A report from German Website Der Spiegel reveals that Olympus is considering partnerships with Fujifilm and Sony. “Olympus has received bids from ‘more than three’ potential partners,’” according to Olympus president Hiroyuki Sasa. These latest whispers correlate to what we heard earlier this year when the “inner ring of Olympus” scandal was exposed. Since then, the legacy digital imaging manufacturer has suffered blow after professional blow, as its top tier executive image has taken quite a beating.
Of course not only has Olympus’ reputation suffered – so to have its finances. The company was revealed to be hiding debt in the form of $1.7 billion that it now has to somehow find. And the easiest answer is some sort of sale or merger.
There are a handful of camera makers that could benefit to add Olympus technology and patent portfolio to their name, and Fujifilm and Sony continue to crop up in the rumors. While Olympus may be in corporate hot water, its products continue to sell well internationally. The latest release, the OM-D series, was a bold step forward for a company and continues its recent string of Micro Four Thirds, “next-gen” segment success.
A few key differences between Fujifilm’s and Olympus’ efforts in this market are what could make them an incredibly powerful duo: Fujifilm has made qualms about hitting the higher-end demographic. It’s interchangeable, Micro Four Thirds camera (as well as its fixed-lens models) are heavy, serious, expensive machines. These are not starter cameras in the slightest. Meanwhile, Olympus’ lineup runs the gamut, from the PEN Mini, a $400 unit that is almost in pocket cam territory, to the $900, much-lauded E-P3. Fujifilm could inject a little more professionalism with high-end, technological masteries, while Olympus’ offerings could add a little more approachability to a lineup that right now screams “rich photography snobs only.”
Sony’s and Olympus’ lineups are slightly more similar, although Sony has done much more in the way of the DSLR department and sensor technology. What the details of potential partnerships look like are unknown, but it’s extremely likely that these two companies (as well as medical imaging company Terumo) are very interested by Olympus’ billion dollar endoscope business.
But the camera division has been rumored to be involved to varying degrees – earlier reports said it could be entirely for sale. While it’s discouraging to know that a manufacturer that’s been churning out quality products will inevitably be forced to change, you can’t help but wonder what could come out of combining proprietary technologies. The state-of-the-art hybrid viewfinder from Fujifilm could meet the Olympus’ OM-D E-M5. The Sony NEX 7’s 24.3-megapixel APS-C sensor could perhaps make its way into the PEN series. Either partnership could result in a pretty impressive new array of digital camera technology.
Sasa has said that Olympus is still considering toughing it out alone, but it doesn’t seem entirely feasible. We’ll find out how exactly the business proposals will pan out next month when Olympus releases its plan.