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Olympus sells its imaging division in attempt to save its cameras

Olympus’ line of cameras will soon belong to another company. At 2 a.m. ET on September 30, Olympus announced an agreement with Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) through an absorption split that moves Olympus cameras, Zuiko lenses, and accessories over to a new company. The move splits imaging products to a new subsidiary called New Imaging Company. JIP will own 95 percent of the shares in the newly formed company by forming its own subsidiary called OJ Holdings, Ltd.

The future of Olympus cameras has come under question since the company announced it was entering dealings with JIP on a possible sale back in June. But, Olympus president and CEO Yasuo Takeuchi says that the new company will continue to launch new products, both for new customers and for photographers already shooting with the brand.

Olympus OMD E M1

“I have the utmost confidence that this transfer is the correct step forward in sustaining the value of our products and services,” Takeuchi said. “At the same time, I am certain that this opportunity is the best choice for our longtime patrons, new customers, and photography enthusiasts. Under the new company, the development, manufacturing, sales, and service functions will continue tight collaboration to introduce new products that will satisfy customers.”

After the switch, which is set to take place at the start of 2021, cameras will continue to be manufactured in the company’s current factories in Vietnam. Sales and marketing will move to the New Imaging Company headquarters in Tokyo. Support will continue to be provided to current and new customers from the New Imaging Company.

Olympus says that the New Imaging Company will continue to develop new cameras while allowing Olympus to become a more efficient business. Olympus will continue developing its medical and scientific products. The New Imaging Company will focus on primarily mirrorless cameras and lenses, as well as recorders and other Olympus’ branded audio products.

Olympus’ imaging division has failed to cover operating expenses for three years in a row, due to what the company says is a declining market. The growth of smartphone photography — and other factors — has stunted the camera industry as a whole, with even Nikon restructuring its business. 

While Olympus says the switch will allow cameras and accessories to continue to be developed, the change still comes with some questions and uncertainty. For starters, what happens if the newly formed company continues to fail to cover operating expenses? Olympus also did not clarify if the staff developing Olympus cameras and lenses will be the same.

Olympus has remained committed to its line of cameras with Micro Four Thirds sensors even as several companies made the switch to focus on full-frame mirrorless cameras. While Olympus’ mirrorless bodies house smaller sensors, the cameras are favored by some for a stabilization system that’s good enough to handhold some long exposure shots, extreme weather sealing, and the ability to shoot with extreme telephoto lenses that are much smaller than competitors.

The transfer will be effective on January 1, 2021.

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