Japan’s disaster: Its impact on photography

The human suffering in Japan caused by the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the subsequent 30-foot tsunami has led to an outpouring of relief and prayers from people around the world. With thousands of lives lost and a continuing nuclear disaster that may lead to untold suffering for years to come, it seems a bit flippant to discuss the economic impact, especially as it relates to photography.

Reports are now being compiled by industry leaders that indicate just how severe of an impact these natural disasters will have on the camera and consumer electronics industries.

As we all know, Japan is home to most of the world’s top photo-related products. And while it seems employees of Japan’s camera and consumer electronics companies escaped serious injuries, the same cannot be said for the immediate future of those companies.

Nikon and Canon, the top camera and lens manufacturers in the world, have suffered huge hits.

Nikon’s Sendai manufacturing plant, where the company’s top professional film and digital cameras have been made for decades, is shut down.

Canon’s Utsunomiya plant, where most of the top lenses are made, is also closed. No one knows how long the plants will be out of commission. Nikon cameras that recently went out of production, such as my Nikon D700, now are in shorter supply, sending the prices of available cameras spiraling upward. The D700 jumped from $2,350 one week ago to $2,700.

Prices on cameras like the Nikon D700 will be rising due to Japan's earthquake and tsunami.

New York-based Adorama Camera, one of the top photo retailers in the country, has compiled a damage report of the major consumer electronics manufacturer in Japan. Even companies that were not directly damaged by the earthquake or tsunami are feeling the effects.

Rolling blackouts instituted by the Japanese government are disrupting companies throughout the country and the tsunami has destroyed many freighter ships that transport photographic equipment around the world.

What all of this means to photographers and consumer electronics buffs will be a shortage in supplies and rising costs. Photographer Ken Rockwell, who has an engineering background, has been posting reports about the nuclear cataclysm taking place in Japan, as well as the impact on the photography industry.

“What few others seem to realize is that not only have we lost our camera plants for a while, and maybe longer, is that the plants that make just about everything else we appreciate are dead. Unlike primitive areas, Japan makes a lot of important stuff. The factories that make the chips that run everything are closed, and worse upon worse is that the factories that make the equipment used to make the chips that run everything are closed,” writes Rockwell.

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