Japanese SLR production numbers. Part 4: Canon

Canon wasn't always the dominating (D)SLR producer as we know them today. They have been focusing on their very nice rangefinder cameras in the beginning, and entered the SLR market in 1959 at about the same time as Nikon did with the F.  During the 60ies and early 70ies they were just one of many SLR producers. Their breakthrough came 1976 with the Canon AE-1, a tremendous success. After 1985 during the early AF area they had a serious battle with Minolta about the leading SLR producer position. Later they were mostly competing with Nikon to finally succeed with the dawn of the DSLR cameras. As I'm only counting "traditional" SLR cameras (no AF, no build-in motor drives), Canon came out with "just" a total of 15.8 million units, a little less then the early market leader Pentax, but more then Minolta and Nikon. 

Launched at about the same time as the Nikon F, Canon's first SLR called Canonflex wasn't as successful. That might have be attributed to a weird design concept putting the advance lever at the bottom of the camera. Canon experimented a lot and brought new models almost every year, with small improvements, though.  However, it looks like they always were technically behind the competition for a couple of years.

With the F-series launched in 1964 they came closer to the main stream design concepts, but none of these cameras had outstanding features, which kind of explains, why Canon's SLR market share remained comparatively small. They tried to be innovative: The Pellix camera with the semi-transparent but stationary mirror was their first TTL metering camera. However, it was quite a flop. The other innovation they tried to use for marketing was the QL (quick-loading) system, which silently disappeared just a couple of years later. 
The first SLR they were able to sell over a million times was the FTb, a mainstream model at the time giving Canon the confidence that they can compete on the market and take the next step. The introduction of the AE-1 as the first camera of the A-series pushed Canon at the top of the market. With the AE-1 they sold high-end automatic features at average market pricing. With the AE-1 the SLR arrived at the average consumer and opened up a much bigger market than before.
Some of the success Canon had with the FTb and the A-series can also be attributed to the flagship F-1 they launched in 1971. The technical efforts they invested to make this camera gave them the experience and technology to succeed with the mass market models. The F-1 was Canon's attempt to compete with Nikon's professional F series. Without really beating Nikon, Canon definitely was their most serious and successful competitor.

In March 1983 Canon introduced the T-50, a camera with a build-in motor drive and the first of the T-Series. This series probably sold as good as the A-series did. However, it was just the transition to the modern EOS series of fully automated AF-SLR's, where Canon eventually took over the lead in the SLR market. This all is a complete different story and might be assessed later.

Modell Comments Introd. Disc. Numbers produced
R Mount (1959-1963) 
Canonflex instant return mirror 03/1959 1959         17,000
Canonflex RP 1960 1961         31,000
Canonflex R2000 1/2000 sec 1960 1960           8,800
Canonflex RM (1962) build-in selen meter 1962 1964         72,000
FL Mount (1964-1969) 
Canon FX Build-in CdS light meter 04/1964 1966       270,000
Canon FP Same as FX w/o metering 10/1964 1966         50,000
Canon Pellix stationary mirror, TTL 03/1965 03/1966         35,000
Canon Pellix QL QL: quick load 03/1966 1970         76,000
Canon FT QL TTL stop down 03/1966 1971       550,000
Canon TL QL max 1/500 s 1966 1971         55,000
FD Mount (1970-1990) 
Canon EF Auto exposure (S) 11/1973 1977?       320,000
Canon F-1 professional 09/1970 1981       380,000
Canon New F-1 professional 1981 1991       205,000
Canon FTb (QL) open aperture TTL 03/1971 1976    1,800,000
Canon FTbn 1973 1976
Canon TX stripped down FTb 03/1975 1976       180,000
Canon TLb stripped down FTb 09/1974 03/1975       120,000
A series (1976-1985)
Canon A-1 full Auto (P,S,A) mode 1978 1985    2,430,000
Canon AE-1 Auto exposure (S) 1976 1984    5,730,000
Canon AE-1 Program Auto exposure (S, P) 1981 1984    4,000,000
Canon AL-1 focussing aid 03/1982 1985       200,000
Canon AT-1 manual match needle 12/1976 1985       520,000
Canon AV-1 Auto exposure (A) 1979 1984       200,000

For this assessment I again used multiple sources from the internet, but did most of the counting by myself using this method. Canon is kind of unique as they use a date stamp inside the film chamber and in a few cases I was able to get both, date and serial number of a certain camera. With this the distribution of the produced cameras over the years was a little easier than with the other producers. For the Canonflex series I totally relied on the info I found on cameraquest.com.


