I met the first Olympus mirrorless camera in San Francisco during a private press meeting. It was just over a decade ago.
I remember being ushered into a room by a company representative, offered a refreshment, then seated in front of a table that had a cloth-covered object on top. Beneath the cloth was an Olympus E-P1, their first Micro Four Thirds camera.
I could tell, even before the unveiling, that they were so proud of their creation. And when I held it in my hands, I understood why. The E-P1 was beautiful.
Even though I was a journalist, it was hard for me to contain my enthusiasm when I wrote about this camera. My first real test of it was on a press junket to New York City. A dozen of us were briefed on the technical aspects of the new system and each was given a kit to shoot with in the city.
The E-P1 featured a retro design harkening back to the heyday of film cameras. Its specs were modest, but certainly adequate. But beyond that, it had this alluring aura that encouraged me to take it everywhere and shoot pictures of anything. It became my constant photo companion.
Over the next 10 years I’ve owned many Olympus mirrorless cameras and dozens of lenses. They have traveled with me through out the U.S., to Europe, Asia and Central America.
In a small shoulder bag that weighed just a couple of pounds, I packed a camera and handful of lenses that could capture practically any moment I encountered. After a couple years, I sold my Canon DSLR and all of its optics. I just weren’t using them anymore.
A couple days ago, I read the news that Olympus was selling its imaging division to Japan Industrial Partners. I wasn’t blindsided. I knew they were scaling back. A couple of weeks earlier they had terminated their relationship with a longtime PR firm and moved those operations in house — a red flag indeed.
After the news broke, many from my audience contacted me and wanted to know how I felt about the change. I said this is a crossroads for Micro Four Thirds photography. Hopefully JIP and Panasonic (the other Micro Four Thirds company) will continue to innovate the platform and provide photographers with a third alternative to full frame and APC-C digital cameras.
If they don’t, myself and many others will continue to make images with our Olympus cameras until they power up no more. It’s the photography version of riding your pony off into the sunset.
When we enter into a relationship of any kind, we don’t know how long it will last. Sometimes forever. Sometimes far less.
I’ve had a great run with Olympus cameras. And I would very much like to have a few more years.