Olympus announces intent to sell imaging business to JIP

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Yes. I think the problem with a camera vs human eye is the field of vision, which is of course an illusion. Also you can view things instantly and could just kill if I could have captured the happening.
For example I saw a crow and a skimmer ( a water bird ,which scoops up unsuspecting fish flying inches above the surface. They were mobbing a hawk! The Skimmer's ,nest would have been 10 miles away. Crows ,jays and others often harass larger predators. Crows themselves are harassed. by smaller birds. I have never see two different species chase the same predator. Too bad I could not get the picture.
 

Aristophanes

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Thom Hogan chimes in!

http://www.sansmirror.com/newsviews/2020-mirrorless-camera/so-why-did-olympus-fail.html

He nails it here:

If Olympus had a real failing, it was a stubbornness to just continue to do things they way they wanted to do things. The overly complex menu system that buries unique features is just one area where you can see that at work. The thinking that 6.5 stops of IS is going to sell more systems than 5 stops of IS is another. The lack of embrace with social networking is yet another.

A decade of DPR reviews commenting on how bad the Olympus menu system is, corroborated by pretty much every review site, even those sympathetic to to m43, and STILL nothing has been done speaks volumes. The in-camera firmware OS is the main interface with the end user and the Olympus menus are all friction to ease-of-use.

This part is the most insightful:

At 500k sensor use a year, Olympus eventually found themselves trapped: they don't have the volume to move to new sensor tech (BSI and fuller on-sensor phase detect would be two useful things; note that the current Olympus on-sensor phase detect is minimal compared to the Canon/Nikon/Sony approaches). Olympus simply can't pay back the necessary R&D costs at low sensor volume, and so we slowly stagnated. Worse still, I suspect that Olympus overcommitted to volume on sensors—every year it seemed that they were suggesting that they'd break 600k units, then failing to do so—and then found themselves having to keep making products with the current ones. Even if Tough/XA cameras only sold another 200k units, that might have broken the sensor predicament. (But to be fair, the Tough may also been plagued by a small sensor commitment that’s Olympus couldn't manage to sell to.)

NewCo might manage 150k ILC units a year going forward. That’s how bad the market looks at their 3% share. Canon predicts the ILC market to fall to 5 million units per year, and they will have 33%. Sony 35%. Nikon 20%. Fuji 10%. The rest of the players fight over scraps including all the continued compact sensor models and even drones. Hogan pretty much nails why Panasonic went FF. m43 simply cannot manage enough volume to keep up with sensor tech. The cameras simply sell at too low margin for the EM10 and 5 series (or GX, GM) and not enough volume at the EM1 series. The revenues cannot pay off R&D and so Olympus bleeds $156 million a year.

And with that goes sub-par, non-competitive AF. The Nikon 1 system knew that they needed cutting edge sensors with blazing AF and delivered, and it still wasn’t enough and the entire system was killed off.

m43 may never again have enough sales volume to have a new sensor. This is as good as it gets for AF. This also explains why the EM1.2, EM1X, EM1.3, and EM5.3 all have the same sensor at $1k to $2700k price points. Makes no sense. If this is the case, Olympus may have to trim to 3 models within $500 of each other. Throw the EM10 and EPL into the mix pricing and model differentiation gets ugly. JIP will have to use a chainsaw.

One does have to wonder if JIP was partly brought in to manage the inevitable Olympus Skunkworks FF project. To do so may require digging up new capital (‘cause it sure ain’t coming from endoscope profits). That may explain why a move to an equity firm and not an asset sale—even at a loss—to another manufacturer. I wonder of Sony Semi would even sell to yet another player in this market.
 

