Olympus Is Getting Out of the Camera Game

Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo
Photo: Sam Rutherford, Gizmodo

It’s been a rough few years for Olympus, and with smartphones cannibalising the sales of pocket cams and Sony dominating the sales of high-end mirrorless cams, Olympus has decided to sell off its camera division and exit the camera game entirely.

In a press release issued today, Olympus says that following due diligence it will sell its imaging business to Japan Industrial Partners by September 30, 2020. With Olympus’ exit from the camera game, the company will refocus its efforts on its medical and industrial imaging products, while JIP (which is the same company that took over Sony’s Vaio PC business in 2014) looks to restructure Olympus’ camera division into a new “efficient and agile” company that can “realise its self-sustainable and continuous growth.”

However, while Olympus is removing itself from day-to-day operations of its former camera business, it’s influence may not disappear completely, as Olympus says it will help operate the new camera company with JIP as JIP looks to preserve things like the “OM-D” and “Zuiko” branding.

This transition could be especially important for anyone with a Micro Four Thirds camera, which is a camera format that has been jointly managed by Olympus and Panasonic since its creation back in 2008. However, with Olympus now getting out the camera market and Panasonic having found success with its recent line of full-frame mirrorless cameras, it quite possible that Olympus’s exit from the camera world could also result in the death of the Micro Four Thirds standard sometime in the not-too-distant future.

For owners of other Olympus cameras, the press release claims that the new company will “succeed and maintain the research and development functions and manufacturing functions” while also providing support for cameras previously distributed by Olympus, though to what extent remains somewhat unclear.

While Olympus exiting the camera market is certainly a sad thing for longtime camera aficionados, following three consecutive years of losses including a $US157 ($226) million loss for its camera division in 2019, Olympus probably didn’t have a lot of options. So following the release of its first camera — the Semi-Olympus 1 — back in 1936, after more than 80 years in the camera game, Olympus is finally saying goodnight.