Olympus denies rumors it will scale back or exit DSLR business


posted Wednesday, February 13, 2013 at 11:17 PM EDT

Over the last couple of days, several Japanese media organizations including Sports Nippon, an affiliate of the famous Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, have published stories suggesting that Olympus might be preparing to further dial back its participation in the DSLR market, or perhaps even withdraw entirely. Today, the company has been quick to respond, issuing a formal statement denying these rumors.

According to Japanese tech blog Digicam Info, the story first broke yesterday in the Society section of Sports Nippon's Sponichi Annex site. An article from Sponichi initially claimed that Olympus was preparing for a complete withdrawal from the SLR market, but was later edited to dial back this assertion, simply suggesting a significant reduction in the company's participation. This distinction, it has to be said, is rather academic -- since 2010, Olympus has only launched one SLR model: the Olympus E-5. Every other Olympus DSLR from 2009 and before has now long been discontinued. A product line with but one model doesn't leave much scope for reduction, without an exit by implication.

Today's statement from Olympus headquarters in Tokyo leaves no room for confusion in its denial of the rumors, stating that it "will continue to offer digital single-lense reflex cameras as in the past without any changes."

It's been two and a half year since the Olympus E-5 debuted.

For some time now, owners of the company's Four Thirds digital SLRs have been waiting in anticipation of a new model for the E-System camera line. Six months ago, the company pledged that another camera body for use with its Four Thirds lens line was on the way, but since then there has been no further comment. Nor has Olympus yet revealed whether this new model will be a DSLR or mirrorless camera.

One thing is clear: the days of Olympus's E-System averaging a couple of new SLR designs each year are past, and its focus has now shifted firmly to the mirrorless market which, with partner Panasonic, it helped pioneer. While a new Olympus DSLR camera would be welcomed by many photographers -- not least ourselves, as we've long been fans of the E-System for solid build quality and photographer-friendly designs -- it is clearly not this segment of the market which offers the most potential for Olympus, and that fact will understandably shape its future direction.