AmritR

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....... The Nikon 1 system knew that they needed cutting edge sensors with blazing AF and delivered, and it still wasn’t enough and the entire system was killed off.

m43 may never again have enough sales volume to have a new sensor. ......
The Nikon 1 was imo cripled from the start by Nikon productmanagement and beancounters, afraid an APSC, or worse a 35mm, Nikon 1 would cannibalize their DSLR sales.
In the end Nikon DSLR was cannibalized, but just not by Nikon but by others.
I always wished they would have made a mix of a Nikon 1 and a Nikon DF (so F-mount). That would have been an awesome camera, supporting decades of manual Nikon lenses, and a excellent development platform.
Oh well, one can dream..

For m43 there is still Panasonic, working on video. There will be new m43 sensors I think, but at a slower pace. And no miracles.
 

AmritR

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@Aristophanes Do you really think that Thom nailed it? He's been predicting the death of mFTs since almost before it existed ... Same as with Kenny baby.

The extant facts are sufficient to explain things (COVID-19, smartphones), these ghouls are just seeking self-approval.
I like Thom Hogan. A cantankerous Statler and Waldorf merged in one. His manual of the F5 was a life saver for me, and years later also his manual for the D750 :th_salute:
 

Aristophanes

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@Aristophanes Do you really think that Thom nailed it? He's been predicting the death of mFTs since almost before it existed ... Same as with Kenny baby.

The extant facts are sufficient to explain things (COVID-19, smartphones), these ghouls are just seeking self-approval.
Thom’s batting average is about .365. But he is by far the best blogger in this industry at tracking sales data. He also has contacts that inform him reliably. He’s got credibility.

He‘s generally been favourable to m43. He really liked the EM1.2 with the 100/4 lens. He’s raves about Olympus’s IBIS. He is very critical of Olympus pricing, a perspective with which I agree. In this article he ties it to sensor supply constraints. How Thom explains the sensor dilemma explains why Panny went FF, and why Olympus tried to straddle $2400 worth of price points with only 2 sensors.

The entire Olympus ILC product line is converging around a single, less than competitive sensor and AF system. That both kills the “Pro” development giving it no path forward, even incrementally, and makes the lower end—always unprofitable but the necessary gateway product—on par soon with all other offerings leading to cannibalized sales and reduced margins. Damned if they go all 20MP, damned if they stick with that incredibly dated 16MP.

That last point alone is why Olympus turned to an external equity fund and not a like manufacturer. m43 needs a new sensor and AF, and cannot get there without robbing more endoscopy profits. New CEO and activist board members said “NO”, and so off goes Imaging after 84 years. Medicine beats photography, as it should be.

No GH6? Panasonic is sitting this out. They aren’t fronting that kind of new sensor capital either. They know profit resides with FF, losses with m43.
 

retiredfromlife

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No GH6? Panasonic is sitting this out. They aren’t fronting that kind of new sensor capital either. They know profit resides with FF, losses with m43.
Don't really follow Canon & Nikon, but didn't they launch or rumor their next big flag ships with the same old 20MP [something] DSLR's late last year?
I often wonder do we ask for too much?
Where I live I seem to get dust on my sensors really easily. I would prefer a better sensor cleaning system in a camera to a better sensor that is always dirty.
 

WT21

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Don't really follow Canon & Nikon, but didn't they launch or rumor their next big flag ships with the same old 20MP [something] DSLR's late last year?
I often wonder do we ask for too much?
Where I live I seem to get dust on my sensors really easily. I would prefer a better sensor cleaning system in a camera to a better sensor that is always dirty.
I was over on DPR the other day ruminating about the canon RP and there were 3 threads about dirty sensors. And how old is the RP system? I don’t know how Oly does it (maybe a small sensor is easier to shake??)
 

pdk42

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This discussion of sensors is interesting. It's been clear for a few years that m43 needs a next-gen sensor. We know that BSI can bring benefits (like it has done in APSC and FF), but there's seemingly no plan to bring one to m43. Some say that it's a commercial squeeze by Sony to deny the m43 manufacturers of a more competitive sensor. This doesn't stand up to scrutiny IMHO since Sony seem quite happy to provide sensors to Fuji & Nikon. It seems much more likely that none of the m43 manufacturers wanted (or could afford) to pay the money to Sony (or one of the other alternatives like Towerjazz) to design and build one.

