes like Live Time, Live Composite. Killer IBIS. Deep learning AI autofocus more recently.

I shoot with Olympus, and while I agree they would need to make some upgrades to sell me new new gear, I find the innovation missing when using other brands these days. I suppose it depends on what you're used to...

Rob Davis's picture

I’ve never heard any Fuji owners complain about X-Trans. All of those Olympus features might get you better shots. It’s an option, it’s not a technology built-in to the camera like a different type of sensor entirely. Slightly better autofocus is not going to make someone change brands. It’s also not necessarily going to keep customers when other brands have slightly worse autofocus but massively better ecosystems.

I hadn't heard about any problem/dislike with X-Trans sensors until I bought my X-Pro1 -- and I'm pretty happy with the results, but then again, I mostly shoot B&W with it -- but I joined a few Fujifilm user groups online, and that was the #2 complaint about the X-Pro3, after the goofy fold down screen. But you know how these things run -- those happy with it aren't vocal.

I'm not sure there's a great deal of value in an alternative sensor color array. Sure, Fujifilm made a slight tweak, and the phones this year use this new Quad Bayer thing, though not a single phone can actually deliver anything close to an optical 48 megapxiels, much less 108. And they really need more advanced processing of the color to deliver with a Quad Bayer sensor for any serious camera use.

Panasonic has been working on organic sensors for what... a decade now? They did show one off in early 2018... they got a bit of a boost by employing stacked sensor tech, so that's an organic sensor chip bonded to a silicon processing chip. It's also got a global shutter and a voltage-variable sensitivity (basically a soft ND filter), but no annouced camera use yet. Canon and Sony have both been working on multi-layer (like Foveon) sensors, but they have the problem of ensuring they don't have the Foveon issues (noise, noise, and, umm... noise).

In short, silicon is very, very good and it's proving very difficult to improve upon in practice. It's not for a lack of trying.

The yearly "Olympus is doomed" nonsense. Started with photography 10 years ago and not a year gone by without 1 or 2 times this rumor on shady sites. Why should it be true this time? I think that placing such a rumor on this site tells more about Fstoppers than about Olympus.

Yup... the last one was early this year, and the rumor mills do seem to churn this out regularly. Though do a search... lots of the others have seen similar rumors.

Also, this is not usually how a line dies -- you really don't see a end-of-product announcement a few months after new products are introduced or a new factory brought on line. Look at the Nikon 1... the last products were released in 2015, Nikon officially ended it summer of 2018. The last Sony A-Mount products were in 2016, as were the last Pentax Q. Everyone knows those are dead systems, but not yet officially.

Aside from some unknown force, Olympus would not likely just end their camera line, even if they plans long term to do so. I guess Konica-Minolta was an exception, but onky because they sold the whole product line to Sony.

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