A Brief History of Canon: How Canon Inc. Was Founded

History of Canon

The history of Canon starts with a simple story. Canon’s first step towards the advancement of technology was to have a determination to change the world of cameras and to make them available to both professionals as well as general consumers. Canon is a well-known brand in the camera market for its top-tier cameras and high-end lenses. It has been dominating the camera as well as the lens market for several years. But formerly, the company was not something worth mentioning. So how did a small company grow so big and gained worldwide recognition? Well, then have patience and follow along to know the fascinating journey of Canon from the very beginning to the present day. 

Early History

The journey of Canon begins with a simple story. Goro Yoshida, owner of a street-side workshop for repairing projectors and motion picture cameras, was keen on the inner mechanism of cameras. This curious mind led him to disassemble “Leica Model 2” which had a highly expensive camera back then. He found that the camera is made of iron, brass, rubber, aluminum, and nothing expensive. With the plan of a camera that worths the price, he teamed up with Saburo Uchida and Takeo Maeda and established Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. After a year of research, this team was able to make a prototype of a 35mm focal plane shutter camera, The Kwanon, named after the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The commercial version was released in 1936, called Hansa Canon. The camera features a high-end 35mm rangefinder, the first of its kind in Japan and was sold exclusively by Tokyo’s Omiya Shashin Yohin Co. Ltd. Later on, they worked in collaboration with Nippon Kogaku Kogyo for lenses and rangefinders as they didn’t have enough expertise to manufacture them in-house. In 1946, canon launched its first 35mm camera SII. Then in 1949, the company released IIB that had 3 way optical viewfinder. 

These two cameras brought enormous reputation and market acceptance to the company, making it a direct competitor of Leica. However, Leica also responded back by coming up with the M3 camera, which has a remarkable rangefinder and a clear viewfinder. Instead of marketing a competitive camera of M3, Canon shifted its focus on improving SLR cameras to create a competitive advantage over Leica. It is because SLR cameras have the ability to produce high-quality images as compared to rangefinders. Even then you will find SLR cameras had yet to gain popularity for their lack of ease of use. So, canon also worked on the drawbacks of SLR cameras and in 1959, canon was able to launch one of the revolutionary cameras, the CanonFlex which incorporates a number of distinctive features such as rapid shutter release. In the following year, Canon again enchanted the market with its Canonflex R2000. In fact, during that time, many Japanese camera manufacturers were bringing on their SLR models. For example, Nikon launched its revolutionary Nikon. All those SLR models played a significant role in the widespread popularity of SLR cameras around the world. With the rise of SLR, Canon continued to bring on more advanced SLR cameras. Most interestingly, in 1971, the company released its first professional-grade  SLR camera called the canon F1, which included features like full aperture metering. This camera was also assigned as the official 35mm camera in the 1976 Montreal Olympics as well as the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, USA. It was a turning point for Canon as the F1 was designated in not just one but two subsequent Olympic games, giving the brand a reputation of the sports camera manufacturer. 

A Brief History of Canon

Now coming down to some more innovations that Canon induced in the improvement of cameras, we found this brand notable for its immense effort in bringing the first auto-exposure SLR camera in 1973, named the Canon EF camera. Moreover, canon is the first camera manufacturer to include a micro-computer controlled camera in its lineup, the AE-1, a 35mm camera released in 1976. This camera gained the reputation of being the official camera of the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984. In 1987, Canon launched the EOS 650, which is an autofocus SLR camera featuring a microprocessor. Canon also released EF lenses and included an ultrasonic motor in its lenses. 

In 1995, Canon invented the world’s first image stabilization technology for using it in a lens and incorporating that with its EF75-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens. For handheld shooting, it was an incredible step for Canon to move forward.

2000s and Beyond

Canon was planning to market a camera with an even faster, accurate autofocus mechanism along with a more capable burst shoot. With that aim, they released EOS-1V in 2000 which included 45 autofocus points and a burst mode of 9fps. Because of its exceptional features, this camera also won the Camera Grand Prix. the early ’90s saw the advent of digital technology in the camera sector and also the rise of consumer-grade cameras. Keeping the market demand in mind, Canon also responded well with its EOS D30, its first DSLR camera for the consumer market. It was not only smaller and lightweight but also had a user-friendly interface along with features like ETTL autoflash, for capturing better quality images.

The year 2005 also marked a pivotal year for Canon, as the company launched its first full-frame camera, the iconic EOS 5D. It offered a 50megaixel CMOS sensor camera with dual Digic 6 image processors. In the early 2000s, Canon was competing with its main rival Nikon for camera market share. Canon was leading the lens and camera market with its EF lenses and amazing DSLRs like T6i, 6d, 7D mark 2, 80D and many more. With the advent of mirrorless technology, Canon now is catching up with sony in the camera market. To address the consumer demand for mirrorless technology, Canon announced their RF lens lineup along with the R camera series in 2018. Recently, Canon has announced its R1 camera, which is supposed to be the best flagship camera of Canon.

Though canon is much renowned for its camera and lenses, there are some other products that the company manufactures, such as digital radiography, eyecare, copiers, printers, scanners, lithography products, and many more. As of today, canon is the market leader in the digital camera market, holding about 45% of the total market share. In the lens market, canon has been dominating for the last 18 consecutive years.

Joe Pfeffer

Joe Pfeffer

What started off as just a dream for Joe Pfeffer, turned into his passion and livelihood. He started his career as a wildlife photographer and then transitioned into becoming a cinematographer. With a decade of raw on-the-field experience, Joe Pfeffer has all the technical knowledge about the ins and outs of cameras. Now, he uses his vast experience to educate others about photography.