If COVID-19 Causes a Company Like Canon, Nikon, or Sony to Go Bust, How Will You React?

If COVID-19 Causes a Company Like Canon, Nikon, or Sony to Go Bust, How Will You React?

There’s a very real chance this COVID-19 pandemic could send some of the biggest camera companies under. If that happened, what would you do and how would you respond?

It’s fair to say that the majority of us have never experienced anything like the current crisis straddling the globe. Professional sports across the world have been canceled or postponed, people are under lockdown and confined to their houses, borders between countries and states have been closed, and the summer Olympics will not take place for the first time since 1944, when WWII was still going on. The world is in utter chaos.

Naturally, all this has had a huge impact on the world’s economy. In Australia alone, tens of thousands of people have been made redundant, or sacked, in just the last week to ten days. People who had a full-time job and a career barely one month ago are now desperately lining the streets outside welfare centers looking to immediately sign up for government payments. Industries and companies that were thriving and seeing stock prices reach unprecedented highs have now shut their doors and told staff to take long service leave or a permanent vacation.

In such a climate, it’s therefore not unthinkable that camera companies such as Canon, or Nikon, or Sony might also struggle to survive. Why? Earlier in March, Canon temporarily closed factories in different locations around the world due to the spread of COVID-19. Then in the last few days, it has also shut down repairs at different locations across the US. This is the reality that we are currently facing, and no company, no matter how big, is immune.

Up to 30,000 jobs have already been lost in Australia. Millions more workers face uncertain and stressful times, especially those in the hospitality industry

Further, it doesn’t take an economics genius to work out that if thousands of people across the globe are losing their jobs and freaking out about how they will pay their rent or avoid defaulting on their house mortgages, there probably isn’t a whole lot of consumer desire right now for buying gadgets such as cameras and lenses. When people are fighting each other over toilet paper like in recent scenes witnessed in Australian supermarkets, then I’m not sure the latest mirrorless cameras are currently flying off the shelves. Add to that the fact that most of the big companies design their gear in-country but largely have the build and construction take place in China, which has its own worries to contend with.

And then there’s the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics. With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s announcement in the last 48 hours that this year’s Olympics would be pushed back until 2021, the collective sentiment in Japan was extreme disappointment and sorrow. I can only imagine the loss of expected revenue for companies associated with the Olympics, none more so than camera behemoths like Canon, Nikon, and Sony.

So all put together, you’ve got untold numbers of people losing their jobs and their ability to spend, you’ve got people confined to their houses who can’t buy anything anyway because shops are closed and borders shut, and to top it all off you’ve got the biggest sporting event on the planet postponed for the first time in close to a century — an event that many camera companies were counting on to inject barrels of gold into their coffers. Could that combination be a fatal knife in the heart of one or more of the world’s camera makers? Why not? If that did happen, where would that leave you? And how would you react?

Option 1: Fatalism

I’ve been pondering this possibility a lot over the last week. Like many around the world, I’ve spent a lot of time around the house recently and done my social distancing duty. This has given me the time to clean my lenses and get all my gear in order. With a slight sense of pride, it came to my attention that over the years I have accumulated almost 20 lenses, from the cheap, to the novelty, to the expensive. I’ve also got three camera bodies, all of which are still in perfect working order.

I’m a Canon user, so let’s go with the hypothetical scenario that Canon is the company that disintegrates into thin air. What would I do? No doubt I’d be a little bit shocked at first, but the reality is that I’m 46 years old and I’m perfectly happy with the gear I currently have, and my main body, the 5D Mark IV. If Canon went under, and I was faced with a situation that dictated I had to use the current gear I have for the rest of my days, then I would be perfectly fine with that and I would simply shrug my shoulders and continue to happily snap away. No big deal, for me at least.

Option 2: The Big Switch

The second possible option would be to make a switch to a rival company, like Sony, in my case for example. You’d have to assume that if a big company like Canon went under then it would put its rivals in a much stronger position financially because they would be able to take on so many more users, and lost souls. With one less competitor in the market to fight with, they would get a bigger slice of the pie and perhaps even take on some of the technology that their fallen foe(s) might have been developing.

For me, I don’t think that would really be an option. As I said, I’m in my mid 40s and I’m perfectly happy with what I currently have. That’s not a criticism of Sony, or any other company for that matter, it’s just that I really don’t have any pressing need or desire to change ecosystems when I feel that what I have right now serves all my needs very well. If some lenses by other brands were released that I could somehow fit to my Canon mount and use without issue, then that would be something I would definitely explore. But changing my entire ecosystem? Not for me at this stage of my life, considering my own circumstances and my current needs.

