Japan crisis: Photo industry update

JapanAfter several weeks of very intense activity for all the companies hit by the very serious events of March 2011 in Japan, it is the right time to try and build a more complete image of the situation left by the Japan earthquake in the photo world.

Nikon stated that its recent financial year has been deeply marked by the immediate consequences of the earthquake, but out of the already know closure of the Sendai plant (with a probable re-opening in a still-unclear future) we did not get a lot of precise and direct data. The big sales of the D3100 and of the D700 have been noticed but we know that the D700 was built in Sendai (some limited shortages can be expected all through 2011). For most of the other SLR cameras, Nikon must rebuild the stocks but there is not any more trauma in sight.

All the photo brands have been similarly hit, and this gives some astonishing delays and on deliveries, without any easy forecast. There was a lot of talk about the Nikon Coolpix S4100 and S6100. The Fuji Finepix X100 also goes through bouts of shortage (where eBay prices flare up) and becomes available again (sometimes for only a few hours or a few days, depending on the shop or the exact status of immediate stocks). On the opposite side, Canon recently indicated that they expected to see manufacturing back to normal as soon as end of June (correcting the supply chain issues).

Obviously, the manufacturers are not in any hurry to confirm this kind of trouble. Simultaneously because the rumor could hinder long-term sales, and because the actual situation is much more complex than a simple shortage (very low stock levels make very short non-availability periods and very different geographical situations). It is now pretty sure that (and this is a bad news for the eBay speculative sellers) there will be no dramatic shortage (except maybe for a few select pro models which have been “surprised” with nearly no stock when they were reaching end-of-life).

In parallel, the commercial launches of nearly all the photo products planned for this Summer (and even Fall 2011) are either simply delayed or kept in place but with associated “tweaked” availability dates. As for other industries, resellers have been informed that “in front of the success of product X”, shipment delays must be expected at launch time. the first victims will be the shows and fairs from August to October 2011. Not many news, announcements made without any marketing punch. The real boom back to the market will happen after Christmas, for 2012.

So, no catastrophe and certainly no significant price hikes out of local issues and the manipulative pressure of some speculators. However, the possibility to negotiate prices down (even on cameras already a little old) are reduced up to October 2011. Be patient.

Nevertheless, while we look at the industrial impact and its influence on our leisure and photo activities, I urge you to remember about the possibility we all have to help the Japanese Red Cross Society.