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Canon Lenses, Flash & Accessories

Contents

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Lenses Overview

Lens Mounts
Nikkor Lenses
Serenar Lenses
Canon Lenses
Mirror Boxes
Viewfinders
Lens Hoods and Filters
Lens Caps and Other Caps
Lens Cases

Canon Flash System

For Unsynced Cameras
For Canon Rail Mount Cameras (bottom loading)
For Canon Bayonet Mount Cameras (hinged back)
Canon Speedlights for Rail and Bayonet Mount Cameras
For Canon 7s
Useful Flash Accessories for the Modern Photographer

Canon Meters

Ever-ready Cases

Canon Rapid Winder

Accessories Other

Reloadable Film Magazines
Canon Camera Holder
Auto-Up
Self-timers
Copy Stands

Camera Boxes

Lenses Overview

Until the early post-War years, Canon cameras featured Nippon Kogaku made Nikkor lenses. Canon then produced a very complete range of lenses with many variations and updates over the rangefinder lifetime, including simply inscription changes. These were referred to as Canon's “S” lenses (“R” lenses were early, often similar, SLR lenses). In fact, whilst rangefinder camera production ceased in 1968, lens production continued until 1975. If you are a Canon lens collector or, want to know what lens matches which body, you'll need something like Peter Kitchingman's “Canon M39 Rangefinder Lenses 1939-1971” book with a lifetime of collecting and research behind it. The best on-line guide is the Canon Camera Museum, Lens Hall, S Lenses. It lists lenses chronologically but gives little detail and there are definitely some anomalies with contradictions from Canon's own manuals, brochures and catalogues. There are Canon lens brochures and guides from the early 1950s to the end of the 1960s available for download from https://www.pacificrimcamera.com/rl/rlCanonRF.htm. My look at lenses will be more from an historical perspective and much more broad brush. I have grouped them by name, then chronologically and focused mainly on standard lenses (5 cm/50 mm) with an even briefer look at accessory lenses at the end of each name group.

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Lens Mounts

First there was the Kwanon prototypes with the Leitz Elmar-like KasyaPa lens but, the ads tell us, it was actually a Zeiss Tessar optical design. I haven't seen the lens mount specs mentioned by anyone so only Canon would know. It may be the Leica thread mount (LTM), or M39, or something else. I've said it on my other pages and I'll say it again, LTM and M39 are not the same, LTM uses a Whitworth thread and M39 is metric. These are the production lens mounts:

Bayonet Mount

This is a hybrid mount used by the Hansa Canon, Canon S and its S derivatives until and including the post-War S I. The main mount has the same 39 mm diameter and appearance as the Leica but with a pitch of 24 threads per inch (TPI) instead of 26 TPI. The Nippon Kogaku made Contax-like focusing mount is screwed into this and secured by a set screw. On the left is the screw mount, the lobe on its top right is for the rangefinder coupling, on the right is the rear of the focusing mount shown upside down (half of the set screw hole can be seen in the bottom of each of the two parts):

(Web image)

The lens barrel is inserted into the focusing mount using a bayonet fitting. The mount focusing helical is operated by the toothed wheel, the button next to it is the infinity lock. It proved to be a complicated and expensive system seen as necessary to avoid infringing Leica's patents around the transmission of focus information to the rangefinder. Each mount was numbered and early ones were engraved with Nippon Kogaku's name (ended between mount 717 and 853, Peter Dechert says between 700 and 800). Hansa Canon with early mount on left, Canon S on right:

(Detail from larger web images)

J Mount

The J mount (named that after the War) was used by the budget Canon J and its derivatives. It is simply the main 39 mm 24 TPI Hansa Canon/ Canon S mount (without rangefinder coupling lobe) into which the lenses, with their own helicoids, mounted directly in Leica fashion, but without a rangefinder, the Canon J avoided Leica's focusing patents.

