A Brief Pro-Olympus Manifesto
Olympus is a beautiful company. I'm not speaking of Olympus as a financial entity with its managerial appurtenances here, and I'm not speaking of the famous manufacturer of endoscopes. I'm speaking within the limited purview of our daily subject: photography and imaging.
In that context, Olympus is a beautiful company that makes beautiful products. The people who work at the camera division—the parent corporation's Imaging System Business—are creative and innovative and connected closely to the concerns of photographers. Over the years Olympus has created a wide range of exquisite products I've owned, from the 35SP of 1969–76, to the OM-4T and 40mm ƒ/2 Zuiko with which I did some of the best work in my life as a photographer, to the E-P[x] series of mirrorless Pen cameras today. The company was late to get lens coatings sorted out, but beginning in the late 1980s it cemented its position as a leading maker of camera optics, to the point that today I consider it to be a peer of Zeiss and Leica and, broadly speaking, slightly superior to Canon or Nikon as a lensmaker.
At TOP I have monitored the company's current travails closely, with, yes, a considerable sense of dismay and a measure of outrage. But the mistakes that were perpetuated for so many years were not made by those responsible for designing and making Olympus cameras and lenses.
I am not a "brand fanatic"—of any brand. As a photo writer, I can't be—I have to use a variety of products from a variety of companies, always trying to balance my specific idiosyncratic needs with a conscientious attempt to remain familiar with a range of different products. Still, I think it would be a loss to photography if Olympus were to cease to exist as a cameramaker; considering the upheavals in the industry as a result of the digital transition and the loss of several traditional cameramakers, the loss of such an important company would sap vitality from the camera market and impoverish us all. We were lucky indeed not to lose Leica in its rocky times; Olympus, in a much different but equally dire situation, now needs luck too—and the support of its fans and friends.
In a statement of apology on its home page, Olympus refers to its "stakeholders," naming customers among them. I'd just like to say that I remain not only an admirer but a customer of Olympus Corporation's Imaging Systems Business. I just bought an M.Zuiko Digital 45mm ƒ/1.8 lens for my Micro 4/3 cameras, which I'm very impressed with and intend to write about sometime this winter, and I hope to be able to buy an E-P3 body as well.
If you also admire this beautiful company, don't abandon it in its darkest hour. Stand fast! There are many good people connected to Olympus—and I sincerely hope the company can right its ship and weather its current storm, surviving to continue its fine traditions into the future. I for one am on board.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured [partial] Comment by Jay Yocis: "I would like to include the fine folks at the Center Valley, Penn. location. The Pro support/loaner/info staff have been the best. I just got off the phone with support about a lens just a couple hours ago (I'm pleased with the response/action I received). I don't believe you need to go but a couple levels below 'the Board' to find very proud, dedicated, honorable people. My heart goes out to them."
Featured Comment by Dave: "It grows more difficult every year, every scandal to separate the corporate malfeasance from the product itself. At some point in time we have to make a choice whether supporting a corrupt company which happens to produce a superior product is something supportable. How do you punish criminal behavior without punishing the designers and workers who work for the company? In the end, they are the ones who suffer if the company goes down. The corrupt leaders who were the architects of the behavior will be barely touched. I wish I had a good answer to my question."
Featured [partial] Comment by John F. Opie: "Amen. A good family friend—sadly departed from this vale of tears—was the patent attorney (and glass physicist) for Carl Zeiss. Before that, he worked for Leica in Solms, designing new glass types. In both cases he said that the only Japanese company that Leica or Zeiss regarding as being serious competitors (in terms of coming close to being in the same class, quality-wise) was Olympus."
Featured [partial] Comment by Rick D: "Having gone through the death of Contax as an owner, I really, really don't want to repeat the experience."
Featured Comment by Dave: "It was not an act of support on my behalf, but even though I've read lots about this lately I still I bought a Pen with lens and a few accessories this weekend. My thinking was simple: It was the right kit for me then and there. As for the company's woes? Well, I spend the same amount on a new laptop every other year, so I'm familiar with similar loss on investment in that way: Digital gizmos have a way of becoming obsolete too soon, anyway. In the event that the company should go bankrupt, the lens will still be usable on a Panasonic body. So I'm not too concerned. The upside? The Pen has already proven to be a gem, and hopefully will continue to be for some time no matter what happens to the company that produced it."
Featured Comment by Mjiphoto: "Sorry to disagree, but Olympus are just another profit-seeking corporation, like Nikon, canon, Pentax and Sony. Why would any of them deserve 'loyalty'—particularly when they're more than happy to move on when it suits them."
Featured Comment by Amin Sabet: "I was going to write a very similar post and was so glad to see this one. Agree 100% with what you have written!"