Photographica Pages

An online guide to collectable cameras and related stuff

Seiki Kogaku Canon J-II

After the war, Canon began the task of regrouping and rebuilding the company. Qualified technical personnel were scarce, many having lost there lives during the war, others stranded wherever they were stationed at the wars end. Raw materials were also scarce, and the immediate future looked pretty bleak. Canon resumed camera production in the simplest manner possible. Parts from unassembled Canon S and J cameras were used to design the most basic 35mm camera. 

The body shell and top plate were parts made for the Canon S, as was the finder cover, which was designed for the S, but cut only for the viewfinder, and lacked the pop up finder of the S. The top cover extends around the rewind knob, like the top cover of a Leica, rather than being squared off like the pre-war Canon J. The earliest examples have "Seiki Kogaku" and the serial number engraved in front of the accessory shoe, rather than below the Canon logo, the same place it was engraved on the S series as the pop up finder was below the Canon logo. Most examples have "Seiki Kogaku" and the serial number under the Canon logo, where it would remain until the end of the Leica style bodies in the mid-1950's.

The body shell was cut and drilled for slow speeds, a feature that the J-II lacked as the slow speed mechanism was difficult to manufacture. The hole is capped with a metal patch with three visible screw heads. Some examples may have been covered over by the body covering material. There is also a notch in the top plate, on the front at about 1 o'clock to the lens mount. This was where the rod for the rangefinder coupling went through on the Canon S. It is covered over by the body material.

The body covering material itself is usually a cheap, blackened cardboard. Leather, like most raw materials, was in short supply in 1945-6. This is the weakest part of the finish of the J-II, and many (or most) of the examples found today have had this body covering replaced. On those that don't, it is inevitably falling apart and shoddy looking. The chrome plating is also often not as good as that found on earlier or later cameras.

The lens mount is not Leica thread, although it is 39mm thread. The pitch of the thread is different. A Leica thread lens can be partially screwed on, but the threads will bind. Damage to either the lens or camera will result if you try and force it. This mount is referred to as J mount. It was first used on the pre-war Canon J, and can be found on some of the earliest Canon S-II cameras. Occasionally you will find a camera that the mount was changed to accept Leica mount lenses. Most J-II cameras were sold with the collapsible 5cm/3.5 Nikkor. However, the very first Canon 50/3.5 Serenar lenses were sold on J-II cameras.

Peter Decheert, in his book "Canon Rangefinder Cameras1933-68" estimates production at 525, although he states some records show a production of 506 cameras, while others show only 164. Serial number apparently started at 8001, and may run as high as 8700. I have seen photos of 8556, so not all numbers were used.

Front view of a J-II with the early style of engraving.

A different camera, five serial numbers earlier. Note the mark on the front of the top cover. A similar mark can be seen on #8037, and I have seen pictures of other early models (#8025 and #8183). It is not a scratch, but rather a darkening of the chrome.

 A closer look at an early Serenar lens. This is the first lens that Canon made for consumer purchase, and this is the 10th lens in the series. Production started at number 8011.

The Seiki logo embossed on the back of the case.