My Reality

Although I might be putting my head above the parapet here and asking for trouble, if I’m completely honest, I think the major difference in my photography between now and ten years ago is not so much the gear I’ve had in my hands, but my ability to understand post-production and improve my software dexterity. If I think about what I can do with Photoshop and Lightroom and third-party plugins now compared with when I started, my skills in post-production have grown exponentially compared with my skills in taking an image with a camera. As I touched on in a recent article, I’ve always had an interest in art, and drawing, and sketching, so my understanding of compositions and the rules of putting an Image together were always fundamentally there from the start.

Fstoppers has some incredible tutorials available. There are also lots of free materials online you can access as well.

But through learning, and studying, and taking courses such as those available here on Fstoppers and elsewhere, my understanding of digital art, the art of compositing and blending, and color management has seen the biggest growth in my photographic output, I think. To that end, I don’t really see the need to spend ever more on hardware, but actually double down and become even more adept at using post-production software. I really feel that’s what will take me up the rungs of the never-ending ladder towards perfection, more so than any new gear in my hands.

What about you? How would you respond if your brand of camera gear went belly up? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Iain Stanley's picture

Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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What does this even mean?

There is also a chance that a meteor strike will take out all life on earth. Do I really want to worry about crap that is unlikely? Remember stress weakens your immune system so thanks for stirring it up to get a few clicks. Wouldn't it be nice if Fstoppers provided useful content to see us through quarantine rather than click bait?

Crap that is unlikely? Before COVID-19 struck, Canon’s net operating profit for the fiscal year 2019 was already significantly down. As was most other brands’. You might not like the possible scenario, but it’s more real than meteors. Here’s a pic to ponder

What I always do with camera gear. Shoot it till it dies and deal with it when it does.

Yep, I think that’s the way for me too.

As a freelancer, who's done some really stupid things with his money, like go to 4 years of Art School, I can say this with confidence:

Coronavirus is a perfect example of why it's important to have a savings of 3-6mo worth of your bills and expenses saved up at all time.

This WILL pass, work WILL come back. As a freelance (insert any job here), of course you need to be prepared for slow times. That's just common sense business. Live on less than what you make, save some, spend some, give some. It's really that simple and it really is that achievable. I paid off my student loans in 5 years by doing weddings on the weekends in addition to my full-time day job.

It's like what Warren Buffet said in 2008, "Tide's gone out and we're seeing who's skinny-dippin"

"like go to 4 years of Art School" actual laugh out loud. I would say same, but mine was 5 years.

Slightly off-topic, but saving money is a loaded issue in modern society. I mean, I agree with everything you said, but just think about your average 24 hours (pre-Covid-19). From the minute you wake up, to the minute you sleep, you’re pretty much bombarded with advertising all day, every day. Buy this, buy that. Without consumerism, the economy doesn’t work, hence my article here. I’m a saver. I’ve lived in Japan 15 years and still don’t have a credit card here. But I love to spend more than I should on my kids and on surfboards and on camera gear.

" From the minute you wake up, to the minute you sleep, you’re pretty much bombarded with advertising all day, every day. Buy this, buy that."

This is a personal choice for most people. 32% of Americans have no savings. Let them spend all their money.

I agree about the advertising. It's really good at making people spend money. The underlying problem, is that most Americans don't have the self-control to not spend all of what they make. Most Americans can't front a sudden $500 expense without putting it on a credit card. YIKES.

People spend money that they don’t have to buy things that they don’t need to impress people that they don’t even like.

I will repeat a recent post I made, there is a huge inventory of used equipment on the market right now, not to worry.

If we lose the competition among the big players, we lose the innovation. Were it not for Apple and Linux, we'd still be on Windows 3.1.

And "influencers" wouldn't exist. Neither would the "lick the doorknob" challenge. Photography would still be a career. Etc., etc.
There's multiple ways of looking at this comment of yours.
(Disclaimer: I'm not advocating a return to candle-light and horse-drawn buggies... I rather like a lot of technology. But there's always two sides to a coin.)

Do “influencers” exist because of camera companies, or because of Instagram, and Youtube, and TikTok etc?

In the context of my reply, the answer would "be as a result of technological innovation"... such as the the type stated by J Hughes. The equation reads: Innovation + Competition = Exponential Technological Advancement / sub: Influencer.

True. Canon was my example, but it could be any brand/maker really. But yea, competition helps industries innovate and evolve, that is certainly true

I will react with sadness. I would be sorry to see any of these companies go and be sorry for their employees losing their jobs. But it won't make any difference to my photography in the short-to-medium term, since I have the cameras and lenses I need, and they have a lot of life left in them.

If my Z6 breaks, that will be a problem, but is it likely? There will be old stock or second-hand thanks to others jumping ship. The only time I have had to have a camera repaired since 1976 (a faulty OM-1) was when I fell full-force on top of my Olympus PEN-F last year! (The body hurt me as much as I hurt it - it is a tough little thing. The lens definitely did need attention!)

I think it is all hypothetical. I am not sure that any of these companies would be allowed to fail by the Japanese government, which has always supported the country's manufacturers. (In contrast to what happens in the UK, where the manufacturers are allowed to fail and only the banks, or airlines owned by billionaires, get support.)

Prime Minister Abe has talked of a mass injection of govt. funds to help stimulate the Japanese economy, but can you really prop up and individual business? It sets up a dangerous precedent. If the Japan govt. bails out Canon, for example, what happens if Nikon goes bust, or Sony, or_____? Once the precedent has been set, it’s hard to turn away others looking for the same treatment....

Precedent does not mean given-to-one-done-for-all. If (say) Nikon were to be heading down the tubes, its bail-out can be done on the basis of its value to the national economy and the diversity of its technical expertise. That could exclude many other businesses if that is what you think should happen. OTOH, maybe it is right that such a bail-out should be given to all businesses.

I do have a little conflict on this, because I am a huge fan of the European Union (and hope that my country, Scotland, will be back in it as an independent nation ASAP). Of course, these EU rules will not stop state aid at this time, and the ECB will be a huge help to businesses in the poorer EU countries.

It is more likely that they will be offered loans on very favourable terms, which would — in theory — level the playing field somewhat as the companies would have to put themselves into long-term strain (extra debt) to save themselves in the short term.

Living in the UK, I definitely share your sentiment about the UK's stance regarding prooduction. And I sometimes struggle to curb my tongue when English friends are talking about how Britain will be great again after Brexit — I think they may have a knack for turning a blind eye to problems.

Er no, that was not what I implied. What I would like to see is cooperation with the rest of Europe instead of the “us-and-them” attitude. It feels a bit strange when the English refer to Europe as if the UK is not a part of Europe. It very much is, whether anyone particularly like it or not.

And do you seriously believe that any country would be spared the pandemic if they closed the borders more? Hm, I have heard of corona virus outbreaks in North Korea, which I think is one of the most closed countries in the world.

Regarding the unelected commisars of the EU, that is a discussion for another day where I have more time … not that I think I particularly disagree with the idea that this particular part of the whole system is ill thought out.

I will lament their passing but rejoice in my recent change to Fuji gear (they were not mentioned on the death roll) and then wait a bit to sell my previous Nikon gear at extortionate high prices.

Should Fujifilm also go under — highly unlikely since their main income is from make up and pharmaceuticals — I will use my vintage Voigtländer camera (the first camera I bought, an oldie even then), provided it is still possible to buy film stock. After all, it is the photographer and not the gear that makes the picture (well, it is, but hey, you know what I mean).

I did read about this. And apparently China has used Avigan with success against COVID-19.

Canon and Sony are too big to go bust. their countries would help them.
Nikon... i dunno...

They are all Japanese companies....

I'm aware, but not all of them are in the same financial situation.

I think my Wacom and pen will have to suffice. Perhaps I could wear my beret inside....

wonderful work. I'm the opposite, in as much as I haven't picked up an actual brush or used water, oil, or acrylic paints in decades. Yet I often replicate them on my Wacom. You can buy brushes and pen tips that replicate painting but I would imagine there's something cathartic and soothing for those like you who engage in the real thing.

If indeed some of these companies face extinction, expect China to move in and buy at least some of them out whole (or perhaps just the struggling unprofitable camera divisions of the larger conglomerates). Think Volvo, Lenovo buying out IBM’s PC division etc... They basically manufacture all the stuff anyway and could definitely find a way to profit from it. While the western world flounders, it’s possible that China could emerge from the current chaos in a similar manner the U.S. did post WWII (as the undisputed economic superpower). They’ve been on a buying spree of U.S. and Euro companies for a few years now and have the cash to throw around.

yeah this is absolutely possible. Unfortunately, this pandemic has brought out the worst in people, especially on FB. The number of posts relating to China and its economic plans is sky-high, not all of them complimentary.......

Where is there any sympathy towards a regime in my post? It’s simply speculation of the potential future for camera manufacturers.

Not every comment has a political angle to it. Disconnect from the Fox news and take a deep breath.

This is not where I come to engage in politics.

It's Nikon I'd be most worried about. Their last financials were a horror show, and they're the least diversified of the top three brands.


