Top 12 classical SLR by production numbers

Previously I summarized 35mm film SLR production by countries, and with almost no surpise Japan won this competition. Today I'm presenting a TOP-12 list of the most successful single models, all of them have been produced more than 2 million times. But attention: This list only comprises the classical type models, no AF or built-in-motordrive cameras have been considered. Especially Minolta's (Maxxum) 7000 AF, Nikon's F-x01 or Canon's EOS models could have made it onto the Top 12 as well (I hope a can give the answer one time).

RankCameraProductionTotal SeriesYears
1Zenit E8.000.00012.000.000Zenit E, EM, ET1965-1989
2Canon AE15.730.00010.650.000Canon AE1976-1984
3Canon AE1Prog4.000.00010.650.000Canon AE1981-1984
4Praktica LTL3.664.0004.959.100Praktica L1969-1989
5Pentax K-10003.320.0003.660.000Pentax K1976-1997
6Pentax Spotmatic SP2.700.0004.400.000Pentax SP1964-1974
7Minolta SR-T1012.500.0003.600.000Minolta SR-T1966-1976
8Canon A12.430.0002.430.000Canon A11978-1985
9Pentax ME Super2.300.0006.900.000Pentax M1980-1987
10Nikon FM/FM22.225.0004.600.000Nikon FM-FE-FA1977-2001
11Minolta X-7002.100.0004.250.000Minolta X1981-1999
12Olympus OM-12.100.0003.870.000Olympus OM-x1972-1987

#1: KMZ Zenit E
Although not from Japan, this Russian camera won the competion based on three facts, which were all founded in the socialistic market environment in the former USSR: the extremly long production period (24 years) paired with little technological advancement during this time frame, and of course a closed market with almost no competition. In addition this camera was sold cheap in Western markets.  

#2 and #3: Canon AE1  and AE1 Program
This is the total opposit to the Zenit. The AE1 ruled the market due to its advanced technology, a global marketing campaign and of course competive pricing. After only 5 years of tremendous success on the market it was succeeded by its almost as successful sister model AE1 Program, and laid the foundation of Canon's position in market even today.

 #4: Praktica LTL
This is the only German SLR on the list, the country where it all began. However, as with the Zenit it was a socialistic environment and a long production period of 20 years (with slight improvements though), which secured the high numbers, together with automation in production. In the beginning of its production the technology was almost competive and more advanced than the Zenit.

#5: Pentax K-1000
This camera was never meant to become a best seller. Pentax just wanted to have a simple base model in their portfolio, took the old Spotmatic technology and added the new K-bayonet mount. What secured the camera's high production numbers was the fact that Pentax moved production twice, first to Hongkong and later to mainland China. This ensured low costs, which lead to 21 years of production.

 #6: Pentax Spotmatic SP
The "Spotmatic" was the first SLR, which reached a production number of more than 1 million units. It ruled the SLR market in the 60ies in a similar way as Canon did it with the AE1 in the late 70ies. If you took the entire Spotmatic series and add the K-Series, which was essentially the same technology, you'd get to a number of about 8 million units!

#7: Minolta SR-T 101
Although technically more advanced than the Spotmatic, Minolta's SR-T 101 was a great success, but almost always came in second behind the Pentax. However, it paved the way for later Minolta best sellers, namely the great X-700 of the early 80ies (second behind Canon AE1 though), and of course the Maxxum 7000 AF of the late 80ies (not on this list, see comment above).

All of the above cameras I'm proud to own and the pictures on the left are of course all taken by me. I find this quite remarkable, as I was mostly interested in significant cameras from a technology and innovation perspective, and did not care too much on how successful these cameras were. Of course, the higher the production volume, the higher the probability to get one for cheap money.
From the missing 5 on the list I only have the #12: Olympus OM1, and I'm glad it made it among the top 12 as it is from a design perspective one of the most beautiful SLRs one could ever buy.

The other 4, namely Canon A1, Nikon FM, Pentax ME Super and Minolta X-700 are still missing in my collection and the future will show, whether the one or the other appears here in my blog.

On the left you can see two cameras, which probably belong onto this list of best-selling SLR's. The first is Cosina CT-1, produced in many versions and sold under many names. Therefore the true production number of this "series" is not really assessible.

The second is Minolta's Maxxum 7000 AF, the top seller AF-SLR from the late 80ies. Still, I could not find any production number for it yet. I will keep trying, stay tuned...

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