It is time to hold the photo industry media accountable!

I am so disappointed!

First and foremost – I am disappointed with the companies that make our cameras. Not just my brand – Olympus, but all of them… Canon – Nikon – Sony – Fuji – Panasonic – all of them.

Secondly – I am disappointed in photography YouTubers who make videos about gear. I am disappointed in the photography blogs for publishing stories that they acknowledge are based on rumors. Stories that can have a dramatic impact on the profitability of any company. I am disappointed in mainstream financial news outlets who publish reporting and headlines that can have a serious impact on a company’s stock value. And I am disappointed in all of the so-called photographers who have nothing better to do than spend their time watching and reading these opinion-based media and debating the future of camera companies on the internet – instead of investing that time and energy in actually being a photographer.

There is a lack of respect for good old-fashioned fact checking that is so prevalent in the media today. It is the fact that news today is often opinions and agendas masquerading as facts. This is not just a problem in the mainstream media. It is a problem in our photography industry as well.

So please follow along and allow me to provide you with some facts – as well as a few opinions which I will make it a point to label as such.

I started by stating that I am disappointed with all of the companies that make our cameras. I guess I should call this an opinion – but allow me to explain why.

Lately we keep hearing that Olympus isn’t making money selling cameras. That is a partial fact. They are of course making money but indeed the facts are that sales and profits are down over the last few years. Now before I give you more facts about Olympus – let me give you some facts about other camera manufacturers…

You ready, this is a big one…

Canon – Nikon – Fuji – Panasonic and Sony are ALL experiencing a downturn in sales and profits over previous years and heck for all of you Panasonic users – the last big announcement they made to investors is their plan to partner with Toyota and begin building towns. Yes, houses and towns. They see this as – and I quote: part of their “business portfolio reform, aimed at both profit growth and profitability improvement.”

Now that sounds very similar to one of the statements that Olympus recently made. So if we apply the same journalistic integrity to that statement as was applied to the Olympus statements – that means that Panasonic is dropping their camera line too and migrating their business to home construction.

I mean – come on! I seriously doubt that is going to happen.

Btw… I have posted links to the investor documents for these companies at the end of the article so that you don’t have to take my word for it.

So, I am disappointed that these companies were caught flat footed. That is an opinion. I believe that none of them clearly anticipated the impact of smartphones. We know that several of them underestimated the evolution to mirrorless. Much like newspapers they kind of had their heads in the sand because for years while they were only competing with each other. Now there is strong competition from smartphones.

But camera companies are much different from newspapers. This is a fact: There are NO camera companies. All of these companies are sustained by other product lines. Medical Equipment, Industrial Optics, Security Cameras, Home Electronics, Camera Sensor development, Entertainment and yes – even building houses.

In most cases the camera division supports other product lines within the companies by providing research and development and technology that supports their higher earning products. All you Sony folks….Sony is indeed selling fewer cameras this year than they were last year, and they are not making more money – but their sensor business is up dramatically. That’s a fact. You should understand that they could drop their cameras tomorrow – which Sony has a history of dropping entire product lines – yet they would still profit handsomely selling sensors to other camera brands – which they currently do. Yet the fact is you don’t hear the photography news outlets reporting on that precarious situation. My opinion is that they don’t want to lose out on the cool trips that Sony provides them a few times a year at no expense – that last part is a fact.

Why is this a big deal….? Why is it a big deal that a YouTuber or a Blog does a video or article and says that Micro Four Thirds is dead – or worse yet that an entire camera company is about to go out of business or is up for sale? It’s a big deal because it is all opinion – not fact. It’s a big deal because it is people reading between the lines and speculating or twisting meanings.

It is a big deal because these YouTubers and bloggers who have little to no journalistic training clearly don’t understand or care that their words can cost companies millions of dollars. Their misleading words and opinions can put companies out of business. That is an abuse of power. That is NOT what the first amendment is intended to protect and all of you photographers are the victims.

