A new non japanese Chief for Olympus! + bad financial results

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Source: Photoscala.

Bad news for Olympus! The Japanese company reports a turnover decline of 4.5% for the third quarter (October to December 2010). Consolidated operating profit falls by 46% to 8.9 billion yen (about € 78.7 million). Source: Financial Results for the Third Quarter ended December 31, 2010 (PDF file). And the “worst” part of the company is the Imaging Division that had a 28% sales loss compared to last year. Strong YEN and sales drop in North America are the main reasons for the bad results. The medical division of Olympus is still the strongest and most profitable business.

It sounds like Micro Four Thirds didn’t help them to increase the turnover. Some expert out there that can explain us the reason for such bad results?

But we also have a major and very unexpected news. Michael C. Woodford will become Chief Executive Officer of Olympus on 1 April 2011.  Mr. Woodford comes from the Olympus Medical & Industrial Division of Olympus. He is the first non japanese chief in Olympus history. That’s almost a “revolution” for a japanese company! Let’s hope he can bring some fresh new ideas inside Olympus. Good luck Mr. Ford!

Source: Photoscala.

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  • > Strong YEN and sales drop in North America are the main reasons for the bad results.

    Recession and poor marketing. Nothing new.

    In a way, as a company with strong background in optics, they have lost big time to Canon and Nikon marketing who successfully converted the photography perception from being about optics into one being all about sensors.

    > Mr. Ford comes from the Olympus Medical & Industrial Division of Olympus.

    IIRC there were rumors that Medical & Industrial division are for past few years are calling for closure of unprofitable Imaging division. I wonder how that really would turn.

    • kaine

      > Strong YEN and sales drop in North America are the main reasons for the bad results.

      Lets see Olympus went from being a maker of excellent amateur – professional 4/3 lens system to a medicore at best micro four thirds system. Hmmm I wonder if that could be the reason for there loss? Or maybe its the absolute lack of respect for people who have invested in there lens system over the years. Could be either.

      • Mr. Reeee

        Well, yeah. Nikon and Canon talk sensors, sure. Nikon certainly doesn’t NEED to convince anyone about their superior optics. When thinking about superior lenses it’s Leica, Hasselblad, Nikon. Sorry, but Olympus doesn’t come to mind at all.

        Olympus makes me think compact consumer-oriented cameras like the half-frame PENs of olde. Sure, Oly M4/3 cameras are cute, if you like 1970s styling (I like the ELP2), questionable ergonomics and awkward interface design. ;-)

        • Rocky

          A+

        • Jonathan

          Not all minds think alike… when I think of high end optics, Olympus is one of the first names that comes to my mind, not Nikon. They have been producing first rate optics at least since the 70s. Zuiko was THE name for wide angle, macro, tilt shift – you name it.

          Hasselblad, as far as I know, never produced their own lenses. It was Zeiss, traditionally, and now Fuji.

          • Chris

            True. When I think of high end optics, it’s Zeiss and Pentax, although I realize that every manufacturer has it’s gems and it’s dogs.

            Mike Johnston from Luminous Landscape praised Olympus highly in his “Bokeh Ratings and Lens Awards” post a while back: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/columns/sm-june-05.shtml

        • Medved

          “Mr. Reeee
          10 hours ago | Reply

          Well, yeah. Nikon and Canon talk sensors, sure. Nikon certainly doesn’t NEED to convince anyone about their superior optics. When thinking about superior lenses it’s Leica, Hasselblad, Nikon. Sorry, but Olympus doesn’t come to mind at all.

          Olympus makes me think compact consumer-oriented cameras like the half-frame PENs of olde. Sure, Oly M4/3 cameras are cute, if you like 1970s styling (I like the ELP2), questionable ergonomics and awkward interface design. ;-)”

          I think Olympus never tried to prove anything about the quality of Zuiko Glass, if anything their sensors are being bashed, not their optics. The zuiko optics long before were known for good quality especially low vignetting in film days thanks to the low number of grouped elements.

          As for Nikkor, they do not come close to Zeiss or Leica.
          Voigtlander and Schneider also did and do offer some pretty good manual lenses. Nikkor has been a standard and on some optics had the edge over Canon. In the film days it’s especially the good motorization of their bodies and their af, I remember the Nikon F4.
          And now they’re known for their Low Light performance. Especially the D3s outperforming its Canon rival.

          A bit of humor never killed anybody sure, a bit of logic and consistency either….

          • Medved

            Insert “,Nikon,” after “In the film days,”

          • Medved

            Argh I mean “for Nikon”.
            Sorry, not a native English speaker, and not so good at languages at that…

  • MikeS

    Seems like just deserts and lesson learned for a business strategy that focused primarily on appeasing Japanese customers and assuming all others would follow. Let’s hope it’s not too little, too late.

    • Ross

      They can turn it around if they pull their finger out & take some decisive actions. Where was the marketing for the E5. It hasn’t been seen much & if they can do the upgrades to the E620 & bring out an E630 or E650 that can be the economy version of the E5, that might help a little & as well as stepping up R&D for the micro 4/3’s line. They really need to find a better sensor to continue with & why can’t Olympus do 1080 video when all the other brands can? Is it the limitation with the existing sensor, such as its data transfer speed? I hope Olympus can be lifted by its bootstraps OK & bring it up in the global market place again.

      • George

        where was the marketing for E5?? Lol didn’t u fanboys try that out?
        You think it is all about marketing E5. Besides people invested in Oly glass before, what kind of sane person with a v1.0 brain will buy E5 and invest Oly glass with E5 test results :)

        • Medved

          Question discussed a hundred times. The E-5 definitly isn’t a bad camera although spec wise you find better out there, but for the record, there are people making a living with already much more outdated technology…

          So instead of ranting about material (although I guess for getting onto this site we’re more or less all tech addicts) try focusing on your own goals about photography.

          And yes except the photokina, the marketing of the E-5 was pretty poor.

          Even though you might argue that given the insecure future of the 4/3 it’s not surprising, when you launch a new product, you better give it all the chances you can, including a consistent marketing approach…

          • Matsuoka

            It’s true that many people can take great photos with a simple P&S but it doesn’t justify the E5’s inferior-spec.

          • Medved

            Nice touch… But that’s a little exaggeration of my logic ^^
            If you take the FT system spec, the E-5 has the best results so far…
            So, yes the sensor is a bit older than the current competition, but I wouldn’t say it’s that much “under-speced”, however it is a bit overpriced…

  • I suppose if it comes to Olympus Imaging closing down or ceasing Four Þirds development, we will still have Panasonic, Cosina, Zeiß, Sigma… too bad ðere will be only one camera manufacturer left.

    Probably even if it comes to ðat, Olympus Imaging or its Four Þirds part will not simply close down but be sold, probably to Matsushita but perhaps to some oðer camera manufacturer or wannabe wiþ even leß reflex and lenses market clout but deeper pockets, as happened when Sony bought Minolta. Candidates would seem to include Sigma and Fuji, already part of the Four Þirds consortium, or even Vivitar, Casio, Sanyo, Kodak, Polaroid…

    • Jonathan

      This would kill the standard, at least for still photographers. Panasonic will be focusing on hybrid/ pro video equipment with m43 mount, that will be able to accept cine lenses, but that’s about it. You mentioned a long list of companies, but none of them is really a candidate for replacing Olympus.

      If sales go down you can expect Tokina, Sigma and C/V to drop the format as well.

  • DCWells

    If Olympus had offered a “prosumer” level m4/3 — along the lines of the new Fuji x100 but with interchangeable lenses — I would have added to their bottom line. And I would not have been alone.

    • Greg

      Well it is supposedly on the way isn’t it?

      • kaine

        Thats the thing with this new M43 Olympus everything is always on the way, trust us, we are working on it. But they never deliver anything other than weak, over priced, M43 bodys and lenses. At the same time ignoring there loyal 4/3 users.

        • Medved

          +1
          Be it FT or MFT, the plans of Pana/Oly are as clear as the horizon line in a desert sandstorm…
          It sounds like:
          “Yes, no, maybe, we are still on the process, but right now the priorities are such that, please understand, that we cannot give you any further information,but don’t worry there will clearly be announcement in the early future… (Given Japanese perception of time, early is a very relative notion, especially at oly…)”

    • Mr. Reeee

      To boost marketshare, Oly should have released prosumer DSLR-like M4/3 cameras with built-in EVFs along the lines of Panasonic’s G and GH series.

      Enthusiast cameras like the X100 and Leica X1 have extremely limited appeal. Olympus already has their enthusiast X100/X1 “Nostalgia Series” in the EP/EPL lines. Lower-end cameras finance these.

      When consumers want to step up to a “real camera” the first thing they think is DSLR, Nikon, Canon, maybe Leica (if they have the dough). As the M4/3 platform has increased in popularity and mindshare, it becomes more of an option for the step-up crowd. Since Olympus lacks what is seen a “real camera” they’re losing sales …. And the battle.

      • > To boost marketshare, Oly should have released prosumer DSLR-like M4/3 cameras with built-in EVFs along the lines of Panasonic’s G and GH series.

        IMO they need stronger/cheaper low-end offering.

        E-PL2 kit MSRP is 600€ – bring out E-PLLL3 at 350-400€.

        I think it is the problem of Oly that they do not have strong mass market product which would back up money-wise the development of middle/high end of their line up.

        To draw parallels, dSLR bestsellers are 1000D and now D3100.

        • Mr. Reeee

          Olympus has plenty of cheap cameras. They need BETTER cameras.

          Besides, most people looking to change from point & shoot… this as much a shift in mindset as gear… are going to want a built-in EVF. If nothing else, because that’s what we’ve come to believe is a better camera. A detachable EVF is a specialist/enthusiast thing… sort of like clipless pedals for cyclists. Most won’t want to mess with it.

          How many cameras would Olympus have sold if they had just ONE DSLR-style M4/3 camera? ALOT, I’d say!

          How well are Panasonic G/GH Series cameras selling?

          How many GH2s would Panasonic have sold if you could just walk into a store, select the kit and color of your choice, pay and take it home? Instead of trolling the Internet for weeks to see if you could find a GH2… ANY GH2… in stock… ANYWHERE!!!

