Olympus admitted today that its top executives used dubious acquisitions to sweep 20 years of massive losses under the carpet. At a press conference in Tokyo, new President Shuichi Takayama revealed that the 2008 acquisitions at the center of the company’s ongoing scandal were used to cover-up failed securities investments dating back to the early 1990s. Michael Woodford, the ex-CEO who brought the acquisitions to light, says that further inquiry is needed and that the company leadership needs to be purged:
This is a very big day. The big questions now are: who helped us – which outside companies? And what monies have they received? [...] The position of the board and non-execs is untenable now.
The news immediately crushed Olympus’ stock, causing it to drop 29% in one day. The company has lost 70% of its market value since the scandal began in mid-October and is now facing major consequences — including the possibility of getting delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Japan’s Ministry of Defense has unveiled an amazing “Spherical Flying Machine”: a 42-inch remote controlled ball that can zip around in any direction at ~37mph. Built using off-the-shelf parts for about $1,400, in Internet is abuzz over the potential applications, which include military reconnaissance and search-and-rescue operations. What we’re most interested in, however, is the device’s potential as an aerial camera for things like sports photography and combat photojournalism. Read more…
Olympus fired CEO and President Michael Woodford today, causing the company’s stock price to take a 17% dive. The 51-year-old Briton was accused by the board of ignoring the management culture that the firm has had in place for 92 years. Chairman Tsuyoshi Kikukawa (who replaces Woodford) says,
We hoped that he could do things that would be difficult for a Japanese executive to do, but he was not able to understand that we needed to reflect the management style we have built up since the company was established 92 years ago, as well as Japanese culture.
The “difficult things” included ambitious cost-cutting plans, which proved to be successful in the company’s European division. Woodford had a habit of ignoring the management structure of the company by giving direct orders to employees rather than the leadership of the different units. While Olympus is known in the consumer electronics industry for its digital cameras, it’s medical equipment that keeps the company afloat — the Olympus camera division lost 15 billion yen (~$195 million) in the year to March 2011.
Remember the tiny Chobi Cam One “DSLR” that was introduced in Japan at the beginning of the year? Well the camera has found a distributor in the US and is generating some media buzz again after being marketed as “the world’s smallest camera”. While it certainly isn’t the world’s smallest camera, you probably won’t find an interchangeable lens digital camera that’s smaller. You can buy the video-capable 2-megapixel camera over at Hammacher Schlemmer for $100, though it doesn’t appear to come with any additional lenses besides the kit lens.
Bloomberg reports that Canon and Nikon’s failure thus far to enter the mirrorless camera market has allowed Sony to eat into their combined market share — at least in Japan:
Canon and Nikon’s combined share of the Japanese market [for interchangeable lens cameras] has fallen by 35 percent, while Sony’s share has doubled
“Mirrorless cameras are a threat,” said David Rubenstein, a Tokyo-based analyst [...] “If the western geographies follow the same pattern as Asia, then it will be negative for Nikon and Canon.”
“In the long run, Canon and Nikon will have to enter the market,” said Hideki Yasuda, a Tokyo-based analyst [...] “Still, it won’t be too late for them to enter the market after mirrorless cameras become a global trend.”
Although mirrorless cameras are becoming all the rage in Japan, its adoption outside the country is much slower. Canon still owns a 45% share of the global SLR market, while Nikon remains at 30%. Canon also earned $1.5 billion in profit from selling SLRs last year, four times the profit generated by its compact cameras. SLR cameras and lenses were also Nikon’s biggest moneymaker.
It’s finally happened — companies are starting to realize that the two lenses on 3D cameras look a whole lot like eyes. This 3-megapixel “Felyne” camera is designed to look like a character from the video game franchise Monster Hunter, and goes on sale later this month in Japan for about $90. Something tells me we’ll be seeing a lot more of this kind of thing if 3D cameras start becoming popular.
I wonder if camera makers can make these things look like they’re blinking whenever you take a picture. That’d be neat… or creepy.
Flickr user Céline Ramoni has a beautiful set of photographs shot from the Yurikamome rail line connecting the cities of Shimbashi and Toyosu in Japan. The exposure times aren’t too long (they’re all less than a second), but the speed of the train creates plenty of motion blur — even in daytime. Read more…
You’ve probably seen countless photographs already of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan back in March, but they were likely captured by professional photographers looking to have the images published in news outlets. What, then, would photographs look like if they were taken by ordinary people who were directly affected by the disaster? Aichi Hirano found out the answer to this question by distributing 50 disposable cameras to survivors at a number of shelters with a note that read,
Please take photos of things you see with your eyes, things you want to record, remember, people near you, your loved ones, things you want to convey… please do so freely. And please enjoy the process if you can, even if it’s just a little bit.
When two photographers got engaged in Japan, they asked their jewelry-maker friend to create wedding rings based on the Leica 50mm Summilux lens. The groom’s ring was the focusing ring while the bride’s was the aperture ring. The friend also created a stunningly realistic miniature Leica M3 to hold the rings (they slide onto the lens)!