Olympus sells imaging business

Darmok N Jalad

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The news is not being received well in the M43 forum I frequent. While it doesn’t mean ”the end,” it’s not encouraging news either.

It also makes me wonder if other stand-alone camera companies are going to follow suit. The ILC business isn’t what it used to be, and COVID-19 certainly didn’t help matters.

Ironically, Panasonic just announced a vlogger M43 camera today, too.
 
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Clix Pix

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Just saw the news on Petapixel and had come to share the link here:


I wouldn't be surprised if eventually other smaller standalone camera companies do the same; the whole photography industry has been affected significantly by technological changes, including most particularly, smart phones and their cameras, which pretty much has wiped out the P&S sector.

I had heard that in general, the popularity and use of m4/3 cameras had begun to wane quite a bit over the past couple of years, and of course along with Panasonic, Olympus had been one of the players in that field.

It is looking to me as though DSLRs are also not doing as well as in the past while mirrorless cameras, both ILC and fixed-lens ones, seem to be rising in popularity.
 
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Darmok N Jalad

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I shoot M43, though it’s a Panasonic body. I did just order a used Olympus 40-150 2.8, so I’m not leaving the form factor any time soon. The point I made in the other forum is, where do you even go right now? Will Olympus be the only company to sell? Why sell all your gear and reinvest in another brand, only to have it go down in a similar fashion? Sony and Panasonic might be safer bets, because the ILC division is just one branch of a much larger corporation, but could Nikon be next?
 
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Fishrrman

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My guess is that "the survivors" will eventually be Canon, SONY, and Panasonic.
You'll notice one important name I've left out.
 
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stillcrazyman

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That’s a shame to hear. I really enjoyed my time with the Olympus m43 system. I moved on to Fuji and don’t plan to leave. I do hope the many camera makers can find ways to survive.
 
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Darmok N Jalad

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That’s a shame to hear. I really enjoyed my time with the Olympus m43 system. I moved on to Fuji and don’t plan to leave. I do hope the many camera makers can find ways to survive.
I wonder how Fuji is doing, too. It’s not like your cameras will stop working tomorrow, but it does mean you may have some tougher decisions to make down the road. I don’t want M43 to die—it’s such a portable system.
 
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Clix Pix

macrumors demi-goddess
Back in November when I was making my final decisions about getting new camera gear, I already had decided that whatever I bought, it was going to be mirrorless, the wave of the future, not another DSLR. I also thought a lot about what I like to shoot and what lenses would work best for me. Nikon did not include any macro lenses in their initial "roadmap" and also were making promises that all their older lenses would work with the FTZ adapter, which turns out not to be exactly the truth. In researching, I learned that some of my older Nikon lenses would not have worked, or would've been crippled in some way (no autofocus, primarily). I'm older. My eyes are older. I need autofocus.

Because I don't like using adapters anyway, and at that time the choice of native lenses for the Nikon Z series cameras was still pretty limited, I made the decision to switch from Nikon to Sony. I've never used Canon, and wasn't especially interested in their mirrorless offerings, but I had already used Sony's NEX 7 mirrorless camera as well as their mirrorless compact RX100 and bridge camera RX10, so was familiar with them. Reviews and user comments about Sony's various mirrorless offerings in both bodies and lenses were pretty enthusiastic and so I made the leap from Nikon to Sony. Seven months on, I am very pleased with my choice. At this time it looks as though Sony is leading the pack when it comes to mirrorless ILC and I am pretty confident that they'll be around for a long, long time.....
 

Alexander.Of.Oz

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The news is not being received well in the M43 forum I frequent. While it doesn’t mean ”the end,” it’s not encouraging news either.

It also makes me wonder if other stand-alone camera companies are going to follow suit. The ILC business isn’t what it used to be, and COVID-19 certainly didn’t help matters.

Ironically, Panasonic just announced a vlogger M43 camera today, too.
The news of this has been inching closer over the last year or so, that Olympus would somehow have to jettison the imaging portfolio within their company. That was why I moved to the Sony system with the a6500 APS-C sensor & the a7III fullframe sensor recently. I will continue to use my E-M5 Mk II until it drops, the High-res imaging and the ability to do perfect light painting image exposures with their 'Live" capture tools are the things I loved most about their system. They were innovators at a time when stagnancy ruled the camera world.

