Olympus is getting out of the camera business. Dogged by persistent whispers that it was preparing to give up the ghost — which until now it had vehemently denied — Olympus is finally selling its imaging business, home of the OM-D and Zuiko brands, to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) which purchased Sony’s flailing VIAO brand back in 2014.
Olympus’s statement on the sale explains that its imaging division has been operating at a loss for the past three financial years, citing the growing camera-competency of smartphones as a chief cause for its struggles. Aside from being a long time camera manufacturer, having introduced its first camera way back in 1936, Olympus also spearheaded the ultra-compact Micro Four Thirds digital camera format with partnership from Panasonic. The cameras, which occupied a particular niche with lower resolution images but also smaller and more convenient lenses and a lower price point than larger sensored alternatives, found a measure of critical acclaim (I loved the recent flagship OM-D EM-1 MK III!), but less in the way of widespread commercial success. Panasonic took a breather from the format to launch a full-frame camera last year, and with Olympus now out of the game, the future of the format seems grim.
JIP has continued to put out products under the VIAO brand it purchased from Sony, and so it is reasonable to expect it will continue the development of the OM-D camera line in some form to make good on its investment. No matter what happens though, things will never be the same.
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