Olympus plans to sell its struggling camera division

Olympus cameras have fallen. After three straight years of operating losses, one of the world’s foremost camera makers is giving up the ghost. The Japanese tech giant this week announced its intentions to sell off its imaging unit by the end of September 2020.

The proposed buyer is Japan Industrial Partners, an 18-year-old private equity company based in Tokyo best known for purchasing the Vaio computer business from Sony in early 2014, following similar profitability struggles.

Olympus’s imaging business dates back to 1936, with the production of the Semi-Olympus I. In the 50s, the company found success with the iconic Pen line. In recent years, it has focused most of its consumer imaging efforts on mirrorless cameras. The company’s products have been well-received by critics and buyers alike, but the imagining business in general has struggled of late, due in no small part to the ubiquity of the smartphone camera.

“Olympus has implemented measures to cope with the extremely severe digital camera market, due to, amongst others, rapid market shrink caused by the evolution of smartphones,” the company writes. Olympus has improved the cost structure by restructuring the manufacturing bases and focusing on high-value-added interchangeable lenses, aiming to rectify the earning structure to those that may continue generating profit even as sales dwindles.”

Olympus also produces a range of other consumer goods, including audio recorders — though those have no doubt also taken a hit with the rise of smartphones. On the non-consumer side, the company has found success in a number of different industries, including medical/surgical and scientific and industrial imaging.

Details of the deal have not been disclosed.