The Canon Camera Company made rangefinder cameras from 1933 to 1968, and along the way created made many different models with innovations that would both ensure their survival to this day and help further the industry. I have had a passion for using vintage cameras of all types for years, but for the dozens of different cameras and all the various styles I’ve owned, my Canon III from 1951 is the only one I’ve always kept, and it holds a special meaning to me. This camera was first purchased by my grandfather during the Korean War, and he would continue to use it for decades to come, until he gave it to me when I was beginning to show an interest in photography as a child. When he bought the camera it cost quite a lot, about three months of his salary, but as a soldier in the field there was little else to do with money. Thus, when a friend went on leave to Japan, my grandfather asked him to get him a good new camera. This story is not unique, many Canon cameras, as well as other Japanese companies’ offerings, were bought by soldiers on leave during the occupation of Japan and the Korean War. Today the camera looks almost as good as it did then, despite decades of use care and maintenance have kept it in great order, and it works beautifully. These cameras’ basic design is a copy of the famous German Leica, with some small changes and improvements. To learn more about Canon history check out their fantastic history site, at http://www.canon.com/camera-museum/index.html .
To use these cameras there are a few good tips to know. Firstly, such an old camera likely needs to be cleaned or serviced to give optimum results. Once it is ready to use the first thing to do is load the film, which if one is unfamiliar with these cameras can be quite a hassle. When these cameras were made the leader of the film was much longer than on modern film, and for proper loading you will need to cut the film to have about a 4 inch (10cm) leader for proper advance. There are special cutters made to do this, or you could carefully use scissors. I like to keep a small Swiss army knife with scissors in my camera bag in case I need to cut film while out shooting. Once the film is cut, loaded and wound onto the spool check that there is tension between the film rewind and advance knobs. To learn more about the basic function of these cameras check out the free instruction manuals at http://www.butkus.org/chinon/canon.htm . There will soon be more to come on using these great old cameras!
A photo taken by my grandfather in Japan with his new Canon III