Kwanon Prototype Camera — Anecdotal History


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The following is an excerpt I am reproducing to share with readers about the Kwanon camera, Canon’s first prototype rangefinder camera. This excerpt is taken from an auction description:

© Frank Mechelhoff

Kwanon Prototype Camera
The Kwanon is the earliest, pre-production form of the Canon camera. Its designer, Goro Yoshida, was born in Hiroshima in 1900 and spent his early career repairing and modifying motion picture cameras and projection equipment, with trips to Shanghai in the late 1920s to procure parts. His skills, combined with the perception that the Leica and Contax Model I were “takane no hana” (beyond the reach) of most people, inspired Yoshida to design the first quality Japanese 35 mm. camera.

Yoshida’s task was made more difficult by the fact that, before 1945, Leitz held all of the major patents for 35 mm. camera production. The Leica’s patented coupled rangefinder and viewfinder under one roof presented a particular problem. As Zeiss discovered with the Contax, anyone wishing to market a new 35 mm. camera, had to come up with a completely new design that was different from the Leica. (After the war, with Germany defeated, this was no longer a problem). However, Yoshida did dismantle a Leica for inspiration, reporting that” I just dissasembled the camera without any specific plan, but simply to take a look at each part. I found that there were no special items like diamonds inside the camera. The parts were made from brass, aluminum, iron and rubber.”

With this in mind, Yoshida enlisted the financial backing of his brother-in-law, Saburu Ochida, and formed Seiki-Kogaku (which became the Precision Optical Works) in 1933 for the development of his idea. He named his prototype “Kwanon” after the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, and the lens “Kasyapa” after one of Buddha’s disciples. Although Yoshida claimed to have completed ten Kwanon cameras, the camera was apparently never put on the market, although not through want of advertising. A picture in the June 1934 issue of Asahi Camera magazine showed a black 35 mm. camera, with elements from both the Leica and the Contax, and the enthusiastic claim that “the best submarine is the Igo. The best airplane is the Model 92. The best camera is the Kwanon. They are all the best in the world”.

© Frank Mechelhoff

Although three variations of the Kwanon were advertised, all were apparently non-functional wooden dummies, which varied from advert to advert. This may have been because Yoshida was ultimately unable to circumvent Leica’s rangefinder-coupling patents; he was subsequently “fired” from Seiki Kogaku in 1934, and apparently played no subsequent part in the development of the Kwanon.

© Frank Mechelhoff

In 1934, Seiki Kogaku approached Nippon Kogaku, the largest manufacturer of optics in Japan, in the hope of finding a method of rangefinder coupling that would avoid the Leica patents on this feature. Eiichi Yamanaka was the Nippon Kogaku technician who was primarily responsible for developing what became the new Hansa lens-mount; by contrast, the Kwanon here still retains a disc and lever assembly that couples with the lens Leica-style.

With Nippon Kogaku supplying the optical system and Seiki Kogaku responsible for the chassis, the new design was ready for production before the end of 1935. The name was changed from Kwanon to Canon, and the resulting design designated the Hansa Canon after the trademark of its retailer, the Omiya Shashin Yohin Co. was the first true production Canon camera.

Thanks in part to their experience with the Hansa and the Kwanon, Nippon Kogaku introduced their own first 35 mm. camera, the Nikon I, in 1948. The legacy of this landmark collaboration was the development of both Canon and Nikon into the two largest camera manufacturers today.

As Seiki-Kogaku had already planned for the production of the Kwanon, spare Kwanon parts (such as the base plate with centered tripod bush) that were in stock may have been used on the early Hansa Canon models.

© Frank Michelhoff

There is a story that only one actual Kwanon camera was finally sold, in a Tokyo camera store .The incorporation of a folding viewfinder on the top plate, the advance / rewind knob (which does not appear in the advertised cameras) and the spindle-disengagement were the semi-final modifications of the Kwanon’s body design, and suggest that the camera here probably dates from late 1934 or early 1935.

Thanks to Peter Dechert for his assistance in researching the catalogue notes.”


It is hoped that readers who love cameras, especially Canon cameras enjoy this anecdotal history of Kwanon and the accompanying kasyapa lens.
Readers should be pleasantly surprised to learn that Canon preceded Nikon as Japan’s leading camera makers. Canon, as they say, “Delighting You Always”.

Related Post: Kwanon? Illuminate Me, PleaseR





Kwanon? Illuminate me, please.


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A friend and fellow photographer posted on my Facebook wall an image which looked like a religious icon. I responded asking him to illuminate me. Kwanon, as it turns out, was a logo used by Canon. It was named Kwanon by Goro Yoshida, the camera designer/maker/engineer.

