Did Olympus throw in the towel too early?
Leaders in the mirrorless world
When Olympus announced they were quitting the photography business, many were taken by surprise. Especially me. I had just heard that in Japan, Olympus and Sony were tied at 39% of the market share in the mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras category. It gave me tremendous hope that photographers were finally understanding the benefits of the smaller micro 4/3 system. Within weeks of that news, Olympus throws in the towel.
Mount Olympus/Lumix moves the Industry
The disappointment of losing Olympus is bad enough. But it’s even worse when taken into context with the recent announcements from Canon, Tamron, and others. Olympus and Panasonic have fundamentally changed the world of photography.
Take for example, Canon’s recent announcement of their 600mm and 800mm F/11 fixed lenses. Who in their right mind, even a year ago, would imagine that lenses with such a small fixed maximum aperture would be built? The only reason? Olympus and Panasonic. The announcement of these two lenses is absolute proof that Olympus and Panasonic are onto something.
Olympus has something quite similar. The benefit to the Olympus version is that it has greater light-gathering capabilities as an F4 lens. Admittedly, Canon has an advantage with a larger sensor which somewhat negates the F/11 aperture. However, the point is, Canon is doing everything they can to try and offer lenses that are smaller, lighter, and more portable. Does that ring any bells?
Mark Newton, from The School of Photography, released a video recently that detailed things he felt Olympus did wrong. And I have to say it made a lot of sense. He feels photographers new to the craft would often buy cameras based on very little knowledge other than knowing full-frame sensors were bigger, and therefore must be better. I’ve been told that argument is a big part of what made Panasonic decide to develop full-frame cameras. More knowledgeable photographers understand that sensor size is not the only thing to consider. The downside to this line of thinking is that Olympus had nowhere for new photographers to go since they didn’t have a full-frame camera. New photographers didn’t know any better until they did, and then it was too late. They already bought into a full-frame system.
Lumix paves the way for super telephoto reach
Before the Lumix released the Leica 100-400mm, there were no lenses that gave serious wildlife and nature photographers the reach they needed. However, Panasonic’s release of the Leica 100-400mm changed all that. Unfortunately, as successful as that lens seems to be, it’s been hampered from the start by a less than stellar fit and finish. The zoom mechanism is just too stiff for most people.
Olympus may have taken the 100-400mm to the next level. Based on reviews I’ve read the Olympus version of this is not only sharper than the Lumix but has the buttery smooth zoom mechanism we’ve all been wishing for in the Leica. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to test this lens myself, so my description here is based solely on reviews I’ve read.
Trying to go smaller with full-frame bodies
Along with the two new Canon lenses mentioned above, there’s also rumor of a patent for a 200-800mm lens Canon is working on. Sound familiar? For those who know micro 4/3, it’s an awfully similar range to the Leica 100-400mm and the new Olympus 100 to 400mm, which are both 200-800mm equivalents. Thanks to 43Rumors for this info.
Nikon’s even trying to downsize
Anyone hear of the Nikkor 500mm and 300mm Phase Fresnel lenses? It’s a new type of glass that allows them to make smaller versions of these two lenses. Why? Because people are tired of carrying the big heavy gear.
Tamron announces patent for 200-800mm
Finally, Tamron recently patented a 200-800 mm F5.6 telephoto zoom. For those that don’t know, Tamron has recently been specializing in much smaller, lighter lenses for full-frame cameras than those built by the camera manufacturers themselves. I’m guessing this lens will follow the same path.
So you see, Olympus truly has moved mountains, changing the photography industry along the way. Unfortunately, it seems to have done so at their own expense. But what’s truly disappointing is that they may have thrown in the towel too early. Yes they were losing money for a couple of years prior to the pandemic, but why they made this decision DURING the pandemic seems poorly planned. And that’s a shame. Because once new photographers understand the huge benefits of the micro 4/3 system, they’re going to be disappointed that it may no longer be available.