Olympus CEO Yasuo Takeuchi today announced that the company will sell its imaging business after recording operating losses for three consecutive fiscal years. The new owner of the OM-D and ZUIKO brands, Japan Industrial Partners (JIP), wants to restructure and maintain the imaging business. The deal should be closed by the end of this year.
Olympus has been in the camera business for a very long time, 84 years to be exact. The company’s Imaging business started with the manufacture and sale of a camera using photographic lens ZUIKO in 1936. In the more recent history, Olympus has been at the forefront of the mirrorless camera market, and along with Panasonic they started and maintained the Micro Four Thirds ecosystem.
Although for most filmmakers, Olympus cameras have probably never been a number one choice, the OM-D brand of cameras has become really popular among many photographers. The last new camera announcement from Olympus was the OM-D E-M1 Mark III in February 2020. Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds m.ZUIKO lenses, on the other hand, are in some regards even more suitable for filmmaking than Panasonic M4/3 lenses and many filmmakers use them with their LUMIX bodies.
Olympus Sells its Imaging Business
The truth is that Olympus is a large company and they have been earning most of their money in other fields – selling medical, scientific, and industrial systems. In fact, the company has been subsidizing its Imaging business for the last three years. As Olympus writes in the published Signing of Memorandum of Understanding for Divestiture of Imaging Business:
Olympus has implemented measures to cope with the extremely severe digital camera market, due to, amongst others, rapid market shrink caused by the evolution of smartphones; Olympus has improved the cost structure by restructuring the manufacturing bases and focusing on high-value-added interchangeable lenses, aiming to rectify the earning structure to those that may continue generating profit even as sales dwindles. Despite all such efforts, Olympus’s Imaging business recorded operating losses for 3 consecutive fiscal years up to the term ended in March 2020.
Therefore, the company will sell its Imaging business including the OM-D and Zuiko brands, and will only focus on its other key business fields.
The new owner of Olympus’ Imaging business is the JIP – Japan Industrial Partners – the same company which bought Sony’s VAIO PC business in 2014. The aim is that JIP restructures the Imaging business, makes it more compact, efficient, and agile, and continues both the OM-D and ZUIKO brands.
NewCo (new company owned by JIP – editor’s note) will succeed and maintain the research and development functions and manufacturing functions globally as reformed under the contemplated structuring reforms to continue to offer high-quality, highly reliable products; and also continue to provide supports to the imaging solution products that have been distributed by Olympus.
It seems that current Olympus customers don’t have to worry about support for their products, it remains to be seen, however, how exactly the future of OM-D cameras and ZUIKO lenses will look.
It is clear that smartphones are eating up more and more from the camera market and I am afraid we might see more camera companies getting in serious financial trouble in the future. The slower world economy hit by the upcoming “Coronavirus recession” might speed developments up even more.
Do you use Olympus cameras or ZUIKO lenses? How do you think the future of OM-D and ZUIKO brands will look like? Let us know in the comments underneath the article.