Canon commemorated the 80th anniversary of its first camera, the Kwanon, Tuesday. The product, with help from Nikon and others, helped Japan to eventually top even the prestigious camera makers from Europe in a bid for marketplace dominance.
The Kwanon was the Japanese company’s first 35mm focal-plane-shutter camera, and produced in prototype form in 1934, in an effort to catch up with Europe, which was at the time the world’s leading presence in the camera industry.
“Over the 80 years since the birth of the Kwanon camera prototype, Canon has continuously innovated to fulfill the company’s never-ending ambition to create the world’s finest cameras,” said Masaya Maeda, Canon image communication products operations managing director and chief executive. “Leveraging the technologies and know-how it has acquired over its history, Canon will continue contributing to the development of the photographic and video imaging culture through its technologies and products designed to satisfy the expectations of our customers.”
Canon said the engineers who created the camera decided to name it after Kwannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy, hoping the deity would share her benevolence as they pursued their dream to produce the world’s finest camera.
The camera’s lens, called Kasyapa, was named after Mahakasyapa, a disciple of Buddha. Additionally, the top portion of the camera body featured an engraving depicting the thousand-armed Kwannon.
In 1936, two years after the birth of the Kwanon and following much trial and error, Canon launched the Hansa Canon, its first commercial 35mm focal-plane-shutter camera, which put the company on the camera map.
In 1959, Canon introduced its first single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, the Canonflex. Following, in 1961, was the Canonet, a popular rangefinder camera that took the market by storm, selling out an entire week’s worth of inventory in just two hours.
The company, after the success of the Canonflex and Canonet, continued to lead the industry with a range of popular camera models, such as the F-1, a top-of-the-line professional 35mm SLR camera introduced in 1971, and the AE-1, introduced in 1976, which was the world’s first SLR camera equipped with a built-in microcomputer.
In 1987, following continued technological innovation, Canon launched the EOS 650, the world’s first autofocus SLR camera to incorporate a fully electronic mount system.
In 1995, EOS marked its entry into the digital era and the lineup continues evolving today. In 2012, the company started to ship the Cinema EOS System, a lineup of professional digital cinematography cameras and lenses.
The Cinema EOS System was created through the culmination of various technological innovations that are centered on the optical technologies developed since the company’s founding.
Since its introduction, the Cinema EOS System has contributed to expanding the horizons of visual expression.