The tragedy of last month’s natural and manmade disasters in Japan has caught the attention of the world. In a time when we argue Nikon over Canon, Aperture over Lightroom or iPhone over Droid, there are – believe it or not – more important things going on.
The aftermath of the earthquakes will be felt for decades. Not only were lives lost, but so were livelihoods. One question I am getting recently relates to how this will impact the photo industry. While I think there are more important things to worry about, I do understand the desire to think and talk about this aspect of the tragedy.
It does demonstrate that life there in Japan is tough even for those not directly impacted by the earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear plant explosions. People have lost their way to work. Companies have lost money. Consumers have lost access to goods and services.
Most of the major electronics companies, including camera companies, have been negatively impacted in severe ways. To compound an already untenable situation, many workers will lose their jobs as plants are forced to lay off workers. A combination of serious damage to the transportation infrastructure, the power grid, ongoing radiation concerns and disruptions to capital and communications will absolutely have a real impact on the photo industry.
So far, most of the camera companies have stock to fill existing orders. The problem comes when you look down the road and at repairs. The smaller firms that supply Canon and Nikon with parts for cameras (and camera repairs) have been really hard hit by the disaster. Nikon and Canon have very recently sent notices to dealers and/or users that there may be some disruption in parts availability for repair or manufacture.
It seems that the new big lenses from Canon may be delayed. Canon also issued a notice to CPS members saying repairs may take longer than normal due to parts shortages.
For those who worry about getting burned in the tail end of an upgrade cycle, I think you can relax just a little bit. There are some things that were already in the pipeline, and there may even be some cameras or lenses we still don’t know about, but I think we’re looking at a delay in some future products of several months or possibly even years, depending on how the clean up goes.
If you are a serious photographer using gear made in Japan – and most of you reading this are – then I hope you can find it in your heart to remember the people in Japan and the trouble they face. I am not sure what, if anything most of us outside Japan can do, but at least try to be patient with the manufacturers and photo vendors located there. They have much bigger problems to face than making sure you get your lens cap on time.