I hope that the M43 system continues as a universal standard that any company can join in with and that some new players do take that up. There are a great variety of lenses already in existence available ranging from vintage to the latest and the ease of using other lenses such as C-type, M42, P-type has been a pleasure to be able to do with the M43 system. I use a myriad of lens types on my original Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera for the talking headshots I need in video documentaries I am creating as I love the softer and dreamier look I can achieve with them for that purpose of sharing stories or recollections of the past.

Both Nikon and Canon are not that far away from this either. If you look at the stupidly incredible losses that they both are experiencing and continuing to suffer through in their camera sections of the businesses it is amazing that they have not done this already!

It saddens me to hear of this latest development from Olympus as I like most everybody loves the underdog to win, even if but for a short while; but there comes a point of over-saturation of a product market too easily these days when they all believe in the impossible illusion of perpetual profits!
 
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Ray2

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Let’s not overlook that the camera business is not the significant problem. As nothing happens quickly, let alone transparently, in corporate Japan, the sale of the camera business is a result of years, if not decades, of Olympus cooking its books, losing material amounts of stockholders equity on underperforming non-strategic ”investments” and questionable payments to questionable parties. What we think of as the core businesses of Olympus are all caught up in what started as the 2009 accounting scandal.

However, I do wish the business had gone to a non-other-people's-money company. With Panasonic being the obvious buyer, for whatever reason, I assume they took a pass. Perhaps this is more of a concern.
 

Ledgem

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Really sad news. Olympus was my first camera; I bought into 4/3 about 13 years ago, now, without knowing much about the photography world. Even back then people were slagging Olympus and saying that either 4/3 would end or the camera division would go out of business. A lot of people are feeling pretty smart right now, but I think of it more as "even a broken clock is right twice a day."

It's funny how the shift to electronics has brought about such great advances, but it's made us all so worried about the parent company's health and support. It makes sense; mechanical lenses could last darn near forever, and if you couldn't service it yourself, someone else usually could. Worst-case scenario, people could machine their own parts. But the digital age has upped the complexity of these components, to the point that I've heard more than a few stories of even the parent company being unwilling to repair a broken lens and offering to replace it with a refurbished unit, instead.

Equally sad is something that was already mentioned in this thread: where do you go? It seems no brand is safe these days, and everyone is afraid. Nikon has posted worrisome financials; Canon has some upward momentum but is also in uncertain territory; people are reading Panasonic's early discounting of their S-system cameras (L-mount, full-frame) as signs of poor sales; Pentax is on life support. Sony and Fujifilm seem to be the safest bets, but who can really say? It's sad to think that the photography world will undergo further contractions, but it also seems inevitable at this point. Jump too quickly to another brand and you might experience this pain yet again.

I intend to use my Olympus gear until either new products from other brands offer a major, major upgrade, or until my gear breaks. I don't yet know of any competing products that offer all of the features that I use on my E-M1 MkII.

I know these are just tools, it was just a company, and it's still not 100% guaranteed to turn out the way we're all fearing, but this news has been a real downer on top of other downers. Hasn't the world already fallen apart enough?
 
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gkarris

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Really sad news. Olympus was my first camera; I bought into 4/3 about 13 years ago, now, without knowing much about the photography world. Even back then people were slagging Olympus and saying that either 4/3 would end or the camera division would go out of business. A lot of people are feeling pretty smart right now, but I think of it more as "even a broken clock is right twice a day."

...
Sony and Fujifilm seem to be the safest bets, but who can really say? It's sad to think that the photography world will undergo further contractions, but it also seems inevitable at this point. Jump too quickly to another brand and you might experience this pain yet again.
I tried switching to mirrorless this year (been shooting a Nikon D3300 for the past 7 years and other Nikon/Canon before that).

My first dDSLR was the Olympus E-500 w/ two lenses I got on closeout. (I found out why it was on closeout - Olympus abandoned that 4/3 mount 6 months later - was sort of disgusted) I didn't like all the noise so I switched to Canon Rebel used and a compact Olympus E-420 (since I had the lenses). I went on to try a Nikon D40a and liked the feel and the ED lenses.

