Op Ed: What’s Going on With Olympus at Photokina 2018?

Olympus has been very quiet at Photokina 2018; it’s sort of disturbing.

This post is being written around Photokina 2018 in regards to a question that’s been quietly popping up amongst press and a number of other folks in the industry: what’s going to happen to Olympus? They’re a company that has been super quiet this year. There have been very few product announcements, their last major innovation was at last Photokina despite releasing some very nice lenses, and they seem to be the company that is sort of left in the dust. What do I mean by this? Look at Panasonic. They’re not giving up on Micro Four Thirds; the format in and of itself still has some merit despite what some folks may moan about. But Panasonic’s cooperation with Leica and Sigma on the L mount combined with some serious competition for Sony is stealing the show.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Olympus has been through a lot. Part of me remembers their massive shake up when a newly elected President whistleblew on theft within the company. As I’ve seen when working for big companies, things rarely change. I mean, they rarely truly change. That isn’t to imply that it has perhaps been purged from their system, but traditionally Olympus has always been a company that sets a fire that collapses into embers a bit too soon.

I’m not going to tip toe around the issue here; it’s best that I just tackle it head on.

The world is moving beyond Micro Four Thirds. Full frame is the new standard. APS-C could probably be dead in a few years. The world is all medium format and full frame. So where is Olympus here? What I don’t understand is why they never fully embraced the enthusiast with the Pen F and perhaps created a small Olympus Trip digital camera. That would’ve kept them afloat for a long time. The Pen F needed weather sealing. An Olympus Trip could have been targeted to take on the Ricoh GR series of cameras as a perfect entry into the street photography world. Olympus arguably has the best ergonomics of anyone on the market and, as a former Olympus customer and die hard lover of Micro Four Thirds, I feel betrayed as a customer.

But I could be wrong. I’ve said the same thing about Canon in the past and they’ve mostly cleaned up. I say the same thing about Apple and they still annoy the hell out of professional photographers.

It’s evident that companies in the photo world are starting to work together closely to survive. And unfortunately I’m not sure M43 was well managed. I’m not sure it needs a savior either. There are enough lenses for what it’s worth. I think instead it’s either time to put it to pasture or get more serious about the format. But the latter has always been an uphill battle for them.

I fondly remember defending the format to a journalist at the Verge. His mind was eventually changed. But the problem with the web is that everyone sits here and says, “Oh, it’s too small.” In all seriousness, if the images are just on the web or social media, most folks won’t be able to tell the difference. But that’s changing as monitors become better.

I’ll let this discussion die now, but as it is, I’m not sure it’s beneficial for anyone to buy Micro Four Thirds anymore with the amount of innovation coming from all the other companies.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.