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Camera market dominator in 1960s, 70s and 80s?

Chanchai Arreewittayalerd , Nov 28, 2010; 09:06 a.m.

Hello all,
Just came up with this question, as of now, I believe Canon is #1 in SLR camera industry, followed by Nikon and Sony (maybe).... I wonder what the camera market was like in 60s, 70s and 80s? After being into photography for some years, I believe that things were not much different as the most advanced models released during such periods were of Canon and Nikon (I am talking about Canon FTb, F1, A1 and Nikon F, F2, F3, F4), and this must reflect something as the players who were able to release the state of the art models much be financially strong so that they could fund their research. If you are from such periods, or if you happen to have the information on this, please resolve my curiosity. Thank you!
Chanchai A.


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Tony Evans , Nov 28, 2010; 09:38 a.m.


Vincent Peri , Nov 28, 2010; 09:44 a.m.

There are a whole lot more Nikon F, F2, and F3 bodies than there are Canon F1 bodies, if eBay and Keh.com are any indicators.

Kayam Rajaram , Nov 28, 2010; 09:55 a.m.

as the most advanced models released during such periods were of Canon and Nikon

Chanchai - I don't know whether Canon and Nikon were the largest selling Japanese SLR manufacturers in the 60s and 70s (probably but I don't have the data to support it) but I definitely do not think they were the undisputed leaders when it came to body technology. For example, Pentax produced the first TTL metering camera with the Spotmatic, though Topcon beat them to market with the RE Super. Either Topcon or Konica produced the first auto-exposure body. And then there are differences in shutter technology - Konica was the first to introduce the vertical travel focal plane shutter with the Copal Square.

In the 1970s you could argue that Canon had stepped up the technology war by introducing the AE1, which may (I'm not sure) have been the first electronically controlled programmed AE camera, but even as late as the 1980s Canon and Nikon were not the undisputed kings of technology. Minolta beat them to market with the first AF camera, the venerable Minolta 7000. Canon of course took the high-ground back with the T90 (first with TTL flash metering) and then the EOS system.

I've never used a Nikon so one of the Nikonistas please correct me if I'm wrong here, but I've never thought of Nikon as a technology-driven camera company (though they were the first to introduce matrix metering with the FA). Their hallmark has always been producing beautifully designed, solidly built camera bodies to pair with their outstanding lenses. And they had the most prestigious brand value amongst the Japanese manufacturers. This makes sense to me - when a market structure crystallizes innovation is often led by the "lesser" brands who have to do so in order to capture market share. This is Michael Porter's argument, that corporations grow when faced with limitations that force innovation, rather than having an abundance of resources. As a former business school professor, I'm sure SP could shed some interesting light on this.

Can't comment on lens technology.

Kayam Rajaram , Nov 28, 2010; 10:06 a.m.

There are a whole lot more Nikon F, F2, and F3 bodies than there are Canon F1 bodies, if eBay and Keh.com are any indicators.

Or maybe Canon F1 owners are less willing to let go of their precious F1s than Nikonistas are..:-D

Sorry, couldn't resist a quick Nikon jab.

Matthew Muskovac , Nov 28, 2010; 10:18 a.m.

Depends on how you define #1. Most advanced features or most used by professionals?

During the 60s-early 80s, Nikon was #1 for professionals. It is debatable whether Canon was second, I would group Canon somewhat equally with the other strong players of the era (Minolta, Pentax, Olympus).

I know people who recently bought their first SLR (Nikon) without even considering Canon. The Nikon brand reputation from the past was so strong they didn't even consider other brands. Paul Simon didn't sing about Canons.

BTW, I was a Minolta manual focus user in the 80's and a Canon EOS user since.

Bueh B. , Nov 28, 2010; 10:26 a.m.

Zeiss Ikon, of course!

Les Sarile , Nov 28, 2010; 10:35 a.m.

I too am a very recent Classic Camera user even though I'm over 50 as I never got into photography till about 2000. I'm sure it is regional but I seem to remember that Nikon was the one to own but there were more Pentax users in the 60's-70's.

Of course in hindsight, we know who emerged as the winner between the Canon Flex and the Nikon F which were released in about the same time. I am just now beginning to learn there were other contenders then as well and it seems someone was patenting some feature - or combination of features. As a perspective, search for TTL (though the lens) as well as instant return mirror and you'll be amazed to see the claims of being first.

Regardless of who did what, I just know that I am thoroughly enjoying exploring all these cameras . . . ;-)

BTW, here are a few sites that serve to compliment the info provided by this wonderful group:

  1. Photography in Malaysia
  2. Stephen Gandy's CameraQuest
  3. Photoethnography Equipment
  4. The Rokkor Files
  5. Marc's Classic Cameras
  6. The Unofficial Olympus OM

Steve Levine , Nov 28, 2010; 11:07 a.m.

Canon, didn't enter the "pro" SLR market until the early 70's with their F1. Nikon, dominated the pro market from 1960 onward after the 1959 release of their F. And during the 60's,70's,80's and 90's, very few pros used anything other than Nikon. Companies such as Minolta, Pentax, Olympus, Topcon (and to some degree) Canon etc were all just minor players. They catered mostly to the amateur markets. The pro gear they did make never sold anywhere near Nikon's numbers.

Canon never caught Nikon in sales with any of their film cameras. It was only during the last decade or so, that Canon surpassed Nikon in sales with their pro and pro-sumer DSLR's. Optically, most of the big makers always made glass as "good" as Nikon. But in the last decade, Canon has certainly raised the bar with their interesting lens designs.

Pierre Lachaine , Nov 28, 2010; 11:14 a.m.

I was already into photography by the late 60's, and more seriously by 1975. I don't have any business statistics, but my impression at the time was always that, in terms of SLR cameras, Nikon was tops, Pentax not far behind at that time (in the 60's and up to mid 70's anyway). Minolta wasn't too far behind either. Funny, I don't recall Canon as being a camera most people would think of if they were suddenly in the market for one... not until the late 70's or early 80's. Olympus really only started to take off when they became the pop photography magazines' darling for having the brightest viewfinders, with the OM's in the mid-70's. In the 70's, the fixation in SLRs was with the brightness of the viewfinder, like megapixels are today.

My real impression was that if you were a pro, in the 60's, early to mid-70's, you would choose a Nikon, and if you were a consumer, you would probably think of Pentax first. Buyers of Canon and the others were comparable to the people who bought Ramblers vs Chevs and Fords.

If you're talking about compact rangefinder 35mm cameras, that was a whole other ballgame, and you would probably have a Minolta or a Canon. Nikon and Pentax didn't play much in that market, if at all.

Price did play a role in buyer choice, I imagine. It was easier to get into Pentax than Nikon, for example.

In those days, Nikon was more into solid cameras, and they were a bit conservative in terms of the latest and greatest features and technology.

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