In a market where you're asking $2k for a body it seems totally reasonable that IQ needs to be very high on the list and fighting that battle with a smaller sensor that's perceived as previous-gen tech is clearly a challenge. I can't help feeling that investing in a new sensor rather than the EM1x, 150-400, 12-200, 12-45 f4, EM1.3, etc would have been a better bet. But maybe the cost differential between those products and a new sensor was so great that they decided it wasn't an option. All I know is that with all the other strengths of m43 (lenses, body build & features etc), the only real impediment to greater adoption is just how much IQ compromise you're prepared to accept. The latest and greatest sensor tech (as the EM5 had in 2012) is the best way to do that.
 

JonSnih

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Thom Hogan chimes in!
NewCo might manage 150k ILC units a year going forward. That’s how bad the market looks at their 3% share. Canon predicts the ILC market to fall to 5 million units per year, and they will have 33%. Sony 35%. Nikon 20%. Fuji 10%. The rest of the players fight over scraps including all the continued compact sensor models and even drones. Hogan pretty much nails why Panasonic went FF. m43 simply cannot manage enough volume to keep up with sensor tech. The cameras simply sell at too low margin for the EM10 and 5 series (or GX, GM) and not enough volume at the EM1 series. The revenues cannot pay off R&D and so Olympus bleeds $156 million a year.
1. TH starts to be very critical lately. He should know that camera companies are old dinosaurs still living in the rich 2000s, slow, stubborn and very selfish, which means they are reluctant to share or even open mounts (see Canon and Nikon behaviour there) or collaborate very closely.

2. Panasonic went FF and it was a bad move, more precisely a bad timing (too late, the market was already contracting a lot when they came out with FF products). They are pouring too much in R&D now, I am afraid and the volume is not there. Sigma's stance is quite cold now (they put off the FF foveon to halt) - only the 45mm F2.8 is a native L-mount lens, the rest is just a current DSLR/CSC line-up with adapted L-mount. Even the 100-400mm F5-6.3 was developed to be compatible with E-mount = no benefit from L-mount design. Also according to Hogan historically Panny sells less m4/3 cameras than Oly - around 250K units a year. Their financial results are well hidden in consumer segment portfolio. You can bet they are in loss as well. So Panny is losing money on both mounts now.

3. The loss of $156M is FY2019 (2018) result, not the last one FY2020 (2019) loss which is around $97M.
https://www.olympus-global.com/ir/data/brief/pdf/Olympus_FY2020_Supplemental_E.pdf
 
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BDR-529

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No GH6? Panasonic is sitting this out. They aren’t fronting that kind of new sensor capital either. They know profit resides with FF, losses with m43.
What profits? Just before Corona crisis when every manufacturer was still riding on the peak of mirrorless FF hype, Canon and Nikon camera business generated losses to such extent that Nikon publicly stated that Imaging Unit must justify it's existence by turning a profit ... or else...

NOTE: this hype is really about mirrorless FF cameras and it's based on manufacturers hope that everyone, including existing FF SLR users are forced to dump their perfectly functioning gear at 5 cents a dollar and buy instead a full kit of mirrorless FF gear at list prices because nobody wants to be stuck with dying old technology ... despite the fact that these cameras keep taking just as good pictures and video as the hyped mirrorless FF ones.

I belive that the only company still generating profits from ICL:s was Sony and even their Alpha camera sales dropped to 2,8 million from 3,6 million in 2018. Only 0,4 million Alpha cameras were shipped during Q4/2019 but part of this decline might be attributed to Corona. (Sony FY ends on 31st of March so Q4/2019 was actually Q1/2020)

With all this mirrorless FF hype, everyone seems to ignoring the fact that also camera manufacturers were forced to make enormous investments compared to their revenue and profits in order to create an entire lineup of new FF camera bodies lenses and sensors. Based on income statements of every camera manufacturer I have seen, these investments were based on grossly inflated sales projections which have already turned out to be false for three reasons:

1) ILC market in general has been declining faster than projected and even hyped mirrorless FF market is not immune to this decline.
2) Manufacturers overestimated the rate at which customers are willing to dump perfectly working ILC cameras and lenses in order to jump into mirrorless FF bandwagon
3) Manufacturers grossly underestimated how many competitors would enter mirrorless FF market and the market share new players would gain.

