First and foremost, I’d like to report that Olympus has no plans whatsoever to close their imaging division. Having just celebrated their 100th birthday and with the OM-D E-M5 III still barely having been announced, it seems like a silly thing to have to say, but there have been some unpleasant rumors this month.
Picking a system is a very important choice for any photographer. I figured the chatter was worth addressing in order to bring peace of mind to any current or prospective MFT shooter.
Here’s the official statement from Olympus:
Olympus Imaging products are technology drivers for all of our business lines, including the technologies used in our Medical and Scientific businesses. It is our planned direction to continue bringing imaging products to life that embody our core product benefits of system compactness and superior lens optics. We look forward to continued partnerships with photographers as they create and capture every memory with Olympus.
A specific vision
Since the release of 1959’s PEN—an innovative 35mm half-frame camera—Olympus has been committed to a unique, dedicated fan-base. They’re not trying to replace every camera in every market segment; rather, their goal has been and continues to be providing the highest quality compact gear anyone could ask for.
As the astoundingly diverse array of “feature phones” slowly gave way to the universally uniform glass-slab design over the last 10 or 15 years, the tech-enthusiast community lost something in the way of excitement. Specs are important, yes, but after a while it all seems like a dozen drummers beating the same rhythm.
Fortunately for us photographers, tactile interaction is impossible to forego, so design innovations are guaranteed to be palpable for some time. That being said, the industry has, at times, flirted with that same arms-race-to-uniformity—see, for example, the great megapixel wars of the late aughts/early teens. At a time when much of the media buzz is focused on full-frame mirrorless cameras above all else, it’s refreshing that big manufacturers are still willing to keep the R&D gene pool from growing stagnant. (Even stalwart Canon has been noticeably more creative lately with the IVY REC and EOS Ra.)
The OM-D E-M1X, announced in January, is a great example of Olympus’s continuing efforts to push the envelope in the field of compact photography—through their own unique lens, if you will. A pro-level sports/studio camera so compact simply didn’t exist last year, and now it does! Rather than accepting an external idea of “what a pro needs” and trying to shrink that, spreading their development resources thinly across multiple mounts, they did their own research with pro shooters to figure out how to make the smaller sensor an asset, not a handicap. Most obviously: 2x equivalent field of view, anyone?
An ongoing commitment
Beyond the philosophical evidence for the future of Olympus’s imaging department, there’s also a plethora of hard evidence to be found in their announcements and level of consumer involvement throughout the last year. For one thing, there’s a publicly-available roadmap for lens development.
One of the most-anticipated items on that list, of course, is the M.Zuiko Digital ED 150–400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO. The lens is expected in 2020 and, based on the very informative name, will be nicely-coated, fairly bright for that looong reach, stabilized, and feature a built in teleconverter for extra fun. It’s supposed to be quite rugged (even freeze-proof to -10°C), which is fortunate because it’s bound to make a splash in the MFT scene.
Throughout the year, Olympus has been very visible and available to the public, from the Coffee + Clean & Checks we hosted throughout the year to their excellent collaborative class series on CreativeLive. You can even come to our Expo this weekend if you’d like to discuss the future with Olympus reps directly!
So, rest easy. Olympus will be around for a while. If you’re curious what they’ve got to offer, get your hands on their gear to see for yourself with the cost-free Test & Wow program, or—if you’re ready to actually own the gear—there’s still time to get up to a $500 bonus on your trade-in toward certain bodies. Here’s to the next 100 years!