Canon S-I Rangefinder Camera 1946


A Description of the rare Canon S-I Rangefinder Camera of 1946



Canon S-I

a Canon S-I of 1946 mounted with a pre-war Nikkor 5cm f3.5 lens


Resumption of Seiki-Kōgaku Production in 1945-1946


In late 1945, staff of the Seiki-Kōgaku Kogyo Co., Ltd. gradually returned to Tokyo and began to restore camera production. The Canon history site states that the main factories survived the war "without major damage". The Canon site further states:


"...the Allied Occupation Forces (centered on the U.S. Forces) showed great interest in Japanese cameras. [Dr. Takeshi] Mitarai felt that it was not impossible to restart camera production, and submitted an application for production of consumer goods to the GHQ (the Allied Army General Headquarters). The application was granted on October 1, l945, two months after the end of the war, for Precision Optical Industry Co., Ltd. to resume the production of cameras. 4 The primary producion was at the Canon factory near the Schimomaruku train station, Tokyo which was later expanded into the Canon headquarters complex. 4


Canon factory Schimomaruku Japan

the Canon factory Schimomaruku where production was resumed in late 1945


At first, at the end of 1945, a simple camera, the Canon J-II was assembled from Canon S and Canon J parts. You can read about the Canon J-II by clicking here. Then begain the production of the far more complex Canon S-I.


Production of Cameras in Japan during World War II


Year Quantity Produced 20


As is evident from the production figures above, during World War II, given the scarcity of materials, the destruction of the distribution network, and the ban on sales to cameras to private citizens, there were few cameras produced 1943-1945, and most of these were for the Japanese military.


Canon S-I Imperial Navy x 2

two Canon S-I of World War II produced for the Imperial Japanese Navy with military engraving


I have seen 3 Imperial Navy Canon S-I cameras; each was mounted with a rare bayonet mount lens Nikkor 5cm f2.0


it is not clear (to me) if the pin on the upper camera front was for flash bulb synchronization; the lower S-I lacks a pin


Canon S-I Imperial Navy anchor

the Canon cameras produced for the Imperial Japanese Navy had an anchor on the bottom plate


So, in summary, in 1946, the Japanese camera industry was (like most of Japan) in a difficult economic situation.


Production of the Canon S-I


Peter Dechert in Canon Rangefinders wrote:


"Even after regrouping for several weeks, all that the staff [of Seiki-Kōgaku] could do was to work with parts at hand. Their first postwar product was the Canon S-I." 1


The Canon S-I produced during the last month of 1945 until November 1946 were limited: Dechert estimates 97 cameras, based on Canon records. 1 This production was limited not only by difficult post-war conditions, but also because the Canon S-I camera was the last to be constructed with the Nikkor focusing lens mount. You can read more about this Nikkor focusing mount by clicking on the Nikkor 50mm lens and mount. The Canon S-I camera was the only post-war camera made with the complex Nikkor focusing mount. It is doubtful that Nippon Kōgaku made any more of these mounts in 1945-1946, so the Canon S-I would have been assembled from the focusing mounts on hand.


All these factors would account for the very small number of Canon S-I units produced duing 1946. However, they are examples of Seiki-Kōgaku's determination to rebuild their production and their business.


The 1946 Canon S-I bodies were equiped with Nikkor 50mm f3.5 lenses, as well as the Nikkor 50mm f4.5 as shown in the photograph above, and also with the very rare bayonet mount Nikkor 50mm f2.8 lens, as can be seen in the photograph below.


Canon S-I

a rare Canon S-I of 1946 with a rare Nikkor 5cm f2.8 lens


Canon Preparations for the Canon S-II


During this time of Canon S-I production, Seiki-Kōgaku was preparing a new, and better (and more simply) designed camera: the Canon S-II. This camera rebuilt the Canon camera business 1946-1949 as you can read by clicking on the link below.




You can click on the links in the table below to consult other pages of the site.


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Any additions or corrections to these pages would be welcome simply by contacting this site as shown at the foot of this page .


1 Dechert, Peter. Canon Rangefinder Cameras 1933-1968. Hove Collectors Books. West Sussex, United Kingdom. 1985. ISBN 0-906447-30-5.
Peter Dechert's book is the most important expert source of information regarding Canon Rangefinder Cameras.
2 Kitchingman, Peter. Canon M39 Rangefinder Lenses 1939-1971. A Collector's Guide. Published by Peter Kitchingman. Perth, Australia. 2008. ISBN 978-0-646-48144-9.
Peter Kitchingman's book is the definitive study of the more than three decades of M39 format camera lenses developed for Canon Rangefinder Cameras.
3 Nostalgic Canon Camera Book. 懐かしいキヤノン EI Publishing Co. Ltd. Tokyo, Japan. June 2003.
Peter Kitchingman's book is the definitive study of the more than three decades of M39 format camera lenses developed for Canon Rangefinder Cameras.
4 "Canon Camera Museum" history website. published by Canon, Inc. accessed in 2019.
5 Rajner, Hans P. (author), John Wade (editor). Leica Copies. Classic Collections Publications. London, UK. ISBN 13: 9781874485056
Hans P. Rajner's book is an excellently detailed and carefully researched study of camera from around the world which used the Leica M39 lens mount and the same lens to film plane distance.
7 Dechert, Peter. Canon Single Lens Reflex Cameras 1959-1991. Historical Camera Publications. Yakima, Washington. 1992. ISBN 1-879561-04-2.
8 Tomlinson, Shawn M. The Film Photography Book. Lulu Pulbications. 2016. ISBN: 9781365263972
9 Sartorius., Ghester. Identifying Leica Lenses. Classic Camera 19. Tokyo, Japan. 2001. ISBN 4-257-12029-0
10 website consulted 2019.
11 O'Reagan, Douglas M. Allied Exploitation of German Science after World War II. Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore, Maryland. 2019. ISBN 9781421428888
12 website consulted 2008.
13 Minolta expert Andrea Aprà has posted information on minoltarangefinders group and other groups and further detailed information by email. (thanks Andrea !)
14 website consulted 2019.
15 Small, Marc James. Non-Leitz Leica Thread-Mount Lenses. Wittig Books. Hückelhoven, Germany. 1997. ISBN 3-930359-47-2.
16 the Nikon Corporation website: consulted 2019.
17 p 152. Ray, Sidney F. Photographic Lens ISBN 9780240510323
18 website accessed 2019

If you have any comments or questions about this Canon Rangefinder site, please e-mail me (Larry Huffman) at e-mail address: