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.
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.
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.
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.