Pacific Rim Camera

Canon Rangefinder

Hansa Canon 

Original Canon

The original model of Canon was the production version of the Kwanon, named for a Buddhist deity. It was originally a response to a call from the Emperor of Japan  to the Japanese people to develop domestic technology and industry. The company that produced it, Seiki Kogaku (Precision Optical), was anew company that had never designed or marketed anything, much less a precision 35mm rangefinder camera.   It was not a copy of the Leica, but rather a response to it. Great effort was made to avoid infringing upon patents by Leitz and Zeiss. Stumped by the German patents on rangefinder design, and lacking resources to develop their own optics, they turned to another Japanese company, Nippon Kogaku (Japan Optical), to help them out. Nippon Kogaku provided Seiki Kogaku with the rangefinder and focus mount design, as well as building the rangefinders and providing the lenses. Early models of Canon (made from 1935-37) are marked "Nippon Kogaku" on the bottom of the focusing helical, and were assembled under the supervision of Nippon Kogaku.

Just for clarification, the Hansa Canon and the Canon Original are the same camera. Seiki Kogaku sold most of these cameras through Omiya Trading Co, and these cameras carry the Hansa name above the Canon name on the top. Cameras sold directly were not so marked. Other than the difference in engraving, the cameras are identical and were built concurrently.

Although the Hansa Canon has no revolutionary features, it is one of the most historically significant cameras, putting in in the company of the original Leica. It was the first precision 35mm camera to be produced in Japan. Although Nippon Kogaku had produced camera lenses in small numbers before, this marked their entrance into the production of camera lenses. Nippon Kogaku, of course, became Nikon. This was the beginning of the Japanese camera industry that would one day dominate the world. This camera is the beginning of the miracle that would find a tiny camera company founded by a doctor with no photographic experience that would grow to become the largest camera manufacturer on the face of the Earth.   



The bottom of the focusing helical with Nippon Kogaku engraved, along with a mount number.


The lens mount compared to that of the Zeiss Contax. Nippon Kogaku designed the mount, and would later used a similar one (actually a copy of the Contax mount) on their rangefinder cameras after the second world war.

The camera serial number is stamped inside the baseplate.


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