          (I was ready to buy in December and just managed to get one last week. I was not willing to compromise, so I waited. That’s BS!)

  • RickeyG

    The E-5 and Olympus accessories in general as too Expensive………. They need to get the prices down and more product on the street where they advertise themselves…. A bigger sensor because thats what people understand, CROP FACTOR, and stop nickel and diming on features in the Pen series ( EPL1 – 2000th sec !!, no AF Assist !!, no auto rotate !!) and ISO – ISO – ISO….

    • Ganec

      For the lenses:
      – you can not compare 70-300 in Olympus and 70-300 in APS-C companies, because first is 600mm equivalent, second is 450 mm EQ
      – you cannot compare non-stabilized APS-C to non-stabilized Zuiko => because of stabilization in the body you must compare with this lens (stabilized CaNikon is not cheap)
      – Zuiko contains expensive ED glasses – you have to compare lenses with this glasses (note: Canon use ED only in L glasses)

      For the E-5: most costs is body (not senzor, it is relatively cheap for every APS-C) which is excelent in comparison with others.

      still thinks Oly is expensive?

      • wife

        Doesn’t matter if it’s expensive or not. The market isn’t buying it (except for a few fanboys).

      • Vlad

        For the lenses – Canikon’s stabilized lenses aren’t in fact that much more expensive.
        For the E5 – overpriced. Yes, I do think that it is expensive when I see the few hundred dollars cheaper K-5 with an amazing sensor.

  • oh dear, not good news at all

    reason: only having one dSLR during that period?

    For those of us old who’ve been shooting long enough to remember something wasteful called film, right when the OM3Ti was launched Olympus attempted to go it solo with only one camera, the OM3Ti. at the same time they tripled the price of their lenses, I think the 50/1.4 went from £200-something to £649 over night (same lens, no changes) … I think someone saw the Leica price list and thought ‘why don’t we try over charging for our lenses too’. it was the end of the OM series (I think within about 6 months). perhaps they promoted that guy to the FT marketing team?

    come on Oly … get some pancakes and an E-P3 out: pronto!

  • or … maybe the E400/500/600/30 series is the reason for this loss, perhaps they are really clever and saw this ahead of time and the loss (common to throw it all in at the end of the year) is the marker of the end of that series of cameras.

    the way to react is to get PEN moving now, the opportunity is there since Nikon and Pentax are going to a compact sensor. NEX have two lenses! mFT has the potential to take off here, and Oly can make a killing on Panasonic’s poor supply issues and get their Oly bodies and lenses put and into shooters hands … new boss man to shake it all up!

    • Just wondering. Where did you hear about Nikon going small?

      • Igorek7

        Nikon’s director of R&D at Photokina about a mirror less interchangeable lens system: “…going APS-C would only make things bigger and would detract from the F mount’s market value in terms of IQ and features.” http://nikonrumors.com/…09/28/interview-with-tetsuro-goto-at-photokina.aspx

        • juavel

          I think that if Nikon and others go smaller than APS is just to don´t canibalize their APS-C market, that simple.

        • Eric

          I still don’t understand the idea of competing with yourself. Nikon mirrorless won’t be competing with the F-Mount, it will be competing with m4/3’s, Samsung, and Sony. Further, even if it does take sales away from the F-Mount; so? Why does it matter which mount a consumer choose so long as it has a Nikon logo on it?

          • Jonathan

            I think the low end DSLR market is producing lots of money for Nikon, without having to invest further efforts and funds in a new system development. By producing a smaller sensor ILC camera they will trying to come up with a product that is small enough to appeal to the P&S market, a market segment Nikon has been relatively weak in.

            This also expresses their belief that current ILCs (m43, Samsung, Sony, Ricoh) are not directly competing with the low end DSLRs.

        • Archer

          I didn’t read that! Wow, talk about stupid! Apple has gotten where they are precisely by letting their products compete with each other, not by developing new products with the idea of defending the turf of their old products. I think Olympus is trying this approach, too bad it isn’t working.

      • jammur

        I agree. I think the fact that Olympus has in-body stabilization and a better jpeg files really helps them vs Panny. The sensor issue is huge for the m4/3 brand. They are really in the no-man’s-land between the nicer margins of higher-end, lower volume product and the less expensive “consumer” volume segment. They either have to find a way to reduce the price of their gear to drive more volume, or improve the performance to be a true alternative to the higher-end stuff. Being stuck in the middle is killing them.

        Also, having unprofitable divisions for long periods of time usually means selling/closing that division. I cannot imagine who would buy them. Panny doesn’t need them (no OIS glass) and Fuji might like them, but they are even more clueless than Olympus. It’s a shame.

        • Ganec

          “in-body stabilization” is great for consumers (but only some recognize it, because it looks competition has some cheaper {but useless} lenses) but it is not good for business.

  • Simon

    Since the numbers are compared to the same time in 2009 it seems to be possible, that 2010 was not a bad year but 2009 was an extremely good year. The P1 was published in 2009, so perhaps there was a great success and it was not possible to stay at the same level in 2010!

  • George

    this is what fanbois of Oly who writes comments here don’t get. When i say sales suck big time fanbois flame at me saying “no need big sales”etc. yes they need. They need money for future developments for future researches, and for these they need money. Otherwise you will get E5 with a 4 year old sensor and with a joke like ISO performance

    • > When i say sales suck big time fanbois flame at me saying “no need big sales”etc. yes they need.

      This is a bias typical for photo forums: people look at big gun cameras, while actually most (them including) buy cheap ones. Those are mass market cheap P&S and low-end dSLRs which bankroll development of more expensive models.

    • Dana Curtis Kincaid

      “this is what fanbois of Oly who writes comments here don’t get. ”

      No, what we don’t get is why yobs like you who don’t like Oly post here… Compensating for a small d___ with a full-frame Canon, by any chance?

  • George

    and one more thing i wrote this almost a year ago for the first time and wrote again for like 4-5 times. “Sell all your Oly gear before it is too late”

    • Jan

      But when is it too late?

    • Olafur

      To late for what? My Olympus gear still takes great photos. And by the way, I think Iwill order an E-5 to be sure I can use it for 20 more years!

      • When it’s too late to sell at a fair price. If a system dying, the best thing to do in order to minimize your loss is to sell everyting asap.

        • Ganec

          IMO now it is not good time for switch the brand: look for Canon with 600D .. FullHD already introduced (even when for DSLR it is unusable), megapixles increase is useless (affordable glass don’t know to use it) => they can not introduce something really new

        • agreed

        • > If a system dying, the best thing to do in order to minimize your loss is to sell everyting asap.

          It sounds like you are buying cameras solely to read the positive reviews about them.

          I got myself a camera to make pictures and experiment a bit. And as long as it works, why would I bother selling something? Because as an investment, the gear still works perfectly well.

          Who knows, may be by the times my Oly dies, the compacts would reach sufficiently good IQ (even the LX5 was already a major enlightenment to me). By then I might decided that I do not need dSLR at all ;)

  • rUY

    That is only a comparison of current year but different months, it needs to compare the number with last year for a meaning picture. as there are a lot of factor that alter the short terms financial result. I think this news could be ignored.

  • YeahYeah

    George, don’t you have anything better to do than arguing stupidly that Olympus is doomed?
    I think they need to invest as much as they can right now to develop m4/3….

  • sderdiarian

    Let’s see, how have they managed to lose this much market share?

    1) They’ve infuriated their base first by ignoring such obvious upgrades to their bread and butter DSLR, the E-610, as simply installing the TruePic V processor, a hi-res 3″ flip screen (like the inexpensive G1/G2), fixing the Achilles heel tunnel OVF (an EVF would have done the trick) and actually providing a dedicated AF assist light like everyone else.

    2) Instead they unveil a warmed over E-5 with a breathed on sensor/processor from their cheapest mFT and, hold onto your hats, a 3″ hi-res LCD like everyone else in the class has. It’s not even an OLED like in the $500 XZ-1, and still no AF assist light. The price? $1700 without a lens!

    3) In the case of mFT, they haven’t managed to produce a full-featured body for over 2 years since Panasonic introduced the excellent G1. All it would have taken is a G2 equivalent with IBIS and Truepic V+ and I’d have been there. How many others would have also made the move? Instead we get a restyled E-PL with the 2 year old Panny 3″ LCD, and non-flip at that, and we’re supposed to run and pull out our wallets?

    4) The possible good news, their just introduced compacts (which is where the real money is) including the XZ-1, SZ-10 (a very slender superzoom), VR-330 (a ZS-7 competitor)and the VG-110/120 low-end cameras. But, and its a big one, the success of the latter 3 hinges on decent IQ, a real issue in their past compacts which have been pummeled by the competition.

    I bought into the Olympus 4/3’s system for small size, IBIS, great colors, reasonable price and class leading lenses. But they always manage to ignore the really obvious.

    After their “let them eat cake” announcement last September at Photokina that E-5xx/E-6xx users could “upgrade” to “comparable” E-P’s without viewfinders, and then buy a whole new lens system separately, I, like apparently many others, put all purchases on hold. Just look at those third quarter results.

    Pardon me if I don’t hold my breath over today’s announcement that a westerner has been appointed as their CEO. Seems to give hope they may actually consider what 70% of their market is looking for instead of just the Japanese, and maybe actually even open up communications to their consumers (gasp!).

    But I say “seeming” good news given he comes out of their Medical and Industrial Division, so likely doesn’t live and breath cameras. This division, I now read, also has been pushing for shutting down the unprofitable Imaging Division! Let’s see where this goes.

    Which leads me to the question: is Olympus a camera company or a soap opera? You tell me. This from an Olympus loyalist going back 30 years to my OM-2s, and happy owner of an E-510, E-620 and 4 lenses.

    I hope they pull this out, and I hope the new CEO is visionary and reinvigorates the Imaging Division (so much talent in there, must be very frustrating), not just a fox in the hen house.

    • kaine

      +1 to infinity!!!

      • Medved

        Sad but true, I also agree, you gave very realistic and consistent arguments…

    • kaine

      “After their “let them eat cake” announcement last September at Photokina that E-5xx/E-6xx users could “upgrade” to “comparable” E-P’s without viewfinders, and then buy a whole new lens system separately, I, like apparently many others, put all purchases on hold. Just look at those third quarter results.”

      You hit the nail on the head with this comment.

    • +1, Sadly.

    • totally with on this … and I am in the position where I would and could spend £1500 on a camera, I have an E30 and 14-54 II plus 50/2, I sold my nikon D700 to come back to Oly at the end of 2009 (I had the woefully slow E400 at launch in 2007, crazy 20+mb raw files! dumped it after 3 months). I switch from FX to a PEN and E30 – I’d really like an E5 level camera, but even the Canon 60D is a better option for me, 7D or D7000 are options … I don’t need weather sealed, so the 60D is high enough, similar in ways to my E30

      Oly have failed me by dropping out of this system … I’m watch the used Market and considering exiting the FT. I just bought an MMF-1 so I can keep my 50/2 as a macro. from here on it’s whether I feel it’s worth keeping my very very very good studio portrait tool E30 and pro zoom or jumping to 60D and grabbing a 50/1.4

      (and I had a couple of OM-1 bodies back in the 90s)

      • Archer

        I still have OM-1’s. And I use them: they still work fine.

  • Alexander

    they simply where/ are to slow!!!

    • alexander

      I still wait for the right oly cam with built in flash AND view finder.
      the other thing is: Oly has the right concept of small lenses! so pls bring very fast cool cameras.
      The Sony system will always leak because their objectives are to big.
      unfortunately panasonic has choosen the “wrong” antishake system.
      at moment it is the best to buy a panasonic objectiv. why? because i can use it for oly & pana without any disatvantage (except that they are to big compared to the oly lenses).
      question is : what is the atvantage of let the mirror away?!
      Yes, i want a SMALL cam with SMALL lenses!!!!!!!
      SO go on Olympus!!! (also pana…)

  • A couple of comments.

    1. First, about the financials. Curiously, Imaging’s sales in the home market are only slightly down (-1%), but are highly down overseas (-30% in the US and Europe). The company lays some of the blame on this to the yen appreciation, and it may be that Olympus has a bigger problem with this than companies like Nikon that produce outside of Japan, but Olympus has also misfigured the forward value several times in the past year, thus they weren’t hedged properly, either. The interesting thing, though, is that Olympus exports things other than cameras and doesn’t seem to be reporting the same problems in the other divisions. I’d say Olympus is being slightly disingenuous. I read the numbers as saying “cameras took a bit hit compared to the rest of our businesses.”

    2. The problem in imaging is progressive: they’ve lost more money in each successive quarter during the past year. This, too, is not a good sign without anything in sight that would reverse that trend. Neither the E-PL2 nor XZ-1 are going to change that overall trend. I’ll get to the problem in a moment.

    3. Short term borrowings are up, and most asset/liability numbers are trending the wrong way for the overall company. Particularly disturbing was the lower cash flow. This indicates to me that the company can’t just paper over the short-term problems in the imaging side. The other businesses are reasonably healthy, so the risk is that you let an unhealthy division pull down the entire company. Smart leaders don’t let that happen. The fix the problem, spin it out, or shut it down.

    4. Can’t say that any of this is unexpected. Olympus continues to lose market share in compact camera sales, and they don’t seem to be able to handle the sales price reductions as well as Nikon, Canon or Sony. They don’t market those cameras well, at all, and certainly nowhere near as well as NikonUSA is marketing Coolpix (with weekly Instant Savings advertisements in virtually all US markets). Couple this with mis-guessing the yen/dollar relationship and things get tough. Meanwhile, Olympus has basically continued the “we don’t really know what we’re doing” trend that started way back after the OM-4 in the film world. Olympus gets on these “this is the new standard” kick and produces something that doesn’t completely stick, then abandons it instead of fixing it. We went from “small SLR” to “ZSLR” to “4/3” to “m4/3.” Where’s the continuity of direction? After putting a lot of energy into developing some great 4/3 lenses we now have only one 4/3 body being sold that uses them, and we’ve been told that might be the last 4/3 body. Great, so what did that do to 4/3 lens sales? Zonk. Meanwhile, it’s unclear where Olympus is going with m4/3. So far we seem to be back-pedaling to catering to the lowest end (E-P2 -> E-PL1 -> E-PL2, plus the lenses are catering more mass market, too). Meanwhile, the bluetooth widget is nowhere to be found, let alone apps on smartphones to take advantage of it. I see randomness in Olympus camera offerings, and have for quite some time. That’s not to say they can’t make a good camera–they do–but the potential customer doesn’t get a clear picture of where Olympus is or where they are headed. That’s a marketing problem.

    5. And speaking of marketing problems, I live less than four miles from Olympus US headquarters. Those folks don’t even know that I’ve been shooting with an m4/3 camera and publishing pictures from it for–well, the length of time that m4/3 cameras have been available. So not only do we not have solid outgoing messages from Olympus marketing, they aren’t seeing what should be incoming messages, either.

    Prediction: Panasonic will at some time in the future buy what’s left of the Olympus imaging division. For Panasonic, it would give them more engineering and better sales relationships in the US and Europe with camera dealers. They’d also get more lens designs to add to the lineup and tweak. But that’s about all they’d get, so it won’t be a large transaction.

    4.

    • pan buying the right bit of Oly could be good … the Oly engine that makes the colors better than pan (in some people’s opinion, I’ve never shot pan so can’t comment) … and in body IS is almost a must have to continue the list of good things about mFT. But Pan have to look in their own mirror and sort out the big gap between marketing and production or it’ll fail to keep people shopping.

    • Esa Tuunanen

      It isn’t any wonder that sales in Europe and North America are down.
      First of all photographers in these markets seem to be better brainwashed, starched and balsamized into Canikon controlled analog era mirror box than Eqyptian mummy.
      Secondly Olympus just doesn’t have any alternative to sell. Pens might sell for those wanting pocket compact with interchangeable optics and buyers of retro style but they just aren’t in any way comparable to bodies with real ergonomy and direct controls.

      Panasonic would have huge resources to back development if they bought Olympus imaging division but they seem to be equally clueless to what to do with chances to capture mirrorless markets. Whole GH2 fiasco with marketing even downplaying their flagship… and then even following that unnecessary mirror box design worsening ergonomy while EVF could be moved to near left edge where it’s lot easier to look into.

      • Yes. If we could only build a company using the parts bin from each, picking only the things that are okay or better and adding in the few things that both are missing completely.

        FWIW, I finally got notice that the GH2 I ordered on day one is being shipped. Way to miss your quarterly results, Panasonic ;~).

        • wife

          pretty much shows how clueless you are, unless you know what the quarterly earning estimates are and how revenues are faring against that estimate.

          if estimates were to sell 1000 cameras. and supply were 1500 cameras. if demands were 2,000 cameras, so you have 500 pissed off potential buyers, you still have reached your goal.

          now if, due to manufacturing and distribution problems, you could only get out 500 cameras, now you have failed to miss your goals.

          the problem is that YOU don’t know what the estimates are and what the results are.

          yet you run off your mouth anyway.

          • did you miss the memo mentioning the awful supply performance on the GH2

            and the 4 month wait from GF2 announcement to reality

            and the delay on the 12-50

            and where is the mFT 25/1.4 ?

            doctorate in mathematics not required to work out that Panasonic’s poor delivery is the reason for this bad performance news

          • wife

            Dcap,

            learn to read.

            We’re talking about MISSING QUARTERLY RESULTS here.

            So what’s were the expected results???

            And what are the actual results????

          • Medved

            Suppliers being paid after delivery of goods, and in general up to 90 days delays… So having orders and not delivering them does not really help meeting your objectives..

            It might be that failure in the production or the assembly line, or even in logistic, one quarter ahead gives poor results the following quarter…

            Forecasts ==> Production ==> Delivery ==> All sold (good for the following quarter )==> Out of stock ==> Fail to meet demand ==> Increasing delays ==> Loosing demand and potential market share ==> Impact on future sales and quarters…

            Especially considering that (end-users) consumers have access to a broad offer with a lot of substitution products.

            If they are unable to meet the demand after six months, by the way, their targets were off…

          • Medved

            sales and quarterly results I mean

          • wife

            Okay, when you actually know what the forecast for GH2 sales were and if Panasonic has reached that goal or not, then tell me about it. This is independent from the fact that some of us (myself included) are frustrated that we can’t get the GH2.

          • Medved

            Got your point, said it already, no bashing, just developing few thoughts as I found the previous arguments about their poorly performing supply chain potentially relevant.

          • You essentially wrote “[Thom] doesn’t know if they estimated to lose money and did or estimated to make money and didn’t.” See any problems with your comment now? Panasonic shouldn’t be doing either. They should be correctly understanding demand and making sure that manufacturing and distribution fill that demand, period. They did correctly estimate demand. They did not correctly manufacturer to demand. They completely botched up distribution to demand. Even the US auto companies did better than that in their downfall years.

          • Medved

            “Even the US auto companies did better than that in their downfall years.”

            I almost fell from my chair. =’)

    • +1

    • Archer

      Thom, as usual, you are right on as to what those financials say. Poor hedging, wretched marketing, etc… I don’t know if Olympus Imaging is in a permanent downward spiral. I do know that they don’t have a great product mix right now, although there are signs of it turning around, in that the XZ-1 is gaining high praise, the PL2 is what the PL1 should have been, they are making noises about “pro-level” (whatever that means) m43 product.

      Fortunately, regardless of what happens to Olympus Imaging, it looks like that there will still by an Olympus gastroscope available in 3 years when I turn the requisite age for a colonoscopy. Wouldn’t want substandard optics in that area!

    • cL

      This is a response to Thom’s analysis (sorry I have to write this, because the hierarchy of the thread is often misaligned)

      Things about hedging. I read you have had experience in Silicon Valley high tech firms for years and is speaking from experience. But I think it’s fair to point out US financial structure is much more developed than rest of the world so assuming a company with strong focus on domestic market like Olympus has a well-developed hedge plan may be a strong assumption. 30% loss is not atypical. Hedged companies are not immune to currency exchange related loss either. Medical division may have its finance department which does things differently. Assumption can be very dangerous. We don’t work for Olympus so we don’t know how they function.

      I assume you’re working in a company that’s in the upstream of the supply chain because that’s my impression (let me know if I am wrong). Running a B2B business is very different from running a B2C business. Imaging is mostly B2C and medical is mostly B2B. B2C has small profit margin and consumers usually don’t care about business relationship nor understand cost structure of their business partners. All they want is selling them E-5 for $1,000, even though that probably is selling below cost. The reason I’m mention this is because consumers are very demanding and profit margin is very low. If you think from this perspective, a lot of your own theories need to be back on drawing board. Consumers are unpredictable, mostly because they don’t buy based on rational thought nor they understand business models. Putting faith on wild cards like consumers and sell stuff below cost and hoping you’ll gain market share is what Amazon did earlier in the game and that nearly bankrupted it. Seasoned financial managers don’t do this. Companies like Intel may be doing this, but it’s because they hate AMD so much, they don’t care if they would be sued like Microsoft for being anti-competitive. It may be what the industry is doing, but it’s not a healthy business model.

      Sony could do it because it’s not a US firm. International lawsuit is often sticky and most people don’t want to get involved suing an oversea country. Micron wanted to sue Samsung for dumping RAM below cost…. Nothing fruitful came out of it.

      So from financial point of view, Olympus could do nothing except maybe hedging if they didn’t do that.

      Now here is what Olympus could do. Marketing. Duh you said? Of course it’s so obvious to us, but once you factor in the effect of company culture, it’s not as easy as 1-2-3 isn’t it? As far as I know, Olympus seems to be a very engineer-oriented company and engineers seem to control the company’s direction very strongly. And we all know what kind of product engineers design…. Totally practical but lack of appeal to ordinary consumers.

      4/3 system is such case. It is very well-engineered, optical quality is barred none, yet it fails to compete with inferior products on the market. Even things like choosing 4×3 over the well-established 2×3 for DSLR is also very well-thought out, if not risky move.

      There are many people who are very capable of criticizing a failure after the fact, but I would love to see them running a company and see them cringe over and admit it is not as simple as they think. But here is an idea, don’t predict, but create the future. Apple created a market for themselves. They did not follow any industry trend or whatever, because they’re the trend. Is that a risky move? Yes. They have to act confident, but I have a feeling even when they created a new product, they weren’t so sure about its success. They merely acted as if the product is a winner already. You won’t see this from a reserved Asian company like Olympus.

      Olympus needs to dump more money into image division to make it profitable, but the problem of course, who would dump more money into a money-losing business. If you have followed my posts, you know what you said I already had said it few months ago when E-5 was released…. I’m mentioning this because it’s such an obvious plan and because we follow American business model and that’s what a typical American company does so we “expect” it…, but it may not be this simple. Just accept companies abroad don’t run the same way and difficulties they face might be something we never think about (or never thought could exist… like some designed for Japanese products). I suspect Kodak not winning Olympus’s bid over Panny has much to do with Kodak’s ability to negotiate with Japanese businesses.

      So using a non-Japanese CEO may give a new perspective, and probably will create conflicts at the same time. How successful it would be, probably only time can tell. But the first thing, if I were in his shoe, is to garner respect from his people, build up a strong team, set up a new company culture, and not worry about marketing plan nor saving the financial…. Those come later. It takes years to do this. If the company has no vision, it will close the division before giving him a chance, just like 4/3’s fate.

  • kaine

    Michael C. Wood Ford will become Chief Executive Officer of Olympus on 1 April 2011

    April fools day?

    • wife

      Or first day of a new business quarter…

  • kaine

    Olympus had a potential gold mine with M43. A variety of styles small feature laden camera bodys alongside a high quality small lens range that you could take everywhere with you and get “Pro” results. The revolution of merging of motion and still images into one take everywhere device. Instead they focused on selling low quality feature starved camera bodies and cheap nasty lenses at a premium price and ignoring the video revolution taking place with Canon and there new “Master” Panasonic. They blew it and there chances of becoming a major player again by trying to milk its own loyal users with simple iterations to its E-p line and the let down of the E-5 and no E-xxx line with video or potentially any new E- camera ever again. If they had produced an E-5 to compete with Canikon, a high end M43 Dslr style and small high end rangefinder type style and a couple of simple but quality primes and zooms they wouldnt be in this mess also people would be thinking long term of investing in 4/3 lenses still. Instead no one is spending on Olympus becuase they arent selling anything people want and dont see a clear future with them. For people that dont care or hate video please accept that the merging of motion picture and still picture is taking place and for a small cost you can now get potential cinema quality filmic video and Times Magazine front page photo quality in one device albeit not in an Olympus device.

    • Bikedork

      Really interesting conversation. I bought into Panasonic micro 4/3rds for still camera work. I’m still pretty happy with the G1 — I don’t “hate video,” its just not why I am there, and neither do I want to pay a premium for features that I’m not going to use. I was sort of looking to Olympus to focus on making a better body for still work, and then Panny could pursue the “convergence” of video and stills without me. DPReviews asked some good questions about the market for 4/3rds when it reviewed the GF1. It may be that those like me that are fine just dealing with stills represent a market too small for Olympus to make it work. But that would seem to be the heart of the Olympus brand — really good still photographs for a market wanting a little more than point and shoot. But they are just shy of delivering quality or pricing that would make it work. If they came out with the next logical step up from the Panny GF1 or even the G1, I’d pick it up, but I haven’t seen it yet. But that’s just me.

  • spriggers

    I think Olympus probably is more likely holding back due to financial issues. They don’t have the marketing resource$ to compete with other manufacturers. They don’t seem to have much say on the sensor. They probably are dealing with limited sales of their products, so they spend more on each camera that makes them less money than the competition. These guys don’t have the deep pockets of a Sony, Canon, or Samsung. They are really in a tight spot right now. Sony is taking away market share from everyone with both the NEX and alpha series. It’s going to be a rough ride for them IMO. I love Olympus though. I still use some of the great OM lenses like the 21mm 3.5 OM and so on. Just brilliant lenses back then. But now they just can’t compete.

    • The sensor cost for m4/3 is significantly less than that for DX/APS. So Olympus has a pricing advantage over Sony’s and Samsung’s m4/3 cameras. I pointed this out back when 4/3 was first announced, but I also pointed out that Olympus mostly squandered one clear advantage of the smaller sensor size: small camera/lens size. They also never really managed to “market” the difference they did have.

      To me the issue is that they seem to be pursuing random ideas trying to find the one that resonates and sticks. This, too, is a marketing failure. If you really knew your customer and related to them correctly, you’d know what would work in the marketplace. To me, this is one of the big failures of ALL the camera companies, but the smaller you are the more vulnerable you are to it, especially when you change course like Olympus has.

      I’ll again point out what Olympus hasn’t figured out: I went to Africa three times with dual kits: once DX and m4/3 and twice FX and m4/3. I got great shots with all these kits, and many people think that one of my best images was taken with an E-P2 and the Panny 45-200mm. But my FX kit weighs 36 pounds and my m4/3 kit weighs <10 pounds. Anyone see any advantage you might be able to market? ;~!

      You have to know your customer, you have to believe in your product, you have to communicate that well. Fail, Fail, Epic Fail.

      • Oh, one more thing. Olympus seems to think (along with Panny) that one of their key customers is the so-called Camera Girl (young Japanese woman). If so, they’ve failed to deliver (so far) the one thing that customer would want, which is no-brainer workflow to social sharing of images. The bluetooth module may be targeted at that, but it’s not here yet and I’m not convinced that they got the “no-brainer” part right, either.

        • wife

          may be that’s what the engineering nerds want – babes!

      • Esa Tuunanen

        Good comparison for weight is also comparing equal “travel” zooms:
        Canon EF 28-300mm L weights 1,7kg and 4/3 Leica D 14-150mm ~0.5kg while outperforming Canon optically.
        Wouldn’t want to think about hauling that Canon’s club for two weeks in Nepal up to EBC when that weight could be used to carry also other lens(es).

        Then small flange back distance of m4/3 would give more freedom to wide angle lens design surely decreasing size and weight some also without heavy use of software corrections.
        And throwing whole film era mirror box&Co away and building body around EVF would allow it to be smaller and lighter but still retain good ergonomy while keeping it relatively compact. Seven years old Minolta A2 prosumer “compact” is good example how good ergonomy and direct controls fit into size lot smaller than high end DSLR if done right. (ergonomy+controls of all entry level DSLRs suck compared to it)

        But instead of doing these Olympus has been chasing the “lowest common denominator” and trusting that there won’t be anyone else to take away higher end users.

        • You can chase lowest common denominator (LCD) and still do things that re-establish the brand image and cater to the more serious long-term user (SLTU). Indeed, in the current environment, you HAVE to or else you risk not having economies of scale to remain competitive. But to get there you need to have a clear idea of what the LCD and the SLTU really value, what they want, and how they overlap. That’s one place where all the camera companies are coming up with Epic Fail.

      • Archer

        They used to know how to exploit this:

        http://www.cameraquest.com/olypenf.htm

        scroll down to the end.

    • Mr. Reeee

      If holding back, then what is best done is to streamline your product offerings and make the models you DO sell more flexible.

      Why do they need 100 different P&S models?
      Why not ADD a hot shoe to the EP2? So it’s not an either/or scenario?
      The EP2 and EPL2? The names should be markedly different to help potential customers differentiate, at a glance, without having to download spec sheets! That’s plain dumb.

      They should a DSLR-style camera. PERIOD. One model would be enough.

      Need proof? Look what Apple did with their hardware lines starting with the original iMac back in 1998 (except for the never-changing model names). Except for differences in processor or memory… 6 laptops, 4 desktops, 1 phone, 2 iPads, 4 iPods, AppleTV. That’s basically it. Simple simple simple.

      • Chris

        Yes. This is it. Why are there so many compact cameras from any manufacturer? There should only be a handful of cameras Olympus should manufacture: entry, superzoom, and enthusiast compact; E-PL, enthusiast, and pro-level m4/3; and E-6xx/E-x.

      • I was about to write Olympus doesn’t have 100 different P&S models when I decided to check: 22. Yuck. Plus 3 m4/3, and 3 4/3 (and in both the latter cases, one or two models are holdovers until they sell out already made inventory).

        You are correct about the naming. Another example of crummy marketing.

        Apple bets the farm every time they do something, and they do something that solves new problems. It’s an all-in kind of strategy. The Japanese all increment the hell out of something to the point that you can’t tell A from Z. As I’ve noted many times and will continue to note, the Japanese don’t get that if you want to sell a US$99 camera (Olympus VG-110), then it better connect to the social media, because that’s the target buyer’s need.

        • wife

          and if it were that easy for camera companies to do, they all would have done it. note it’s easier for a phone maker to stick camera functions into a cell phone than it is the other way around.

          thom, things are really easy when you’re a one-man arm-chair quarterback. it’s not so easy when we’re talking about a big corporation here.

          • or the camera company meets with the cell phone company and asks for their help, cell phone company names a price, some discussion goes on about synergies and a deal gets done … if a company can put wifi into an SD card then they can put it into a camera

          • wife

            yeh… it’s so easy. why don’t YOU go out and do it?

          • Medved

            Well, that one point, but they developed lots of “useless” (or of minor use features) and I think also they fail to meet the needs of customers on some points because they focus too much on the japanese market, which if I may, is significantly smaller than the “rest of the world” and it seems to me that people in the US and in EU share some views about photography… and basically it’s currently the world biggest market…

            Also, I’m not sure whether it actually is that difficult to refocus the marketing policy, or whether it is just that Japanese corporation react at rock-bottom-snail speed…

          • You do realize that I ran multiple very large and profitable high tech companies, don’t you? And that I sometimes consult to some extremely large tech companies, including one that does over US$100b in sales a year?

            I’ll put it as succinctly as I can: I could run Olympus Imaging better than it has been. I’m confident of that, and I have the track record to back that up. And your credentials are?

  • JoelH

    A couple of observations:

    1. Nearly all the discussion here is concentrating on the assumed woes in the DSLR and Micro 4/3 product lines, a little XZ-1 thrown in – i.e. the cameras of interest to this group. But Olympus has a large line of small-sensor digicams that must take a significant portion of the development and marketing budget. So I’m wondering which piece of the camera product line is doing better? Olympus digicams get relatively little editorial appreciation and are not too visible in the stores that I’ve seen. Now perhaps the digicams are actually propping up the “serious” camera business. But it seems also possible that actually the “serious” cameras are doing reasonably well of themselves, but simply cannot generate enough profit to pay for the costs of the moribund digicam products. Remember that in film cameras, Olympus basically shifted away from the SLR OM line and rode the (then) winning worse of the Stylus and other pocket zoom cameras. Maybe that strategy is not repeatable today. Could it be that Olympus is simply slow to shift their product focus back in the other direction? Or perhaps all of the camears are doing equally badly; I’d be interested to know.

    2. Regarding the appointment of a foreigner (from the medical division) to head the company and the ensuing speculation that he may be hostile to the camera business: Perhaps this was done strictly on merit and a modern, global business outlook. But a more cynical view is also possible. It could be that Olympus senior management has already decided to close or painfully slash the imaging division, but they want to shift the responsibility to a non-Japanese for this episode. Mr. Wood swings the hatchet, takes the blame for the RIFs and the internal morale problems, then eventually moves on having done the work that the Japanese execs knew needed to be done.

    • Which product is doing better? The m4/3 line. The Tough series does okay for them. The V and S series appear to have lost considerable market share. The 4/3 DSLRs, well, when you tell people you’re going to stop making them (essentially) you can expect to stop selling them ;~).

      Olympus needs to prune lines, establish clear customer goals, build products that actually solve those customer’s needs, communicate what they’re doing better, and do it all faster. Sounds simple enough to me.

      • wife

        Sure, simple until you figure in something called a budget. And it takes a big budget to change the ways things are done now.

        Change is easy for a one-man show. Not so easy for a big (and old) battleship.

        • JoelH

          So Thom, your answer does indicate that much of the commentary in this thread, concentrating mostly on disappointments with the Micro 4/3 line, may be misdirected.

          In the long run, having a somewhat higher volume line – mid-level consumer cameras of some description – can be used to improve Olympus’ cost structure for their higher precision medical and lab equipment business. However, playing in the lower-end consumer market may not have the same benefits. Those products are likely to become more commoditized, with design, parts and production sourcing having relatively little in common with high precision equipment and thus bringing little benefit unless they are solidly profitable on their own.

          • I’m not 100% following you. I don’t see exactly how an m4/3 camera impacts Olympus’ costs in medical and lab. This is unlike Fujifilm, where sensor work they do in the imaging division is being directly used in their office equipment.

            You are correct about the low-end having been commoditized, and Olympus has no real business playing in that business because it doesn’t have the cost structures necessary to survive long-term. The big mass producers (Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, etc.) have vertical integration on top of everything else in the low-end markets, and see cost benefits that Olympus can’t duplicate.

        • … so are you suggesting that because Oly is big they should not or cannot change?

          change is a good thing, but only for the brave, them that wants to stand still and continue doing things they way they did yesterday soon because yesterday’s companies

          • wife

            No, I’m saying it’s hard to change….
            Way to completely pervert my words.

            Let me requote what I said since you can’t read:

            “Not so easy for a big (and old) battleship.”

            I said that it was “NOT SO EASY”

            Is that really hard to understand?

          • Medved

            No but Japanese Corporations really are not known in the Organizational Innovation field as prone and efficient in accepting change…
            I don’t remember all my bachelor course that much… But, I recall modules about HR and multicultural management to mention that… (I guess you could find it in a couple of papers…)

          • wife

            Medved,

            I like said, it’s not easy.

          • Personally, I don’t get Wifes comments, at all. Now he’s saying “not so easy to change” as if it’s an excuse for why Olympus is where it is today.

            Sorry, but life is tough. You adapt or die. Nobody said it would be (or should be) easy. Sometimes you have to amputate. Note what Nokia is doing to themselves this week. Thing is, if you make excuses about why you’re not changing at a pace faster than the market (yes, that’s what it takes to be a success like Apple), you just fall further behind while you’re out talking up the “it’s hard” story.

            I come from a ruthless industry and a ruthless place: Silicon Valley. Get over it and move on. Don’t keep iterating the same silly plan that’s not working.

        • spam

          It is pretty simple, they make one stupid and cpmpletely enneccessary decision after another.
          – Why launch 4 MFT models that are essentialy the same?
          – Why tell everyony you’re going stop make FT cameras when you’re obviously not ready to replace them with MFT models?
          – Why stay out of the premium compact market for 4-5 years?- Why take one of the best superzoomlines and cripple it completely by removing the viewfinder, hotshoe and all advanvanced manual features?
          – Then there is the E-5, best FT-model ever according to tests (and I don’t doubt it), but hugely overpriced compared to the competition. And E-5 is a gigantic FT camera, why make that at all (if the resources are limited)when the FT have only one strong side, and that’s smaller bodies than the competition.

          There must be tens, maybe hundred times more E-4xx/E-5xx/E-6xx users than E-3 users sitting there wainting for an upgraded body. E-5 is too expensive and too large for those. What are they going to do? According to OLympus they should “upgrade” to a Pen, but all Pens so far are entry level and below all the dSLRs in many important areas like AF.

          So, with limited resources Olympus should have made an new E-6xx with some of the E-5 features like video mode and the image quality which are just electronics and would be more or less an swap of electronics in the same body. Maybe they could have added improved AF too, and they’d had an instant upgrade for 90 % of their dSLR users with a minimum of effort. It would even been a pretty decent camera in that class in stead of an underpowered too expensive model in a much higher class.

          IMO the XZ-1 is a good move, particulary clever to use the same accessories as the Pens.

          Then the Pens, IMO the E-PL2 is a good move. It doesn’t look cheap like E-PL1, but keep the good features and add some improvements. It should have been the only Pen in theis class, but probably wasn’t possible by the time they made the three first. So, get rid of the three other models as fast as possible and get a higher end model out before all dSLR-users are gone.

          Btw, going for MFT also mean saying goodbye to pros. Not that no pros will use MFT, but it’s not going to be the only/primary camera for many pros for several generations. I keep reading about pro MFT bodies form both Panasonnic and Olympus, and it don’t make sense. Sure I’d like to see a K5/D7000/60D level body (build quality, not size), but please no MFT-verison of E-5.

          • sderdiarian

            A big +1:

            “It is pretty simple, they make one stupid and completely unneccessary decision after another.
            – Why launch 4 MFT models that are essentially the same?
            – Why tell everyone you’re going stop making FT cameras when you’re obviously not ready to replace them with MFT models?
            – Why stay out of the premium compact market for 4-5 years?- Why take one of the best superzoomlines and cripple it completely by removing the viewfinder, hotshoe and all advanced manual features?
            – Then there is the E-5, best FT-model ever according to tests (and I don’t doubt it), but hugely overpriced compared to the competition. And E-5 is a gigantic FT camera, why make that at all (if the resources are limited)when the FT have only one strong side, and that’s smaller bodies than the competition.”

            I also agree with Thom, they have no apparent marketing strategy or consistent product development plan. Instead they come across as stumbling about in the dark without a clue, offending those who’ve bought into some brilliant products (so frustrating, they DO have the engineering and design talent) which are ultimately dead-ended rather than fully developed.

            I dread the thought of Panasonic buying them out, they have a very different philosophy: overpriced/overweight OIS lenses and inferior colors out of their processors.

            Now, if Apple bought them up that might be interesting.

        • Archer

          The budget makes that easier: kill the lines with low profitability, and deploy your resources where they’ll do the most good. Closing a line is cheap. Decision gets made, and tomorrow workers get reassigned. It works that way even in large companies, something I have direct experience with. All it takes is leadership.

        • See my challenge to you, above. You simply don’t have any idea who I am and what I’ve done, have you?

