Olympus Corporation

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Olympus Corporation
Native name
Orinpasu Kabushiki-kaisha
Company typePublic
TYO: 7733
Founded12 October 1919; 104 years ago (1919-10-12) (as Takachiho Seisakusho)
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
FounderTakeshi Yamashita[1]
HeadquartersHachioji, Tokyo, Japan
Area served
Key people
Stefan Kaufmann (president & CEO)
RevenueIncrease ¥847,105 million (y/e March 2011)[2]
Number of employees
31,557 (31 March 2022)[2]

Olympus Corporation (Japanese: オリンパス株式会社, Hepburn: Orinpasu Kabushiki-gaisha) is a Japanese manufacturer of optics and reprography products. Olympus was established on 12 October 1919, initially specializing in microscopes and thermometers.[4] Olympus holds roughly a 70 percent share of the global endoscope market, estimated to be worth approximately US$2.5 billion. Its global headquarters are located in Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan.

In 2011, Olympus attracted worldwide media scrutiny when it fired its CEO Michael Christopher Woodford for whistleblowing, and the matter snowballed into a corporate corruption investigation[5] with multiple arrests.[6] In 2016, it paid US$646 million (equivalent to $804 million in 2023) in fines associated with its illegal, long running, kickback scheme.[7]


Cameras and audio[edit]

In 1936, Olympus introduced its first camera, the Semi-Olympus I, fitted with the first Zuiko-branded lens.[8] The Olympus Chrome Six was a series of folding cameras made by Takachiho, and later Olympus, from 1948 to 1956, for 6×4.5 cm or 6×6 cm exposures on 120 film.[9]

The first innovative camera series from Olympus was the Pen, launched in 1959.[10] It used a half-frame format, taking 72 18×24 mm photographs on a standard 36-exposure 35mm film cassette,[11] which made Pen cameras compact and portable for their time.[citation needed]

Olympus Pen FT and 38mm f1.8 Zuiko lens
Olympus OM Zuiko Lenses

The Pen system design team, led by Yoshihisa Maitani, later created the OM system, a full-frame professional 35mm SLR system designed to compete with Nikon and Canon's bestsellers. The OM system introduced a new trend towards more compact cameras and lenses, being much smaller than its competitors and presenting innovative design features such as off-the-film (OTF) metering and OTF flash automation. Eventually the system included 14 different bodies, approximately 60 Zuiko-branded lenses, and numerous camera accessories.[citation needed]

Olympus Quick Flash camera

In 1983, Olympus, along with Canon, branded a range of video recording equipment manufactured by JVC,[citation needed] and called it "Olympus Video Photography", even employing renowned photographer Terance Donovan to promote the range.[citation needed] A second version of the system was available the year after, but this was Olympus's last foray into the world of consumer video equipment until digital cameras became popular.[citation needed]

Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, who was later to become president of Olympus, foresaw the demand for the digital SLR, and is credited with the company's strategy in digital photography. He fought for commitment by Olympus to enter the market in high-resolution photographic products. As a result of his efforts, Olympus released an 810,000-pixel digital camera for the mass market in 1996, when the resolution of rivals' offerings was less than half.[12] The next year, Olympus hit the market with a 1.41 million pixel camera. By 2001, the company's annual turnover from digital photography was in excess of ¥100 billion.[12] Olympus manufactures compact digital cameras and is the designer of the Four Thirds system standard for digital single-lens reflex cameras. Olympus's Four Thirds system flagship DSLR camera is the E-5, released in 2010. Olympus is also the largest manufacturer of Four Thirds lenses, under the Zuiko Digital brand. After the introduction of the Micro Four Thirds system, and the general market growth of the Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras, the regular Four Thirds system became neglected. Then, in 2017, after three years without a new lens, and seven years without a new body, Olympus officially discontinued the Four Thirds system[13]

Olympus OM-D E-M1 with an Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 12-40mm f2.8 lens