Semi-universal Mount

Peter Dechert tells us that the 1946 Canon S II introduced a new mount referred to as “semi-universal” which was close to the Leica standard but would accept the earlier J mount lenses as well as most Leica lenses - to make it work, the threads were cut sloppier. Peter Dechert also says that until 1947, Seiki Kogaku and Nippon Kogaku engineers believed that the Leica thread pitch was 1 mm (M39) without realising it was 0.977 mm (based on 26 TPI Whitworth). That raises a question in my mind - why then did Seiki Kogaku and Nippon Kogaku settle on a 24 TPI thread for the earlier hybrid/J mount instead of a more logical metric thread? Perhaps Nippon Kogaku, like Leitz (a microscope maker beforehand), was familiar with using Whitworth threads in other optical applications?

Canon itself does not acknowledge the “semi-universal” thread, it says this of the Canon S II; “the non-universal, threaded lens mount was identical to the Canon J’s”, i.e. a thread pitch of 24 TPI and this claim seems to apply to all examples. That's definitely incorrect as we shall see. In any case, Peter Dechert claims that only a very few very early examples used the J mount. Of the Canon IIB, Canon says; “the lens mount was a universal, threaded flange compatible with Leica” whereas according to Peter Dechert, the universal thread didn't arrive until late 1951, see below.

There seems to be very little discussion of this anywhere, either the nuances of the semi-universal mount and the arrival time of the universal mount are ignored, or Peter Dechert's claims are accepted verbatim.

I don't have access to a J mount lens but this is what I can prove. I have Canon S II body, serial number 19269 (almost exactly halfway through production). On this will mount my confirmed LTM lenses (Whitworth thread), including my Canon 50 mm f/1.8 and notably, Leica Summitar 5 cm f/2. So it is definitely not a J mount, sorry Canon. However, it is also definitely different to Leica and later Canon mounts as it will also happily mount my M39 (metric thread) pre-War Soviet FED 5 cm f/3.5 lens and an M39 body cap I mistakenly acquired - neither of these will mount (screw fully in) on a Leica IIIc, or Canon IV Sb, although both their LTM lenses will mount on the M39 FED. They won't mount on my Canon II B either but unfortunately that proves little other than it is almost certainly an LTM - it is a late example from probably early 1952 and by then, Canon had introduced it's universal mount and may have updated the II B mount as well, if it wasn't already one. In fact, Peter Dechert has said that some late ones may have the new mount. On the other hand, the standard lens remained the earlier Serenar f/1.9 and neither the body shell nor maker name received the updates of the Canon III introduced in February 1951 - would Canon have bothered with an 11th hour change before its inevitable demise? For my own peace of mind, at some point I hope to investigate this further, but for the moment, I fully accept what Peter Dechert has said, he has been correct much more often than not.

The metric equivalent thread pitch comparison of the three mounts in question is as follows; LTM 0.977 mm (26 TPI), M39 1.000 mm (25.4 TPI) and J 1.058 mm (24 TPI). A thread halfway between LTM and J would be 1.0175 mm (25 TPI), so not far from M39 but a little closer to the J mount than LTM. Therefore, the “semi-universal” thread could be a loose M39, noting Peter Dechert's comments about Canon's belief and my experience of being able to mount LTM lenses on M39 (but not vice versa), or a slightly coarser custom pitch.

Universal Mount

According to Peter Dechert, the fully Leica compatible lens mount with 26 TPI, in Canon terminology, “universal” mount, was introduced by the Canon III A and IV F in late 1951 and used for all subsequent models. The new Serenar 5 cm f/1.8 lens released for them also featured the new thread but given stocks of lenses in other aperture and focal length sizes, some may have not changed until renamed “Canon” or were discontinued first.

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Nikkor Lenses

The Nippon Kogaku made Nikkor 5 cm lenses were a standard fitment from the launch of the Hansa Canon until the Canon S II was released in 1946 and even then filled gaps in Seiki Kogaku's early production. No shorter or longer focal length Nikkor lenses were marketed in this period (a pre-War prototype 35 mm lens is known to exist).

According to John Baird, author of “The Japanese Camera”, the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Mitsubishi group paid licensing fees for Zeiss lens designs and the Navy also assisted Nippon Kogaku with obtaining materials and equipment for producing optical glass in Japan. He adds that Nippon Kogaku employee, Ryouzou (or Yoshizo, see Serenar Lenses below) Furukawa indicated that the first 5 cm f/3.5 Nikkor for the Hansa Canon was completed in December 1934 (Nippon Kogaku had been formed in 1917 and had begun designing camera lenses for the military in the late 1920s, see The Japanese Copymakers).

