January 1, 2021 marked a major shift in the history of Olympus, as the company’s camera division was officially acquired by Japan Industrial Partners (JIP). While no one but JIP truly knows what’s in store for the future, one thing is for sure — Olympus has had a major impact on the camera industry since day one.
With a focus on making smaller, more compact cameras, Olympus was ahead of its time during the SLR era. With state-of-the-art film cameras like the OM-1, photography became more approachable, and ultimately led the charge to the mirrorless world as we know it today.
Olympus was at the forefront of the mirrorless revolution, adopting the micro four-thirds format to keep its cameras and lenses small and compact. While Olympus has long been seen as somewhat of a niche brand, the company developed some absolutely remarkable technologies over time.
For me, Olympus was the first digital camera I ever used, with the Olympus Camedia point and shoot. And while I stepped away from the brand until almost three years ago, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with Olympus cameras every day since.
When I first picked up the OM-D E-M1 Mark II after being lucky enough to win it at WPPI, I was extremely satisfied with what I could do with it. Olympus provided creative solutions to photographers, opening up a realm of technology that was nowhere else to be found. Tools like Live Composite and more recently, Live ND and Handheld High Res, let me truly have fun with photography again.
I recently had the pleasure of talking with several of Olympus’ ambassadors, to get their thoughts on the company, and what it has meant to them. Here’s what they had to say.
“I purchased my first camera when I was 12 years old with the money I had made at my first summer job. It was the Olympus OM-1n. I didn’t know anything about photography at the time, but my dad insisted that I get a good quality camera that was fully manual. I pumped hundreds of rolls of film through that camera during my teenage years. Little did I know that my choice to purchase an Olympus camera back in 1976 would eventually lead me to have a direct affiliation with the company. I loved that camera so much that when I decided to make the move to digital in the early 2000s I stuck with the brand. I’ve never regretted that decision. I continued to upgrade my gear over the years and was constantly impressed with the innovations that were brought in with each new camera body that I purchased.
“In 2014, I was asked to become a member of the Olympus Visionary team. It was an invitation that has completely changed my life. It has provided me with a much wider audience for my photography than I could have imagined, allowed me to travel throughout North America to present to other photographers, and most importantly has created friendships with other ambassadors and the wonderful people who worked for the company. Regardless of what the future holds for Olympus and its new owners, my experiences with the company and its people have been incredibly positive.”
Jamie put together a brief video outlining his experience with Olympus, which you can watch below.
“For some, Olympus is another camera brand. For me, Olympus is the brand that I cut my teeth on, grew my business with, forged a name in the photography teaching circuit alongside. It’s more than just a brand. It’s a legacy … a legacy of innovation in technology, connection to the people who make Olympus up that have become family, memories that I will cherish forever.
“The future is unknown but the past is a pleasant tattoo that I will forever hold on my heart of a brand that I’ve always believed in and that always believed in me.”
“The impact that Olympus has had on my photography and my careers a story in two parts. The first part of my story is much like the story I’ve heard from countless photographers over the past nine years. When I bought the E-P3 PEN camera as a ‘walk-around”’ camera, I intended to keep my full-frame Nikon kit for my ‘real’ photography work. That cute little PEN camera reminded me how much I enjoyed photography. It was simple and fun to use, and the images were better than I expected. I began to write about my experience with the Olympus system on my blog, and that introduced me to what is now the thriving and creative micro four-thirds community. When the OM-D E-M5 came out I found myself using my full-frame system less and less. In just a few months I sold by Nikon gear and I’ve been working with and teaching about micro four-thirds cameras ever since.
“Fast forward to 2019 … I was a brand ambassador for a different micro four-thirds camera company and I was unhappy. It wasn’t easy to resign from that team after six years, but I didn’t feel like my skills and expertise were being utilized or appreciated. I was offered the chance to try the current line of Olympus OM-D cameras around that same time, and my experience was similar to the one I had with my PEN camera years earlier. The cameras and lenses did what I needed to do and got out of the way. I was having fun again behind the camera, and I wanted to tell everyone about my experience! When Olympus invited me to join their new Olympus Educator team, I jumped at the chance. The entire Olympus team has made me feel like a part of the family since day one, and it is a family that loves photography. I never feel like I’m working with an electronics company that sells cameras, I feel like I’m working with a photograph company. What more could a photographer want?”
“I have used Olympus cameras and lenses at various times during my career. Back in the film days, one of my favorite cameras was the OM-1 because it was one of the first to have a built-in meter. And I always found Olympus glass to be superior to most. Fast forward to the digital days and I started using Olympus digital products in 2009.
“I actually wrote a post about my first Olympus digital camera (the E-P1) for Photofocus. I loved the small, lightweight, easy-to-carry form factor.
“Then I bought an OM-D E-M5. I was so impressed with the Olympus cameras by this time that I authored a lynda.com title with Rich Harrington featuring Olympus cameras called ‘Learning to Shoot With Micro Four Thirds Cameras.’ I wanted everyone to know how good these little cameras could be.
“In December of 2016, in what seems like a different lifetime, I made the full-time switch to Olympus. I went to Kenmore Camera (a camera store in the Seattle area) and bought the first Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II that they had in stock. I was not paid by Olympus to switch. In fact, I hadn’t even told anyone I was making the switch at the time, because I wanted to wait to see if I could actually use these cameras for my professional bird photography. In short order, I knew the answer was yes! So I sold all my Canon and Fuji gear and I’ve never looked back. I have been exclusively using Olympus cameras and lenses ever since. It wasn’t until 2017, after my switch, that I was asked to become an Olympus Visionary and it has been the highest honor I have ever received during my long photographic career.
“I am glad that these cameras and lenses will live on under the auspices of a new venture, funded by JIP and I believe the best is yet to come.”
“Simply put, Olympus made photography fun again. I have been a photographer for over 40 years and most of that was spent shooting with Nikon cameras. I was like many of those photographers who foolishly discounted Olympus because of the small sensor.
“Making the change to Olympus was a game changer and an eye-opener. Not only did I put my smartphone camera back in my pocket, I realized that Olympus offers cameras that are packed full of features that cannot be found in larger cameras and Olympus has frequently been first to market with new and revolutionary technology. And we can’t forget about M.Zuiko lenses. I have honestly never worked with optics that are as small and sharp.”
While we don’t know what’s next for Olympus, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what Olympus has meant to you below. Was Olympus the first camera you picked up? Or are you a recent adopter? Let me know in the comments below!