Japanese SLR production numbers. Part 3: (Asahi) Pentax

Chapter 3 of my Japanese SLR production number series is about the Asahi Optical Corporation, better known under its SLR brand Pentax and later on renamed into Pentax Corp. With their Asahiflex series from 1952 they actually were the first producer of a SLR in Japan and remained the only one for a couple of years. While the others copied German rangfinder cameras, Asahi decided to try it with a copy of the Praktiflex. Especially during the late '60ies and early '70ies Asahi was (number wise) the leading SLR producer. Proudly they announced the 10 millionth SLR in 1981, as the first of the big 4 (Nikon, Minolta and Canon being the other 3). My assessment shows a total of 17.8 million manual focus SLR's produced in Japan.
Kapitel 3 meiner Studie zu Produktionszahlen japanischer Spiegelreflexkameras handelt von der Asahi Optical Corporation, besser bekannt unter ihrem Markennamen Pentax und später in Pentax Corp. umbenannt. Mit der Asahiflex Reihe von 1952 war Asahi Optical der erste Hersteller einer SLR in Japan und blieb es auch für ein paar Jahre. Während die anderen deutsche Messsucher Kameras kopierten, entschied sich Asahi, es mit einer Klon der Praktiflex zu versuchen. Vor allem in den späten 60er und frühen 70er Jahren war Asahi (von der Anzahl her) der führende Spiegelreflex Hersteller. Stolz verkündigte Pentax 1981 die Produktion der 10-Millionsten SLR, als erster der großen 4 (Nikon, Minolta und Canon sind die anderen 3). Meine Bewertung zeigt, dass Pentax am Ende 17,8 Mio. MF SLR in Japan produziert hat.

The early Asahiflex and Pentax SLR's are very well documented including production numbers and I had no reason to doubt the info I found on www.pentax-slr.com. I just distributed the production among the documented years in a reasonable manner.
Die frühen Asahiflex und Pentax SLR sind sehr gut dokumentiert, einschließlich Produktionszahlen und ich habe keinen Grund, die Informationen, die ich www.pentax-slr.com gefunden habe anzuzweifeln. Ich habe die Gesamtzahl lediglich auf die jeweils dokumentierten Jahre in angemessener Weise verteilt.

The Spotmatic series introduced in 1964 on the one hand was an evolutionary continuation of the Pentax S series. However, the essential feature it added - TTL metering - in a well made and modern body at affordable prices pushed Asahi at the top of the SLR market. The SP was the first SLR sold more than a million times, when discontinued in 1974 more than 2.7 million have been produced. The entire series counted for more than 4.4 million bodies.
Die Spotmatic-Reihe, eingeführt im Jahr 1964, war auf der einen Seite eine evolutionäre Fortsetzung der Pentax S-Serie. Doch TTL-Messung als wesentliches neues Merkmal, noch dazu in einem gut gemachten und modernen Gehäuse zu erschwinglichen Preisen, katapultierte Asahi an die Spitze des SLR-Markts. Die SP war die erste Spiegelreflex, die sich mehr als eine Million Mal verkaufte. Beim Produktionsende im Jahr 1974 waren es dann mehr als 2,7 Millionen. Die gesamte Serie umfasst mehr als 4,4 Millionen Stück.

The K series really was a true transition product. Asahi saw the disadvantages they had with their M42 thread mount and proposed a bayonet mount, the Pentax K mount, aimed to become as universal as the M42 thread used to be. Consequently they continued the successful Spotmatic series with the new bayonet for some time before the new M series would take over. Interestingly, the most simple body (K-1000) survived the change for almost two decades, but its production moved to Hongkong and later to China respectively. As I'm only counting SLR's produced in Japan, the total number mentioned above does not include the these cameras. However, see my estimate of production in the graph on the left.
Die K-Serie ist wirklich eher ein Übergangsprodukt. Asahi sah die Nachteile mit ihren M42 Schraubgewinde und schlug eine Bajonettfassung vor, das sog. "Pentax K Bajonett", mit dem Ziel, wieder so universell wie das frühere M42 Gewinde zu werden. Folglich setzte man die erfolgreiche Spotmatic-Reihe für einige Zeit mit dem neuen Bajonett fort, bevor die neue M-Serie übernehmen würde. Interessanterweise überlebte das einfachste Gehäuse (die K-1000) die Änderungen für fast zwei Jahrzehnte, allerdings zog die Produktion erst nach Hongkong und später nach China um. Da ich nur die japanische Produktion hier zähle, sind diese Kameras in der oben angegebenen Gesamtzahl nicht enthalten. Allerdings kann man meine Schätzung zu deren Produktion in der Grafik auf der linken Seite sehen.