Olympus and Panasonic started a new development together, called the Micro Four Thirds system. It was an interchangeable lens system, with the Four Thirds sensor size, and no mirrors (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera). The lack of mirrors allowed the camera body to be a lot smaller than that of a DSLR, while maintaining its image quality and the interchangeability of the lenses. The first product in the Micro Four Thirds system was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1, released in 2008. The first Olympus-branded MFT camera was the Olympus PEN E-P1. Because it was very expensive, they made a cheaper option, called the Olympus PEN Lite E-PL1. The market growth of the MILC cameras made Olympus introduce a new series in their lineup, which was the modern, digital implementation of the legendary OM series, the OM-D. It maintained the Micro Four Thirds system, but added a built-in electronic viewfinder, a more ergonomic button layout packaged in a retro style chassis. The first model in this family was the E-M5, released in 2012. Since then, Olympus has developed their two lines (PEN and OM-D) and the Micro Four Thirds system, still alongside Panasonic. The latest Olympus camera is the Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV as of 20 August 2020.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

At one time, Olympus cameras used only the proprietary xD-Picture Card for storage media. This storage solution is less popular than more common formats, and recent cameras can use SD and CompactFlash cards. The most recent development is Olympus's focus on the Micro Four Thirds system.[citation needed] Olympus has also been using special proprietary USB-cables, such as the CB-USB8, instead of following standards.

Olympus first introduced the Microcassette. The Olympus Pearlcorder L400, released in the 1980s, was the smallest and lightest microcassette voice recorder ever offered for sale, 2.9 (L) × 0.8 (H) × 2.0 in. (W) / 73 (L) × 20 (H) × 52 (W) 3.2 oz (91 g).[14]

In 2012, the company announced that Sony and Fujifilm had offered forming a capital alliance and the company would focus on Mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras (MILC).[15]

In 2020, Olympus announced that the camera department would be sold to Japan Industrial Partners at the end of the year.[16][17][18] In October 2020, Olympus transferred its Imaging division to the newly established OM Digital Solutions. On 1 January 2021, 95% of the shares in OM Digital Solutions were transferred to OJ Holdings, Ltd, a specially established subsidiary of Japan Industrial Partners. Olympus retained ownership of the remaining 5%.[19]

Medical and surgical[edit]

Olympus manufactures endoscopic, ultrasound, electrocautery, endotherapy, and cleaning and disinfection equipment. The first flexible endoscope in the world was co-developed and manufactured by Olympus in Tokyo.[20][better source needed] In 1987, KeyMed Medical & Industrial Equipment, a British manufacturer was purchased.[21] With a comprehensive product range, Olympus accounts for a large share of the world market in gastro-intestinal endoscopes. It has roughly 70% share of the global market whose estimated valued at US$2.5 billion.[22] On 28 September 2012, Olympus and Sony announced that the two companies will establish a joint venture—Sony Olympus Medical Solutions Inc—to develop new surgical endoscopes with 4K resolution (or higher) and 3D capability.[23] On 16 September 2015, Sony Olympus Medical Solutions Inc announced that their jointly developed 4K surgical endoscopy system would be commercialized and made available for purchase in early October 2015, and would be sold by Olympus under the brand name "VISERA 4K UHD".[24][25][26] On 14 September 2022, Sony Olympus Medical Solutions Inc announced that they developed a new model of their 4K surgical endoscopy system, which also allows for Infared imaging and Narrow Band imaging.[27] This new model was made available for purchase in September 2022 by Olympus in Europe, Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia, Oceania and Japan under the brand name "VISERA ELITE III".[27] On 15 January 2024, Canon Medical Systems Corporation and Olympus Corporation announced that they reached an agreement to collaborate on a jointly developed Endoscopic Ultrasound System (EUS) that takes advantage of both companies’ experience in endoscopy and sonography.[28]


