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(established 1933)

This multinational manufacturer of film, video, television, and X‐ray cameras and a wide range of increasingly sophisticated office equipment was established by Goro Yoshida and Saburo Uchida in Japan as the Precision Optical Research Laboratories. Registering the Canon trademark for its products in 1935 the company produced its first 35‐millimetre camera, the Kwanon, conceived as a competitor to the German Leica and other western brands. Other early initiatives included the production of X‐ray cameras for both military and civilian use, launched in 1941. After the war Takeshi Mitarai, the company president from 1942 to 1974, did much to ensure the company's foundations for future success, promoting the slogan ‘Catch Up and Overtake Leica’. In 1947 the company changed its name to the Canon Camera Co., intending to unify its brand and image as a platform for penetrating Western export markets. (In 1969 Canon was taken up as the corporate name.) Mitarai, like Konusuke Matsushita, visited the United States in 1950 in order to assess its export potential, leading to the opening of a New York branch on 5th Avenue in 1955, although this initiative proved problematic. Design had become an increasingly important aspect of company philosophy during the years of economic recovery after the Second World War. Following the example of Matsushita in 1951, Canon's industrial design department was established in 1953 in order to develop the Canon V camera. One of the first Canon products to receive a design award (the G‐Mark) was the 8T 8‐millimetre easy‐to‐operate film camera of 1957 aimed at the growing market of home movie makers, followed by the P‐8 film projector of the following year. This policy was followed through in more practical, yet elegant designs such as the competitively priced 1961 Cine Canonet ‘electric eye’ movie camera. This was also geared to the requirements of amateur users and a recipient of the G‐Mark award. It also proved so popular on its launch that a central Tokyo department store sold out in two hours, the product going on to sales of 210,000 in ten months. This period witnessed the company's diversification into business machines as a means of securing long‐term profitability, a commitment echoed in the company slogan ‘Cameras on the right side, business machines on the left’. An early success in the highly competitive field of electronic calculator manufacture was the Canola 130 electronic calculator of 1964, a far smaller, simpler, and more elegant design than that of most of its market competitors, although the Sharp Corporation proved to be a fierce competitor in the field. Research, like design, was an integral part of the company's success: the Research Division was established in 1958, the Product Design Development Division in 1964, and the consolidated Research and Development Division in 1966, becoming the Canon Research Centre in 1969. The company's global ambitions were realized with the establishment of overseas production plants in Taiwan (1970), the United States (1974), and West Germany (1977). In the remaining decades of the 20th century many innovative and well‐designed products were released including the first personal plain paper copying machine, the NP‐1100, in 1970, the AE‐1 camera, the world's first fully automatic single lens reflex camera of 1976, through to the mini‐digital IXY DIGITA camera of 2000. Canon has been keen to promote itself through sponsorship, as with its official sponsorship of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, through a commitment to active recycling policies in the following decade, and the exhibition of its products, technological prowess, and visions of the future as at the Canon Expo 2000 seen in New York, Paris, and Tokyo.


Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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