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Quick History of Canon Copiers

Canon Inc. is a multinational Japanese company based in Alta, Tokyo, Japan, specializing in optical, imaging, and industrial products such as lenses, cameras, medical instruments, scanners, printers, and processing equipment for semiconductors.

Canon has a main Tokyo Stock Exchange listing and is a member of the TOPIX Core30 and Nikkei 225 indexes. It is on the New York Stock Exchange with a secondary listing.


Canon’s history dates back to 1933 when a young gynecologist named Takeshi Mitarai worked to build cameras with some technical friends; to do so in Roppongi, Minato-ku, Japan, they established the Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory. Their first important invention had applications that varied far beyond the medical field. Mitarai and his peers created Japan’s first 35-millimeter camera in 1934, closely patterned after the industry norm, the German Leica 35-millimeter camera. They named it after a Buddhist figure reflecting kindness, the Kwanon. They entered their venture in 1937 under the name of Precision Optical Industry Company, Ltd.

In 1940, when it produced the nation’s first indirect X-ray camera, Precision Optical made a significant contribution to Japanese medical imaging technology, which played a major role in preventing the spread of tuberculosis in Japan. The Japanese economy was completely given over to funding the military when Japan went to war with the United States.

The company barely survived World War II. For the duration of the war, it was unable to produce its main 35-millimeter cameras, and only the tireless efforts of Mitarai kept it afloat in the economic desolation that followed the surrender of Japan in 1945. With rationed raw materials and scarce resources, Mitarai had to scramble just to keep his production lines running and the finances of the company in order. The value of manufacturing high-quality goods was also drilled into his staff, but his most significant step may have been to convince the Allied occupying forces to stock Precision Optical cameras in their postal exchanges and ship stores. This agreement laid the basis for the later success of Canon as an exporter; U.S. military officers taking their cameras home with them gave the company the first foothold in the U.S. market. In 1947, using a transliteration of the original Kwanon, Precision Optical changed its name to Canon Camera Company, Inc.

In the early 1950s, when news photographers covering the Korean War found that the best Japanese lenses were every bit as good as German lenses, another foreign breakthrough for Canon occurred. The export market started to open up, and over the decade, Canon prospered. The company founded a New York-based U.S. subsidiary in 1955 and, two years later, created a European subsidiary, Canon Europa, based in Geneva. Canon introduced an 8-millimeter film camera to its product lines in 1956 and became the first company in the world to develop an 8-millimeter film camera with a built-in zoom lens in 1959.


Canon had become the dominant Japanese manufacturer of medium-priced cameras by the early 1960s, leaving the higher end of the market to Nikon. The business continued to expand, more than tripling between 1959 and 1963 in scale. When it launched the Canola 130 electronic calculator, the first in the world to use the now-standard ten-key keyboard, it ventured into business machines in 1964. In 1970, the Pocketronic, the first all-electronic handheld calculator, was developed by Canon and Texas Instruments. Canon became an innovator in the industry when it launched the first plain-paper copier in 1968, after joining the photocopier market in 1965 with the Canofax 1000. Until that time, with its own process known as xerography, Xerox Corporation had dominated the copier market. The diversification movements of Canon were important enough to cause a name change; in 1969, “Camera Company” was dropped from the name and the business became simply Canon Inc.


Canon’s organizational ideology is Kyosei. A concise meaning of this word would be “Living and working together for the common good,” but our definition is broader: “All people, regardless of race, religion or culture, harmoniously living and working together into the future.” Sadly, the persistence of imbalance in our world hinders Kyosei’s achievement in areas such as trade, income levels, and the environment.

It is an ongoing challenge to resolve these imbalances, and Canon is doing its part by aggressively pursuing Kyosei. True global businesses, not only with their customers and the societies in which they work but also with nations and the world, must promote good relations. They must also bear the blame for the effect on society of their activities. For this purpose, Canon’s aim is to contribute to the world’s development and humanity’s happiness, which will lead to sustained growth and move the world closer to achieving Kyosei.

Despite the technical successes of the company, however, Canon was plagued in the late 1960s and early 1970s by failures in marketing strategy. While it was part of Japanese calculator makers’ spectacular overall penetration of the U.S. market the company struggled to differentiate itself from its rivals for the most part. By failing to maximize their market potential before competitors could catch up with them it also frittered away its technological advances. 

Both its copier lines and its calculators were affected by this problem. It invented the “liquid dry” copying method in 1972, so-called because it uses plain paper and liquid developer but turns out to be dry copies, but questioned its own selling power and worried that its patents would be infringed by rivals. Therefore it licensed the technology to other manufacturers rather than selling the system itself, essentially wasting its earnings potential. These errors hampered the financial output of Canon, and it struggled to pay a dividend for the first time since World War II in 1975.

Are You Looking for a Photocopier Near Concord, California?

Office Machine Specialists has been servicing and selling office equipment since 1995. A family run business that has dedicated our efforts to providing the best equipment options and after-sales service to our clients. Our goal is to ask the right questions and guide our customers to make smart decisions about new machine leases and purchases.  We were servicing copiers long before the internet was a viable resource, and have transitioned to the digital workflow environment of color printing, scanning, account control, and fleet management. With over 20 years in the industry, we have extensive experience with many brands and consider OMS to be a valuable resource to any organization. Contact us for all of your copier needs here!

By Geraoma - Own work, Public Domain,