As a professional photographer who uses Olympus gear, I am thankful for the company being upfront, and I still believe that they have a future.
We all woke to shocking news on June 24th, 2020. Olympus, a staple in the photography world, has decided to sell-off its camera division after more than 100 years in business. Three years of successive operating losses, a market ravaged by the effects of COVID-19, and more competition than ever made the powers that be at Olympus believe that that uphill battle was too much for them to conquer, so Olympus sold the camera division to an equity fund (JIP). JIP Inc is a restructuring firm that specializes in streamlining the fallen giants of industry, and it is this fact that makes me believe that this isn’t the end of Olympus, the camera company, it’s a new beginning. Let’s talk about this after the break.
It’s Not Bankruptcy
I think the first thing to make note of here is that Olympus has not filed for bankruptcy, or bankruptcy protection. Olympus has instead sold off the camera division to an equity firm who wants to make money off of their investment. The big question will be, how do JIP plan on making their money back?
It has been clear for a while that Olympus has not had a solid plan for their products. I purchased into the Olympus system late in 2019 (October, I believe), and even then, there were mumblings about the company having to sell to stay afloat. However, I still saw the value in the platform. Even though marketing efforts didn’t really convey what Micro Four Thirds was all about, I knew that the platform was all about small, powerful Mirrorless cameras with class-leading IBIS, tried and true sensors, innovative features, and beautiful lenses, and it’s just what I needed.
The Marketing Needs to Change
The inadequate marketing doesn’t mean, though, that Olympus cameras are bad, or that the Micro Four Thirds platform is dead in the water. The system, the cameras, the lenses are all fantastic; in fact, I would say that in my 31 years of being a photographer, my current Olympus camera (E-M1 III) and lenses are some of the best I have ever owned and used. I use them professionally, daily, and I have no complaints. No, the problem isn’t the gear itself, it is how Olympus and even Panasonic have been marketing the system, and this, my friend, is where JIP will now come in to play. They will provide the direction, and the new energy the brand sorely needs.
Olympus, I think, lost sight of what they wanted to do, and they haven’t had a clear road map that shows them how to get where they want to go. Selling the brand to keep it alive was the right thing to do. You don’t just let over 100 years of history and heritage fade away.
JIP now owns one of the most recognizable brands in the industry. JIP’s job now is to get their hive mind together and formulate a plan to get Olympus gear back into the hands of photographers, and this is precisely what I think they will do. Sure there will be the talk of them selling off the technology so that they can make their money back, but the goal here isn’t to just get their money back; it’s to grow their investment. All Olympus cameras and lenses that were in the works are still going to be released, too, so the dooms dayers who claim the end is happening overnight are wrong. Olympus and JIP have a plan here.
It’s Not Over.
There will be those in the YouTube World who will claim victory over this announcement and who will say ‘I told you so.’ Well, let them gloat. The fact is that at this very moment, Olympus is not dead, it has merely changed hands, and at the very least, their cameras will be around for the next few years. If, and only if JIP cannot turn things around, will they perhaps sell off the patents and technology that they acquired from Olympus, but I do think (and yes, partially hope and pray) that this will not be the case. I want to see JIP and the Olympus brand thrive.
Regardless of all of this noise, if you are a current Olympus owner, your gear will not suddenly stop working, and your lenses will not suddenly stop capturing gorgeous images. My camera is going to be good for another few hundred thousand shots yet, that I can guarantee because the build quality of Olympus gear is second to none. I plan on using my gear until it simply gives out. But what about repairs if and when they do break? Calm down, I am sure you will still be able to get repairs done by Olympus/JIP, and there will be independent repair facilities that will take care of you too.
Current Oly cameras will last until all the uncertainty is over with, that’s for sure. If, at the end of your cameras’ life cycle, Olympus does fade away, well, it was likely time for you to get a new camera anyway. If you do plan on selling, well good luck with resale values right now, perhaps send me an email (or look me up on Insta @lifewithmicrofourthirds) so that I can scoop up your gorgeous equipment on the cheap. Even if the brand does go the way of the Dodo, the second-hand market will be gold!
At the end of the day, it is too early to tell what will happen. We know that, for now, the Olympus name is alive and well, the company has simply changed hands, it has not vanished into thin air, and the Micro Four Thirds platform has not suddenly exploded into a million pieces. Let’s give things time, let the dust settle, give JIP the benefit of the doubt, and hope that we don’t lose a major, major part of photographic history.
There seem to be people out there who revel in companies going under, and who are just waiting for the day when the likes of Pentax, Olympus, and maybe soon even Nikon will fade away, but when this happens, it will just be a sad day for everyone. I’m rooting for you, Olympus. Now, let’s go out and create, and show JIP why Olympus is loved so much.