Coronavirus could disrupt Sony's sensor business – and everyone else's, too

Coronavirus could disrupt Sony's sensor business – and everyone else's, too
(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

The sweeping coronavirus epidemic in China could have a profound impact on Sony's imaging sensor business. This would, in turn, have a knock-on effect on everyone from Apple to Nikon, as Sony supplies sensors to almost every major manufacturer of photographic products. 

With Sony producing some 50% of all camera sensors, and 70% of all smartphone camera sensors, a disruption for Sony is effectively a disruption for the entire imaging industry.

"We are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus," Sony’s chief financial officer, Hiroki Totoki, announced in a news conference (reported by Nikkei). "Depending on the future progress of the virus, we cannot deny that our production and sales supply chain for the image sensor and electronics business could be affected enormously."

Currently, Sony predicts that the biggest impact will be on its smartphone imaging sensor business. With companies such as Apple and Huawei using Sony sensors, this could have a significant effect on camera phone production – indeed, iPhone production already faced disruption from the outbreak last week, which affected both current and upcoming Apple products. 

• Read more: LG pulls out of Mobile World Congress amid coronavirus fears

However, even though its larger sensors are produced in Japan, the impact on the supply chain could have consequences for Sony's camera sensor production as well. And with everyone from Fujifilm and Olympus to Nikon and Phase One using Sony sensors in their products, the potential disruption for camera manufacturing as a whole is enormous.

It is possible, as was the case with Apple, that the issue won't just be limited to current cameras – it may also disrupt upcoming cameras that are in production but have not yet been announced. 

"At this point we cannot properly assess how we will be able to supply products and such, as we have not been able to contact people in the factories because operations have stopped," Totoki added.

Even companies that produce their own sensors, such as Canon, will no doubt be affected by similar issues as the coronavirus continues to spread across and beyond Asia. Indeed, anyone producing anything in Asian factories will no doubt be facing difficulties in the immediate future…

Read more: 

iPhone production threatened by coronavirus – including iPhone SE2
This Panasonic camera sensor can read your mind!
The best Sony camera in 2020: from Cyber-shots through to Sony Alphas

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.