Photo News Roundup, 11/19/2011

After the Flood: Wallington, 2011
After the Flood: Wallington, 2011

I think it’s safe to say we’re back. Here’s the week’s photo news. As usual, links go to the original sources’ full articles.

Olympus’s fortunes seemed to have been revived considerably by the introduction of the 4/3 and Micro 4/3 systems. Cameras haven’t been the backbone of the company’s operations for a while now (that distinction belongs to their medical imaging division), but the brisk sales of the system — especially in Asia — seemed to make it clear that the company could still be a force to reckoned with. Well, until recently. The November 9 New York Times reported that there’ve been some financial shenanigans going on at Olympus that’d do Wall Street proud; apparently, the company had been sweeping massive losses under the carpet through a slick accounting practice called “tobashi”: In tobashi, translated loosely as “to blow away,” a company hides losses on bad assets by selling those assets to other companies, often dummies, only to buy them back later.

In a further twist, quoted in 4/3 Rumors, today’s Times reports that Japan’s equivalent of the SEC is investigating possible ties between Olympus and the Yakuza. And of course, since no story of financial malfeasance would be complete without involvement by Goldman Sachs, the same piece goes on to note that GS sold just shy of a million shares of Olympus just before CEO Michael Woodford was sacked.

After announcing a veritable truckload of new gear early in November, Canon’s gone relatively quiet, aside from a firmware update for the 5D Mark II. Rumors are beginning to percolate that the next round of announcements probably won’t take place ’til the end of Q1 2012. (Canon Rumors)

LeicaRumors reports that Leica’s already pricey optics will get that much more pricey on January 1, 2012.

Reports are cropping up in several places about the upcoming Fuji mirrorless interchangeable compact. This as-yet unnamed entry in the X series will, according to Fuji, feature full-frame image quality and ISO performance on a smaller sensor; given that the body design is very similar to the X100, this suggests an APS-C sensor. How, you ask, will they accomplish this? A CMOS sensor with an organic photoelectric conversion layer (details here, courtesy of Mirrorless Rumors, and further details on the camera here on Photo Rumors). The camera will, it’s said, feature not only a similar design to the X100, but also the same all-metal construction, plus a proprietary lens mount. We’ll find out for sure, at any rate, when the camera’s finally unveiled at the next CES, in January, 2012.

 Per PhotoRumors, Kodak is starting to look less like an imaging business than a fire sale. On November 7, they sold their sensor division to Platinum Equity. They’re discontinuing still more 35mm film. And they’re also desperate to find a buyer for their digital photo sharing service.

Finally, as police have moved to crack down on several of the Occupy Wall Street protests across the country, reporters and press photographers are feeling the pinch. Besides the arrests of a handful of “civilian” photographers, the raids — which some have speculated were coordinated — also snared photojournalists from The Daily Caller, Vanity Fair, AP and the New York Daily News* (NYC), Creative Loafing (Atlanta), the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, RVA Magazine (Richmond). New York mayor Michael Bloomberg insisted without a trace of irony that the journalists were detained for their own protection (and if history teaches you anything, it’s to be wary of anyone who starts detaining people “for their own protection.”) Wired, in the meantime, notes the “Kafkaesque” requirements for getting an NYPD press pass in NYC, not the least of which is that you have to have covered six events on the ground in NYC… which, naturally, you can’t technically do without a press pass.

My take (if I may editorialize for a moment): even if the arrests had “only” been of journalists, and not a single photographer had been taken into custody, this is still cause for concern. We’ve already seen the police in the UK practically criminalize both recreational and professional photography, and we’ve seen steps in that direction in this country recently as well (as with the arrest of a videographer by the NYPD). Whether you love OWS, hate them, or have never given the whole thing as much as a second thought, we rely on the press — at both ends of the spectrum — for the informed function of civil society. The chilling effect that comes from the arrest of journalists and photographers under the flimsiest possible pretext (the same pretext used to detain foreign and domestic journalists covering unrest in Lybia, Tunisia and Egypt not too long ago, don’t forget) is detriment enough to the press; if we hope to be informed and responsible citizens, it’s also a clear detriment to the function of a free and democratic society.

*”Snared” is too kind a word here, at least as regards the Daily Caller journalists, who were badly beaten by the NYPD.

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