You are victims because you will ultimately pay more for your cameras – every brand of camera. You are victims because you read these blogs and follow these YouTubers with the thought that you are learning photography. Sorry, but as you have heard me say many times here and in person – you can’t learn photography on YouTube. You learn photography with a camera in your hand. You learn photography by taking thousands of really sucky pictures. YouTube is a great resource to help you understand techniques. But these YouTubers in question and the blogs that I have referenced, they are not teaching you how to take great photographs – they are not teaching you the HOWS and WHYS behind great photography. Instead they are jacking up your anxiety levels over whether or not you have invested your money in the right camera or lens.

I want to point something else out to all of you, especially you men…. Look at these videos and articles and scroll through the comments. This is a fact – take note that the overwhelming majority of the comments are made by men. Most of whom are over the age of 30 – also a fact.

It is interesting that when we look at up and coming talent in the photography world, those lists skew heavily towards women – also a fact. In my opinion they are apparently the smarter species and I say good for them. They are not jumping into pointless gear debates – they are putting in the effort with their cameras. They remember WHY they picked up a camera in the first place, something most of you could use a refresher on. How about this fact? I have yet to meet the photographer who bought their first camera because they dreamed of watching people talk about photography and talk about camera gear on the internet and then spend as much time debating other photographers in a comments thread.

I promised you the statement from Olympus – here it is:

Following the launch of Olympus’ Corporate Strategy on November 6th, we saw many rumors about Olympus selling or closing its consumer imaging business.
To clarify Olympus’ position and reassure all the ambassadors that are working very hard to position our brand in the market: Olympus has no plans to sell our consumer imaging business.

Our corporate strategy does include focusing on Medical and drives our ambition for all Olympus businesses to be profitable and contribute to our overall business objectives. For Imaging, this means we need to stabilize and strengthen our market position.

To achieve these goals, we’re actively executing global marketing activities with our new Break Free campaigns and have a clear and exciting product roadmap for the coming months and years.

We’re strongly pursuing future technology developments that will enhance photography and video for creators. Furthermore, the Imaging division is and will continue to be an important technology and innovation driver for Olympus’ other businesses.

As you know, we have a unique consumer product portfolio. Our systems are compact, lightweight and offer market-leading image stabilization and autofocus performance. No other product line offers photographers this level of optical excellence and mobility.

Just recently, we’ve launched our new OM-D E-M5 Mark III, and we’ve previously announced the development of the highly anticipated M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm F4.5 TC1.25x IS PRO handheld super telephoto lens on track to be launched next year.

I can tell you personally as a fact – the Olympus America marketing team has confirmed to me that they have no plans to close their imaging business or consider sale of their business at this time. They’ve reinforced they’re actively working on future technology development. This and the other future products on their publicly released roadmap are part of their continued plans to grow Olympus’ share of the photography market.

If you read the statements that Olympus made to investors, I never understood them to mean that the camera division was going to close or be sold. Maybe that is because I choose to read things as stated instead of highlighting three words in one sentence and completely ignoring the next sentence like so many did. I ignored it because I understand that like many of the other camera manufacturers the research and development that occurs in the camera division also supports products in the medical division where Olympus does indeed earn most of its revenue. Many corporations around the world in many different lines of business maintain lesser earning divisions and subsidiaries to support the higher earning core of their business. This is an extremely common business practice. Just like with Sony – Sony cameras don’t exist because Sony wanted to enter the camera market. They exist because they make sensors and realized they could build their own cameras around them and make even more money.

All companies exist to make money. Photographers in this industry need to support that fact. By all means we need to keep them honest and push them to deliver the technology that we need for our work, but to cause all of this drama and anxiety is only hurting ourselves. Crap like this could easily cost any company millions of dollars in lost sales – especially happening in the fourth quarter selling season.

Lower profits for these companies mean higher prices for all of us.

So please STOP. Just stop it. Remember WHY you became a photographer. Hold these YouTubers and Blogs accountable – let them know you are not interested in this bullshit. Stop supporting them if they won’t change. But understand they are not helping you and you are not helping yourself!

I discussed this topic in TOGCHAT #179 on 11/20/19

Links to financial statements from various camera companies:

Olympus, Fujifilm, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic