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the Semi-Olympus I - the Pen Series

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The Pen is a major hit with women and 17 million are sold.
At the final planning session, I proposed a price of 8,000 yen. The sales people said that the price should be 10,000 yen. I had been involved in the design of many cameras, but never before had the sales people wanted to set the price higher than the figure suggested by the developers. That rarely happens. Ultimately the new camera went on sale at 10,000 yen, and it became a huge best-seller.

Olympus Pen EE
Olympus Pen EE
Once we had broken through the barrier of accepted wisdom and created the product, it immediately became a best-seller. Half the people in the world are women, and I'm sure that even some of the younger people here have seen Pen cameras in their homes. We sold 17 million, an unprecedented number. According to the data, the percentage of female buyers jumped from 2 percent to 33 percent after the launch of the Pen EE.

This Camera Museum was originally founded as the Japan Camera and Optical Instruments Inspection and Testing Institute (JCII). A JCII official repeatedly told us that our new product was not a real camera, and that we should abandon the project! You might think that it's been plain sailing for me, but I've always been an unpopular member of the Olympus organization!

Companies, married couples, parents and children experience a variety of changes in their lives. It's our philosophy and passion that carry us through these changes. Whenever we try to do something new, we invariably encounter the barriers of technology and the accepted wisdom. The Pen camera resulted from our efforts to break through these barriers. I was lucky when we were developing the Pen series. I was lucky to have superiors who could see beyond the barriers, and even more lucky to have the support of users. It was this good fortune that propelled me through the second barrier.

Initially there were no plans to create a series of cameras. We just focused on developing a single model that would emulate some of the characteristics of the Leica. I never spoke about developing a series, but I was thinking about it. I also thought that the Pen would never become popular unless we developed it as a series. Ideally all of the products in a series should be launched at the same time, but this was not possible because I was doing all of the design work. When a new model is launched, the old model usually disappears. With the Pen, even when we brought out new models, the old models never went away. Each model had its own role as part of the series. Other manufacturers rushed to create their own series of half-size cameras - that was the great half-size boom.

However, manufacturers thought that users would want a 35mm, an SLR, as their main camera, and half-size cameras were seen as sub-cameras. At first I never thought of making a half-size SLR camera, but after the boom began, users began to demand half-size SLRs.
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