Since I like shooting in-doors, no flash (high ISO) and like to crop, the MFT sensors didn't really cut it. Yes that was a while ago and sensors are better now.

So this past year I did Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) and bought several mirrorless cameras used to try out the different ones (I didn't try Canon or Nikon since they're newer and more expensive).

If I had to rank the ones I've tried:

1. Fujifilm (great camera/lenses, stunning out-of-camera pics).
2. Sony (awesome features and compact cameras, Sony really did their homework).
3. Olympus/Panasonic MFT (definitely updated cameras and features, but the MFT sensor holds things back).

I see online people are saying the MFT system of smaller cameras and lenses advantage was lost to Sony, Fuji, and Canon (M) plus these cameras have the larger APS-C sensor.

I need really good focusing for Aviation Photography. The cameras I tried really struggled with action focusing.

Sony just dropped the price of their A6000 to $398 body only. Used in great shape around me are going for $200. I traded a bunch of old lenses in for one. Using it over the last week the camera is awesome, especially for that price! Plus it has the same 24Mp APS-C Sony Sensor that my Nikon D3300 (which I love) has!

I can post pics of my trials if anyone is interested who is switching to another manufacturer... especially you Olympus users! ;)
 

Clix Pix

macrumors demi-goddess
I first fell in love with the whole mirrorless thing when I had a Sony NEX 7 camera some years ago and then when the time came to think about getting something new, this time around instead of simply doing as I had for years, buying another Nikon DSLR, even though I had a bunch of F-mount lenses, I looked at other options and pretty quickly narrowed things down to mirrorless as opposed to DSLR. I could see that things were moving into the mirrorless realm more and more, and I already knew that mirrorless had specific features to offer which appealed to me.

Sony was already at the forefront in terms of having been in the mirrorless world for some time now, and particularly after they began offering full-frame mirrorless bodies and lenses really seemed to be taking the lead. Having had that NEX 7 and other Sony cameras, I was familiar with them in general, another plus. I started out thinking about an A7 III but over time decided that for my uses, an A7R III would be a better fit. By the time I actually bought a new camera, though, well over a year and half later, Canon and Nikon had already begun showing up with their first new mirrorless systems and Sony had presented the world with the A7R IV!

I have been more than happy with my A7R IV and the lenses I've got for it. Sony is doing something right as far as I'm concerned, and I'm delighted. And, yes, since Sony also makes the sensors for Nikon DSLR cameras (not sure about the mirrorless Z series), I could be assured of good sensors, excellent quality, etc. The lenses are excellent, too, and AF very quick, very responsive. While the camera body itself is fairly light and small, some of the lenses are pretty hefty, especially the longer ones, which is not unexpected. Manageable now, but probably in a few years I'll have to stop shooting with them when I can't handle them any more. In the meantime, I'm enjoying the heck out of my Sony gear!
 
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gkarris

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I first fell in love with the whole mirrorless thing when I had a Sony NEX 7 camera some years ago and then when the time came to think about getting something new, this time around instead of simply doing as I had for years, buying another Nikon DSLR, even though I had a bunch of F-mount lenses, I looked at other options and pretty quickly narrowed things down to mirrorless as opposed to DSLR. I could see that things were moving into the mirrorless realm more and more, and I already knew that mirrorless had specific features to offer which appealed to me.
...
Actually, the NEX 5N was my first mirrorless (bought for $80 used) mainly for use on my Telescopes. It is great since it is small and light. Was really, really impressed with it so I bought the kit lens (16-50) to take it out shooting... and got other mirrorless to try from there...