Baird also tells us that Furukawa checked the performance of the Nikkor against the Leitz Elmar and found the Nikkor to be inferior. With improvements to the optical glass, this was apparently rectified in May 1937 and “it is suggested” that this coincided with the change from “black face” to “white face”.

5 cm f/3.5 Nikkor

The first lens released was the collapsible f/3.5 Tessar design which, in different forms, remained the general purpose option throughout the Nippon Kogaku era. The first version With its white on black lettering and aperture ring on the front had what is now called a “black face”:

(Web image)

These were replaced by a similar design “white face” lens, both featuring front set apertures:

(Web image)

Not surprisingly, given Nippon Kogaku's licensed access to Zeiss lens designs and adoption of the Zeiss Contax style focusing mount, both the front set black face and white face lenses are similar in appearance and function to the black face and white face Zeiss 5 cm f/3.5 and f/2.8 Tessars fitted to the Contax I.

Early lenses were nickel plated, later ones chrome (Peter Dechert says from serial number 50540 onward, which must be about the beginning of the white face lenses).

With the release of the Canon S, the Nikkor f/3.5 was updated with outer aperture ring viewable from above, almost certainly influenced by the 5 cm f/2 Leitz Summar design. This is the bayonet version for the focusing mount but it was also available in J mount and Nikon tells us that production of an LTM version was “recommended” in December 1945 so probably first appearing in early 1946 (Nikkor f/3.5 lenses fitted to early Canon S II cameras could be either J or LTM mount):

(Web images)

The smallest aperture of all versions was f/18 until near the end of the War when it changed to f/16. Nippon Kogaku introduced lens coating for the 5 cm f/3.5 in April 1946. Coated lens are marked “QC”, the “Q” standing for quattro, i.e. four elements, and the “C” standing for coated.

5 cm f/4.5 & f/2.8 Nikkors

Released in early 1938 along with the f/2 below, these were are both collapsible type lenses with front set apertures like the whiteface f/3.5. Whilst small numbers of the f/4.5 were made in bayonet mount, it was intended as the standard lens for the Canon J. The f/2.8 lens was only made in bayonet mount and is a fairly uncommon lens. Both ceased production early in the War:

(Web images)

5 cm f/2 Nikkor

The f/2 Nikkor is a 6 element Zeiss Sonnar design. Unlike the previous lenses which used Japanese optical glass, author John Baird claims that special Schott barium glass was imported from Germany. Peter Dechert tells us that there are three versions. The first type was short-lived and has stops down to f/22 which Peter Dechert calls “internally set”, more commonly called “front set” (note the low 4 digit serial number, the last 2 digits are the number made so far):

(Web images)

The second and most common type has an external aperture ring and a minimum aperture of f/16:

(Web image)

Additionally, there is also the f/2 Regno-Nikkor which has a minimum aperture of f/11 instead of the f/16 of the Nikkor and Peter Dechert says has a simplified rear elements group resulting in a lens with only “4 or 5 elements” (I'm not sure whether “4 or 5 elements” means that the number is uncertain or both 4 and 5 element versions exist). It is thought to have originally been intended for use with X-Ray cameras but due to War-time shortages, some were fitted to the Canon S bayonet mount barrels. Early examples feature typical Nikkor serial numbers but later ones have their own series in the format 14xxxxA. Uncommon but not a rarity either. Note the f/11 minimum aperture:

(Detail from larger web images)

Nikkor Serial Numbers

The earliest Nikkor f/3.5 lenses were not serial numbered. When numbering started, there was a transition period - there are examples of the very last of the black face lenses which are numbered and of the very first of the white face lenses which are without.

Until 1944, all the Nikkor 5 cm lenses (but not most Regno-Nikkors) were prefixed “50” signifying the focal length in millimetres. Starting in 1944, a new numbering system was introduced which is claimed to be date coded with the first digit signifying the year of the decade and the second signifying the month. Lenses were generally made in batches, with the small number of cameras being made at that time, there might only be one batch of lenses in the year. My database contains “46”, “57” and “610” numbers; 1944 June, 1945 July and 1946 October, respectively, the same pattern as in Peter Dechert's book. The last in the series of lenses used by Canon introduced a three digit prefix with a two digit month code, “705” (1947 May).