Since the beginning, the company has been a manufacturer of microscopes and optics for specialised needs, such as medical use. The first microscope manufactured at Olympus was called the Asahi.[29] Currently, Olympus is a worldwide renowned manufacturer of microscopes. Olympus offers a complete range of microscopes, which covers applications from education and routine studies up to state of the art research imaging systems, both in life science and materials science.[30]

Olympus Scientific Solutions Americas Corporation is a Waltham, Massachusetts-based manufacturer, and is a subsidiary of Olympus Corporation. One of its companies, for example, is Olympus Imaging and Measuring Systems, specializing in imaging instruments for testing and measurement during industrial inspections.[31]


Olympus manufactures and sells industrial scanners, flaw detectors, probes and transducers, thickness gages, digital cameras, image analysis software, industrial videoscopes, fiberscopes, light sources, XRF and XRD analyzers, and high-speed video cameras.[30]


  • 1919: The company was founded as Takachiho Seisakusho (高千穂製作所).[32] In Japanese mythology, deities live on Takamagahara, the peak of Mt. Takachiho.[33] The first corporate logo was TOKIWA, derived from Tokiwa Shokai, the company that the founder, Takeshi Yamashita, had worked for.[34] Tokiwa Shokai held an equity stake in Takachiho Seisakusho and was responsible for marketing Takachiho products. The logo reads "TOKIWA TOKYO". The "G" and "M" marks above are believed to be the initials of Goro Matsukata, the president of Tokiwa Shokai.[34]
  • 1921: The Olympus brand was introduced in February 1921. This logo was used for microscopes and other products. Brochures and newspaper ads for cameras also used this logo. The OLYMPUS TOKYO logo is still in use today. There was a period in which OIC was used instead of TOKYO in the logo. OIC stood for Optical Industrial Company, which was a translation of Olympus's Japanese corporate name at that time. This logo was used for the GT-I and GT-II endoscopes, among others.[34]
  • 1942: The company was renamed to Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd., when optical products became the mainstay of the company.[33]
  • 1949: The name changed to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. It was named after Mount Olympus, which like Mt. Takachiho is the home of gods, this time of Greek mythology. In the words of the company, they chose the name to "reflect its strong aspiration to create high-quality, world-famous products".
  • 1970: The new logo was designed to give impressions of quality and sophistication.
  • 2001: The yellow line underneath the new logo is called the "Opto-Digital Pattern" and it represents light and boundless possibilities of digital technology. It symbolizes dynamic and innovative nature of Opto-Digital Technology and Olympus Corporation. This logo is called the Communication Symbol of Olympus and it represents Olympus's brand image.[34]
  • 2003: Renamed to Olympus Corporation.

Corporate affairs[edit]


Shareholding in Olympus is dispersed, and the company's key institutional investors are largely passive.[35] As of 31 March 2011, investors included Nippon Life Insurance (8.4%), Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi (4.98%), and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking (3.13%), and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (2.55%). Foreign institutions and individuals spoke for 27.71% of Olympus shares.[35][36] On 28 September 2012, Olympus and Sony announced that Olympus would receive a 50 billion yen capital injection from Sony. On 22 February 2013, Sony became the largest shareholder (11.46%) of Olympus, later cutting that stake in half during one of its own restructurings, only to sell its entire remaining stake in Olympus, totaling 5% of the company, after a request by activist investor Daniel S. Loeb to do so, in 2019.[37]


According to its 2011 Annual Report, Olympus was governed by a 15-person board of directors, with Tsuyoshi Kikukawa its President and CEO, and Michael C. Woodford as President and chief operating officer. Mr Kikukawa resigned in the following year and was arrested by Tokyo police for alleged criminal offenses during and before his term as president and CEO. The corporation in 2011 had three "outside directors".[38] It had a four-member 'Board of Auditors' which supervises and audits directors' performance. The company's executive committee consisted of 28 members, responsible for the day-to-day operations.[39]

2011 accounting scandal[edit]