The M series, introduced only one year after the K series was one of the biggest successes of the Pentax brand. It was even smaller as Olympus' OM series and featured some "first's". The ME-super was the world's first camera with electronic push buttons instead of dial controls and the ME-F was the first 135 film Autofocus SLR. As there was just one AF-lens available it was not very successful and I decided to count it here. AF SLR's from 1985 on have been excluded from my assessment.
Die M-Serie, nur ein Jahr nach der K-Reihe eingeführt, war einer der größten Erfolge der Marke Pentax. Die Kameras waren sogar noch kleiner als die Olympus OM-Serie und hatten auch einige "erste Plätze": Die ME-super war die weltweit erste Kamera mit elektronischen Drucktasten statt Drehschalter und die ME-F war die erste KB-Autofokus SLR. Da nur ein AF-Objektiv zur Verfügung stand, war sie nicht sehr erfolgreich, und ich habe ausnahmsweise beschlossen, sie hier mitzuzählen. Alle anderen AF-SLR von 1985 an sind von dieser Studie ausgeschlossen.

Latest with the A and P series cameras Pentax could not keep up with Canon, Nikon and Minolta anymore. They were loosing market share, although these cameras were well build and offered almost all modern features. My assessment shows more than 4 million produced in Japan. This would have been a huge success in the 60ies or even 70ies. For the 80ies and 90ies this was by far not enough. Motorized and AF models took over and Pentax was just following the major trends as a smaller market player.
Spätestens mit den Kameras der A- und P-Reihen konnte Pentax nicht mehr Schritt halten mit Canon, Nikon und Minolta. Sie verloren Marktanteile, auch wenn diese Kameras gut gebaut waren und fast alle modernen Funktionen boten. Meine Recherchen zeigen, dass mehr als 4 Millionen davon in Japan produziert wurden. Dies wäre ein großer Erfolg in den 60er oder sogar 70er Jahren gewesen. Für die 80er und 90er Jahren war es bei weitem nicht genug. Motorisierte und AF-Modelle übernahmen und Pentax folgte lediglich den wichtigsten Trends als kleiner Marktteilnehmer.

One camera did not belong to any series: Pentax LX, Asahi's attempt to serve the professional market. They only produced about 230,000 cameras, but over a time frame of over 20 years. Except of the first series, where I have used the mentioned source, I've done the production number assessment by myself using the average distance method. In the Pentax case that was comparably easy as www.pentaxforums.com is running a serial number database for almost every Pentax SLR. Based on this here is a table of my results:

Eine Kamera gehört zu keiner Serie: Pentax LX, Asahi's Versuch, den professionellen Markt zu bedienen. Man produzierte nur rund 230,000 Kameras, das aber über einen Zeitraum von mehr als 20 Jahren. Mit Ausnahme der ersten Reihe, wo ich die o.g. Quelle verwendet habe, habe ich alle Produktionszahlen mit meiner Seriennummer-Methode abgeschätzt. Das war im Fall von Pentax vergleichsweise einfach, weil www.pentaxforums.com eine Seriennummer Datenbank für fast jede Pentax SLR pflegt. Auf dieser Basis hier eine Tabelle mit meinen Ergebnissen:




Numbers produced
SP 1964 1974        2,700,000
SL 1968 1974           200,000
SP II(a) 1971 1973           300,000
ES (II) 1971 1975           240,000
F 1973 1976           580,000
SP500 1971 1974           170,000
SP1000 1974 1977           250,000
K2 incl. K2DMD 1975 1980           140,000
KX  incl. KX Motor Drive 1975 1977           200,000
KM incl. KM Motor Drive 1975 1977           350,000
K-1000  Made in Japan 1975 1978           350,000
ME 1976 1980        1,600,000
MX incl. MX Data 1976 1985        1,150,000
K-1000 Assembled in Hong Kong Jun-78 1990      (2,000,000)
MV incl. MV1 Sep-79 1982        1,300,000
ME Super Jan-80 1987        2,300,000
LX incl. LX special editions Jun-80 May-01           230,000
Oct-81 1984            80,000
MG 1982 1985           500,000
Super Program Super A in other markets Mar-83 1987           620,000
Program A Program Plus in other markets Feb-84 1988           400,000
P30(n), P50 P3/P5 in other markets Oct-85 1988        1,700,000
P30t Assembeld in China 1990 1997      (1,500,000)
K-1000 Assembled in China Nov-90 1997         (970,000)