In my Canon S II database, there is a mix of f/3.5 Nikkors and Serenars, but probably slightly more Nikkors, until camera 1618x after which there is only Nikkor 70566x attached to camera 1873x.

There is a little bit of a mystery, or at least confusion in my mind, regarding the post 1945 lenses. In my databases are five Nikkor 5 cm f/3.5 lenses with similar serial numbers ranging from 57044x to 57110x (57044x, 57075x, 57079x, 57101x and 57110x). Two were found on early Canon S II examples, first released in October 1946. These could be either J mount (a small number of early cameras), or LTM, but one is claimed to be J mount. Three were found mounted to Nippon cameras (rebranded Nicca later) with 1944 serial numbers. These were unlikely to be original fitments, only K.O.L., or post-War re-branded Sun, Xebec f/2 lenses were known to be supplied with the “Nippon” bodies. The mystery with the lenses is that the Nippon Kogaku date code theory suggests that “57” lenses were made in July 1945 but the four later ones are marked “QC”, the “C” meaning that they have a coated lens which only started in April 1946 and at least the three mounted on the Nippons are LTM which was only decided on in December 1945 and likely first made in 1946. The four are also marked with “Tokyo”. The earliest lens of the group has neither the Q.C nor Tokyo markings but it was found on a Nippon meaning that it is almost certainly LTM. A slightly earlier “57” lens, also without the markings, 57041x, is mounted on a Canon J II in my database making it the only one which likely matches its age. The serial numbers of all 5, plus J II lens, only span 70 lenses, or so. The thinking among some, including Peter Kitchingman, is that the origin of the lenses is indeed from July 1945 but that they were only completed later as needed. At this stage, Seiki Kogaku was Nippon Kogaku's only known customer for 50 mm standard lenses and Seiki Kogaku's camera production volume was very low in 1945 and 1946 and in any case, it was beginning to produce its own Serenars.

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Serenar Lenses

The “Serenar” name was trademarked by Seiki Kogaku in December 1941. According to Canon, the name was proposed by an employee in an internal competition and comes from the word “serene” via, somehow, the “Sea of Serenity”, a feature on the Moon.

The first Serenars were produced for the Japanese military. Whilst Peter Dechert doubts that Seiki Kogaku had a lens making capability until its acquisition of Yamato (he calls it Daiwa) Kogaku Seisakusho in 1944 and that it's early lenses were made by some other maker, probably Nippon Kogaku, Peter Kitchingman tells us that in 1939, Seiki Kogaku purchased two lens generators, a number of polishing machines and a lens checking tool. A lens designer, Yoshizo Furukawa (Canon Camera Museum, Peter Kitchingman names him as Furukawa Ryouzou using the Japanese convention of surname first), was also transferred from Nippon Kogaku to Seiki Kogaku and a supply of optical glass is also recorded (my approach with Japanese names is that it is a translation into English where the surname is last, the difference between Canon and Kitchingman translations is likely because there is no direct correlation between Japanese characters and the Roman alphabet, on this one, I have gone with the weight of Canon). Therefore it is reasonably safe to assume that Seiki Kogaku was responsible for the first Serenars as well. Canon links Furukawa to trial lenses such as a 50 mm f/4.5 and a 45 mm f/0.85 for 16mm cine cameras and “involvement” in developing the R-Serenar 50 mm f/1.5 lens for the Canon X-ray camera, Serenar 50 mm f/3.5 and non-rangefinder coupled 135 mm f/4.

Early Serenar Lenses

The best known is the 6 elements in 4 groups 5 cm f/1.5 lens originally made for the X-Ray camera from 1943 to 1946 (Peter Kitchingman). This featured a special barrel and no diaphragm, the lens being identified by the name “R-Serenar”. Peter Dechert also mentions examples rehoused in J mount focusing barrels with diaphragms found with Canon JS bodies and presumably used as copy cameras. Most were renamed “Serenar” but not all (Peter Kitchingman). As production of the R-Serenar ended in 1946 and the X-ray camera survived until 1957, there is a gap in lens choice which neither Dechert nor Kitchingman explain. Below left is a typical example of an R-Serenar 5 cm f/1.5, on the right is an example that has been rehoused in a focusing barrel complete with aperture diaphragm, this one has retained its R-Serenar name:

(Web images)

Peter Kitchingman mentions two other early lenses. The first is a 75 mm f/4.5 lens fitted to a fingerprint camera made for the military which predated the Serenar name and he also links to Furukawa. The second is a 5 cm f/3.5 enlarging lens likely made in early 1945 to replace the “Hermes” branded lens made for Seiki Kogaku by Nippon Kogaku. Peter Kitchingman considers this to be the first Seiki Kogaku made Serenar commercial lens.

