As an Olympus Visionary, I have been given the privilege of working with some of the fine people at Olympus. They are all very hard-working and dedicated to the notion that they want to make the best products they can possibly make.
Their dedication to smaller, lighter, but still incredibly high-quality products has given me a chance to extend my photographic career and they have been very supportive of my work. For that, I am grateful. And I’d like to congratulate the company on its anniversary.
This month, Olympus turned 100 years old. The company has been involved in optics since 1919.
Their foray into the camera business started in 1936 with the Semi-Olympus I.
In 1959, Olympus launched the Olympus PEN. It was an innovative half-frame film camera. My dad had one and I distinctly remember playing with it when I was a kid. (I was five years old in 1959.)
In 1972, Olympus launched the OM-1. It was a compact, lightweight, SLR camera. I had one of these cameras. I bought it because of Olympus’ great reputation for superb lenses, but the thing that really intrigued me about the OM-1 was that it had a large viewfinder with interchangeable screens but a fixed prism. It also has a through-the-lens exposure meter controlling a needle visible in the viewfinder. This made it much more convenient to use. You didn’t need a hand-held light meter and the camera itself was MUCH smaller and lighter than its competition. I carried this and the lenses around in a ZERO Halliburton camera case. (I really thought I was cool!)
Im 1991, Olympus launched the Infinity Stylus camera. It quickly became a best-selling camera all over the world. It is the most successful point-and-shoot film camera ever.
It was the smallest, and lightest, ultra-compact, fully automatic 35mm camera.
I remember playing around with one of these when they first came out. It was shockingly small.
In 2003, Olympus launched the E-1 digital SLR camera that worked with interchangeable lenses. I didn’t use this camera because I was heavy into Hasselblad film cameras back then. But it did start Olympus down a road that would have a big impact on digital photography.
While not a real milestone for Olympus, the E-P1 was the first DIGITAL Olympus camera I ever bought. It was 2009 and I was very impressed with its lightweight, compact form.
In 2012, Olympus launched the OM-D E-M5 mirrorless, Micro Four Thirds camera. This was a ground-breaking camera in my opinion. It offered several advantages over other systems…
2. Small size
3. Low weight
4. Easy to pack and carry
5. Amazing image quality
6. Lower overall cost
7. Options not available to DSLR users
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 2016, Olympus announced the OM-D E-M1 MK II. This would be the camera that literally changed my life. It was the first Micro Four Thirds, mirrorless camera that had reliable, quick, tracking, autofocus.
The advent of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Lens with an EFL of 600mm, was the final piece of the puzzle for me. Finally there was a great M43 camera and lens combo that I could use for professional bird photography. I switched to 100% Olympus cameras after that and have never looked back.
Olympus continues to innovate with a new 2X teleconverter, the new flagship Olympus OM-D E-M1 X camera and promise of a world-class telephoto lens. When it ships, the Olympus 150-400mm f/4.5 Pro lens, combined with the already shipping Olympus MC-20 converter, will deliver 2000mm EFL in a system that is hand-holdable, thanks to the best image stabilization in the world.
When Olympus was founded by Mr. Takeshi Yamashita under the company name Takachiho Seisakusho in 1919, I wonder if he realized he was creating a company that would last for 100 years.
I have no doubt that if there are still camera companies in the year 2119, Olympus will still be one of them. And I wish I could still be around to see what they come up with next.
The company has a singular focus on producing smaller, lightweight, compact, camera gear that delivers professional results and does so affordably. They deserve to be recognized.
Happy birthday, Olympus. And here’s to the next 100 years!
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