Sunday, March 13, 2011

Earthquake in Japan

Five years ago, I was sitting in the restaurant of the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo (famous for its use in the James Bond Movie "You Only Live Twice"), having a breakfast meeting, when the room began to sway...a "minor" 5.1 magnitude earthquake. Being from California, I'm used to earthquakes, as are the Japanese. After a few anxious moments, when we all realized it was a relatively small quake, everyone went back to breakfast as if nothing had happened -- no big deal.
This week, it was a big deal.

My thoughts are certainly with my friends in Japan, and with all the people there as they try to put their lives back together. Having spent a great deal of time in Japan, I know how well-prepared they are, and yet this disaster is far beyond anything they could have prepared for.
How will this affect photography?
Canon has had to shut down production at 8 of its Japan manufacturing plants, and at least 12 employees at their lens factory in Utsunomiya suffered injuries. Their statement says they're not sure yet how production will be affected, but odds are good that it will.
Nikon produces most of its DSLRs at a plant in Sendai, one of the cities hit hardest by both the quake and the tsunami. Their initial statement said that their plant was not "significantly damaged," however as the full effects become known that may change.
Pentax, Olympus, Sony, and other Japanese manufacturers have also had at the very least disruptions in production, if not more. Ohara optical, a major supplier of high-quality glass for many lens producers, also has a plant in the Sendai region.
There's a good chance that these production problems could cause a spike in camera and lens prices, at least for a while. In the global economy, we're all affected -- even if it's just in a small way -- by a disaster of this size.
I've been able to communicate with friends in Japan, who tell me they're safe and are riding out the power outages and transportation/communications disruptions. It's going to be some time before things in Japan get back to anything resembling "normal." As you use equipment made there over the next few days, spare a thought for those who made it.

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