In 2011, the company attracted worldwide media scrutiny when it fired its newly appointed English chief executive (CEO) Michael Christopher Woodford, a 30-year Olympus veteran, for probing into financial irregularities and unexplained payments totaling hundreds of millions of US dollars. Although the board initially dismissed Woodford's concerns via mass media as "disruptive" and Woodford himself as failing to grasp the local culture, the matter quickly snowballed into a corporate corruption[5] scandal concerning alleged concealment of more than ¥117.7 billion ($1.5 billion) in investment losses, kickbacks, and covert payments to criminal organizations dating back as far as the 1980s.[40][41][42][43] One of the longest-lasting accounting scandals in Japanese corporate history,[44] the incident wiped out over three-quarters of the company's valuation[45] and led much of the board to resign in disgrace. Investigations were launched across Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, culminating in the arrests of numerous corporate directors, senior managers, auditors, and bankers[6] and raising significant concerns over prevailing standards of corporate governance and transparency,[46] as well as the state of Japanese financial markets. Woodford himself, who stated he had received death threats for his role in exposing the cover-up,[43] was reportedly awarded £10 million ($16 million) in damages for defamation and wrongful dismissal.[45][47] In the wake of this turmoil, Olympus announced plans to shed 2,700 jobs (seven percent of its workforce)[48] and shut 40 percent of its 30 manufacturing plants by 2015.[49]


On 1 April 2011, Michael Christopher Woodford, 51, was named president and chief operating officer – the first ever foreigner to hold the position – replacing Kikukawa, who became chairman. Woodford, an Olympus veteran of 30 years, was previously executive managing director of Olympus Medical Systems Europa. Olympus appointed Woodford its CEO six months later, but the board suddenly removed him as chief executive two weeks into the job, while allowing him to retain his board seat.[50]

Woodford alleged that his removal was linked to several prior acquisitions he questioned, particularly the US$2.2 billion deal in 2008 to acquire British medical equipment maker Gyrus Group. Thomson Reuters reported that US$687 million was paid to a middle-man as a success fee – a sum equal to 31% of the purchase price, and which ranks as the highest ever M&A fee.[50] According to the Daily Telegraph, some of the sums paid out relating to the acquisition of a technology company ITX were also under examination.[42] Woodford noted that an article in Japanese financial magazine Facta in July prompted his suspicion of the transactions.[35] Reports also said the company acquired three other Japanese companies outside its core business, and recognised that the assets were worth US$721 million less than their acquisition value 12 months previously.[51]

Shareholders expressed concern after Olympus's share price nearly halved in value following the Woodford revelations, and asked for "prompt action".[40][50] Following his dismissal, Woodford passed on information to the British Serious Fraud Office, and requested police protection. He said the payments may have been linked to "forces behind" the Olympus board.[40] Japanese newspaper Sankei suggested that a total of US$1.5 billion in acquisition-related advisory payments could be linked to the yakuza.[42]

The company responded on 19 October that "major differences had arisen between Mr. Woodford and other management regarding the direction and conduct of the company’s business". On the Gyrus acquisition, it also declared the Audit Board's view that "no dishonesty or illegality is found in the transaction itself, nor any breach of obligation to good management or any systematic errors by the directors recognised."[50] On 26 October, the company announced that to assuage shareholders' concerns, Kikukawa resigned as chairman; he was replaced by Shuichi Takayama. Olympus shares rebounded 23 percent.[51][52]

On 8 November 2011, the company admitted that the money had been used to cover losses on investments dating to the 1990s[41] and that company's accounting practice was "not appropriate", thus coming clean on "one of the biggest and longest-running loss-hiding arrangements in Japanese corporate history", according to the Wall Street Journal. The company laid the blame for the inappropriate accounting on ex-president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, auditor Hideo Yamada, and executive VP Hisashi Mori.[44]

On 21 December 2011, Japanese authorities, including the Tokyo prosecutor's office, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and the Japanese Securities and Exchange Surveillance Commission, raided the company's offices in Tokyo.[53]

