February 15, 2011
Posted in news

Thom Hogan: What is the future for Olympus?


Our latest article about the (bad) financial results from Olympus caused a very long discussion. Thom Hogan commented the results and I wanted to highlight his arguments.

Key points of the Olympus article:
– The imaging division is continually loosing money while the whole company is doing good (see medical division). Thom: “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.
– Overseas digital imaging are down in the rest of the world (-30% in the US and Europe) but not so the japanese sales (only -1%)
– The new Olympsu chief will be a non japanese person which comes form the medical division.

Thom Hogan explains why Olympus is doing that bad:
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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

The risks:
…”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.

“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).”

What they need to do:
“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.”

“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.”

Dear readers feel free to add your comment. Please try to rationalize your arguments. No fanboy comments please.

P.S.: I vote for Thom Hogan becoming the new Olympus CEO! :)

Useful links: The popular OM-4 at eBay. Thom Hogan’s website bythom.com.

Do you think Thom analysis is correct?

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February 15, 2011
Posted in deals

(UPDATED) Olympus XZ-1 in Stock at Amazon.

UPDATE: The new black Panasonic GF2 + 14mm pancake lens WAS in Stock at Amazon (Click here). Now SOLD OUT!

The XZ-1 is finally in Stock at Amazon US (Click here) via Ritz. And it is also in Stock at Amazon Germany (Click here) and Amazon France (Click here). Don’t know how long the camera will be in Stock!

More stores check at Amazon, Adorama, B&H, J&R, eBay.

P.S.: Panasonic G2 for $499 at Amazon (Click here).

February 15, 2011
Posted in Rumors

(FT5) Next Olympus product announcement in May/June (but no pro camera yet?)

So finally we know when to expect the next new Olympus Micro Four Thirds products. According to many (yes many!) of our trusted sources Olympus scheduled a press release in late May. We will definitely see new lenses (plural!) like the one they have shown us at the CP+ show. There should be two new high quality fixed lenses (12mm and 50mm?). But according to one of our sources Olympus will not present the pro Olympus m43 camera at that event. It is very likely they will announce it 2-3 months later! We are currently investigating if there could be an E-P3 announcement instead. The E-P2 (Check Amazon, Adorama, B&H, J&R, eBay) price is very close to the current E-PL2 (Check Amazon, Adorama, B&H, J&R, eBay) price. That makes us very suspicious :)

Talking with our sources we got the “feeling” that everybody is going a bit slower than it should. A wonder why (Nikon mirrorless? financial crisis?). Anyway, nothing to worry about. What matters is that Olympus releases exactly the pro lenses and camera we need! Maybe our digital Olympus RC dream will become truth ;)
I do hope Olympus did carefully read what Thom Hogan told us about the Olympus future. Despite the very critical (and in my opinion justified) analysis I have no doubt Olympus has the power and knowledge to improve their product strategy and marketing and to develop new stunning products. Let’s hope I am right!

Links to Olympus RC auctions at eBay and the All E-PL2 black kit (camera+lens+flash) that has a $100 price drop at Amazon (Click here).

Reminder: Rumors classification explained (FT= FourThirds):
FT1=1-20% chance the rumor is correct
FT2=21-40% chance the rumor is correct
FT3=41-60% chance the rumor is correct
FT4=61-80% chance the rumor is correct
FT5=81-99% chance the rumor is correct

February 15, 2011
Posted in reviews

Complete Olympus XZ-1 test at Focus Numerique

The french website Focus Numerique posted the Olympus XZ-1 review (Click here to read the google english translation). Here is the list of what they like and what they don’t:

With a bit of surprise I notice that Amazon.co.uk (Click here) says that the XZ-1 will start shipment on March 31. That’s bad news because the camera was supposed to start shipment in February. It looks like Olympus got the Panasonic syndrome ;)

Check the estimated availability of the XZ-1 at Amazon, Adorama, B&H, J&R, eBay (Click on store name to visit the XZ-1 product page)

UPDATE: Almost finsihed XZ-1 review has been posted at Photoradar.

February 14, 2011
Posted in news

Sigma about the future Micro Four Thirds lenses (very few info)

Image on top: The first mirrorless lens form Sigma, the 30mm 2.8 for NEX (Mirrorlessrumors.com)


Our friends from DSLRmagazine interviewed MR. Kazuto Yamaki from Sigma. There is a part concerning the future Micro Four Thirds lens development (google translation!):

1) “The lenses will have a completely new design.
2) “We have the challenge that some of these lenses should be optimized for taking videos. That requires a special internal mechanism. Therefore it is more difficult to achieve extreme focus, brightness and high correction. For video applications may be interesting to have change of focal power, and therefore not only optics but mechanics should be different.
At this point, we think there should be two different sets of lenses, one optimized for video and one optimized for stills.

Asked if Sigma could make a mirrorless camera Mr. Yamaki answered that “our resources are limited“. And he also added an interesting note. he said we should not call those cameras “mirrorless” because “less” meaning is that “something is missing” and for Sigma this is a negative connotations!

Sigma made a lot of Four Thirds lenses and I would love to see some of them redesigned for Micro Four Thirds (Click on lens name to see current auctions on eBay):
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6
Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8
Sigma 18-50mm f/3.5-5.6
Sigma 18-125mm f/3.5-5.6
Sigma 24mm f/1.8
Sigma 30mm f/1.4
Sigma 50mm f/1.4
Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3
Sigma 55-500mm f/4-5.6
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8
Sigma 105mm f/2.8
Sigma 135-400mm f/4-5.6
Sigma 150mm f/2.8
Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6

Via DSLRmagazine

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