Photo Industry Hit Hard by the Tragedy in Japan

As you might suspect, the photographic industry has been greatly impacted by the horrible devastation of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the ongoing nuclear crisis. While we continue to pray for the injured and those who lost their lives, it’s not too soon to acknowledge the severe impact the March 11 disaster and it’s aftermath has had on many of the world’s leading camera and accessory companies.

While the loss of life has been light (as of this writing only Nikon has confirmed the death of an employee), injuries have been numerous and the damage to manufacturing facilities has been severe. With four damaged plants in Fukushima, Sony was perhaps hardest hit. Their camera and lens factories further south in Aichi and Gifu prefectures avoided damage but have been closed due to the unavailability of raw materials and necessary components. In total, Sony had to cease operations at 10 factories and two research centers.

Canon’s inkjet printer factory in Fukushima was forced to suspend operations as was their EF lens factory in Utsunomiya, Tochigi. Canon’s camera manufacturing plants are based in the South of the country on the island of Kyushu and thereby fared far better than most. Yet, like other Japanese firms with factories that escaped major damage, fuel shortages, the lack of raw materials and the disruption to the country’s transportation system will prevent a resumption of full operations for some time.

In addition to the death of an employee at its damaged Sendai camera factory, Nikon also reported extensive damage to its Tochigi factory and two other facilities. Epson cancelled its Color Imaging Exhibition trade show scheduled for last month in Tokyo and was forced to close four facilities (one of which was hit by a small tsunami) because of damage and rolling blackouts. Sigma’s factory in the Fukushima area avoided serious damage but was also forced to close because of the rolling blackouts, as was the Olympus plant in Shirakawa. Fujifilm and Ricoh both closed factories, although none of their employees were seriously injured.

Despite extensive damage and injuries, many photographic firms have stepped up to aid in the recovery with donations of cash and vital relief supplies. Both Nikon and Olympus contributed to the earthquake relief fund with donations of $1.2 million, while Canon, Sony and Panasonic each contributed $3.6 million to various relief organizations. Panasonic also donated 500,000 batteries, 10,000 radios, 10,000 flashlights and 4000 LED lanterns, while Sony donated 30,000 portable radios.

More assistance is still needed, of course, and we encourage everyone to give generously to a relief organization of your choice. Our friends in Japan need your help.