Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Is Olympus Doomed?

If various business publications are to be believed, the bell has been tolling for Olympus for some time. I think most of these websites and magazines are just trying to write captivating articles, but whether Olympus has any hope for long-term survival is very much an open question.

As I've said many times before, Olympus' current position is its own fault. The company has displayed a shocking arrogance for one so dominated by much larger rivals and has done absolutely nothing to reward loyal Olympus users who invested large amounts into the 4/3 system when it was new.

It is this persistent arrogance that puts Olympus in real danger. The vast majority of Micro 4/3 cameras are being sold at discount. Cameras such as the E-PL3 don't make top-20 lists for sustained periods of time until they hit sub-$300 prices. For example, on Amazon right now, in their Compact System Cameras category, there are only three Micro 4/3 cameras in the top-20. The Olympus E-PM2 with two lenses for $399; the Olympus E-PM2 with one lens for $272; and the Panasonic GF6 with one lens for $469. No E-M1. No GH3.

For the companies that literally created the category, that is a startling failure.

But even in the face of that humbling reality, Olympus is not humble. For further evidence of this, one need look no further than a recent article at 4/3 Rumors. Basically, the E-P5 finally got focus peaking, a feature that Sony has had for years. It wasn't as good as Sony's, but hey, it worked. An update was ready to go, giving those who had bought the E-P5 more features, but Olympus executives cancelled its release. They want to give all the goodies to the next Pen camera.

Remember, this is software only. There is no reason to not release the update for previous customers other than arrogant greed. Compare this to Fuji, which recently released a large firmware update for the original X100.

Fuck you, Olympus. Fuck you. You should be grateful that people chose your cameras over the manifold alternatives. The camera industry is lousy with options, and your cameras aren't any more special than anyone else. Even your precious 5-Axis IS isn't enough to differentiate you. Canon can be arrogant. You cannot.

It's not even the particular feature that is being held back, it is the mere act of holding back that is significant. I don't even care about focus peaking! But if my hardware supports it, and I gave you money, I damn-well better get the feature. I don't buy the whole "You got what you paid for," argument. No. I didn't. When I buy a product, I expect support in the future. I download updates for Windows. I download updates for my cell phone. It is expected.

No. I don't expect updates for the next decade for something as small as a camera, but the E-P5 isn't even a year old. When Fuji is updating cameras that are three years old, Olympus has no excuse.

Fuji's behavior indicates a company that is ready to compete. Olympus' behavior indicates a company that thinks it doesn't have to.

And that is deadly.

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