          Budget has very little to do with it. And I can tell you haven’t read The Mythical Man Month, one of the seminal works on high-tech R&D. All of the camera companies have very large R&D budgets, many of them far larger than Apple’s R&D budget. Oh, oh. Maybe budget doesn’t have anything to do with it? Maybe you have to have the insight and customer problem-solving attitude first? Simply put: some of the most important breakthrough products of the past 20 years have been built with very small teams on very modest budgets.

          You can have lots of money, but if you spend it poorly, you just end up with a lot less money.

  • Bikedork

    BTW, everyone and admin, the name is Michael C. Woodford. One news source says, “Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, the new Representative Director and Chairman commented ‘Michael C. Woodford, who has successfully consolidated businesses in Europe, despite its diverse cultures, customs and markets, has pushed forward reforms in business structure and processes, always with a global perspective. He has achieved a great deal for Olympus Corporation.’ I don’t know if this fules JoelH’s cynical concerns, but the guy is a lifelong Olympus employee, not an outsider.

    • JoelH

      Thanks, that is the discussion I hoped to have. To be clear, I posited the cynical “hatchet-man” scenario as the second of two possible theories, not my personal conclusion. For Olympus’ sake, I’d prefer to know that this change was done for positive reasons, best man for the job etc.

  • WT21

    This was a poorly managed transition. They are too timid.

    full 43 format doesn’t make sense. It’s a niche area that will never catch on, and they announced a rival, internally launched format (m43) without killing the old one. You HAVE to be prepared to eat your own kids in product launches. No flip-flopping. Then they released a “flag ship” on an old format that no one wants, while NOT investing more in their new format, m43. The NEX probably didn’t help, either.

    This will be a great MBA business case on how NOT to handle a new format/product launch, and how NOT responding to competition can just accelerate the decline. I would think they could still recover if they have new, exciting products in the pipe that will launch very soon (in the next month or so), but “prototype” stuff that MIGHT show up by December is not going to do it.

    I stopped investing in my Oly m43 because with the E5 release, they looked like a company adrift. I’m going to continue to stay away until they show they have a plan. No EPL2 for me. I will not buy from them again until I see a much better spec EP3 (or pro m43) and new, fast primes, to show their commitment to the platform. If they aren’t on the verge of releasing these, then I have my doubts they will be able to at all.

    • the other Rob

      They should have just lied and said that they are developing new 43 cameras and lenses in conjunction with new m43 stuff. I will also not spend a dime on anything Olympus until the announce a commitment or plan for the future.

      • And lying is The Job of marketing. But no……

  • Sony has a strategy, albeit poorly implemented for the moment, but they’ll catch up. Olympus has no strategy, but, together with Panasonic, they have orchestrated an imaginative proof-of-concept – m43.

    But proof-of-concept isn’t enough. Last week Panasonic announced a loss, now Olympus. Both are scaling back, right at the moment people have begun to buy into the m43 concept. Why? Lack of strategy…

    Now’s the time to move beyond a string of ill fitting, overlapping parts and create a whole from camera bodies to lenses and accessories, for beginners to a full-fledged professional line.

    Panasonic and Olympus should stop competing and collaborate to get m43 off the ground. Users are confused; the product line has no roadmap. Like many, I use Panasonic lenses on Olympic bodies, and vice-versa. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out which it the best lens for a given usage, there’s no buyer loyalty because buyers are confused. Competition is good, but it’s not really a question of Olympus vs. Panasonic; it’s Olympus AND Panasonic vs. Sony and Nikon and Canon.

    What’s more, these cutback announcements come just at a time when significant others (Zeiss, Sigma, Voigtlander, etc.) have started to or announced plans to manufacture equipment for the m43 format. What must they be thinking?

    Panasonic’s scaling back on the GS1 and the 12-50mm at this time does not bode well. The dearth of fast primes and zooms and the evolution of camera technology is killing the momentum this format has achieved.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems there are buyers, willing and able, out there, but there’s nothing to buy. The GH2 release has been stalled for months, the GF2 and the E-PL2/PL2 are not significantly distinguishable from their forerunner counterparts. The lens situation is overlapping and redundant. Why are they re-releasing the Lumix 7-14mm now? Why not add to the range with the 12-50mm instead? I’m tired of trying recycled manual focus lenses on m43 bodies. It’s fun for a while because these lenses are fast, but with the adapters very hard to focus. Let’s get some pro m43 lenses on the market.

    The whole approach needs a reboot. I just hope the investments I’ve mad so far doesn’t come to a screeching halt.

  • 1. Olympus should have a sale of E5 SLR for $1000. Most Olympus users are on the sideline with E5 due to the unexpected high price tag. If Olympus can’t make sales to Olympus users who are ready to upgrade, then the results are as seen in the graph.

    2. Olympus should make a full frame version of E5 to compete with Canon 5D II and coming 5D3. That is a much bigger professional market instead of 1/4 sized sensor Four Third. Four Third was invented when 486/386 computers were state of art with assumption that users would only print 8×10 size. Olympus has done the best possible for that small sensor. Moving to full frame will make Olympus an instant success.

    3. M43 is cute for two groups of buyers: 1. advanced users want something small with pancake fast single focal lens. 2. Consumers wanted for better quality output with zoom lens. Olympus ignored the first group by offering cheaply designed 17mm lens. The success of Lumix 20mm F1.7 is the lesson for Olympus.

    4. Once Fuji X100(bigger sensor, with finder built in at free cost) comes to the market, Olympus M43 will be further under pressure. The high end users will go away for the bigger sensor while not much bigger body size. Fuji may get interchangeable lenses down the road and reduce prices further, then Olympus will lose everything in the advanced user market.

    5. Look at the new Epl2 put pressure on earlier models, while the new coming EP3 adding pressure on the EPL2 for the same small clientele. Changing camera every 6 month is fast enough, Olympus is calling every faster path. There is simply not enough big market for a camera without real finder.

    6. Since Olympus introduced M43, Olympus Four Third format has been left without any meaningful sales(no current e DSLR since e620 and e30). Olympus should offer e5 at $1000 and an E50 at $600 range to buy time for regrouping.

    I always have a soft heart for OLympus. I used OM1N/2N/4Ti in 80’s and 90’s on the side of Canon F-1N T90 Nikon F series Leica M6. I always preferred Olympus for the smaller size and Leica like feel. The above suggestions might be useful for Olympus to consider at the time of recession: Every sale, every client is important for company’s financial bottom line.

    Note: I like E5, but I have not bought one(I do have EP1). The photos taken in my website were taken with Canon(before 2009) or by Pentax K7(after 2009).

    Richard Wugang

    • the other Rob

      Point 2 is ridiculous. Sony tried this and failed. It would be an epic waste of money and they would have had to develop all new lenses. They basically have no R/D money, which is why you have the E-5, so how are they going to develop a completely new system which is doomed for failure?

      • Medved

        The Fact that Oly chose the 43 17*13 sensor and stuck with it stubbornly means that they won’t ever make a full frame. That’s true…
        But Sony hasn’t really failed in that domain, and I bet they will probably grow with their new generation sensors, which are state of the art… I mean when finely tweak you get the K-5 DxO results… It’s… very impressive.

        • Chris

          Sony has the money to dabble in full-frame, Olympus doesn’t. Besides, Sony’s going to be manufacturing those full-frame sensors anyways for Nikon (and Leica soon, if you believe the rumors), so they don’t have to do much in order to shove them into one of their alpha cameras.

          I think Olympus is locked into Panasonic, and that’s a big problem. They’re the only two players in the 17x13mm sensor market… there’s no glut of manufacturers buying up those sensor sizes to keep the prices somewhat low.

    • > Look at the new Epl2 put pressure on earlier models, while the new coming EP3 adding pressure on the EPL2 for the same small clientele. Changing camera every 6 month is fast enough, Olympus is calling every faster path. There is simply not enough big market for a camera without real finder.

      What you’re seeing is another mistake. The whole E-P1/E-P2, E-PL1/E-PL2 thing was a big mistake in almost every respect. First we have the similar names, which has already been discussed. Next we have the “we’re iterating every six months (but not really)” factor. Unless Olympus is getting better manufacturing margins out all this iteration, they are pointless. An E-PL2 is not really all that different from the E-P1. We’ve got engineers moving buttons, changing shapes, altering minor components, but the user is getting the same performance while being confused over where Oly is headed. Panasonic at least managed to move a bar with the GH2 (though they made the same mistake with the GF2 as Oly is making with their 1/2 iterations).

      So many of the camera purchases at this level come from (a) someone who already owns decent cameras upgrading, sidegrading, downgrading, or sampling; or (b) someone who gets a recommendation from someone who already owns decent cameras. The strange 1/2 tactics of both companies only works with those that haven’t been paying attention at all (new to market). You run out of those folks pretty fast. Worse still, the sucky marketing and horrible sales logistics isn’t really attracting them in the first place.

      • I must be one of the few people that see the sense in the EP1/2 & EPL1/2 releases …

        -2 was an update adding the clip on electronic finder … you want it you gotta go buy it, but for a lot of -1 owners (like me) who don’t want it they can ignore this camera
        -L1 was a cheap entry to the system, the asking price of the two previous models was a bit steep looking at their spec. this was a low end entry, dumbed down (like pan gf2) to grab more sales, anyone with a P1/2 could add this camera if they wanted flash or ignore it
        -L2 as an EP1 owner I’ve been happy to watch the last two cameras come in and not get them, this is a serious update to the 1 … I’d get access to that electronic finder and a flash that controls my FL-36R remotely and finally a black one! while LightRoom is not yet supporting the L2 it’s a no sale, I can wait for the kit price to drop and then move up from the P1
        -P3 … or I can wait for the P3 and then take it or the L2

        from Dec09 to let’s say May11 if Oly can get me to change camera at 18months that is probably ahead of the canon/nikon user who also slopes generation, the 40D to 60D for example

        I worked my Dec-09 £730-ish E-P1 package down to a £250 body by selling the 17, finder, zoom, at he tiem body on,y was £499 … and then going to the Pan 20/1.7 lens … the EPL2 launch price is much more in the right zone and will soon be down from £499 to £399 when I’ll probably do the same and sell the zoom

        • PS and I’d happily see the P3 as a minor update and then see the L3 and P4 at alternating 6 month intervals, updating the P and PL lines once a year each with iterations and design tweaks works for me, more accessories (we need a mini 36R style flash with tilt/swivel at a size between FL14 and -36)

          maybe one day one of them will have a new sensor, but I’m still enjoying shots form my P1 and gathering the pancake lenses is keeping me highly amused … bundle the PL2 with a 40/2 portrait pancake and I’ll be first in the queue at launch price.

