Olympus to sell off their imaging division

Olympus to sell off their imaging division

Long-time camera  industry member Olympus announced today that they would be selling their imaging division to Japan Industrial Partners who bought the lagging Vaio laptop brand six years ago from Sony Corp. and turned it into Vaio Corp. Japan Industrial Partners has experience resurrecting  failing consumer brands. I don’t think anyone considers Vaio’s laptops as top of the line by any means, byt they are still around and the company is still supporting the customers that Sony bailed on. Full disclosure, I had a Vaio laptop that didn’t make the cut when Sony sold their laptop business to Japan Industrial Partners, I wasn’t upset it was time for me to buy another laptop at the time anyway. 

Olympus will fill the void with their medical equipment which I am sure is much more lucrative that consumer grade cameras are. Olympus had a tough hill to climb and always stayed at the back of the pack with Pentax in terms of competitive features. They backed the micro four thirds sensor size like Panasonic did and I think they lngered too long with that technology once it was apparent the consumers weren’t thrilled with their performance. The idea was great, a form factor that delivered near full size SLR quality in a point and shoot size. Unfortunately, in the photography game size matters and I think perhaps someone pulling out a tiny micro four thirds camera at an event like a wedding might not look as professional as a full frame camera. Nothing against the quality of the images, but clients equate camera size to knowledge and image quality – regardless of how wrong that thinking is. 

I have nothing against Olympus, when I transitioned from film to digital in the mid 90’s, I bought an Olympus point and shoot and that was my primary camera for many years. Looking back on the images today they were all shifted to the blue spectrum and overly grainy and crunchy for a one megapixel camera. The cool thing was that is was digital and I didn’t have to have my film processed. I “grew up” in a company that manufactured consumer electronics (Atari Corp and Mattel Toys) and I fully realize that once you have the funds spent to work in a given field it is difficult to jump ship to another technology regardless of how poorly it is doing in the commercial space.  Their cameras were good – not great. I would not own one again and I fear most other photographers feel the same way. There will always be fanboys for a brand but unless you have widespread acceptance of your products it is difficult to maintain commercial viability. I hope Japan Industrial Partners is able to run with their new intellectual property and resurrect the Olympus name in some fashion. 

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Credit to bloomberg for the original article: