80th anniversary of Canon Kwanon camera

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Canon Europe has today announced that its parent company Canon Inc. is commemorating the 80th anniversary of Canon’s first camera, the Kwanon.

The 35mm focal-plane-shutter camera, which was produced in prototype form in 1934, was “the culmination of the dreams of engineers who wanted to catch up with Europe, the leading presence in the camera industry at the time,” says Canon Europe in a press statement.


The camera was named after Kwannon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The hope was that her benevolence would shine down on the company in their technological endeavours. A symbol of the thousand-armed Kwannon was engraved in the top of the camera body.

In addition, the camera’s lens was called Kasyapa after Mahakasyapa, a disciple of Buddha.

Goro Yoshida, born in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1900, was behind the camera’s creation. As a child he “showed a keen interest in cameras, often disassembling and rebuilding them,” says the company. In a market monopolised by German Leica cameras in the mid-1930s, Yoshida took apart one of these cameras and believed it would be possible to manufacture the components in Japan.

Two years after the advent of the Kwanon prototype, Canon launched its first commercial 35mm focal-plane-shutter camera – the Hansa Canon – which marked the beginning of its history as a camera manufacturer.

“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,” says Masaya Maeda, managing director and chief executive of image communication products operations at Canon Inc. “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.”

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