History of Canon

   Goro Yushida, and his brother-in-law, Saburo Uchidia founded the Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory in 1933. They had hopes of competing with German companies, considered to be the best in the world at the time. They began by studying existing cameras and drew design plans of what they studied. In addition to just replicating the current cameras, Yoshida worked on incorporating original ideas into its mechanical workings. Despite the difficulties of building with parts that were not made specifically for each camera, Yoshida made Japan’s first prototype 35 mm camera in 1934. He named it “Kwanon” after the Buddhist goddess of Mercy.

   With sales reaching full-scale in 1935, Uchidia considered changing the brand name. He wanted a more modern sounding one, he finally settled on “Canon”. Canon has several meanings, one of which was “scriptures”. Uchidia believed this name was appropriate because it suited the image of precision processing. Also, the name “Canon” is pronounced the same as “Kwanon”, allowing for a smooth transition. The Hansa Canon was released in December of 1935. It was sold through Omiya Shashin Yohin Co., Ltd. a company that had more prestige then the newly rising, Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. The camera was priced at 275 yen, about half the price of a Leica camera.

   Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory shifted control to Meguro, and became known as Japan Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. The company had a hard time getting on its feet, most months producing no more then ten cameras, and sometimes as little as one. With the launch of the Hansa Camera, business began to boom. To begin with they had difficulties with costs from factory construction, increased staff, and a slow output. To stabilize the capital, the company decided to become a joint stock company, and on August 10, 1937, Japan Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory was established s Precision Optical Industry, CO Ltd.

   The new company managed a good start, with sales increasing dramatically within the first year. Precision Optical Industry, CO., Ltd. released a new model named “Canon saishingata”, also know as the New-Style Canon. Sales were greatly helped by the war, although a 20% tax was placed on all cameras not made for aircraft use, a law was paced in 1937 banning the import of foreign made cameras.  

   In 1940, Shibuya Roentgen Manufacturing Works and Morikawa Manufacturing Works were contacted by the Japanese military about obtaining x-ray cameras, these companies then contacted Precision Optical Industry about producing these cameras. Takeshi Mitarai, an auditor with a doctorate in medicine, was promoted to managing director to oversee the camera’s development. By 1941 a civilian and military model was launched, and after further development, the 80 mm F2 lens was made. The following year the design was completed but work stopped before the final product was made. After the war ended, the camera was produced and helped the company rebuild its foundation.

   Takeshi Mitarai, after serving a central role in the establishment of the Precision Optical Industry, Co., Ltd. was named President of the company. Mitarai introduced many modern managerial techniques, many of which were very controversial, such as a monthly salary. During World War II Precision Industry faced many difficulties, at the onset of the war. Their Itabashi Plant was lost to fire, but the Meguro Head Office Plant was unharmed. At the end of the war Precision Optical closed it doors and its employees disbanded. When the Allied Forces occupied Japan, Mitarai noted that the soldiers were interested in Japanese cameras.  Mitarai decided to resume camera production. He sent out a letter to former employees who were enthusiastic and had an aggressive spirit about rejoining the company. Mitarai took 156 employees back, including 43 women.  On October 1, 1945 Precision Optical Industry reopened.

   During this time Canon also developed and sold 4 different camera models: the S, J, NS (New Standard Model), and JS.  The S model was designed in April of 1939.  It had shutter speeds that shot from 1 second to 1/20 of a second, and featured Nikkor lenses that were produced by the Japan Optical Company.  The J model was also designed at the same time.  It was designed to be Canons camera for the amateur photographer.  Instead of a rangefinder the J model used a distance scale.  This model also came with Nikkor lenses.  The NS was designed and sold in November of 1939. It was not a popular camera because of its high prices due to the war.  Only about 100 units were made.  Lastly the JS model was marketed throughout 1939.  It too was not a popular model as only 50 units were made.

  Matarai was unsure as to whether camera sales alone would support the company, so Precision Optical Industry founded Akatsuki-Musen Co. Ltd. to manufacture and sell radios, and Kashiwa-Yugyo Co. Ltd, to develop and sell pharmaceuticals. Matarai served s President for both companies. Neither lasted long both closing in 1949, Hashiwa-Yakugyo due to a series of losses and Akatsuki-Musen by order of the occupying administration.

