Well, did a routine medical the other day. The whole program. One value was a bit elevated and required follow-up tests. In the course of more exact health screening at the hospital I came across two familiar names: Canon and Olympus. And you can also find Nikon Instruments‘ microscopes, super-resolution systems and other medical equipment in hospitals. Same logos, same companies as the ones we photophiles know so well. And good for them, in the field of medicine they’re competing there’s considerably less competition than in the widely disemboweled consumer photography industry.
Canon’s especially strong in X-ray diagnosis. As Olympus, the world’s top camera maker uses its original optical and digital imaging technologies to supply devices that support digitization and networking in the field of medicine — Canon focuses on digital X-ray systems and ophthalmic equipment, and chances are if you have an endoscopy it’s most likely an Olympus device and camera that image your intestines.
Or take Olympus new Endo Capsule, a first of its kind solution to improve reliability and efficiency in the diagnosis and treatment of small bowel conditions with its clinical high-resolution images providing clear and vivid imaging results from inside a human body.
It’s probably safe to say that it’s rather medical technology subsidizing consumer electronics operations than the other way round. Olympus Medical Business provides the company with “reliable growth,” according to a Olympus special feature report. The company’s latest financials show annual medical equipment sales of 4.6 billion dollars with a healthy operating margin.
The company’s consolidated net sales, including all other businesses, amounted to 6.3 billion dollars in the last fiscal year. While Olympus’ Medical and Scientific Solutions Business went up straight for the past few years with solid two-digit operating income, the Imaging Business keeps on pointing south. Imaging net sales amounted to 691 million dollars, about a tenth of overall sales.
In its At a Glance report, Olympus lists its Imaging Business at the bottom, and at the bottom it performs. Take it for granted that Canon’s financials mirror in essence what Olympus is facing, and that both will rather invest where they can make money.
It’s nice to be a romantic, but the digital revolution with its consolidation in every imaginable industry will keep on putting pressure on the development of these beautiful photographic devices we love so much.
At least it’s comforting to know involved companies such as Canon and Olympus focus on research giving people better and more affordable access to medical technology that helps stay healthy and save lives. Not because they absolutely want to, but because it develops synergies and makes entrepreneurial sense.
In a way, however, it boils down to the old chicken-and-egg question. What came first. What is more important. Medical or consumer stuff. The answer is simple: neither is more important. All there is is constant evolution.
We’ll not get the cameras we want. We’ll get the cameras that make most business sense to be built. And cameras are only part of the much bigger picture: the picture of a healthy human body being able to hold and operate the thing.
So what’s first. Seeing or being.
+++ Oh, and thanks for the emailed reader wishes. I’m fine!