Olympus, once one of the world’s biggest camera brands, is selling off that part of its business after 84 years.
The firm said that despite its best efforts, the “extremely severe digital camera market” was no longer profitable.
The arrival of smartphones, which had shrunk the market for separate cameras, was one major factor, it said.
It had recorded losses for the last three years.
The Japanese company made its first camera in 1936 after years of microscope manufacture. The Semi-Olympus I featured an accordion-like fold-out camera bellows, and cost more than a month’s wages in Japan.
The company continued to develop the camera business over the decades, becoming one of the top companies by market share.
“There’s a huge amount of affection for Olympus, going right back,” says Nigel Atherton, editor of Amateur Photographer magazine.
The 1970s was a high point, with their cameras advertised on television by celebrity photographers such as David Bailey and Lord Lichfield.
“Those cameras were revolutionary – they were very small, very light, they were beautifully designed, had really nice quality lenses,” adds Atherton.
A cult following stayed with the firm, despite teething issues with new technologies such as autofocus, Atherton says. But the firm had a second wave with digital cameras, where they were early adopters.
But they targeted their later range of mirrorless cameras at a middle market – “people who weren’t serious photographers – they wanted something better than a point-and-shoot camera, but they didn’t want a DSLR camera”.
“That market very very quickly got swallowed up by smartphones, and turned out not to exist.”