Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

History of Canon Cameras

Canon have a virtual Camera Museum that has all the cameras and technology that Canon have brought to our loving hands over the years, there are a number of sections and one is called the Canon Camera Story, here is a brief synopsis

In the early thirties, the two most popular brands of miniature cameras were Leica and Contax, both made in Germany, the camera kingdom of the world. These two brands attracted the camera fans, receiving enthusiastic support throughout the world as super grade cameras…. in February 1936, the Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory released the “Hansa Canon (Standard Model with the Nikkor 50mm f/3.5 lens),” which was the first commercial camera made by Canon…..”Canon” became the new trademark of Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. “Canon” has such meanings as “standard for judgement or biblical scriptures,” which was most appropriate for the company striving for precision as its motto. 

Hansa Canon (Standard Model) J 35mm Focal-Plane Shutter Rangefinder Camera.    In the middle of 1937, strong voices were raised calling for production of the company’s own lenses. Yoshizo Furukawa, the company’s first optical engineer, developed some lenses on a trial basis such as the 50mm f/4.5 lens,

1936_hyo-han

The Precision Optical Industry Co., Ltd., changed its name to Canon Camera Co., Ltd., on September 15, 1947. In 1951, the company introduced the “Serenar 50mm f/1.8” lens, which was accepted as a masterpiece lens. The first half of the 1950s was the years in which many new cameras were released one after another. These include the “III” camera equipped with a fast shutter speed of 1/1000 second, the first in Japan, and the “IV” camera that had a flash rail that enabled using a flash unit directly connected to the camera without a cable.

“IV Sb2”1954_4sb_kThe first half of the 1950s was the years in which many new cameras were released one after another. These include the “III” camera equipped with a fast shutter speed of 1/1000 second, the first in Japan, and the “IV” camera that had a flash rail that enabled using a flash unit directly connected to the camera without a cable.

The first Canon SLR camera was the “Canonflex,” introduced in May 1959. With subsequent advances in SLR camera technology, SLR lenses also evolved, from R-series lenses to FL-series lenses, which incorporated a fully automatic aperture control mechanism. And with this progress, debuting along with FL-lens technology, was the “FX” camera, introduced in April 1964, which featured a built-in CdS exposure meter, ushering in the era of TTL (Through the Lens) metering with the launch of such successive cameras as the PELLIX and FTQL.

1959_flex

Since the fall of 1964, there had been growing calls from both inside and outside of the company that Canon should embark on production of a most advanced SLR camera to meet the requirements of professional photographers. After five years of development efforts, the “F-1” camera was unveiled in March, 1971. The “F-1” has left the most glorious footprints in the history of cameras.1971_f1

Developed exclusively for professional photographers, the “F-1” satisfied them with multiple functions and the systematic configuration. More than 180 accessories including lenses and filters were made available for this camera. It proved to be durable, highly reliable and performed well even under the harsh conditions professional photographers are often forced to confront. Thus, the camera gained wide popularity among professional photographers. The “F-1” wasthe official 35mm camera for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, and the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, U.S.A.

Based on technology developed for the “F-1” camera, in 1972 the company succeeded in producing the “High Speed Motor Drive Camera” having the shooting speed of 9 frames per second.

Sixteen new FD-series lens were introduced together with the “F-1.” To compliment the professional “F-1” camera, its lens had been improved to ensure central resolution exceeding 100 lines per millimeter and to achieve high contrast. Good color balance throughout the series was achieved by careful selection of optimal glass materials and improved lens surface coating methods.

Unveiled in April 1976, the “AE-1” camera was the world’s first 35 mm Auto-Exposure (AE) SLR camera equipped with a Central Processing Unit (CPU). The camera integrated the latest electronics and optics technologies. Together with the “A-1” camera having five AE modes, which was introduced in April 1978

1976_ae1

When the AE-1 came out, TTL manual-metering models (including the Canon FTb and FTb-N) were still the mainstream in the 35mm SLR market. Autoexposure models were still at the very top end of the SLR market. They were expensive and produced in small numbers.

The AE-1, however, was designed from the ground up with five major units and twenty-five minor units. They were centrally controlled by a microcomputer. By incorporating electronics, the parts count could be reduced by 300. The manufacturing of the camera was also highly automated. This made it possible to produce a low-cost camera having high-end features.

In March 1983, the company released the T-Series cameras, which realized high-cost-performance through employing various automated functions and competitive pricing. The T-Series cameras include “T50,” “T70” and “T80,” culminating into the “T90,” which was marketed in February 1986 as a professional model.

1986_t90

The T90 is a multi-mode SLR with built-in motor drive. The form of the pentaprism hump is a distinct characteristic. Instead of being sharp-edged like on previous cameras, it is rounded with smooth curves. The camera was designed to lessen the picture-taking burden on the user via automation. It aimed for seamless operation to respond to the user’s will. A lot of top-notch technology and thought went into the camera.

The camera has three metering systems to suit diverse shooting conditions. Eight autoexposure modes and two manual exposure modes also make the camera highly versatile.

Under the development project called “EOS (Electro Optical System), ” Canon confirmed that “a highly-refined AF SLR model deserving Canon’s name should be developed with the target market release date of March 1, 1987, the year of Canon’s 50th anniversary. ” The EOS development efforts bore fruit with the introduction of the “EOS 650” on March 1987 as scheduled

1987_eos650

The EOS 650 boasted incomparable autofocusing. Each EF lens has its own optimum built-in motor for autofocusing

With the advent of the new millennium came groundbreaking new EOS-series digital camera products. Launched in 2000 was the EOS D30, a full-fledged AF digital SLR featuring a high-resolution CMOS sensor. In 2001, EOS-1D hit the market as a professional digital SLR targeted at sports and news photographers, while the EOS-1Ds featured an 11.1 megapixel sensor and was designed to be the perfect high-end photographic tool. Canon’s efforts to enhance functionality without compromising on cost performance were crystallized in the EOS D60 in 2002 and EOS 10D in 2003.

2000_eos-1v

Premier AF Performance: The 45-point area AF gives predictive AI servo AF at about 9 fps (with the PB-E2 attached) for outstanding subject tracking and blazingly fast focusing, all automatically.

In 2005, Canon introduced the EOS 5D, a full-size 35mm digital SLR camera with a remarkably low price within reach of many consumers.

So the history of Canon from 1936 to today has been a road of innovation. Here we have only looked at the pivotal moments in that history and only at the more serious cameras so there are a wealth of compact cameras and video cameras as well in the Canon archive. If you want a more detailed history go here

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