Here it is in EAA (Electronically Aided Astronomy) using it in place of an Eyepiece... ;) no trying to look into a tiny hole.
gallery_309498_11557_87204.jpg
 

Ledgem

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I can post pics of my trials if anyone is interested who is switching to another manufacturer... especially you Olympus users! ;)
There are some features that I use regularly on my E-M1 MkII where I'm not sure if other manufacturers offer something similar:

1) Low-light focusing. It's essentially night vision: the camera slows down the refresh rate so that you can still see the scene before you and manually focus.
2) Workable electronic shutter for silent shooting. The sensor readout speed on the E-M1 MkII is 1/60 (one website claims 1/100); the Sony a9 is 1/160, but most other cameras seem to be 1/30 or slower. Slower readout speeds make you more susceptible to weird motion-driven warping in your photos (the jello effect, but captured in a single frame).
3) Close-focusing ability. I'm not talking about macro lenses, but standard lenses. My children are little, and I stick close by them; I've never had to back up to get a photo in focus with my Olympus gear. When I compare the minimum focusing distance on other systems' lenses, it seems like the minimum distance is double.
4) Silent lens operations (autofocus, aperture).

Less critical, but still of importance:
5) A "pro capture"-like feature. This buffers photos around the time that you actually press the shutter, so a single shutter press can result in 18 or 60 photos (if I remember right), with half being from before the shutter press and half being after. Really nice feature for capturing that "perfect moment" (or even just other interesting moments) in action or nature.
6) A lens like the 12-100mm f/4. This one doesn't seem to exist anywhere else - I think Sony has a manifestation of it, and it's not well-regarded optically.

My other system is in the Fuji GFX "medium format" line. It lacks a lot of features compared with the Olympus, and the ergonomic errors Fuji made with the camera body are really incredible. They even have lenses that have external focusing elements, which is something I'd thought was a relic of older or cheaper lens designs. Olympus' build quality is higher, despite being about a fourth of the cost. The sensor is wonderful, but if I blind myself to EXIF data I can't reliably tell which camera I used for which photo, even with pixel-peeping. Even after buying it, I still use my Olympus regularly - and actually, more often than the Fuji. If my wife said I could only keep one, I'd keep the Olympus. A camera is more than just a shell built around a sensor.

I don't think any manufacturer can truly take Olympus' place at this time. Partly for that reason, I'm not going anywhere. I've stopped looking for a second µ4/3 body, but if my E-M1 MkII were to die today, I'd probably buy the E-M1X or E-M1 MkIII. If those weren't available, the Panasonic G9 would likely be a viable option (although autofocus performance would take a bit of a hit).

When it comes to changing lens mounts entirely, the safest bets seem to be either Sony or the L-mount alliance. Sony has a lot of innovation, and as the makers of the sensors that nearly everyone uses I'd imagine that they'd be the last camera company standing, if it ever came to that. But it seems Olympus and Fuji shooters hate Sony colors, and I've heard criticism about their build quality and menu system. Panasonic's S-series of cameras and lenses is the next safest bet, and it sounds like they're the closest to Olympus in build quality... but the S-system gear is big, heavy, and extremely expensive (although Sigma's lenses could dampen some of the price shock).

No great option at this time; hopefully the camera division really will continue onward.
 
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MacNut

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Olympus was in trouble for about 10 years. They got a wave when they first adopted mirrorless but I don't think they were able to compete with cell phones. Maybe if they decided to go APS-C or full frame they would have survived as m4:3 is still considered by many to be a niche market. Panasonic decided to move Full Frame and I wonder if Olympus should have done the same. I loved my e-620, wasn't fond of it's low light abilities, or lack their of. But it was a great first real camera to learn.
 

Clix Pix

macrumors demi-goddess
Ledgem wrote:

"2) Workable electronic shutter for silent shooting. The sensor readout speed on the E-M1 MkII is 1/60 (one website claims 1/100); the Sony a9 is 1/160, but most other cameras seem to be 1/30 or slower. Slower readout speeds make you more susceptible to weird motion-driven warping in your photos (the jello effect, but captured in a single frame)."

AHA! The penny has just dropped for me on something which I've noticed recently and although I had heard about it before hadn't experienced it: the infamous "jello effect" when using silent shutter mode / electronic shutter! BINGO!

I recently switched my A7R IV over to silent shutter mode while shooting the local wildlife and a few times had noticed an oddness in some images that while could be attributed in some cases to my not having had a high enough shutter speed or ISO and insufficient light, also happened in other situations as well, where there was plenty of light. In one image the main subject, a turtle on a log, is fine, but the water in the pond in which the log is positioned looks a little odd, and I think this explains it: the water was moving ever-so-slightly, of course, and somehow the silent shutter created indeed an almost-"jello-effect" impression. When I read the paragraph quoted above, the penny dropped and I realized that this must be what that is. Thanks!!
 

