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Canon celebrates 80th anniversary of Kwanon, the company’s first camera

London, 2 September, 2014 – Canon Europe, leader in digital imaging solutions, today announced that its parent company Canon Inc. is commemorating the 80th anniversary of Canon’s first camera, the Kwanon. Marking Japan’s first 35mm focal-plane-shutter camera, the Kwanon was produced in prototype form in 1934, the culmination of the dreams of engineers who wanted to catch up with Europe, the leading presence in the camera industry at the time.

Kwanon prototype_Image_Final.jpg Kwanon symbol_Logo_Final.png
The Kwanon camera prototype and the Kwanon symbol that was engraved into the top of the camera body

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—after Mahakasyapa, a disciple of Buddha—also took its name from Buddhism. 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,¹ its first commercial 35mm focal-plane-shutter camera, thus embarking on the Company’s history as a camera manufacturer.

In 1959, Canon introduced its first single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, the Canonflex, followed in 1961 by the Canonet, an immensely popular rangefinder camera that took the market by storm, selling out an entire week’s worth of inventory in a mere two hours. Following these successes, the Company continued to lead the industry with a range of popular camera models, such as the F-1, a top-of-the-line 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 EOS, the world’s first AF (autofocus) SLR camera to employ a fully electronic mount system. In 1995, EOS marked its entry into the digital era and the line-up continues evolving today. In 2012, the Company released the Cinema EOS System, a line-up of professional digital cinematography cameras and lenses realised through the culmination of various technological innovations centred on optical technologies developed since the Company’s founding. Since its introduction, the Cinema EOS System has contributed to expanding the horizons of visual expression.

Masaya Maeda, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Image Communication Products Operations at Canon Inc., comments: “Over the 80 years since the birth of the Kwanon camera prototype, Canon has continuously innovated to fulfil the Company’s never-ending ambition to create the world’s finest cameras. 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.”


¹Made possible through the cooperation of Nippon Kogaku K.K. (present day Nikon Corporation). “Hansa” was the trademark of Omiya Photo Supply, a wholesaler of cameras and photo products. In accordance with a contractual obligation, it was engraved on the top of the camera.

Kwanon Camera Anniversary - History in Photos factsheet [PDF, 576 KB]
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