5 cm f/3.5 Serenar

The collapsible Serenar f/3.5 is a 4 elements in 3 groups Tessar design and a close copy of its Nikkor predecessor. It was Seiki Kogaku's first standard lens made specifically for its cameras. According to Peter Kitchingman, production likely started in December 1945. As it was not until October 1946 that the Canon S II would be released, initial production was for the Canon J II but apparently the lens was already rangefinder coupled. Peter Kitchingman records 8 variations of this lens until its demise in 1955. These include lens coating from October 1946, changing the maker name on the ID ring from “Seiki-Kogaku” to “Canon Camera Co.” in October 1947, reducing the number of aperture blades from 12 to 8, adding click stops and a filter thread (34 mm) in December 1951 and renaming the lens from “Serenar” to “Canon Lens” in December 1952 (presumably adopting the universal lens mount). Lens cap size is 36 mm (slip-on).

“Seiki Kogaku Serenar” f/3.5, “Canon” branded Serenar and later example with “Japan” added to the maker name, filter threads and 8 aperture blades with an increase in aperture ring diameter and weight by 11g to 140g (Peter Kitchingman notes that at the time of writing his book, he had recorded only 23 Serenar named versions of this type):

(Detail from larger web images)

5 cm f/2 Serenar

The collapsible Serenar f/2 is a Double Gauss design with 6 elements in 4 groups with 13 aperture blades and not related to the Sonnar design of the Nikkor f/2. The physical barrel design looks very similar to the Leitz Summitar, another Double Gauss lens but that has 7 elements in 4 groups, fewer aperture blades (10 reducing later to 6) and an odd filter thread design. There are no click stops. Filter thread is 40 mm and lens cap size 42 mm. It was released in February 1947 as an option for the Canon S II and had a short life until 1949.

Peter Kitchingman identifies 4 types, the first two totalling some 230 to 240 with the maker name change from “Seiki-Kogaku” to “Canon Camera Co.” occurring right at the end in October 1947. These lenses featured an aperture range marked down to f/11 but a DoF range marked from f/2 to f/16. Type 3 lenses (totalling up to 322) featured both a minimum aperture of f/16 and a DoF scale marked accordingly and the elements were coated for the first time. With the Type 4 in April 1949 (the largest number, up to 1,360), the minimum aperture changed back to f/11 with matching DoF scale.

Peter Kitchingman tells us that the lens numbers started at 20001 and that the earliest found lens identified until writing his book in 2008 was 20008. Below left is lens number 20003, on the right is a type 4 example (the lower case name changed to upper case with Type 2):

(Detail from larger web images)

50 mm f/1.9 Serenar

The Serenar f/1.9 was introduced in April 1949 as the standard lens for the Canon II B and is a recomputed version of the previous Serenar f/2 with the minimum aperture remaining f/11 but the number of aperture blades increasing from 13 to 15. Another change was that the aperture opened up in the opposite direction - with the f/2, the “2” position was on the photographer's right, with the f/1.9, the “1.9” position was on the photographer's left. The filter thread remained 40 mm (lens cap 42 mm). As with the other early lenses, it did not feature click stops. Note, with the Serenar f/1.9 release, Canon changed from centimetre markings (“cm”) on all its lenses to millimetres (“mm”), except for remaining f/2 production:

The Serenar f/1.9 continued as the standard lens until the Canon IV. Peter Kitchingman records four variations but there were no significant changes apart from his Type 3 (the majority, with serial numbers beginning from 311xx) introducing a two piece construction for the lens flange and barrel.

