Canon – Company Overview

If you’ve been in the technology scene for up to a year then you’ve probably heard of canon. Their devices are sprawled out in almost every corner of the world, especially their cameras. Think about it, what other company has cameras as widespread as Canon. This just shows how much they have dominated their tech franchise. Canon, Inc. is a Japanese multinational corporation that specializes in imaging and optical products. These products consist mainly of cameras, photocopiers, and computer printers. Canon has its Headquarters in Tokyo, japan.

Canon was founded back in 1930 with the goal bring high-quality cameras to the tech scene. From there, Canon has grown to become a leader in digital imaging and networking, and a major manufacturer of personal and office imagery devices, as well as medical, semiconductor, and broadcasting equipment. They started small but as can be seen clearly, they’ve grown into a multi-million dollar corporation. The inception and growth of canon through the years is quite fascinating; at least, to me. Allow me to walk you through the history of how this Japanese company came to dominate the digital imaging scene.


Back in 1930, Goro Yoshida (1900-1993) and his brother-in-law, Saburo Uchida, established Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. The Lab was funded by Uchida’s close friend, Takeshi Mitarai. 

Their goal was to develop a 35 mm rangefinder camera. At that time, the most popular brands of miniature cameras were produced in Germany and at that time, they cost about 5 times the monthly salary of a university graduate in Japan (pretty steep for a camera, am I right?).

Yoshida took it upon himself to disassemble one of these German cameras; the Leica. He intended to use what he learnt to develop a high-grade 35mm focal-plane-shutter rangefinder camera of his own. In June 1934, Yoshida and Uchida released their first camera, known as the Kwanon. There were a few variations of the camera and three of them were advertised. The thing was, none of these were actually manufactured or ever reached the market. This was still pretty god for Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. However, they had one major problem; they didn’t have lens for their cameras.

To solve this, they came up a number of alternatives but ultimately chose to make an arrangement with the corporation, Nippon Kogaku Kogyo (Japan Optical Industries, Inc., the predecessor of today’s Nikon). This allowed them to use their Nikkor lens. In February 1936, Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory released the “Hansa Canon”, the Standard Model with a Nikkor 50 mm f/3.5 lens.  This marked Kwanon’s first commercially available camera. Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory had previously concluded an exclusive sales agreement with the Omiya Shashin Yohin Co., Ltd. as a result; the “Hansa” was the trademark of Omiya. 

The following year, Uchida sought a more modern sounding name for the mass market, settling on “Canon.” In English, the word means “scriptures” and implies accuracy, a desired trait in a camera. The company trademarked the name “Canon” on June 26, 1935 to reflect a more modern image.

The company moved to Meguro Ward in Tokyo, and appeared to be experiencing steady growth. But the company was experiencing tough sales figures; with a maximum of 10 “Hansa Canon” cameras per month to barely one camera per week. To counter this, the Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory was reorganized as a joint-stock company and its name was changed to Precision Optical Industry Co., Ltd. 

In the middle of 1937, the company decided to produce its own lenses. Yoshizo Furukawa, the company’s first optical engineer, developed some lenses on a trial basis. The name given to these lenses, “Serenar,” was derived from the word “serene,” meaning “clear, calm, and tranquil.

In 1942, Takeshi Mitarai a friend of Saburo Uchida (the initial funder of Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory), became president of the company. An obstetrician by profession, Mitarai had enthusiastically supported Uchida since the early days of Precision Optical Industries Co., Ltd. Mitarai established the post-war foundation of the company. He emphasized several initiatives for Canon enmployees, including the “Sanbun-setsu System”, a “Competence-Based Promotion System,” and the “Family First Concept.” After the first world war, Canon experienced a steady growth; releasing a number of cameras and lenses including the “AE-1” camera, the world’s first 35 mm Auto-Exposure (AE) SLR camera equipped with a central processing unit (CPU) and the Autofocus SLR Camera, “EOS”

Product line

Today, though Canon is best known to the consumer market for its cameras and computer printers, most of the company revenue comes from its office products division, especially from analog and digital copiers, and its line of imageRUNNER digital multifunctional devices.

Canon has also entered the digital displays market by teaming up with Toshiba to develop and manufacture flat panel televisions based on SED, a new type of display technology. The joint venture company SED Inc. was established in October 2004. In January 2007, Canon announced that it would buy Toshiba’s share of the joint venture.


Today, Canon’s net annual sales average 3,467 billion Japanese Yen (US$ 33,585,373) and Canon employs almost 130,000 people in more than 200 companies worldwide.


The key to Canon’s success has been innovation and research. Canon is one of the most prolific inventors of consumer and professional imaging solutions. Canon Inc. consistently devotes approximately 10 percent of its net sales to research and development investment each year. In 2004, Canon ranked third worldwide among all companies for the number of U.S. patents issued. Canon has maintained a global ranking among the top five companies for the past 20 years, with a total of 26,528 U.S. patents granted in almost 70 years. Some products developed from Canon research and patented technology include the laser beam print engine, Bubble Jet Printing systems, plain-paper copying devices, eye-control focus systems for cameras and camcorders, and optical image stabilization for video cameras, broadcast lenses, and binoculars.


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