        • This is a tricky area. The -2 releases all right now look like “we fixed a few things we got wrong with -1, but we didn’t do anything else.” Oh, right, they added Art Filters ;~). The PL releases look like “we figured out a way to make it cheaper.”

          Now, yes, those are cynical views of what’s happened, but that’s the problem when you get the marketing wrong: the customer starts seeing the wrong story, one that isn’t favorable to you.

          But I’m going to be much more critical here: in the now 20 months we’ve had m4/3 bodies from Olympus, we’ve gotten four iterations of the same thing. This does not look like progress on a clear direction. It looks like “trying to figure out how to make it more cheaply.” That Panasonic is now doing the same thing is not a hugely reassuring thought. What we haven’t seen yet is PARALLEL development pushing m4/3 forward. Okay, I’ll stand slightly corrected, the GH2 does push forward from the GH1 in a number of clear ways. But Olympus isn’t there yet. The longer the time between the four look-alikes and something significantly new, the bigger the problem for Olympus.

          • Medved

            “This does not look like progress on a clear direction”

            You mean the fact that we do not have any clue about the orientation for the future system, the bodies, the accessories, or their “specialization”.
            Well the concept of small and dslr-like quality is attractive but, it is still unclear what quality can we expect from this in the future… Plus they did not release that many lenses… Ok, they cover 7 to 300, but, for video, they do not offer that fast lenses, and well for photography either… (And, for me, fast primes with relative portability, it’s a bit the whole point of the system…)

            Or that we do not even have an idea of the accessories and lens roadmap, or any possible means to decipher (assuming there is any) Oly and Panny messages about their plans (assuming they have some), about the future… (Although, panny is much clearer than Oly, and differentiate their offer better IMO, GF – GH lineups, clear movie-video orientation)

            I mean look at Pentax, they seemed to have developed a roadmap, and even though they’re still struggling for market shares, I guess with the promise of developing their lens system both in 645 and DA, and the good quality and pricing of the K-5 and 645D they attract interest and reassure the potential buyer: ==> there is a future, and here is the plan.

            You seem to know/understand Panasonic quite well, what would you expect for the system to move forward?

    • Guy Jordan

      1. It’s not a $1000 camera. It is overpriced, but only by about $200. It’s a tank.

      2. Actually, the full frame market is the niche market. Every time I go to a seminar and equipment comes up, the pro says they are shooting with a cropped frame camera. With the Pentax 645 and other medium format cameras dipping below $10K, it is full frame cameras that will likely become the dinosaurs.

      3. Agree – it is the Leica rangefinder crowd, and optics are king.

      4. The Fuji? Talk about overpriced! Fuji has made good cameras before but none has ever been a sensation in the marketplace.

      5. Not a big enough market for a camera without a real finder? As far as I can tell, it’s at least 80% of the camera market. And M43 has already nabbed 25% of the interchangeable lens market.

      6. Why do you keep obsessing on the price of the E-5? It may seem too high based on a dry comparison of specs, but Olympus can barely keep up with demand for it.

  • Archer

    I cast my vote with a poorly managed transition. Olympus was slow releasing their first m43 body (~6 months post G1?), and don’t as yet have a compelling story in the space. Marketing has been above average (by Olympus standards ;-), with the tie-in to their tremendous history of innovation and quality, but the products have lagged somewhat, primarily due to lenses: for example, Mike Johnston at The Online Photographer (great blog, read it) liked the Olympus camera better, but bought a GH1 because of the bundled 20/1.7.

    I hope that part of the poor results from imaging are due to R&D costs that have yet to pay back. I don’t know how those investments are accounted for, so I have no way of knowing, but it does seem to me that all of the R&D for the XZ-1 (which may have been considerable), and presumably for the upcoming pro lenses and body (bodies, please!?) may have also occurred in this time frame, so they wouldn’t be returning yet.

    Still, the radical appointment of a non-Japanese to the CEO position indicates a certain sense of desperation. I hope it works out, as Olympus has come closest to being impressive, IMHO, in the EVIL market space.

  • ILO

    I have E-P1 and was planning to upgrade to new one with BUILT-IN EVF. I had Kodak and Canon pocketable compact cameras and both with optical viewfinders and it was much easier to shoot with them than with E-P1. Panasonic seems to have more advanced bodies and lenses but I love Olympus concept of smaller and lighter lenses and cool PEN designs. I wish it not fail because they fill important niche.

    Regarding Panasonic – I remember trying to buy Panasonic Blueray player couple of years ago (they were the best back then) but failed after several weeks of search – could not find one. It sounds ridiculous but it is the true story – Panasonic stopped making older model but did not start production of new model for several months. Forget about it – I gave up and went to Radioshack and bought Sylvania (which is actually Funai) on the supersale as a gap measure. But couple of years later I still keep it – excellent BD quality even though slow as hell, difficult to manage and twice as large. After it breaks down I will go for Oppo – forget Panasonic.

  • Boooo!

    1) Build more DSLRs
    2) Build more 4/3 lenses
    3) Get rid of Panasonic
    4) Roll in cash

    • IF 1 OR 2
      THEN
      NOT 4 ;

      • Thom, do you know some more details about Oly-Pannay relationships as sensors go? Over years, we have heard that Oly has tested sensors from many manufacturers, yet they are sticking to Pannay. In all corporate wisdom, putting all eggs into one basket….

        • At the moment, Olympus hasn’t changed sensors across four m4/3 models. One reason to do this is cost. It’s a tactic Nikon used to great advantage starting with the D100 (D70, D70s, D50, D40, for example). Basically, you commit to a higher quantity, you get a lower price. You keep sampling other sensors from other makers, but now you have a negotiating bar (e.g. “well, we like it, but we need a price better than we’re getting from our current sensor”). Unfortunately, both companies that I know they sampled sensors from (Kodak and Fujifilm) are not prone to negotiate on price. Indeed, Fujifilm’s requested prices on sensors is basically the reason why no one is using a Fujifilm sensor other than Fujifilm.

          • One more thing (I’m starting to feel like Jobs ;~):

            Neither Fujifilm nor Kodak understand the semiconductor business well. The old TI model of price lower than your costs and then drive volume efficiencies to push price down is counter to the way both companies ran the film world. Neither has really been able to make the leap of faith. Sony is long used to this world. Ditto Panasonic.

      • Boooo!

        Why not?

        I’m personally convinced that Olympus isn’t having any profits because of the following:

        1) Not enough DSLRs (currently only one!!! that’s insane!)
        2) Not enough lenses (even Sigma dropped out)
        3) Panasonic lags behind all other sensor manufacturers

        Well, those, and also this one:

        4) Their marketing plainly SUCKS

        If they expand their lineup so they actually HAVE something to market, and the ISO pissing contest stops, they should be able to sell well and roll in cash.

        • camera chow, picture wow

  • Justin

    Olympus failed badly at building customer loyalty/fan base. Look at Canon, or Apple. Olympus is messing around, trying all sorts of new stuff and leaving their (ex)customers in the ditch.

    I’m not going to say what they should or shouldnt have done. All I feel is that I’m not very happy having choosen the 43 system.

    • I’m with you here (although very happy with my mFT kit) the FT stuff is in no man’s land … the longer we wait for a commitment to FT from Oly the more unlikely that it seems. Letting slip at FT is at it’s end was such a huge marketing failure. if they want to play at the topo end only en they need to announce that only the TopPro and Pro lenses are current and officially discontinue the consumer gear. if they can come out with an E35 and go for a dual E35/E5 then they have a bit more change than the one camera only model

      that said they could still make a mirror less modular thing to take both mFT and FT lenses they said they will develop both. but the messages are unclear.

      I’m looking hard at the Canon 60D, 7D, Nikon D7000 as an alternative to my E30 and it’s Oly strategy or lack thereof that is making me look out. the E5 just isnt worth the risk or price tag … I think it’s time to leave FT ‘before’ Oly does

    • 43photo

      +1

  • Dana Curtis Kincaid

    “Sony is long used to this world.”

    Who says that Sony is doing well, or has always done well?

    http://edition.cnn.com/2009/BUSINESS/01/29/sony.loss/index.html

    I see a lot of speculation from posters here who, as always, write their posts with no facts and no background in any kind of industry. Boring. A few years ago people were saying that Pentax was dead and yet it is not.

    I find your lack of faith, disturbing.

    • Archer

      That story is about the company as a whole, and not the semiconductor business in particular. Indeed, the parts it breaks out are just the consumer businesses, which are (I suspect, don’t know) are run independently of the semiconductors.

      Thom may speculate, well, ok, he isn’t known to speculate much if at all, but if he does it is from a basis of long experience.

    • You fail to read my words correctly. I didn’t write that Sony was successful at semiconductor pricing, only that they are used to it. That said, Sony Semiconductor was very successful at it early in the imaging sensor business. They correctly used price to keep market share and fend off lots of potential competitors, including Fujifilm and Kodak, who weren’t willing to do the TI pricing gamble. Sony trying to compete both as a supplier and as a direct competitor (Sony Semiconductor and Sony Imaging) is a tough balance job. Early on (80’s, 90’s and early 00’s) they managed to do that decently enough, though Imaging kept losing market share while Semiconductor maintained theirs.

      Ironically, Sony failed to see the cellphone imaging market correctly (despite having their own cellphone division). Ditto the security market. They’ve now been relegated to an also-ran in market share for imaging sensors overall. Compact cameras and DSLRs are their remaining dominated markets.

      You also fail to use facts of your own. You obviously don’t know my background, which is 25 years in Silicon Valley high tech and closely aligned with semiconductor makers (TI, Intel, AT&T, Arm, and more).