   A proposal to change the companies name to Canon Camera Co. Ltd, by Takeshi Mitarai, allowed the company of production to be easily linked to the product. This change was effective, unlike the previous name, the soldiers and officers of the occupying nation had not problem remembering it. Also the name change was an added advantage in advertising, unlike the other companies in Japan, Canon Camera CO. Ltd, was written with Katakana script, allowing it to stand out.

   In 1950 President Mitarai made his first trip to the United States, he was looking into opening a factory. He met with Bell and Howell, who informed him that the major problem with Japanese factories is that they catch on fire too easily. With his return to Japan Mintarai was determined to make a fire-resistant facility. He chose to build on a former facility of Fuji Aviation Instruments Co. Ltd; the factory was finally completed after spending 140 million yen on the site and renovation. Mitarai’s brother-in-law, Saio Mitsui was given the job of refurbishing the factory; he color-coded the various workplaces, making a very modern factory for the time. Canon Camera Co. Ltd moved their headquarters to the factory and sold the Itabashi and Meguro Plant.

   To mark the 15th anniversary of Cannon Camera Co. Ltd’s foundation, Zenmaro Toki and Takuboku Ishikawa created a company song. The song was written about the company’s philosophy and international orientation. The song speaks mainly of “san-ji”. “San-ji” is a term for spontaneity, autonomy, and self -awareness. The main guideline is known as the San-ji spirit. It was one of the main guidelines in the company policy. It showed that the company policy involved a new sense of family and putting health first.

   During the years of 1946-1954 Canon manufactured several different models of camera.  Most notably the SII, IV, IVSB, and the IVSB2.  The SII model was based off of the Canon S model.  The SII was designed and marketed in October of 1946.  This was the first Canon Camera to have an English designation from its inception.  It was also the first Canon camera to be produced after WWII.    The IV model featured a three mode optical viewfinder as well as a cordless flash synchronization and other features.  This camera was designed in April of 1951 and displayed Canon’s grasp and innovation of camera technology.  The IVSB was designed in December of 1952.  It was designed as the successor of the Canon IV S.  It was the first camera to feature a X-sync for Speedlites.  This model is regard as a historic model in Japanese camera design.  The Canon IVSB2 was designed during in March of 1954 in what many consider Japanese cameras golden age.  It featured an index for the shutter speed, and two fold increments for shutter speeds.

   In 1955,Canon opened a branch in New York City. Its main concerns at first were to repair the current Canon products on the market and other Japanese cameras. Manager Tomomasa Matsui the sales activities began to sell new products through newspaper ads and other methods. They also placed their products in other stores, receiving a commission off of each camera sold. In 1958 Canon gave up on selling their own product and relied on Scopes Co., Ltd. to sell the cameras. By 1961 Canon Camera formed a tie-up with Bell and Howell. With the success of their cameras in America, the company turned their New York Base into Canon U.S.A., Inc. Later they moved headquarters to Queens in 1968, and then to Lake Success in 1971.

   In 1973, now Canon Ltd. after a change in the 1960’s dissolved their ties to Bell and Howell and moved to autonomous sales system for its products.  Canon also canceled their OEM calculator, which had been set up in 1968 as a way for Canon to sell office equipment through a two-tier system. This move to a direct sales system and Canons diverse product range of cameras. Office equipment, and optical equipment greatly helped sales. Canon annual sales rose from 3.6 million in 1966 to 137 million in 1976.

   In January of 1976 Canon announced a Premier Company Plan. After suffering a major loss in the first half of 1975 (for the first time in Canon History they were unable to pay shareholder dividends) Canon decided to come up with a plan to prevent another such loss. President Takeo Maeda appealed to all employees that they should never suffer such again, and that they would work hard to overcome all adverse conditions in the future. The Plan was to achieve a high-revenue, debt-free operation with five main objectives: to establish and implement corporate principles to reflect Canon’s social role as a public Institution, reinforce solidarity within the Canon Group, strengthen original technological development capabilities, cultivate and rejuvenate human resources, and improve the entire company framework starting with Canon-style systems. After a three year period starting in 1976 Canon pursued its goal and transformed their company into one of global excellence.

    Canon implemented a plan that had been under consideration for some time in 1978, they made product-specific divisions. Sales were entrusted to other sales companies, arranged by geographic location. By reorganizing, Canon clarified who was responsible for different products. This reorganization allowed Canon to become one of the top market shares in each business. That same year Canon had an extremely sever operating environment. The Japanese economy was suffering from weak growth and a strong yen, while other countries experienced economic stagnation and political instability. Due to Canons’ Premier Plan they believed it was their promise to help their society through their business operations.  Canon set up businesses that would direct the economy in a matrix style, Business divisions were arranged vertically and development, production, various other systems, and head office management functions were arranged horizontally.