In February 2012, seven Olympus executives were arrested by Japanese police and prosecutors. Former president Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, former executive vice president Hisashi Mori, and former auditor Hideo Yamada were taken into custody on suspicion of violating the Financial Instruments and Exchange Law, along with former bankers Akio Nakagawa and Nobumasa Yokoo and two others, suspected of having helped the board hide significant losses.[6]

On 25 September 2012, the company and Kikukawa, Yamada, and Mori pleaded guilty to collusion to submit false financial reports.[54]

2016 bribery scandal[edit]

Main article: Olympus scandal On 1 March 2016, Olympus agreed to pay $646 million of fines to US authorities.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Olympus History: Origin of Our Name". Retrieved 16 January 2007.
  2. ^ a b Outline, Olympus, archived from the original on 28 October 2011, retrieved 16 November 2011
  3. ^ a b "OLYMPUS CORPORATION : Shareholders Board Members Managers and Company Profile | JP3201200007 | MarketScreener". www.marketscreener.com.
  4. ^ "Founding". History of Olympus. Olympus. Retrieved 16 January 2007.
  5. ^ a b "Former Olympus boss Michael Woodford gets settlement". BBC News. 30 May 2012.
  6. ^ a b c "Former executives, bankers arrested over Olympus fraud". Reuters. 15 February 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Whistleblower wins $51 million in kickback and bribery case". CNN. 2 March 2016.
  8. ^ "Semi-Olympus I". Olympus Global. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  9. ^ "Olympus Chrome Six – Camera-wiki.org – The free camera encyclopedia". camera-wiki.org. Archived from the original on 5 June 2021. Retrieved 26 December 2021.
  10. ^ McKeown's price guide to antique and classic cameras. James M. McKeown, Joan C. McKeown (12th ed., 2005-06 ed.). Grantsburg, Wis.: Centennial Photo Service. 2004. p. 749. ISBN 0-931838-40-1. OCLC 56999790.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ "Olympus Pen". Olympus Global. Retrieved 24 June 2020.
  12. ^ a b "Dismissed CEO Turns Focus on Troubles at Olympus", Nikkei Business. 31 October 2011. Archived from the original on 25 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  13. ^ "In memoriam: Olympus brings down the curtain on the legacy Four Thirds system". DPReview. Retrieved 20 August 2020.
  14. ^ Thomas, Ralph D. (2006). "Ultra Compact Pearlcorder L400 Micro, 1980s". Thomas Investigative Publications, Inc. Retrieved 3 March 2007.
  15. ^ "Olympus plans to cut its camera line-up". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  16. ^ "Signing of Memorandum of Understanding for Divestiture of Imaging Business" (PDF). Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  17. ^ "Olympus quits camera business after 84 years". BBC News. 24 June 2020. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  18. ^ Humphries, Matthew (24 June 2020). "After 84 Years, Olympus Is Exiting the Camera Business". PCMag UK. Retrieved 16 September 2020.
  19. ^ "Olympus Completes Transfer of Imaging Business". Olympus. 4 January 2021.
  20. ^ "OLYMPUS | Olympus History: VOL. 2 Birth of Gastrocameras". Olympus-global.com. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  21. ^ "Our impact in the UK and Ireland". Olympus Corporation. Retrieved 22 February 2023.
  22. ^ "Japanese Doctors Flustered and Angry Following Olympus Scandal". 16 November 2011. Medtech Insider. Archived from the original on 28 November 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2011
  23. ^ "OLYMPUS – Investor Relations: Corporate Disclosure: 2014" (PDF).
  24. ^ "Announcing the Upcoming Release of a 4K Surgical Endoscopy System". Sony Group Portal - Sony Global Headquarters. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  25. ^ "OLYMPUS | News Release: Launch of Ultra-HD Surgical Endoscopy System Incorporating 4K Technology". www.olympus-global.com. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  26. ^ "Sony, Olympus unveil 4K endoscopy system". Nikkei Asia. Retrieved 2 October 2023.