      As for Pentax, the company was taken over by Hoya, and for a relative pittance. That was almost exactly as I predicted, though about two years later than I thought it would. Bankruptcies, reorganizations, and acquisitions move at a different speed in Japan than here in the US. Pentax as we knew it–a family owned and managed company–is long gone. It’s just another division of a large conglomerate, and it’s the weakest division of that conglomerate. You might have missed the statement by the corporate execs ABOVE Pentax at Hoya saying that they were looking for a buyer for Pentax. Pentax is far from being a lively asset.

    • Medved

      “Dana Curtis Kincaid
      2 days ago | Reply

      “Sony is long used to this world.”

      Who says that Sony is doing well, or has always done well?

      http://edition.cnn.com/2009/BUSINESS/01/29/sony.loss/index.html

      I see a lot of speculation from posters here who, as always, write their posts with no facts and no background in any kind of industry. Boring. A few years ago people were saying that Pentax was dead and yet it is not.

      I find your lack of faith, disturbing.”

      I think you fail to see that this article about the loss of Sony is relative to the global company, and the lack of detail does not allow to make assumptions about the sensor industry, well, I have personally no understanding of that industry.

      But also that Sony face another problem that is hitting most of the big Japanese companies, the not so efficient branding relative to the “line extension”.

      I mean it has been proven in the recent years and pointed out in different business and marketing reviews, that big Japanese conglomerate had tough times competing against differentiated brands, exemple sony mobile phones (which is probably respinsible for a great deal of losses) compared to apple. Funnily, the Playstation brand, a Sony “focus-brand” is their most lucrative activity…

      Also Toshiba, mitsubishi, Hitachi and Nec which are all losing money.

      Canon and Nikon do have the edge in Marketing cause they are known to consumers about their involvement in photography (video) industry, and well for canon, printers also.

      Well, that’s only my opinion… I do not have much work experience, but by observing…

      • Medved

        Once again apologies for my poor English.

  • Dana Curtis Kincaid

    ” Olympus should make a full frame version of E5 to compete with Canon 5D II and coming 5D3.”

    And where, pray tell, would the new FF lenses come from?

  • Dana Curtis Kincaid

    “I stopped investing in my Oly m43 because with the E5 release, they looked like a company adrift. I’m going to continue to stay away until they show they have a plan.”

    That’s nice. Have you actually LOOKED at an E5?

  • Dana Curtis Kincaid

    And again, after their Near Death Experience, how IS Pentax doing?

  • napalm

    Olympus earned 47% profit in the previous year to this report. so yeah since that year was better, the latest will be on the negative. 2009 had the E-620 and the E-P1 and P2 w/c i think had pretty good sales.

    http://www.43rumors.com/olympus-profit-surprise-up-47-over-estimate/

    so this current report is just saying they’re back to their 2008 profit. am i getting this correctly?

    • napalm

      i guess i’m wrong. those numbers are not for the imaging division :)

    • well found, so a super year followed by a not so good quarter looks bad on %

      • You have to separate out overall corporate from the imaging business. The imaging business is in clear decline, and has been challenged for some time. It’s not just one bad quarter. It’s now a string of bad quarters with no clear plan for how to fix that.

    • Medved

      Actually the results of 2009 were not that good…
      In japan they were. But world wide… April-May-June they fared pretty well but they started 2009 pretty bad(because they ended 2008 very bad, so 2008 isn’t at any level a reference, it was in fact their weakest year… in the last five years)and they ended 2009 like they started 2008 kind of so-so-alright.
      So no, they’re definitely not doing too well… especially if compared with canon…

      • Medved

        message above addressed to:

        “napalm
        20 hours ago | Reply

        Olympus earned 47% profit in the previous year to this report. so yeah since that year was better, the latest will be on the negative. 2009 had the E-620 and the E-P1 and P2 w/c i think had pretty good sales.

        http://www.43rumors.com/olympus-profit-surprise-up-47-over-estimate/

        so this current report is just saying they’re back to their 2008 profit. am i getting this correctly?”

        As Thom says, and knows, Oly imaging division… is well… not at its best…

  • BS Artiste

    +1 to reading Fred Brook’s “Mythical Man Month”. I still hope Oly can step it up and provide me some reason to stick with their products. Back in Sept. I was ready to drop another $3K to $4K into my E-30 system on which I already had invested around $8K. Oly’s Photokina announcements froze my spending. I am not a pro and probably not even a good photographer. I don’t mind carrying equipment as I walked around London this past summer with probably a 40 lbs. backpack for my E-30, 4 lenses, a laptop, and other accessories. I’ve been with Oly digital cameras for over 10 years, but right now I am leaning towards a 5D mk iii if Canon can do an articulating LCD, 1080p, and better focusing. I’ll still keep and use my E-30 as I could never get my money out in a fire sale of the equipment on eBay. We’ll see what it is like traveling with a full frame camera and enough zoom lenses and teleconverters to cover the 18 to 1200mm in 35mm equivalent of my 4/3 system. I expect a 5D mk iii and enough lenses to probably run in the $10K range which is a somewhat expensive hobby but no more so than some of my other interests such as sailing and astronomy.

    • Some people are reading my words as evidence that I’m not sticking with their products. I still shoot with an E-P2/E-PL2. But I shoot more and more with Panasonic m4/3 cameras now. I don’t think I’m alone in that. Olympus’ next m4/3 body has to be a clear step forward. Another 12mp iteration that’s only slightly incremental will just escalate the flow towards Panasonic (assuming, of course, that Panasonic can actually figure out how to ship product ;~). That can’t be good for Olympus in the long run, because with 4/3 now history, their highest profit margin products are the m4/3 bodies.

  • ILO

    If Olympus is going broke how Kodak is still alive? Olympus and Kodak started 43 standard. May be it makes sense to merge Olympus with Kodak and Kodak makes compact cameras and Olympus focuses on lenses, m43 and hi end stuff and also gets Kodak 43 sensor and Kodak color technology which I prefer to Olympus. Merging Olympus to Panasonic does not make sense – for competition and choice you need more than one m43 manufacturer.

    • 1. Olympus is not going broke. Losing money in a division is not the same thing as going broke. However, Olympus’ financial position as a full company is not such that they’ll be able to sustain continued loses in the imaging division. The alternatives are pretty clear: (1) fix it, (2) sell it, or (3) close it. It being the imaging division. Given that Olympus is mostly a medical and instrument company these days, they won’t spend a lot of time on (1). If things don’t turn in the next year, they’ll have to look at (2) and (3).

      2. Kodak as you know it is not long for the world. There stock price has plummeted from about US$30 to near US$3 in the past five years, which is a strong indicator of what investors think of the continued pattern of missing estimates and sustaining losses that Kodak is piling up. Kodak’s stated plan is to get profitable again sometime in 2012, and that the sole thing that drives that is growth in printer sales. To put things in perspective, Kodak is about a US$6b a year business. They expect US$2b of that to come from printers, US$2b of that to come from intellectual property royalties, and the rest to come from all those pesky established businesses you might know them for, such as film, digital cameras, digital frames, and photofinishing.

      • ILO

        Sorry, I did not mean Olympus as a whole, only imaging division. I just do not see why another Japanese company may want to buy Olympus ID. On the other hand Kodak can take advantage of acquiring Olympus ID. Kodak bought Leaf and now make very high end bodies and also makes high end sensors, e.g. for Leica. It is not that Kodak does not know how to make cameras. The problem is that they gave up on advanced cameras and chasing low end low profit margin market. They need to round off their product portfolio and Olympus has everything that Kodak lacks – semi-professional bodies (but no high end low volume like Leaf), lenses and good jpeg software. And Kodak is also is the member of 43. Sony solved similar problems by acquiring Minolta.

        • According to Kodak’s own statements, they are going to stop pursuing market share in digital cameras for profit margin. But as I note above, digital cameras are not even one-third of Kodak’s expected business in the future. I haven’t dropped fully down in the numbers, but I’ll bet they aren’t even 1/6 of Kodak’s expected future business. Buying Olympus is not in Kodak’s future, and Kodak probably doesn’t have enough cash to do so anyway.

          • ILO

            Then I do not know. May some Chinese company may be interested in Olympus? Chinese bought Polaroid, Hoover, Volvo and other failed companies. China is like graveland LOL. I hate to see Olympus ID to be shutdown and all cool designs gone. I do not see Panasonic interested or whatsoever and all other do not care about m43. I also wonder why Kodak still makes cameras if it does not bother about competing. m43 is cool concept they should join Panasonic and Olympus.

  • BS Artiste

    My big problem right now is that I no longer trust Oly enough to invest in a new camera system with them or invest more in my existing Oly system. I like Oly products and would have no problems buying an all-together pro-sumer camera from them if I was in the market for one. However, buying into a system is a different story. Given the trust issues that are difficult to repair, either Oly has to get their Pen system prices down to something competitive with all-in-one pro-sumer super zooms or just about forget systems. If the price of an Oly u4/3 is competitive with an all-in-one superzoom with no system, then I would have no problems in getting the system just like a known obsolescent all-in-one superzoom. From a manufacturing and technology perspective, that would squeeze Oly’s margins. Obtaining my longer range commitments to a (for Oly higher margin) camera system with Oly require them to significantly rebuild my trust although I like their products and technology.

    • ILO

      Real world prices for Olympus products are not so high. I bought E-P1 at Costco for $500 about year ago and then M.Zuiko 14-150mm f/4.0-5.6 for $389 at B&H. It is very good price for such a nice lenses.

  • BS Artiste

    requires, not require.

  • you know my name

    I would think if Olympus got four thirds right, they could get micro four thirds right. Problem is they didnt, and they failed to fix it when that was always possible.

    We had E400 E410 E510 E420 E520 E620 all pretty much the same with 2/3rds of a great lens lineup that capitalized on nothing, and the same crappy sensors. Now the same pattern appears for micro four thirds.

    So if it was you what would you do, would you gently brush Four Thirds under the rug which is what is happening, or would you stand and fight? There were rumours that Four Thirds lenses could take bigger sensors than they use, so why not redevelop a body to use a slightly bigger APSC sensor and add the lenses that Four Thirds always needed.

    The investment they must have made in lenses much be quite large, I can’t believe they want to throw all that away and migrate to micro four thirds, and make all the same mistakes all over again.

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