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Olympus photographers, look out:
Over the past few weeks, the future of Olympus’s camera business has been the subject of much speculation.
It started when a Personal View admin argued that the Olympus camera division was on the way out, claiming that “closure is near,” and it can “happen in less than 8 months.” The article stated that “it is total instability now in [the Olympus] camera division,” and went on to say that “in various countries, people are running and looking for new positions.” The author also pointed to an Olympus financial report, which revealed that camera revenue has fallen by 17%.
Yet this was rebutted by Olympus; the company quickly released a statement:
Olympus Imaging products play an important role as technology drivers for all Olympus business lines, including the advanced digital technologies used in Olympus’ Medical, Industrial and Scientific businesses. Olympus does indeed plan to continue to develop its imaging produce lines, bringing products to life that embody Olympus’ core benefits, including system compactness and superior lens optics.
For Olympus shooters out there, the relief was short-lived. Because just days later, Bloomberg published an article reporting that the Olympus CEO, Yasuo Takeuchi, “backtracked on some his comments in the past that the camera business was not for sale, saying that may not be the case anymore.” This was followed by Bloomberg reporting that “Olympus plans to regularly reassess its business portfolio to focus on its medical business.”
As expected, this resulted in another swarm of rumors and speculation, which were acknowledged in a recent statement by Olympus:
As announced in our Corporate Strategy, Olympus is further focusing on our Medical business and follows the strong ambition for all of our businesses to be profitable and contribute to our overall business objectives. In that regard, we are continuously evaluating our overall portfolio, as announced in our Corporate Strategy on November 6, 2019.
For Imaging, however, we currently have no plans to sell the business. The task is therefore to stabilize and strengthen its market position. To achieve that, we are actively running marketing activities, and have already established a clear and exciting product roadmap for the coming months and years. We are actively pursuing future technology developments that will enhance photography and video for creators. Furthermore, Imaging is and will continue to be an important technology and innovation driver for our other businesses.
Our Imaging business features a unique product portfolio. Olympus products are compact and lightweight, feature market leading image stabilization and autofocus. Many of our high-end products are also splash-proof. No other product offers customers this level of optical excellence paired with the highest mobility.
Just last month we launched our new OM-D E-M5 Mark III – a light yet feature packed addition to our semi-pro camera portfolio, inheriting pro-features like a high precision AF from our OM-D E-M1 Mark II model. Furthermore, we have announced the development of M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO earlier this year to be launched by next year. Customers can follow our break-free campaign on various channels and worldwide.
Out of everything that has been said, I find this statement to be the most reassuring, but I don’t think it puts the speculation entirely to rest. Olympus’s “no plans to sell the business” line doesn’t sound as firm as it could (compare it to a possible “we won’t be selling the business”), and plenty of companies have launched products right up until the end.
What seems most plausible to me is that Olympus is keeping its options open. So while we shouldn’t be surprised if Olympus’s camera division continues to function, it shouldn’t come as a shock if Olympus announces the sale or shutdown of its camera business, either.
So I’d like to know what you think. Do you find Olympus’s statements to be reassuring? Do you think Olympus will continue to manufacture cameras? For the Olympus photographers out there, are you worried? Let me know in the comments!