Kwanon is the name given to the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, or Bodhisattva. The image depicted a Buddha with 1000 hands encircled by flames. What does this mean? It, according to Canon, “reflected the benevolence of Kwanon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, and embodied the Company’s vision of creating the best cameras in the world.”(1)

Buddhism appears to have a strong influence on the Japanese camera maker. To marry this Kwanon camera, the attached lens was named Kasyapa, abbreviated from Mahakashapa, a disciple of Buddha.This marriage of Kwanon and Kasyapa resulted in Japan’s first prototype 35mm focal plane shutter camera, with a 50mm f3.5 Kasyapa lens [read about it here (4)].

© Frank Mechelhoff

The Kwanon motif was said to be engraved on the prototype camera. A total of 10 models were produced but never made it to the market. But this didn’t stop the company from advertising the so-called camera. An advertisement appeared in the June 1934 issue of Asahi Camera, with a bold claim, “The best submarine is the Igo. The best airplane is the Model 92. The best camera is the Kwanon. They are all the best in the world.” (2)

© Frank Mechelhoff

Canon realised, however, that a religion-neutral name was required to penetrate the world market. In 1935, Kwanon was dropped in favour of ‘Canon’, which means precision in Latin. The word canon has other meanings, including scriptures, criterion and standard. Since canon reflected the company’s strive for optical precision, meeting world-class criteria and industry standards, the name was registered as a trade mark that year.

Today, we are all familiar with the distinctive red Canon logo. In more than 60 years of Canon has made more than 90 million cameras for professional and amateur photographers. And, it still lives by its current catchline, “Delighting You Always”. Canon still strives to be the best camera and lens maker in the world.




Related Post: Kwanon Prototype Camera: An Anecdotal History



3. Read the History of early CANON:



Lytro Camera Launched


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Lytro Camera Launched: World’s 1st Consumer Light-Field Camera

October 19 2011 is a historic day for Dr. Ren Ng and his cohorts at Lytro Inc. The company introduces the world’s first consumer light-field camera, with the catchline “Capture Everything. Focus After The Fact. Share Living Pictures”.


This Lytro camera is the world’s first consumer light field camera, boasting an f/2.0, 8X zoom lens. Using a clever blend of physics and software, this camera is touted as capable of capturing an infinite depth of field. It captures everything. No more blurry photos!  Never miss a moment.  Think differently. It just works.

Form Follows Function ©

Housed in a long form, anodised aluminium chasis, this camera features an injected silicon rubber grip and two buttons, one for power, the other for shutter. Simplicity at its best.  No more daunting array of buttons and deep menus, typically found in most digital cameras. There is a focus on-demand option, via the camera’s glass touchscreen display, a useful function for selective focussing.

The camera weighs in just under 8 oz, and its small form factor or 1.61 in x 1.61 in x 4.41 in | 41 mm x 41 mm x 112 mm makes it easy to handhold. The camera is available in hot red, graphite and electric blue. Detailed specifications for this camera are listed here:

It is my hope that Lytro would send me a camera for field testing. I shall keep my request known to Lytro, so that I could give a local hands-on report. Ren, and Lytro, are you listening?



Related Posts:
1. Lytro Light Field Camera — The Camera Of the Future?
2. More About Lytro Light Field Camera
3. Ren Ng’s Genius: The Conception of Lytro’s Living Camera
4. Could “Camera 3.0” Lytro’s Light Field Camera Be An All Round Dream Camera?





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The World Heart Day was celebrated in Brunei on Sunday 16 October 2011. A gathering of over 300 participants took part in this august occasion, held at the parking lot of the Health Promotion Centre in Bandar Seri Begawan.


Rising early to beat the heat of the day, a mass aerobics exercise was held for 20 minutes. This was followed by a tour-de-parc du Jastre (Jabatan Alam Sekitar Taman dan Rekreasi Park) walkaton by the attendees. A very good start for a healthy heart.




Meanwhile, in the main Health Promotion Centre building were winners of the World Heart Day Art Competition, awaiting to receive prizes. The competition was held on Friday 14 October at the same venue. On this day, a gallery of winning posters was displayed. This was to be proud moments for all winning participants. There were two categories, Children up to 11 years old, and Children 12 to 17 years old.


In attendance also were winners from 2010 International Chinese Heart Health Network (ICHHN) art competition.

DSC_3962 ICHHN YeoYeo Jr Champion

2010 ICHHN Junior Champion — Yeo Yeo (St. Andrew's School)

DSC_3966 Tan Shi Ying ICHHN Sr Champion

2010 ICHHN Senior Champion — Tan Shi Ying (S.M. Sayyidina Ali, KB)

DSC_3971 Jr 1st Andrea Lee

2011 World Heart Day Junior 1st Place – Andrea Lee (St Margaret's School, Seria)

Children taking part in 2011 World Health Day Art Competition created their masterpieces on the Theme, “One World, One Home, One Heart.” The following are the winning entries.

