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Wishing a fond farewell to Olympus cameras



No one could be surprised by the news this week that Japan’s Olympus Corp was exiting the camera business after 84 years to focus instead on its endoscopes and other medical-imaging devices. The news still brought a twinge of sadness.


The first 35mm SLR film camera I ever owned was an Olympus OM-2, and it was my go-to shooter on vacations back in the day to Europe, Israel and Hawaii.


I still have the OM-2 and though I don’t recall when I last used it, I knew right where to find it: in a camera bag in my basement. Inside was the main camera body, plus a couple of lenses for it I’d bought through the years. Oh yes, and even had some unused rolls of film.


Anyone out there remember film?


I’m only half-kidding: My kids certainly never knew from film cameras. And I even wonder these days how many average people never bought a standalone camera of any kind, digital or otherwise, because the cameras inside their smartphones are not only always with them, but have for the most part gotten really good? Apple will tell you that more people take pictures with an iPhone than any other camera.


For its part, Olympus shifted to digital like all of its competitors did, and according to the Wall Street Journal still racked up about $3 billion in business as recently as 2007. That was shortly before shooting with a smartphone in a major way became a thing.


While the OM-2 was my first really good camera—ok, I also had a Polaroid instant camera way back when—my late father owned a rather compact Olympus Pen that he must have gotten in the 1960s. I thought it was really cool because it took “half-frame” photos, which meant it could capture twice as many pictures on a roll of film, 72 exposures on a roll of 36 and so on.


I lament not still having that one.


So, let me bid a fond farewell to Olympus cameras, even if in reality I’d said goodbye long ago.