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You are hereHome > History > Canon

Brief History of Canon Cameras

Canon Demi EE17, 1965 Canon F1, 1971 Canon AE-1, 1976 Canon EOS-1, 1989 Canon Elph Jr., 1997

1933. Goro Yoshida and his brother-in-law, Sabura Uchida, founded the Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. The goal: to make cameras to compete with the most advanced German models of the day.

1934. Japan's first domestically-made 35mm focal-plane shutter camera, the "Kwanon' -- named after the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.


1935. "Canon" trademark registered.

1935. Hansa Canon cameras offered for sale at half the price of a Leica.



1961. The Canonet introduces EE camera.

1963. 1 millionth Canonet shipped.


1965. The Demi EE 17 follows in the footsteps of the Demi, Color Demi, Demi S, Demi C, and Demi Rapid, all half-frame (i.e. 24x17 mm instead of 24x36 mm film area) cameras introduced to compete with Eastman Kodak's Instamatic cameras. This is the first "serious" camera that got me interested in photography. It was so easy and intuitive to use and it worked well. Of course, back then, most pictures were B&W and we learned to develop and print our own pictures. The bathroom substituted for a darkroom and many a night, my father banged on the door wondering when I would be finished and out of there so the family could take their showers.

1969. Canon, inc. established.

1971. Canon F-1 debuts. The rivalry between Nikon and Canon starts as to which camera, the Nikon F2 or the Canon F1, is the best professional SLR camera. Both had their fans and both developed their own system of lenses and equipments. While Nikon cemented its hold on photo reporters, Canon concentrated on wild life photographers.

1976. In April 1976, Canon introduced the first microcomputer embedded camera, the Canon AE-1. The Automatic Exposure Control in the AE-1 meant that beginner and amateur photographers could now take good pictures with a SLR at an affordable price [Editor's note: Sounds familiar?]. The AE-1 proved to be so successful that Canon effectively captured the amateur photographer's market segment and has continued to do so to this time. The first time I knew that Canon had started to win this market is when I saw my college friend who knew nothing about photography buy one to take with him to University. From then on, many beginner photographers kept asking me if -- no, kept telling me that -- Canon was a good brand to buy.

1979. Canon introduces a fully automatic auto-focus compact camera, the AF35M. Even back then, Canon engineers were thinking of how to make photography easier for the masses. This has proved to be an enormously successful strategy, tapping into a new market segment heretofore ignored by other camera manufacturers which were more attuned to pleasing the advanced amateur and professional market segments.

1987. The EOS650, an auto-focus SLR camera, debuts, signalling a major shift in Canon's SLR startegy toward incorporating leading-edge technology into its SLR cameras. Instead of constantly competing with other SLR cameras in features, Canon sought to lead the pack by stepping out into unknown territory, exploring future technologies and incorporating them into its SLR cameras.

1989. The EOS-1 debuts. When I first saw the EOS-1 I was stunned! Canon had dared to redesign the conventional rectangular body by giving it curves. Except that the Canon designer did it with taste and originality. Since then, others have tried to give their cameras more rounded shapes but I think they don't quite succeed as well as Canon does with its EOS models.

1992. The EOS5 is introduced as the world's first camera with eye-controlled auto-focus.




1993. The Rebel models hit the market, again signalling a trend toward satisfying the mass market.

1994. The EOS-1N becomes Canon's flagship SLR camera.




1995. Canon unveils the world's first zoom lens with image stabilization features.

1995. Canon enters the digital camera era with the EOS DCS3.

1995. The SURESHOT DEL SOL is the world's first fully solar-powered camera.

1996. The ELPH model is born, ushering a new era of good compact camera design. The ELPH models support the new Advanced Photo System which was developed jointly by five companies: Canon, Eastman Kodak, Fuji Photo Film, Minolta, and Nikon. APS allows smaller cameras to be designed and totally eliminates film-loading mistakes.

1997. The Elph Jr. is ultra-light and ultra-thin which allows it to easily fit into the front pocket of a jeans. When I was looking for a camera small enough to take anywhere, I found the Elph Jr. I can carry it in my pocket all day and have it always ready for a snapshot. The Elph Jr. is the inspiration behind the Photoxels JeansPocket™ Certified award.

1998. The EOS-3 with 45-point area AF.

1999. The PowerShot digital models are introduced.

2000. The EOS D30 digital SLR camera features a 3 Megapixels CMOS sensor.

2001. The EOS-1D digital SLR camera is introduced.

2002. The EOS-1DS digital SLR camera features a 11.1 Megapixels CMOS sensor that is full-frame, permitting the use of any Canon EF lens.


Canon has successfully competed with the best camera manufacturers by incorporating leading-edge technologies into its cameras, targeting the whole range from beginner to professional photographers, and introducing good design that effectively made cameras fashionable.

If you have any anecdote about any of the above cameras that you think might be interesting to share with other readers, please send them to us.

Source: Canon Museum
  Canon History
And now to the present: Canon Digital Cameras

Readers' Anecdotes:

More info about Canon cameras with a pellicle mirror can be found here: http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/hardwares/classics/eos/eoscamera/EOS-RT/

-- Editor (Dec 31, 2005)

[Other Canon cameras with a pellicle mirror are:] the EOS RT, basically an EOS 600 with a pellicle mirror, and the EOS1n RS, a variant of the EOS1n HS with a fixed motor drive.

-- Phil Taylor (Dec 31, 2005)

Thought you might be interested in one of Canon's great achievements not listed in your article. In 1966, I bought a Canon Pellix, the first (and only, to my knowledge) 35mm to use a half silvered, pellical mirror that did not flip up to make the exposure. The stationary mirror reduced vibration but allowed superb picture quality. Unfortunately, it was teamed with a 50mm lens which had aperture blades that stuck after a few years of use because of poor lubrication. I think they discontinued the design because the mirror was so fragile, but it's design was revolutionary at the time.

-- Joseph Walsh (Feb 21, 2003)

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