Yesterday we woke up to the news that Olympus is selling its camera business to the Japanese company JIP (Japan Infrastructure Partners), and basically quitting the camera manufacturing industry after 84 years. The official reason in their press release is the inability to make the camera division profitable due to the smartphone success.
Tony and Chelsea Northrop published the video above talking about some of the possibilities of what will happen now with the brand. We tend to agree with much of their assessment that there are basically two main options – one is that JIP will do what it did when it acquired the Vaio brand from Sony some six years ago and that is to keep running it but sell lower quality products for very specific markets in the hopes of getting users who were familiar with the old brand to buy the new cameras. The other option is of course that JIP will re-sell the Olympus brand to a different company that can do the same, or decides to go on a different path (for example dismantle the company and lay off all of its employees and sell the intellectual property).
What will happen to Olympus users? that is a more tricky question. In the short term, you will likely be able to get your camera fixed and labs will still have access to spare parts.
As for lenses – it isn’t clear at this point if any future announcements are going to happen (specifically the 100-400mm Pro lens) but it is unlikely that we will see JIP investing heavily in R&D. On the plus side, micro 4/3’s has a huge line of lenses and Panasonic is still making them so existing Olympus users will still be able to buy new lenses for their cameras.
Tony also talks about the value of Olympus cameras after this announcement as a second-hand product and surprisingly it might not come down at all and maybe even come up (although that one is really just speculation). At least in the near future, there will still be Olympus users who might want to upgrade or get new gear (that might be more relevant to lenses especially in the long run, however camera value almost always goes down after a few years).
At the end of the day more than anything it is a representation of the camera industry in 2020, one that had its best times almost a decade ago and has been struggling to keep making a profit even before the virus. While it is unlikely that we will see another one of the major players quit in 2020, looking forward, especially with the predicted economic crisis that we are possibly just in the start of – it isn’t unthinkable that we will see another major player in a similar situation (Nikon specifically comes to mind), but only time will tell.
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