Funny title if I do say so myself. A lot of people are having interesting reactions to the news that Olympus is selling off it’s camera division and branding to a new corporate parent. Lot’s of speculation as to what that means, and what to do about it going forward.
Here is my take, which is just amongst the sea of a million other opinions.
A few things to look at here as a lot of people are having the same questions about all of this.
First… is Olympus themselves. They have to do what they have to do. Simple as that. Business is business. However, selling off is not always a bad thing. There are lots of brands that have done very well under new owners. Leica is at an all time high. Hasselblad seems to be doing ok under DJI. Lamborghini came to life under VW. There are lots of brands in and out of the photo industry that are success stories with sell offs. Then again, there are also lots of horror stories. Gibson Musical Instruments bought Cakewalk, one of the world’s leading audio recording platforms. And closed it. Simply, and to the dismay of millions…and cakewalk wasn’t even in financial trouble as far as I know.
Avenger, Lastolite, Gitzo, Manfrotto, Rycote, Lowepro, Joby, and National Geographic brand products are all under the same parent corporation. And each division has carried on its own way. Just because the owners of Joby bought Gitzo doesn’t mean that gitzo will make a mini flex tripod, or that Joby’s will get any better. There might be tech transference, but not necessarily. Look at Ricoh and Pentax… unfortunately Pentax has continued in their original direction. And they live on. (If pentax still lives…there is plenty of hope for OIympus…more on that in a moment)
So for the near term, I don’t think speculation is worth anything. Will they continue to operate…potentially. Will they continue to innovate and produce excellent products… potentially. Their best days are potentially ahead of them. Could they sit stagnant and do nothing, maybe. Will they fully close shop…maybe. It’s all speculation. And speculation is not worth wasting time on. My greater concern honestly is will service and repair be continued, and if there is not a continuation of business in the long term, how quickly will services be closed down. That is a use issue, but again, it’s not the time for that at the moment.
Second, the end user is most important. That’s us. Right now, I use Olympus because the system serves me very well. I’ve owned Canon, Fuji, Leica, Phase One, Hasselblad, and Olympus. Olympus is my primary system, and an odd mashup of older gen Phase and Hasselblad is still on hand for very unique or extreme situations. I chose and use Olympus because it really does offer me everything I need in a better, smaller, lighter package. It has some of the best tethering, offers me my preferred 4:3 frame natively, and has file sizes and quality that is excellent for professional printing and publishing in media and trade. Maybe that is subjective for personal printing and wall art… but my clients provide my living using images in all forms of advertising and the images have always been praised. That is what I need. A camera that delivers the results I need for my goals. That’s why I sold all my leica gear. I LOVED it…but it didn’t do what I needed. Olympus does. That’s me. And that’s right now.
The lens set is very full for the most part, and the m4/3 lens choices are vast beyond Olympus. And the bodies available in the EM1X, E-M1 MKIII and E-M5III are absolutely excellent and dependable. They will continue operating and functioning for quite a while. We don’t NEED new equipment if the current gear fulfills our needs. My medium format back is from 2009 and still blows people away when they see the files. Is it as good as the latest backs…no…but for what I use it for, my end results would be absolutely no different. So it still fills my need as a tool. Same with the Olympus gear. For what I do, very few other cameras on the market can execute as well as my Olympus gear, and it will continue to be that way for a while. (i know because i have tried other gear and rented equipment) And if Olympus does fall out completely, buying a backup lens or additional body might even be the better option than repairs at some point. However, as long as the gear functions, the job will still get done just as well as today.
Third, Panasonic is still pursuing m43 and the G9 and GH5 are amazing cameras that will most likely get replacements. Both are very similar to Olympus. It’s an option. And the lens system is compatible for the most part.
Fourth, New technology and innovation could definitely come to the camera industry. At some point in the future, maybe new tech allows your specific needs to be done better. At that point, if Olympus is out of the picture, then new equipment might be a very decent option. This is certainly a possibility. At that point, maybe it’s worth exploring other systems. Because they will also have changed by that time. Dumping current equipment for other current equipment on future speculation is dangerous. You risk not only having to relearn a new system, but you lock yourself in a system that may not be what you would have chosen down the road. Maybe a different brand rises to the top down the road for the specific use cases that means the most to you. Having waited allows you to get into exactly what works best.
Fifth…brand allegiance and loyalty is a strange idea. Yes there is community, and the personal ties with other users, and the support of shared user experience, but that can be found throughout any industry niche. If a better kitchen knife suits you at some point, use it. If a better car meets your needs, a better instrument, a better computer, etc…. then use what allows yourself to flourish and grow. Use what makes you happy. Use what allows you to express yourself the way you wish to express. If that very item at some point fully becomes unavailable, something else will make its way in. We change and grow in life, and our tools should change with us. But don’t make decisions on market changes, mass speculation, and fear. I use like 4 different brands of lights. They each fit a different need. So instead of forcing certain flashes to do certain jobs, I just bought what I needed for my uses. It’s nice to have one thing to do it all. Not always possible, but sometimes. Enjoy what you have. If you have a different need, fill it with whatever does so best. That could mean other brands, or just additional current system pieces. Just don’t get over caught up in the marketing and internet hype.
Sixth, switching brands is expensive. I get it. Matching system items, and accessories, etc… is a pain. However, it can be done slowly. Use two systems and slowly transition. The other option is to dump everything and begin buying into another system. The third option is to just not switch. We just do not have nearly enough information yet on where anything is going. No one will judge if you start moonlighting with other gear. At the same time, I am perfectly happy continuing to use Olympus as long as I can. In fact, I can’t see myself switching any time soon. There is nothing on the market at the moment that serves me any better enough to warrant a financial outlay or the hassle of switching.
Seventh, if Pentax is still around, Olympus has hope. Pentax is still pushing the classic mirrored camera in both their SLR lines as well as their medium format line. None of their cameras are market leaders or even close in their respective fields. They are solid cameras, but there are LOTS of options out there. They are also still pushing a lens mount that is fairly limited. They don’t have much third party support compared to the m43 world. They also don’t have much push for innovation from Ricoh. Pentax just lives on doing what they do. If they can continue, I think Olympus will sustain for quite a while into the future, even if they just continued iterations of what they have now. An E-M1X mkII and an E-M1mkIV would take them another 4 – 6 years into the future. (considering current model life as well) At that point tech will have VASTLY changed I assume. I am totally fine with that outlook for now. There is enough Olympus infrastructure in place that I certainly do not see them going the way of the Samsung NX1. Even if Olympus closed shop 100% today…there is still plenty of life left in the current gear, and enough of it out there to continue with it for several years no problem…or longer. I’m just not that worried about this announcement.
Olympus’ needs changed and they are looking out for themselves and probably shareholders. I need to look at my needs and do what is right for me as well. And for the moment, and at least the next few years, Olympus is still very right for me. So I am being patient and staying put. Again, just my own thoughts and opinions based strictly on how I use cameras and for the kinds of images I make.