DSC_3982 Maryline Sr 1st

2011 World Heart Day Senior Champion – Maryline E. O'Martin (St. George's School)

On hand to present the awards was the Honorable Dato Paduka Hj Abd Salam Bin Hj Abd Momin, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health. He was accompanied by Dr Hj Nazar Luqman, Head of Cardiology, RIPAS Hospital and Dr Peter Tay, CEO of Gleneagles-Jerudong Park Medical Centre. Both the Ministry of Health and Jerudong Park Medical Centre were co-organizing committee for Brunei’s World Heart Day celebrations.

DSC_4369 - Group Photo

Felicitations to all the winners.

2010 International Chinese Heart Health Network (ICHHN) Winners:
1. Yeo Yeo (Junior Champion, St. Andrew’s School, BSB)
2. Tan Shin Ying (Senior Champion, S.M. Sayyidina Ali, Kuala Belait)

2011 Brunei World Heart Day Art Competition

Junior Division (Children Below 12 years)
1. Andrea Lee (St. Margaret’s School, Seria)
2. Wynona Curaming (Seri Mulia Sarjana International School, BSB)
3. Yeo Yeo (St. Andrew’s School, BSB)
4. Noor Mohammad Khairullah Bin Salim (S.R. Dato Marshal, BSB)
5. Mek Shuet Yi (Chung Ching Middle School, Seria)

Senior Division (Children 12 to 17 years)
1. Maryline E. O’Martin (St George’s School, BSB)
2. Tok Sheng Sung (Chung Ching Middle School, Seria)
3. Eugenia Er (Chung Hua Middle School, Kuala Belait)
4. Alvin Yong (Maktab Sains, BSB)
5. Ann Dominique Dy (St. George’s School, BSB)

Photos of the winners’ creative masterpieces are found on my Facebook Album Page.



995 FIRE & RESCUE —Year 6 Children Have A Blast!


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Monday 17 October 2011. 60 Year 6 children from Chung Hua Middle School had an educational tour of the Fire and Rescue Station in Kuala Belait. 9 Teachers accompanied these children.

These children learned about the functions of the Fire and Rescue Department. Their awareness to the 995 emergency number was raised to consciousness and reinforced. After a briefing, the First Responders introduced these eager beavers to an array of fire and rescue equipment. These include pneumatic chears, jacks, breathing apparatus and so forth.The children’s excitement heightened when they were assisted in handling these life-saving equipment. Boys and girls queued to handle and manipulate the metal shearing cutter, one used for cutting mangled metal in automobile accidents. Where balloons are the stuff of children’s parties, these children had a greater treat. They stood on load bearing “balloons”, pneumatic airbags that have ratings of 5 tons, 15 tons and 25 tons. These airbags are used for raising accident vehicles to enable normal jacks to be placed under.The Year 6 girls, especially found standing the ballooning air-jacks a hair-raising experience.

Girls trying out the pneumatic shears

They children were allowed to climb onboard the department’s catamaran. And, pretend to be skippers. This treat was sweetened when these children were given a ride round the block in two fire-engines. Sirens wailed and emergency blue and red lights flashed while these children gleefully waved as their noisy rides began.

Gleeful girls in the cab of the firetruck

Off for a siren-wailing ride round the block

The wheels of the Firetruck go round and tround

After their joyous rides, the children had a whale of a time smothered in foam. Girls and boys showed no restraint in experiencing this fun. To add to this excitement, “snow” was dispersed and the scenario became a scene akin to snow falling in winter.

A white christmas . . . of the foamy kind

Look, a snowman !! LOL !! 🙂

If this wasn’t enough, the penultimate treat was handling of a 3 metre live python. The python having swallowed 2 chickens was “caught” by the firemen and it’s mouth securely tied and taped. Stomach filled, this reptile was so dormant the children queued to lift this serpent. Even girls didn’t squeal at the sight of this. In fact, the girls touched, grabbed, and lifted the snake as if it were a toy, a heavy one.

Snake? What snake?

We could "eat" this one . . . yums.

Girls power. This python is under our spell....

Wow, what a day it was. The children did have a blast at BOMBA Kuala Belait. As a parent, I THANK Kuala Belait’s BOMBA (Fire and Rescue Department) for this invaluable educational experience for my child and her schoolmates. I also thank BOMBA for their warm hospitality and for giving out a generous packaged refreshment for each and every child in attendance. Terima kasih, BOMBA KB.

Cikgy Zakaria shows how it's done

Woman's Power - Cikgu Mui Choo says "I can"

For more photos (323 of them) please visit and download them from my Facebook Albums,
a) CHMS KB Year 6 Educational Visit to Bomba KB
b)CHMS KB Year 6 Children Had A Blast At BOMBA KB

Santa Claus is coming to town

A Group Photo For The Album