Founded in Tokyo, Japan by Takeshi Yamashita in October 1919, Olympus is celebrating its 100th birthday this October. To mark this momentous anniversary, Olympus has released the above short film detailing its history and evolution over the past century.
In the video, Olympus pioneers, a used camera shop technician, and Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, Jay Dickman, share their stories on how Olympus influenced the world of photography. And the company sure has come a long way.
Olympus company wasn’t always called Olympus. It began life as Takachiho Seisakusho, and they focused on making microscopes for the domestic market. The Olympus trademark was registered just two years later in 1921 and then the company was renamed to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. in 1949.
Their first camera was the Semi Olympus (also known as the Semi Olympus I, although that was not its designation at the time of being sold), released in 1936. It was a 645 medium format folding camera with a fixed Zuiko 75mm f/4.5 lens. It shot a mere 16 exposures on a roll of 120 film.
23 years later, in 1959, they released the original Olympus-PEN, 35mm half-frame film camera. It was quite revolutionary in its day, offering an image size similar to that of today’s APS-C digital sensors. Of course, this, too, had a fixed lens at 28mm f/3.5, so not quite as versatile as the interchangeable lens cameras of more recent times.
Olympus solved that problem in 1972 with the launch of the Olympus OM-1. This was the camera that introduced me to photography as a kid. My dad had one. He wouldn’t let me go near it, of course, but I snuck a look whenever I had the chance, and it was a beautiful thing to hold and look through its viewfinder.
Since moving to digital, Olympus has been through several transitions going from compacts, through DSLRs and to the Micro Four Thirds system we know today. In 2003, the company was renamed again to Olympus Corporation, where they have three main branches. Medical, Imaging and Scientific Solutions.
It’s a far cry between that Semi Olympus and the current OMD E-M1X flagship mirrorless camera. Here’s to the next hundred years.
Unlike Nikon, who celebrated their 100th anniversary just two years ago, Olympus doesn’t seem to be putting out any overpriced, slightly different coloured, cameras or lenses.
Do you shoot Olympus? Did you ever?