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 When Maitani was attending factory training at the Olympus plant in Suwa, his lodging was next to a public spa. Maitani used to take a bath in the morning before work.

One such morning, a driver of a long-distance truck parked his car in front of the spa and went inside to take a bath. As Maitani left the spa, he heard a strange crackling noise. Sparks from the engine has started a fire on the car, and the flames spread quickly.

The driver came running out stark naked, but it was too late. There was no water, so people could not put off the fire. It was a once-in-a lifetime moment. But as nobody took camera to the bath, Maitani missed the opportunity to capture the accident.

Maitani believes that even your camera can capture shots of outer space or bacteria, it is useless if you don't have it with you. He determined to make a camera that people could carry it everywhere. The XA camera was created as a result.


A month after the Olympus Pen was launched, Maitani happened to see a mother using the Pen camera to photograph her little boy. But he noticed that she had set the focus incorrectly.

It was then Maitani decided to design a camera that a woman like that would use. There would be no difficult controls and user would just have to push a single button. This concept was the exact opposite of the camera that was selling well on the market.

The head of Sales Division begged Maitani to give up the idea. They argued for a whole day. However, a junior employee like Maitani cannot expect to win this argument with a division head.

Maitani prepared a prototype of the new camera all through the night and presented it to the division head the next day.

The division head played the prototype in silence for about 30 minute. Finally he looked at Maitani and said, "Maitani, let's do it!"


Olympus was the first Japanese company to exhibit at the Photokina show in Germany. It was a huge event, the costing was so expensive that the approval of the board of Olympus was required. Once Olympus had decided to exhibit, it also wanted to display its microscopes and endoscopes. But in those days, Photokina wouldn't accept products other than cameras.

When Maitani had just joined Olympus, he heard about this situation. He knew the person responsible for the show was extremely worried by pressure from executives in other divisions. So Maitani resolved in his heart that one day he would create something that would solve this problem.

When Maitani began to develop a SLR, he wanted to create a full-featured system SLR. This image recording solution would allow Olympus to show its microscopes and endoscopes in Photokina.



In the shirt pocket of Maitani, there is a shining pen. A pen that he has been using for 30 years.

At first glance, it looks like a common ball pen. Actually, it is a special tool called a diamond pen. It is usually used in factories for scribing control numbers and markings on press moulds.

From time to time, Olympus camera enthusiasts request Maitani to sign his name on their camera bodies. At first, Maitani used a hand-made diamond pen. After the introduction of the OM System, more and more people asked for his autograph. The factory workers at Olympus presented this diamond pen to Maitani, which he still uses it today.



Maitani is the dream hunter who puts his principles into practice. He released the OM-1 in 1972. The weight(750g) was half of other SLRs'.

Later, it happened at the final day of a party given by Olympus to the world's OM fans at the Cote d'Azur of France. An English photojournalist Don McCullin ran through a path through the garden of the hotel to meet Maitani. With his back to the setting sun, he offered a few words of thanks to Maitani.

" You load off the photojournalists' shoulders. I want to say thank you."



It was February 1958. Maitani had been working in Olympus for two years.

Maitani was working overtime at the Second Design Division office. He was immersed in his first job of designing a cheap camera of 6,000 yen. (It became the Pen camera.)

Usually, the design division was given enough time to develop a product. Unless the designers performed poorly, overtime was seldom needed.

Maitani lived in a room that is only 10-minute walking distance from Olympus. Maybe he had nothing to do at home, so he preferred to continue working after office hours.

However, the real reason for working so late is his enthusiasm for designing a camera.

It was 11:00pm. Maitani took a coat and a muffler and left the office. In the corridor, he met a guard of over 60 years old. "Would you please leave before 10:00pm? I need to go to bed." the guard asked.

After this, Maitani stopped working at 10:00pm.



On one occasion, Maitani told the members of the development team to come up with ideas of a new camera. At a meeting a year later, there was about a hundred ideas from the ten-odd members. Maitani ordered them to concentrate the suggestions to just a few one.

At the next meeting, the team members brought up 17 suggestions. Maitani thought thatís too much, for Olympus would only make one or two cameras in a year.

At the third meeting, the team agreed on one suggestion : company X was the leader in camera design, and its new camera was the best solution.

Maitani sermonized his subordinates. "Our company doesnít have to throw away millions of dollars in development funds just to build a camera like that! If you canít make something original, better not to make it at all. A camera maker that simply copies others has no right to call itself a maker in the first place."



Before a camera can be manufactured, approval from a planning conference is needed.

Maitani hates the way in which the conference pays too much emphasis on the specifications and statistics of a new product and ignores the overall situation and concept of the product. Maitani believes that one will not know the essence of a new product by just looking at things like its size and weight.

During the OM-1 program. Maitani made a lengthy presentation of his concept of creating a world class system camera in a planning conference. As the members of the conference thought that this was not enough, Maitani reluctantly submitted a memo about the specifications of the new product.

When everyone was agreed on the project, Maitani spoke up. " As a matter of fact, the data you have been examining is actually a page I copied verbatim from the specifications of a popular SLR model now on the market."


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Last updated on 25 December, 2008
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