Darmok N Jalad

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There are some features that I use regularly on my E-M1 MkII where I'm not sure if other manufacturers offer something similar:

1) Low-light focusing. It's essentially night vision: the camera slows down the refresh rate so that you can still see the scene before you and manually focus.
2) Workable electronic shutter for silent shooting. The sensor readout speed on the E-M1 MkII is 1/60 (one website claims 1/100); the Sony a9 is 1/160, but most other cameras seem to be 1/30 or slower. Slower readout speeds make you more susceptible to weird motion-driven warping in your photos (the jello effect, but captured in a single frame).
3) Close-focusing ability. I'm not talking about macro lenses, but standard lenses. My children are little, and I stick close by them; I've never had to back up to get a photo in focus with my Olympus gear. When I compare the minimum focusing distance on other systems' lenses, it seems like the minimum distance is double.
4) Silent lens operations (autofocus, aperture).

Less critical, but still of importance:
5) A "pro capture"-like feature. This buffers photos around the time that you actually press the shutter, so a single shutter press can result in 18 or 60 photos (if I remember right), with half being from before the shutter press and half being after. Really nice feature for capturing that "perfect moment" (or even just other interesting moments) in action or nature.
6) A lens like the 12-100mm f/4. This one doesn't seem to exist anywhere else - I think Sony has a manifestation of it, and it's not well-regarded optically.

My other system is in the Fuji GFX "medium format" line. It lacks a lot of features compared with the Olympus, and the ergonomic errors Fuji made with the camera body are really incredible. They even have lenses that have external focusing elements, which is something I'd thought was a relic of older or cheaper lens designs. Olympus' build quality is higher, despite being about a fourth of the cost. The sensor is wonderful, but if I blind myself to EXIF data I can't reliably tell which camera I used for which photo, even with pixel-peeping. Even after buying it, I still use my Olympus regularly - and actually, more often than the Fuji. If my wife said I could only keep one, I'd keep the Olympus. A camera is more than just a shell built around a sensor.

I don't think any manufacturer can truly take Olympus' place at this time. Partly for that reason, I'm not going anywhere. I've stopped looking for a second µ4/3 body, but if my E-M1 MkII were to die today, I'd probably buy the E-M1X or E-M1 MkIII. If those weren't available, the Panasonic G9 would likely be a viable option (although autofocus performance would take a bit of a hit).

When it comes to changing lens mounts entirely, the safest bets seem to be either Sony or the L-mount alliance. Sony has a lot of innovation, and as the makers of the sensors that nearly everyone uses I'd imagine that they'd be the last camera company standing, if it ever came to that. But it seems Olympus and Fuji shooters hate Sony colors, and I've heard criticism about their build quality and menu system. Panasonic's S-series of cameras and lenses is the next safest bet, and it sounds like they're the closest to Olympus in build quality... but the S-system gear is big, heavy, and extremely expensive (although Sigma's lenses could dampen some of the price shock).

No great option at this time; hopefully the camera division really will continue onward.
I have a G9 now, and it has a great build quality as well. Nothing about it feels cheap or an afterthought. I tip my cap to the designers of that body. I’d like to hold an E-M1 body for comparison. If prices really drop, or people start to fire-sale their gear (I’ve already seen it happen), I would consider picking up an E-M1.2 or 1.3. I just picked up my first Pro Olympus glass, and wow, is it sharp. If my G9 wasn’t such a trusty companion, I’d very likely to have made the switch already. Like you, I don’t know where else I would go. M43 has really been a good format for me. The lens sizes and weights are hard to let go of.
 

MacNut

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I have a G9 now, and it has a great build quality as well. Nothing about it feels cheap or an afterthought. I tip my cap to the designers of that body. I’d like to hold an E-M1 body for comparison. If prices really drop, or people start to fire-sale their gear (I’ve already seen it happen), I would consider picking up an E-M1.2 or 1.3. I just picked up my first Pro Olympus glass, and wow, is it sharp. If my G9 wasn’t such a trusty companion, I’d very likely to have made the switch already. Like you, I don’t know where else I would go. M43 has really been a good format for me. The lens sizes and weights are hard to let go of.
I wonder if m43 has a future, you only have 2 companies supporting it and one is about to sell off. Will Panasonic keep it alive or abandon it.
 

