How the Coronavirus is Impacting the Photo Industry

March 12, 2020

By Jacqueline Tobin

Illustration by Sharon Ber for Rangefinder/WPPI

Officially recognized as a global pandemic by the WHO as of the writing of this article, COVID-19 coronavirus is only just starting to ramp up in its global impact, but its effect on various industries, including the photo industry, has yet to be fully felt. But give it time—statements about equipment delays from manufacturers are already starting to filter in.

On March 9, Nikon announced that their flagship DSLR would no longer be hitting its target release date. Initially scheduled to be available to consumers in March 2020, Nikon has pushed that expectation to May. 

Adding to that, my friend and colleague DL Cade at PetaPixel reached out to Nikon regarding the availability of the 120-300mm f/2.8E lens, and Nikon responded

“The U.S. availability for the AF-S NIKKOR 120-300mm f/2.8E FL ED SR VR will be announced at a later date as we determine the global impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak. We will communicate updates on timing as they become available.”

Nikon USA

It’s not only Nikon who have made statements. Fujifilm Russia published a statement on their Facebook page on March 11 noting a delay in the shipping of their new X-T4 cameras, from April to May 2020. You can read that full statement here.

Nikon and Fujifilm were in the unfortunate circumstance of having products not only announced, but shipping dates publicized prior to the virus outbreak. Canon, on the other hand, has only stated that their upcoming R5 is coming eventually, with no specificity to its launch timing.

[See our COVID-19 resource page for business information and creative inspiration that will help you rise to the occasion.]

Though no new product appears to be affected, Olympus responded to our request for inquiry with the following statement that acknowledges the seriousness of the situation:

“Olympus is monitoring the novel coronavirus situation, in accordance with its mission of making people’s lives healthier, safer and more fulfilling around the world. The safety and well-being of our employees, customers and communities are a top priority. While our manufacturing operations have been slightly disrupted, at this time we do not anticipate significant impacts to our production processes or deliveries. As the coronavirus situation continues to evolve, Olympus will communicate with customers, should circumstances change.”

-Olympus USA Representative

In Nikon’s official press release regarding the D6, the issue with their production seems to lie with their suppliers:

“As a result of delays in the procurement of parts and components from a third-party cooperating company due to measures implemented in response to the spread of COVID-19, the release of the new Nikon D6 digital SLR camera, originally planned for March 2020, will be delayed.”

Nikon USA

For example, the shutter mechanism in your camera, mirrorless or DSLR, was reported to me to come from only one or two companies; their contracts extend across the industry. I cannot point you to the exact company, nor link you to any location where this will be verified as I was told by an extremely respected member of the industry as a “little known fact,” so you’ll just have to trust me on it for now. At any rate, if, for example, they were no longer able to produce shutters, it would bring the entire interchangeable-lens camera manufacturing industry to a complete stop. No one could make new cameras because the parts to do so would not exist.

You can see how this one part is one of the hundreds in any given modern digital camera, and how each of those parts is possibly produced by any number of third-party contracting companies. When most of those are based in China, and China shuts itself down to control the spread of COVID-19, it has a rolling effect across the entire industry. 

The result is that announced product has been delayed. You can certainly then infer that any new product that was planned but not yet announced would also be delayed, albeit internally and not publicly announced. This is happening right now to every single company in this industry, whether or not they’re able to openly discuss it with us. 

I would expect the news in our industry to slow down by a large margin, and availability of product to become more and more restricted. All you have to do is look back at the HDD and SSD shortage of just a few years ago due to earthquakes in southeast Asia to know that if only now are we expecting delays, the long-term effects of factory closures have yet to be fully realized. 

Editor’s note: As the panic continue to escalate, our coverage will next week delve into how the pandemic is directly affecting wedding and portrait photographers as more and more bookings get postponed or outright cancelled. We will also address what you, as a photographer who is self-employed, with no other income and who hasn’t budgeted for such an outbreak, can do. Stay tuned to

Jaron Schneider is an award-winning commercial filmmaker as well as a critically-acclaimed and internationally published journalist from Portland, Oregon. His clients include Verizon, Facebook/Instagram, The United States Air Force Thunderbirds, and Grammy-award winning band Train, among others. Schneider specializes in evaluating video equipment, computers, storage devices and optics for the modern professional photographer and videographer, along with providing a unique insight into the complicated and constantly-changing imaging market.