  27. ^ a b "Sony, Olympus, and Sony Olympus Medical Solutions Collaborated in the Development of a Surgical Endoscopy System that Supports 4K, 3D and Infrared (IR) Imaging Features". www.sony-olympus-medical.com. Retrieved 17 December 2023.
  28. ^ "Canon Medical Systems and Olympus team up for endoscopic ultrasound". healthcare-in-europe.com. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  29. ^ "Olympus History: The Asahi Microscope". Olympus Corporation. Archived from the original on 27 December 2006. Retrieved 21 February 2007.
  30. ^ a b "Microscopes | Olympus LS". www.olympus-lifescience.com. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  31. ^ "Group Companies (Americas) : Worldwide Office Locations : OLYMPUS". www.olympus-global.com. 7 January 2021. Retrieved 25 January 2023.
  32. ^ "Founding of Olympus : Milestones : OLYMPUS". olympus-global.com. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  33. ^ a b "Founding of Olympus : Milestones : OLYMPUS". olympus-global.com. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  34. ^ a b c d "The Olympus Logo History : Milestones : OLYMPUS". olympus-global.com. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  35. ^ a b c Bacani, Cesar (24 October 2011) "The Olympus Scandal: When a Foreign CEO Rebels" (pg 3). CFO Innovation Asia. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  36. ^ "Investor information (as of 31 March 2011". Olympus Corp. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  37. ^ "Sony in $760 million Olympus stake sale after investor Loeb's prodding | MarketScreener". 29 August 2019.
  38. ^ "Board of Directors, Corporate Auditors and Executive Officers (as of 29 June 2011)". Olympus Corp. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  39. ^ "Corporate Governance". Olympus Corp. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  40. ^ a b c Russell, Jonathan (21 Oct 2011). "Olympus launches investigation into M&A fees". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  41. ^ a b Soble, Jonathan (29 September 2011). "Olympus used takeover fees to hide losses". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 10 December 2022. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  42. ^ a b c Russell, Jonathan (23 Oct 2011). "Huge Olympus fees have 'underworld links'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  43. ^ a b "Michael Woodford: Unbowed despite the death threats". The Independent. 22 December 2011. Archived from the original on 23 May 2022.
  44. ^ a b "Olympus President: Will Do Utmost To Avoid Delisting". The Wall Street Journal. 7 November 2011. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  45. ^ a b "Former Olympus chief gets £10m payoff". The Guardian. 8 June 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  46. ^ Banyan (16 February 2012). "Arrested development". The Economist. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012.
  47. ^ "Out-of-court settlement for Ex-Olympus CEO Michael Woodford?". The Japan Daily Press. 30 July 2020.
  48. ^ "Olympus to Cut 2,700 Jobs, Consider Alliances to Boost Capital". 8 June 2012.
  49. ^ "Olympus whistleblower wins millions in settlement". 8 June 2012. Archived from the original on 22 August 2012. Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  50. ^ a b c d Bacani, Cesar (24 October 2011) "The Olympus Scandal: When a Foreign CEO Rebels" (pg 1). CFO Innovation Asia. Retrieved 24 October 2011
  51. ^ a b Yasu, Mariko (27 October 2011). "Olympus's Kikukawa Quits as Axed Woodford Takes Case to FBI", Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Retrieved 27 October 2011
  52. ^ Cheesman, Chris (26 October 2011). "Olympus chairman quit over 'widespread concerns'" Archived 30 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine Amateur Photographer. Retrieved 27 October 2011
  53. ^ "Japanese authorities raid Olympus offices". CNN. 21 December 2011. Retrieved 24 December 2011.
  54. ^ Kyodo News, "Ex-Olympus execs plead guilty to hiding losses", The Japan Times, 26 September 2012, p. 1

External links[edit]