According to this article from Yahoo Finance Olympus is one of the “ten brands that will disappear in 2014” (along with Volvo cars, JC Penney and the Nook e-reader). Olympus “only has 7% market share [of digital cameras] and has failed to generate a profit from its imaging business in any of the past three years” According to this report in the Wall Street Journal the company is pulling out of the cheap point and shoot camera market because “low-end compact cameras typically don’t offer much better picture quality than smartphones, and they make it less convenient to share photos online.” For a more balanced view of Olympus, as well as a discussion on what the recent investment by Sony means to the company, Ming Thein (photographer and ex-M&A consultant) gives his opinions here.
It feels to me like Olympus are where Apple used to be prior to the return of Steve Jobs there in 1997. Their latest OM-D and PEN, mirrorless, micro four-thirds cameras have quite a dedicated following… but have yet to capture, according to some, this all important professional market. Apple had some great designs but their computers were essentially niche machines used mainly by ‘creative types’. Jobs famously turned Apple around by focusing on the idea of less being more and dumping the myriad of different products it had instead concentrating on a few key machines for both the home and professional markets.
I think that the tide may well be turning this way for Olympus too. Google ‘micro four thirds’ or ‘mirrorless cameras’ and you will see a wealth of great articles and blogs by professional, as well as serious amateur photographers, extolling the virtues of mirrorless and how some of the latest technology is pretty much there as a serious photographic tool. Check out my links on my four thirds resources page for some of these. Focusing on a fewer number of well made and innovative cameras, which are gradually turning around even seasoned professionals like Damien McGillicuddy may well mean we are seeing Olympus’ Steve Jobs moment.