Overinvestment in mirrorless FF might actually become the undoing of well known camera brands. Even FF camera volumes are so low and split between so many different players that they just don't justify investments in sensor development when the total market of ILC cameras keeps declining. Global financial downturn due to corona could well be the final nail in the coffin for them. Given the fact that cameras are no longer largest revenue source for even Canon and Nikon and their imaging units are acturally dragging company profits down, I'm expecting to see a much larger name than Olympus go belly up in only 1-2 years.

And THIS is where the whole camera industry has been shooting themselves in the foot with a submachine gun. They are so hell bent on getting customers locked in via incompatible mounts and body-lens communication protocolls that the first major bankruptcy will be a total shocker for everyone who has 1000s invested in camera equipment. After that nobody will dare to investment a single euro or dollar on camera gear without interchangeability but it will be too late by then. (L-mount allicance and MFT being the only marginal exceptions)
 
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AmritR

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.....

And THIS is where the whole camera industry has been shooting themselves in the foot with a submachine gun. They are so hell bent on getting customers locked in via incompatible mounts and body-lens communication protocolls that the first major bankruptcy will be a total shocker for everyone who has 1000s invested in camera equipment. After that nobody will dare to investment a single euro or dollar on camera gear without interchangeability but it will be too late by then. (L-mount allicance and MFT being the only marginal exceptions)
Good point!

(and scary at that)
 

BDR-529

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Good point!

(and scary at that)
Transition to mirrorless FF cameras was the perfect and also the final chance for entire ILC industry to finally standardize what is in reality an identical set of requirements for lens mount. At the same time they could have also standardized all that other stuff that runs inside mechanically standard hot shoe, not just flash sync.

For the first and last time since 35mm film era, everyone is once again using identically sized sensors and even the AF/IS systems inside lenses perform identical tasks so there is absolutely no need for proprietary mechanical mounts or electrical/data connections.

This way there would have been true customer security when even a couple of brands could fall without having any dramatical impact on body or lens availability in the future.

Manufacturers would have been able to achieve huge R&D savings á la car industry in addition to economies of scale by sharing major development costs and even entire "engines" (whole electronic or even mechanical subassemblies) which are not visible to customers who only see menus and visible outer shell. Especially standardization under the hood would have ment better purchasing power when exactly same processors and sensors whould have been shared between manufacturers.

After all, major differences between camera brands really come from FW/SW and general usability. And yes, if a new high-end sensor is developed somebody could get exclusivity rights for the first year or two but such sensors will in reality be developed only if they could eventually be sold to every manufacturer.

Even the combined volume of all ILC manufacturers is dropping to levels where it's hard to justify investment in major R&D whether it's sensor technology or new video/image processors even though latter ones could be purchased as off the shelf components from smartphone manufacturers in the future.

I can't understand how marginal ILC players can each keep developing their own proprietary processors when smartphones all contain enough processing power to handle over 40Mpix images and even [email protected] video. Even a medium priced smartphone must have more still and video processing power under the hood than 5000€+ ILC. There is no competition in prices either because smartphone chipsets are manufactured in billions every year whereas proprietary camera processors might or might not get to 0,001 billion mark during their entire lifetime.

When will we see an ILC with snapdragon and android? That's why the Android was developed in the first place. Yes, it was ment to be a camera operating system. Not to mention that camears could finally get usable wireless connections which are build into mobile chips in addition to GPS and even gyroscopes, all of which are natively supported by Android.
 
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