Darmok N Jalad

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I wonder if m43 has a future, you only have 2 companies supporting it and one is about to sell off. Will Panasonic keep it alive or abandon it.
I guess it depends on what you mean. All the other companies might use the same/similar sensor sizes, but they don't all use the same lens mounts. What Panasonic and Olympus had going was 2 companies offering compatiblity with each other's gear (for the most part). It was a relatively rare thing. Panasonic has also really leveraged M43 for video (just releasing the G100 as an entry level for that market), but they also have been good about offering photography-centric bodies as well. Yes, they have also entered FF territory, but to me, that move was more unusual since I don't know how well those bodies are even doing, and there are many FF brands to chose from. M43 has the ability to be cheaper, so I would think Panasonic would want to keep it going. Olympus just didn't manage themselves very well, for way too long.

The other thing is, the sensors in these cameras are made by various companies, but it seems like Sony provides many of them, even in smartphones. I think they can make the sensor any size, it's the pixel density and performance they are always working on. They'll sell that to any company willing to pay for it.
 
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MacNut

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I guess it depends on what you mean. All the other companies might use the same/similar sensor sizes, but they don't all use the same lens mounts. What Panasonic and Olympus had going was 2 companies offering compatiblity with each other's gear (for the most part). It was a relatively rare thing. Panasonic has also really leveraged M43 for video (just releasing the G100 as an entry level for that market), but they also have been good about offering photography-centric bodies as well. Yes, they have also entered FF territory, but to me, that move was more unusual since I don't know how well those bodies are even doing, and there are many FF brands to chose from. M43 has the ability to be cheaper, so I would think Panasonic would want to keep it going. Olympus just didn't manage themselves very well, for way too long.
What is the main market for camera sales. Point and shoots have dried up thanks to cell phones. APS-C is still the main choice for consumers. Full Frame is still a pro or niche device. That leaves Micro 4:3. Do we have numbers for what sells more? What has more of a future, APS-C or M43.
 

iluvmacs99

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Having worked in the camera industry for 26 years, I knew this day would come for Olympus. There will be more casualties moving forward though as this is not the end. The issue is that the traditional camera market has been shrinking for a decade or so. There are simply way too many players chasing an ever shrinking buyers of traditional cameras. It's akin to what happened in the home computing market and the video game market. They started out with a lot of players and then shrunk when the market matured.

Olympus ethos is what caused their demise. Their founding principles of a compact camera packed with innovative features may had worked in the past, but their unwillingness to adapt and evolve like Sony did with Konica/Minolta to produce Sony FE like full frame cameras and their unwillingness to embrace full frame as the higher level camera to upgrade to from m43 was their eventual downfall. They had the capabilities to do that early on and if they had incorporated some of their m43 technologies with a full frame sensor before Sony put out their full frame mirrorless, I think we would still be seeing Olympus today, because Olympus is an old but mature brand. It is synonymous with imaging and has the knowledge and expertise in that area. And yet when I attended their E-M1X professional demo seminar; all I could hear from their sales pitch was how proud they were to shrink a pro-calibre camera to the size of the 1X and could beat the sales of Canon and Nikon pro bodies. Of course I roll my eyes; but that's the kind of kool aid they were drinking, although I did enjoy their free catering goodies during the seminar. While that may make sense to a practical photographer and photographers like us who really need practical tools to make images, it doesn't sell cameras to what the masses want. The masses want full frame. Has always been and will always be that way. Sony still selling the A7 Mark II like hot cakes! Why is that for such an old crappy camera that the E-M1 Mk 3 can beat easily or even a E-M5 Mk 3 with both barely sell compared to old Sony tech? Because people always buy what they think is an upgrade camera. A full frame sensor is an upgrade to a smartphone. Now I am hoping to score a used E-M1 Mk 2 body myself since hopefully prices will be more reasonable.
 

MacNut

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How many casual photographers want or even know of the benefits of full frame?
 
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