One Way Realities

When it comes to corporate life it can sometimes be difficult to come to grips with the one way realities of business and how relationships can be affected. It was safe to assume that when Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) bought the Imaging Division from Olympus that it would lead to some significant changes.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge. Photographs have been added to serve as visual breaks.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 mm f/2.8 @ 12 mm, efov 24 mm, 1/10, f/5.6, -1.7 step, ISO-64

On September 30, 2020 Olympus Corporation announced that it had agreed to transfer its Imaging Division to JIP. The operations were carved out and a new wholly owned subsidiary of Olympus was formed. This was then followed by the transfer of 95% of the shares into OJ Holdings, a special purpose company established by JIP.

Frame 42, Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 230 mm, efov 460 mm, f/8, 1/1600, ISO-1250, -0.7 step, subject distance 18.4 metres

On October 9, 2020, OM Digital Solutions Corporation was formed by JIP. As of January 1, 2021 OMDS had 37 billion yen (~ $357 million US) in share capital and approximately 2,000 employees. This was a dramatic reduction in head count from about 6,000 when Olympus was operating its Imaging Division.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro, f/6.3, 1/320, ISO-3200, Handheld Hi Res Mode, subject distance 210 mm

As could be expected that degree of restructuring resulted in many Olympus offices closing in a number of markets, or Imaging Division personnel being cut. I believe that all of the Olympus Imaging employees in Canada were eliminated and some markets like Malaysia had a similar outcome. Canadian camera owners are now covered under a North American style approach, based in the USA.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro and STF-8 Twin Macro Flash, f/11, 1/250, ISO-200, subject distance 230 mm

Obviously if OMDS was going to survive it needed to dramatically reduce its fixed costs. Having served on executive panels making these types of decisions in the past, and also being on the receiving end of such a decision in my corporate life, I understand how difficult these decisions can be. Regardless of how one examines these tough decisions from a logical perspective, some emotions come into play.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 60 mm f/2.8 macro with 16 mm Kenko extension tube, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-6400, Hand-held Hi Res Mode, subject distance 190 mm

At the end of the day, OMDS needs to develop and implement strategy that will result in sustainable profitability. A colloquial definition of lunacy is “Doing what you’ve always done, the way you’ve always done it, and expecting a different result.” So, things will be different with OMDS than they were with the Olympus Imaging Division.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 300 mm, efov 600 mm, f/5.6, -1.0 step, 1/2000, ISO-2500, Pro Capture H mode, subject distance 6.3 metres

In an earlier article back in March 2020, I speculated that OMDS would be pursuing a Focus Differentiation strategy and would likely focus on target markets where its technology and products had the best chance of success. These include nature/wildlife/birding, sports and extreme environment/travel segments. The specifications and capabilities of the new OM-1 camera seem to confirm that this is the direction in which OMDS is headed.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-2000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3840 pixels on the width, subject distance 6.6 metres

We are also now beginning to see the strategic shift by OMDS beginning to impact its relationships with photographers who were Olympus Visionaries in the past. A couple of them like Robin Wong and Joe Edelman have made public announcements about their decisions to withdraw from their relationships.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 413 mm, efov 826 mm, f/8.8, 1/1600, ISO-640, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4471 pixels on the width, subject distance 29.2 metres

In Joe’s case, he indicated in a recent YouTube video that OMDS was ‘going all in on nature and wildlife”. This can be found at about the 15:00 minute mark in the video. Apparently he was also told that OMDS wasn’t identifying itself as a portrait camera company. As a result Joe proactively advised OMDS in November 2020 that he would not be renewing his Visionary contract. It is important to note that Joe has also decided to give up some of his other sponsorships.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/2000, ISO-4000, Pro Capture L, Bird Detection AI, cropped to 3216 pixels on the height, subject distance 33.2 metres

Robin Wong’s YouTube announcement was more emotional in nature as he explained why he decided to quit being a Visionary for the local representative in Malaysia. Robin no longer had a direct relationship with OMDS and was at arm’s length from the company. If you have not viewed any of Robin’s YouTube videos I’d suggest you check out his content as it is worthwhile viewing. He provides a lot of good technical insights on the use of Olympus camera gear.

OM-D E-M`X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-20 teleconverter @ 800 mm, efov 1600 mm, f/13, -0.3 EV, 1/1600, ISO-4000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, cropped to 3957 pixels on the width, subject distance 138.4 metres

On a personal basis I happen to really like the work that Joe Edelman creates, and I very much value the insights that Robin Wong has provided over the years. Do I feel the need to pass judgement on the decisions made by other photographers when they choose to disassociate themselves from representing a brand? Or somehow assess blame on OMDS? No. This is all just business.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 @ 150mm, efov 300 mm, f/2.8, 1/60, ISO-4000, in-camera focus stacking, subject distance 980 mm

Professional photographers will make decisions that they feel are in their best interests. And, companies like OMDS will make decisions about their strategic direction and future profitability. Sometimes previous relationships will still be a fit. And… sometimes parties will move on without the other.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-100 f/4 IS @ 80 mm, efov 160 mm, f/4, 1/125, ISO-500, subject distance 5.6 metres

I will miss talented folks like Joe Edelman and Robin Wong not being official representatives of Olympus/OMDS. I also understand that OMDS needs to focus its available resources on relationships with professional photographers that will directly support its strategic direction. One way realities abound in business. We don’t need to label them as good. Or bad. Or fair. They just are what they are… and life moves on.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.  Crops are noted. Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,143 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/8.1, 1/2000, ISO-1000, Bird Detection AI Subject Tracking, Pro Capture L, cropped to 4389 pixels on the width, subject distance 35.9 metres

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6 thoughts on “One Way Realities”

  1. Thomas,
    This was triggered by OMDS’s decision to do what they believed gave them the best opportunity to compete and thrive given their place in the marketplace. Time will be the ultimate judge. Seems, so far, with the OM1, the 40-150 f4 and the 12-40 that they are capable, creative and have an energized team to move ahead. Being a photographer that has much to learn, has invested in the gear and in the nature/wildlife niche, I am excited about the future. Guess I was lucky when I bought in.
    Keep up the great work!

    1. Hi David,

      As stated in your comment “time will be the ultimate judge”. There’s no doubt in my mind that Japan Industrial Partners would have had an absolutely clear view of the detailed financial performance of the Olympus Imaging division including its fixed costs, and contribution margins by product. A company like JIP would not have invested in the Olympus Imaging division unless they had a sound strategic plan on how they intended to turn the business around and make it profitable. We need to remember that they raised a significant amount of share capital from investors in order to make this purchase. Investors don’t put their money down on a whim or a prayer.

      I am optimistic about the future of OMDS, as I think the company is taking the tough actions needed to survive in terms of lowering their fixed costs and resizing the organization to fit today’s business realities. They are also leveraging the strengths of their product lines by pursuing a Focus Differentiation strategy.

      Tom

  2. Very insightful. Change is the only constant we have. In business, it’s all business. Period. Folks move on. I do like the direction where OMDS is going. Being a wildlife/bird shooter, I am somewhat tainted in my opinion. Cheers. Love your site, I have a bunch to catch up on.

    V/r
    Randy

  3. A very level-headed approach that is the sad reality of business. I will certainly miss Robin’s material/

    1. Hi Jerry,

      Robin says he will continue with his content… which is encouraging. The challenge is how he will be able to get ‘loaner’ access to OM System products to be able to produce product specific videos. I hope he hasn’t cut off his nose to spite his face.

      Tom

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