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.
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…
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