Olympus are a disaster, a technological failure?

I have added this page for the colleagues at my photographic societies/camera clubs who have been following this saga, and for the many people I have noted have read and are following the other features on this site. Readers are to judge for themselves my conclusions.

[19/03/2017: I think I may have been a little severe to Olympus – I do enjoy using the EM5 (and have since moved on to EM1i and now EM1ii) and its portability is great. I would still give ultimate IQ accolades to the Nikon D7100 (see comparison page) (have now gone full frame to a d800) but in many situations it is great. The points in the article still stand, though.]

For the very first time an Olympus lens I have used has failed. Indeed, this is the first time any lens I have owned has failed. This is from using 7 x film cameras, 4 x digital compacts, 3 x DSLRs, 1 x MFT mirrorless Olympus and at least 27 interchangeable lenses, excluding those attached to fixed lens compacts and TLRs.

Needless to say, I am more than a little irritated and even angry since I do not believe I have operated either the OMD EM-5 camera, 12-50EZ lens or software incorrectly.

I use the EM5 only lightly, as a portable and light camera; I probably use my Nikon for five times as many images.

My impression of the OMD system now is that it is unreliable, technologically insecure and not representing a good 21st century product, with lack of customer care.

To recap, in November (2016) the Olympus Viewer software indicated that a firmware update was available for my OMD EM-5. I have undertaken firmware updates for many cameras since going digital in 1999 and have never had a problem, so I was not concerned about the process. Strangely, Olympus do not make available update files to download, so users are only able to use Olympus software to update their camera/lenses.

Before updating the firmware I checked and was certain there were no faults with the equipment and all my lenses were operating normally.

I connected the camera with a newly charged battery to my computer and duly updated the firmware following the prompts provided by the software. The camera firmware updated as expected, but it appears the 12-50mm EZ lens ‘lost contact’ with the camera and its firmware was destroyed. I had no option (other than buying a new lens) than to send the lens to Olympus to rectify the fault.

Olympus UK appear to have sent the lens speedily to Germany for assessment, and I was informed I would have to pay to have the lens returned. I noticed that the lens was returned after repair from an address in Portugal.

Not wishing to unfairly malign Olympus (I have owned several Olympus cameras since 1999) I have included a full transcript of emails between myself and Olympus below, and would wish the reader to make their own decisions regarding OMD products. I have made my own observations shown in brackets within Olympus’ last email.

For myself, I do not think I will continue to develop my OMD system and will probably trade in to a different manufacturer over time and when my limited resources allow.

In truth, I feel the Olympus reply of 4th January fails to address the fundamental issue, and attempts to absolve itself by blaming the customer.


10th November – fault notified to Olympus

Type of request: Support
Model: 12-50mm EZ ED lens
Message: The lens is not recognised by the camera (EM5) since updating firmware update. My other lenses function as normal.
No image is displayed, all other data/menus are present.


11th November – Olympus reply

Good morning Mr Chapman, Thank you for your email regarding your Olympus 12-50mm lens. I am sorry to hear it has developed a fault. May I please advise that it would be best to send the lens into us for a repair.   In order to send your lens for repair, please send it along with a completed repair form to our repair address.


24th November

Thank you for your reply, but I am rather dismayed that the cost of a repair following a firmware update, that maybe Olympus should warranty, will cost me £98.72 – a huge amount for what should not have occurred in the first place.

I have been shooting Olympus digital since 1999 and have updated firmware on many many occasions without problem. Most manufacturers update via memory card – is there nothing I can do before incurring such a large fee?
25th November Olympus reply

Good morning Mr Chapman, Thank you for your reply. May I clarify that if it is found that the lens’ firmware was wiped due to user error, you would indeed be charged. However, if the fault is found to be with the lens (for instance, a fault in how it communicates with the camera body), then of course this would be rectified under the warranty. As our technicians have yet to have an opportunity to inspect the lens I am reticent to speculate on why your lens is non-functional at this time.

Should you require any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. I will be happy to help you. Kind regards,   Pete Huggan UK Customer & Technical Support


26th November

The lens was then sent to Olympus UK in Nottingham including this text:

Text sent to Olympus repair technician team

12-50mm 1:3.5-6.3 EZ ED MSC lens, abp2*****

(enclosed: lens inc front and end caps; repair form).

Fault description:

Following successful update of camera firmware (OMD EM-5) the lens is no longer recognised by the camera / software. The camera shows a blank screen with all usual data displayed except that aperture displays as -.- . The lens behaves similarly on a colleague’s EP5 and my other Olympus lenses continue to be recognised and operate normally after this event.

Light is passing through the lens, and the mount seems to be appropriately aligned and clicks into place, so it would appear that the firmware updating process has corrupted the lens firmware.

Please note that I am well experienced in updating firmware and have never had such problems before. I believe I followed the Olympus instructions correctly, and that this fault is not the cause of misuse. Indeed, my disappointment is exacerbated since this is the first time a lens has catastrophically failed in 40 years of photography, and using digital Olympus cameras since 1999 (a c820L and then c2000z).


December 6th – email from Olympus

Thank you for sending your Olympus equipment for repair. > Please find your details below and a cost estimate attached for the repair > work. > > Olympus Model: EZ-M1250-EZ black > Serial Number: ABP2****** > Your Ref: 87000***** > > If I could ask you to respond at your earliest opportunity so we can > proceed with your repair as work will be undertaken until payment is made > by credit/debit card. > Please inform us at your nearest opportunity as to how you would like us > to proceed. > > In order to make a payment please call *00800 6710 8400*. > > Kind regards, > > *Linda Niemi* > UK Customer & Technical Support > European Customer Support Centre Olympus Europa SE & CO KG, Wendenstraße > 14-18 D-20097 Hamburg, Germany


22nd December


Email to Olympus:

From: philtheclick@gmail.com Date: Dec 22 2016 10:40PM For: customer.support@olympus.co.uk Subject: Re: Olympus UK Cost Estimation: CE: 87000*****, 161****** / SN ABP2****** [OLYHD******] I have now received back the lens and thankfully it now works. However, the money paid seems a great deal to rectify a fault that in my eyes was caused by Olympus. Paying for carriage would seem reasonable, I note that the repair was in Portugal. A number of friends have both at camera club and those following me on my website have been interested in my experience. I have used Olympus digital cameras since 1999 (C1020l, C2000z, C5050 etc) and do have some loyalty and feel Olympus should have a right of reply to my description of the issue. If you wish to reply please email and I will include in my blogs at www.philtheclick.com . *Headline: Olympus are a disaster, a technological failure* Followers of my work will have gathered my dissatisfaction with Olympus following updating my EM5 with the recent update. To recap, using Olympus Viewer software I carefully followed instructions and updated (successfully) the firmware for the EM5, but the connected 12-50mm EZ lens lost contact with the camera resulting in a useless lens. I have had no choice but to send the lens to Olympus at a cost of the best part of £100 – a disgrace. I have never had problems updating firmware for any camera, or indeed, any other product; this fault has occurred by following Olympus instructions. Olympus insist that firmwares are updated using their software – no files can be downloaded or copied to memory cards, which strike me to be a far better and safer method. This problem could not occur with Nikon gear. I enjoy using the EM5 for its compactness, ease of use and technology… but I cannot advise fellow photographers to buy into the Olympus system because of the risk. I have noted that Olympus have updated the firmware of this camera no less than 11 times, the Nikon D7100 (released at roughly the same time) only 3 times. This poses questions – is Olympus gear technologically sound, because its resilience seems in question. (I have sent a copy of this comment offering Olympus a reply – I shall update should it be forthcoming.) Phil Chapman Website: philtheclick.com email: philtheclick@gmail.com


4th January – email from Olympus


Good morning Mr. Chapman,     Many thanks for providing us the chance to reply and reassure you of our commitment to quality.


There are many reasons we provide firmware updates and assure you that we are the top manufacturer for keeping our lenses and cameras as operationally excellent as possible. Firmware updates are provided to ensure new products or functions can be used in older equipment. This maximises your enjoyment and Olympus experience.

(Olympus does update firmware far more often than say, Nikon, 11 times versus 3)

Firmware is the brain of the camera or lens. It tells everything how it should work.  When we update our firmware, to ensure no further bugs occur, we remove all old firmware and insert completely new (with the exception of settings only updates). As mentioned in all our update guides, it is imperative that during this operation there is no disturbance to either the camera or PC that would cause a loss in connection.

(Good software would ensure that there would be no interruption – it is the methods of updating that Olympus employs that is not good and susceptible to faults)

When connection is lost and the transfer or removal of firmware is interrupted, a service is required to manually upload new data, or possibly even replace the mainboard of the camera/lens. For us to be able to ensure our quality is maintained and no unwanted bugs or 3rd party modifications are introduced to our cameras, we update firmware via our Viewer 3 software.  This downloads the firmware to your PC where it is stored before any transfer takes place with your camera ensuring those with intermittent Internet signal are not affected by drop out. Our only requirement when updating firmware is that the camera and PC are not interrupted during the update process.     The interruption you found with your firmware update was due to faulty contacts on the lens. You may have noticed intermittent faults between the camera and lens during normal operation.

(No I did not experience any faults at any time.)

(This whole statement is disingenuous – there is no proof that contacts were at fault in any correspondence with Olympus until this latest email – who is to know whether Olympus themselves damaged the contacts whilst in transit from Uk to Germany to Portugal?)

The repair on your lens in this circumstance required the contacts to be replaced, the lens was then cleaned, calibrated and firmware updated for you. If this had been a time and materials repair, I would expect it to have been a little more than you have paid as the firmware alone is nearly £40, then there would have been the time to dismantle the lens, replace the contacts, reassemble, test and calibrate the lens for perfect operation. All this provided under our standard repair cost of £98.72.

(Is this supposed to make me thankful I have paid a lot of money for a fault created by Olympus?!!)

My apologies if this caused some concern and I trust this explains the charges for the repair.     Have a very Happy New Year and I remain open for you should you have concerns or require further answers. Kind regards,  David Munns  UK Customer & Technical Support Manager