With scores of factories and corporate headquarters around the country, the Japanese photo industry has been severely disrupted by Friday's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis.
As of this writing, it looks like there were no serious injuries or fatalities among employees of Japanese camera and consumer electronics companies. We will continue to monitor the situation and update this report as needed.
While most companies report that they are still assessing the damage caused by the most powerful quake in Japanese history, it seems that there have been no deaths, and injuries to camera company employees. Structural damage to company facilities vary. Most companies are subject to rolling blackouts that are being imposed by the Japanese power authorities due to the evolving crisis at the nuclear power plants.
The following is an updated run-down of how the quake has effected manufacturers of photographic and other related products.
Epson announced that the Color Imaging Exhibition trade show, which was planned for March 19-21 in Tokyo, has been cancelled due to the crisis. Epson reports that while no casualties were reported at its facilities, one of its factories was hit by a one-meter tsunami, while three other facilities have been temporarily shut due to rolling blackouts as a result of the quake. Two buildings that are within 16km from the Fukushima nuclear plant have sustained some damage and are being shut for now.
Sony was hardest hit. Japan's biggest exporter of consumer electronics, and a growing player in the still photography world, was forced to stop operations at ten factories and two research centers due to quake-related damage and power outages caused by emergencies at nuclear power plants. 1,000 Sony employees reportedly took shelter on the second floor of a nearby chemical products factory.
Nikon has confirmed light injuries to some of its employees but no serious or fatal injuries. Nikon's Sendai factory, which manufactures the D3S, D3X, D700 and F6, has been forced to close due to damage to equipment and buildings. Work at at least three other facilities has been temporarily suspended so the company can assess damage.
Canon has suspended operations at eight factories located in Northern Japan, and reports at least 15 employees were injured. The company said it may move some production to other factories that weren't damaged.
Olympus's photographic division was not affected by the quake, but some emplyees at other locations sustained minor injuries, possibly in the company's endoscopy-related business. Japanese-language press releases indicate that a repair facility is expected to resume operations in 2-4 weeks.
A Sigma employee tweeted that there has been some damage to machinery and the building at Sigma's Aizu factory, but no injuries. Due to the rolling blackouts, Sigma has decided to suspend operations in two of its facilities.
Ricoh reports no injuries. Five of its facilities have stopped operations and four have no set plan to reopen.
Fujifilm reports that its Taiwa-Cho factory, which is located 20 miles from Sendai, was damaged by the quake, but fortunately none of the workers were reported injured. Production of the FinePix X100, which was being done at that factory, has been temporarily stopped and delays can be expected for this highly-anticipated camera. The company says the rest of its operation is not affected.
Hoya Corporation, which owns Pentax, reports that several employees were slightly injured but none seriously. Some production facilities were damaged, although the company is still trying to assess. It isn't known how the camera and lens facilities have been effeccted but due to traffic problems and blackouts, production has been disrupted.
Casio reports no major injuries, and the company is currently trying to ascertain the condition of its facilities. In the meantime, business activities are expected to be disrupted due to rolling blackouts.
In a statement, Tamron reports no structural damage or injuries, but the rolling blackouts and severely curtailed train service have caused the company to close its facilities for at least the next few days.
Panasonic reports minor injuries in one of its northern Japan factories, in Fukushima, where production of Lumix digital cameras has been suspended. The company is evaluating damage and says the long-term effect is still being determined.
Sandisk, whose facilities are 500 miles from the epicenter, appears to have escaped unharmed. The factories were shut immediately after the quake, but resumed opearations by Friday morning.
However, due to possible meltdowns at several of Japan's nuclear reactors, the Japanese government has instituted rolling blackouts, which are disrupting companies even if they were not otherwise affected by the quake or tzunami.
The tsunami has also destroyed many freighter ships, some of which may have been preparing to ship photographic equipment to destinations around the world. This situation is currently being assessed by the companies, but it is likely there will be shortages of some gear as a result.
Epson, Canon, Panasonic, Sony, Ricoh and Nikon have all reported that they have donated hundreds of millions of Yen to the relief effort and are contributing in other tactical ways to help survivors.
This report was based on information published by TIPA, Amateur Photographer, Reuters, and statements from several manufacturers.