The novel coronavirus is affecting the imaging industry in dramatic ways. Professional photographers face weeks of canceled sessions and the postponement of major events like the Olympics. Major trade shows like Photokina and NAB have been canceled. New products have been delayed as factories are forced to close.
Even before the virus became a global pandemic, the camera industry — and the larger tech industry as a whole — started seeing shortages. While most major camera companies are headquartered in Japan (a country that has experienced little slowdown as a result of the virus. at least for now) much of the manufacturing happens in China, where the virus hit early and hard. Even products manufactured in Japan face parts shortages from suppliers based in China. Several companies have announced delays of products that were only revealed shortly before COVID-19 took over the news cycle, including Nikon for its flagship D6 DSLR.
There’s no telling how much the virus has delayed gear that hasn’t yet been announced.
While the industry is already seeing short-term effects, the long term effects are up to speculation, likely even to industry insiders. Digital Trends reached out to several major manufacturers for more information about their operations during the crisis, but most gave only vague responses or links to official statements.
Some camera companies, including Fujifilm and Canon, also develop medical supplies, which may help offset revenue losses. The impact of the virus on the economy could create further troubles for an industry that has seen years of lower sales due to increasingly capable phone cameras.
Photographers planning to purchase new cameras or lenses, or who need gear repaired, will also see delays, if not from the camera manufacturers themselves, then from retailers. Amazon is prioritizing shipping for essential items and B&H has temporarily closed its brick-and-mortar location.
Here is how the coronavirus is affecting the major camera manufacturers.
Sony produces camera sensors for many brands beyond its own, including most smartphones. And sensor manufacturing is continuing during the pandemic, the company says.
The virus has closed manufacturing plants in Malaysia that produce Sony cameras, however. That could mean delays in getting cameras, though Sony hasn’t shared any specifics yet. The company’s finances could also be impacted by the resulting slowdown in smartphone markets that use Sony sensors — and slowed sales due to store closures.
Earlier this month, Nikon said the launch of its new flagship DSLR, the D6, would be delayed by months due to the virus. At the time, Nikon said the D6 would be delayed until May. The upcoming 120-300mm f/2.8 lens was also delayed due to the virus.
The postponement of the 2020 Olympics may ease the pain of the D6 delay. Both the camera and the 120-300mm lens are geared toward professional sports photographers, and their release was timed to get them in the hands of those customers before the Tokyo Olympics, which now won’t happen until 2021.
As the virus spread across the U.S., Nikon was also forced to close its service centers here and cancel events. Nikon’s support team is still available via call or email, but a notice on the support page says to expect longer wait times. An update on March 27 said that the company is still facing uncertainty and that it is continuing to monitor the impact and potential delays.
Canon hasn’t yet shared an official statement on delays. Rumors suggest that production is running at a reduced capacity, which could mean delays for the upcoming EOS R5 mirrorless camera. The Rebel T8i and RF 24-200mm lens — announced February 13 — have yet to receive release dates.
Fujifilm’s X-T3 and X-T30 are affected by decreased production, the company said in a statement to Digital Trends. The company’s upcoming X-T4 may not be available until April or later, with Fujifilm noting that the virus could push that date back further.
Fujifilm is also temporarily closing its store in New York as well as the repair drop-off location in New Jersey. Repairs will still be available by contacting customer support.
The company doesn’t just make cameras. It also produces medical equipment and cell cultures used to develop vaccines. A Chinese official claimed earlier this month that the drug Avigan, manufactured by a Fujifilm subsidiary, seemed to help coronavirus patients.
Sigma is one of the few companies that does all of its manufacturing in Japan, but even it could be affected by supply constraints on parts originating elsewhere. Speaking with DPReview earlier this month, Sigma explained that it was looking to source such parts from new suppliers.
Due to mandated shutdowns in California and New York, Sigma’s U.S. offices are closed while employees work from home. Any transaction that requires shipping, including repairs and new orders, has been suspended.
For the latest updates on the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 page.
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