The effects of the recent earthquakes in Japan are still being felt throughout the electronics and imaging industries, particularly by camera manufacturers who rely on Sony for their image sensors. Sony’s primary sensor production facility has been shut down for some time, as the company shuttered operations while inspectors checked the facility and equipment for damage.
Months after the earthquake, Sony Japan announced several models still had limited availability. According to the June 27 announcement, the Sony a7, a7R, a7S, a5100, a77 II and a99 will continue to have limited availability. The list doesn’t include the latest full-frame cameras from Sony, the a7 II, a7S II and a7R II, suggesting the manufacturer is putting a priority on those models.
Prior to the June update, Sony said sensor production would resume and the factory would be back at full power by the end of May. According to the release, on May 9 testing operations resumed and other back-end processes, like as assembly, are also expected to restart operations beginning on May 17.
The final piece to the sensor manufacturing puzzle, according to Sony, will be the wafer processing operations. That step was scheduled to begin on or around May 21. This should be a breath of fresh air for camera and smartphone manufacturers alike, many of whom have had to delay or slow production of products to compensate for a lack of sensor shipments from Sony. Nikon, for example, recently ended several high-dollar rebates early due to effects of the earthquakes, with the sensor shortage likely being one of the causes as Nikon buys many of its chips from Sony.
Mobile phone and camera markets have been down too, so delays and shortages like this only help perpetuate problems in the market. This being a Photokina year means a lot of manufacturers have big announcements coming, and any delay in those announcements as a result of this would be a real shame.