   In August of 1980, the Los Angeles Olympic committee announced that Canon USA would become an official Olympic sponsor and that the Canon 35 mm would be the official Olympic model. The announcement that a Japanese based company would be a first rate sponsor created a stir, for Canon it was much more then just being a sponsor. Canon worked with ABC to develop a 40x zoom lens for TV cameras. Canon also sent many of its employees to help with technical support of their products. When the opening ceremony occurred, eighteen of the twenty-two cameras filming the occasion were fitted with the Canon zoom, allowing 2.5 billion viewers to see what Canon could do. That same Olympic games, canon developed the forerunner to the Digital camera. Based on images taken during the Olympics Canon began developing the Canon Still Video systems, the world’s first electronic image camera in 1986.

   The following year, Canon celebrated its 50th anniversary, the company labeled 1988 as its “second foundation” and cited kyosei, or living and working together for the common good as its corporate philosophy. At the beginning of 1988 yen stood at 160 yen per U.S. dollar, by the end of the year it had strengthened to 122 yen. In 1990 a committee to promote environmental assessment was established. This committee was to support business ventures that her environmentally friendly. Canon made the “EQCD Concepts”, a groundbreaking development for the company that set up “E” -environmental assurance, ahead of the “QCD” of quality, cost, and delivery. This assured that Canon would always remember be environmentally conscience. By 1997, Canon had set up a cartridge recycling program for it s laser beam printers, personal copying machines and other products. The number of recycled products reached over 20 million that year.  Canon also was a forerunner in clean manufacturing processes by stopping the use foe fcholoflurocarbons in 1992 and trichloroethane in 1993.

Between the years of 1970-1988 Canon designed more than a dozen different models of camera.  Among these top designs were the F-1 and the AE-1.  The F-1 was released March of 1971.  It was the labor of five years of development and research.  This camera could withstand -30 to 50 degrees Celsius and 90 percent humidity.  This camera was a favorite among professionals because of its rugged nature.  Another successful camera during this period was the Canon AE-1.  This camera was introduced to the world in April of 1976.  This camera was controlled by a microcomputer inside of the camera.  By doing this Canon reduced the number of parts needed for the camera.  Other notables also introduced included the T80, which was Canon’s first auto-focus camera.

   Fuji, Mitarai the vice president became Canon’s new president after the unexpected death of former president, Hajime Mitarai. Mitarai became president under difficult times for Canon; they were suffering from financial instability, prolonged domestic recession and major currency fluctuations due to the collapse of Japans “bubble” economy.  He first set up the Excellent Global Corporation Plan, which called for Canon to become an “excellent company” worldwide by the year 2000. The plan replaced individual management targets and evaluations with management on a consolidate base, now managerial resources are used much more efficiently thanks to this plan. Canon also looked at unprofitable businesses again, streamlined operations and targeted “selectivity concentration” of managerial resources. Thanks to this plan Canon got back on its feet and by 1997 had sold over 100 million cameras.

    In 1999 the National Astronomical observatory of Japan’s Ministry of Education constructed a large-scale optical infrared telescope on top of Mt. Mauna Kea on the island of Hawaii. It was called SUBARU.  The crucial component of the SUBARU is the main focal point compensation optical system. Canon developed this system, and succeeded on making it more compact previously thought possible. The lens can view an object the size of a tennis ball on Hawaii from Japan. The SUBARU can observe 100 times fore information then the Hubble, making it the most detailed telescope in the world.

    Canons first digital camera EOS DCS 3, it was introduced to the world in July of 1995.  It shot at 1.3 mega-pixels.  This would be the first of a long line of digital camera.  Today Canon’s newest digital camera, the Powershot G7 shoots at 10 mega pixels.  

   At Canon Expo 2000, located in New York, Paris and Tokyo, Canon announced that it planed on becoming the leading company in the network-imaging field under the concept of Canon Over IP (Internet Protocol). This means that Canon Ltd. is going to make every Canon product able to connect to the Internet, with it’s own IP address. Canon is committed to making sure that their products meet the individual needs of each person or business, making each product tailored to the costumer.  Over the years Canon has been committed to being the best, the best for their customers and the best for their community. Canon continues to be one of the leading companies in the world, ensuring no one gets anything below exceptional.

Work Cited

Canon Website

History of Camera Companies