I looked at Nikon's financials a couple of months ago and I know my way around a financial spread sheet. I did not see anything to worry about. I did this after one youtuber consistently said they were going bust. I am beginning to think many youtube videos are as reliable as ratings on Yelp, not very. Maybe if you look directly at Nikon's latest report you will see something I did not. Canon was also in very good health.

Let's start hoarding gear to prevent camera business form going down.

i wouldn't make fun of this situation to be honest.
Get ready for a full year of CV19. and don't spend uselessly . save your money. We are going to have such a big economic crisis that every penny will be necessary.

Adapt or die has always been nature's way and applies to business as well! Kodak is a good example of not adapting....

"The future is not what it used to be" said Yogi Berra. There may be many other reasons besides a virus or the economy for a camera company to go out of business. When I was in my 40's I didn't think I would have to be concerned with digital photography in my lifetime. Neither, apparently, did Eastman Kodak. Who knows what the next ten years will bring? I suspect computational photography will be a key factor but who knows. So, the loss of any one camera company would not likely be a huge factor. And with the variety of lens adaptors having to switch to a different body should not be too painful. We may all be using photo equipment (Avoiding the use of the word camera!) from a company that does not yet exist!

all very sensible ideas. Hopefully adapters will be able to deal seamlessly with future lenses, because that's where I see myself heading, regardless of the outcomes from the current situation

In my current modest collection of cameras I have a Voightlander Prominent made in Germany in 1953. The German company closed long ago. My father bought it new and it was last cleaned and adjusted in 1979. I works really well and will outlive me. I also have a wonderful Minolta 600si that I inherited from my father 12 years ago. It works perfectly and Minolta was merged with Sony back in 2006. I have an Olympus OM2n I bought new in 1980 and it has never been serviced. Works fine. Since 2000 I have bought six Sony and five Nikon digital cameras. None have ever required service. So if all of the camera companies went broke I am good as I have lens sets for all my bodies. Plus there are millions of used ones.

I would really like to have an F6 and a D850 though so if it looks like new ones could be hard to come by I might go pick up those.

More likely is that smart phones are going to keep improving to the point where getting used cameras will not be a problem.

I love the idea of handing down all my gear to my two young daughters in future years. Why 11 digital cameras since 2000?

Mostly curiosity and searching for the holy grail. Most of the Sonys were compacts and some of the early ones just aged out fairly quickly because of improved technology. Like my Mavica I bought for my business. And the next Sony compact that was about 6 mp. My kids dropped that one. Replaced by a DSC W100 that I had and used for about 8 years. Then I bought a super zoom Sony compact HX-80. That worked really well for hiking. But I had-to-have raw so sold it and bought a Sony HX-99 super zoom which had raw but the files looked worse than HX-80. Gave the 99 to my daughter. The string of Nikons starting with D3200 was a grab pick because I was going on a vacation and wanted a ICL DSLR before going. Bought it from Ken Rockwell's recommendations. Files from 3200 were excellent. Sold and traded to D5500 to get the touch screen and because back in 2015 every reviewer recommended that camera. I loved that camera from the start. I should not have sold it. Then bought D750 keeping the D5500. The D750 was enough bigger that it aggravated the slight arthritis I have in my right thumb. AND I watched way too much YouTube and one particular podcast and they all said, "DSLRs are dead and mirrorless is the future". So I bought a Sony A7iii. Grip never fit me well. Hated the convoluted menu. Did not like unmarked buttons after D750s easy to find marked ones. However, A7iii gave very good still and video files. Forced my self to keep it for a year and when A7RIV grip still did not fit me well. (I tested A7RIV, Z7, & D850 on a counter in my local camera store. A7RIV was the worst grip for me by a long shot, D850 the best.) And then went back to Nikon. Bought Z50 and Z7 with lenses. Z cameras are both quite good. However, auto focus on DSLRs works better than any mirrorless. And I like always on viewfinder OVF.

Canon has a whole industrial and medical division to fall back on. Sony has a dozen different industries it works in. Nikon is the most likely to die. But even if any of these companies go bankrupt there's almost no doubt that someone will swoop in and buy them at bargain basement prices to get their customer base and patents.

When a major corporation goes bankrupt, it goes through a bankruptcy process by which its creditors pick through the rubble of the corp's assets to recover as much as they can. If the corp had viable products, sometimes it continues to function with new owners and maybe a new name. Or product lines, patents, etc. get sold to others. This is not like a neighborhood restaurant that closes its doors and never reopens.
I shoot Nikon (D850 at present) and own enough lenses that I sort of married into the Nikon family. If they ceased operations, my big risk would be unavailability of repair service and spare parts if, or I should say when, I need them.