50 mm f/1.8 Serenar

Although still a Double Gauss, 6 elements in 4 groups design, the Serenar f/1.8 is a new lens with rigid body and improved optical performance over its f/2 and f/1.9 predecessors, establishing Canon's reputation as a lens maker. It features an f/16 minimum aperture and 10 bladed diaphragm with click stops finally added. It was released with the Canon III A and IV F at the end of 1951 and importantly, it was the first Canon lens with the Leica spec “universal” thread mount. Whilst there would be later changes to the lens barrel, the optical design remained the same until production ended in 1975:

(Detail from larger web image)

The filter thread remained its earlier 40 mm until the end, inconvenient these days but back then, Canon focussed on Series filters and accessories. The lens cap size also remained 42 mm.

50 mm f/1.5 Serenar

In November 1952, Canon released its fastest rangefinder camera lens yet, the 50 mm f/1.5, as an option for the Canon IV Sb. This was quite different to the War-time R-Serenar X-Ray camera lens. It featured the same appearance and chrome on brass construction as the f/1.8 lens and a new 7 elements in 3 groups design with 13 aperture blades, but by reputation, didn't match the performance of its lesser f/1.8 stablemate. Unusually, it retained the f/1.8's 40 mm filter thread and 42 mm lens cap sizes. See Canon version below.

Serenar Accessory Lenses

I'll start with the 13.5 cm f/4 because it was the first but also the most controversial in terms of development and release. Initially it was uncoupled. The Canon Camera Museum site says that trial production started in 1941, originally in bayonet mount, and that it was advertised in May 1947 but wasn't released until March 1948. Peter Dechert's earliest knowledge of the lens are two 1944 prototypes that he surmised were the first Seiki Kogaku made Serenars, as we have seen from the evidence above, almost certainly incorrectly. He also says that the lens was made for sale post-War in both bayonet and semi-universal mounts. Peter Kitchingman agrees regarding the existence of the prototypes and has recorded examples with the bayonet mount. According to him, the lens was released in March 1947. As there are many examples of the lens with the earlier “Seiki-Kogaku” maker name (the name change occurred on 15 September 1947), the Canon marketing date is either wrong, or many months production was made before release. This ad from the 20 December 1947 Camera Times suggests that the 13.5 cm lens was already available alongside the 5 cm f/2 and f/3.5 lenses (the text before and after translates to “Serenar” and “coated processing”):

Rangefinder coupling was introduced in December 1947 and the lens ended production in October 1952, being replaced by the f/3.5 version. The style is typical of Canon's longer lenses of the period:

(Web image)

Both Peter Dechert and Peter Kitchingman mention a very short-lived, very limited production, uncoupled 20 cm f/4 Serenar made in September and October 1946 with only one known surviving example.

The 13.5 cm lens was followed by an 8.5 cm f/2 and 10 cm f/4 in early 1948, both changing to “mm” in 1949. All three are listed in this 25 December 1948 Camera Times ad:

The 85 mm f/2 was joined by an f/1.9 version in September 1951 and ceased production in June 1952, the f/1.9 lens surviving in various forms until 1960. The 100 mm f/4 ended production in July 1952.

Canon released its first wide angle lens, the Serenar 35 mm f/3.5 in March 1950. In a little over a year later, it replaced it with a faster f/3.2 version which survived to July 1954. This is the Serenar lens range circa early 1951:

In 1951, it released a faster 35 mm f/2.8 and also its first wider lens, the 28 mm f/3.5. Serenar 35 mm f/3.5 on left and 35 mm f/2.8 on right:

(Web images)

The f/4 versions of the 135 mm and 100 mm lenses were both replaced by f/3.5 lenses towards the end of 1952. This was shortly before the change in lens name, and there were probably less than 600 Serenar named 135 mm f/3.5 examples made and less than 500 100 mm f/3.5 examples. With a sign of things to come, the 100 mm f/3.5 replaced the brass on chrome barrels of earlier lenses with a much lighter alloy black barrel with chrome aperture and focusing rings - see Canon Lens version.

Below is the lens page from the Canon II D/III A/IV S user manual from late 1952 which is interesting in that it captures the full range of Serenars before the name change and includes superseded models as well, only missing the Serenar 5 cm f/2:

Canon tells us that the final Serenar was the impressively long 800 mm f/8 however, according to Peter Kitchingman, it was released as a Canon Lens. As the marketing date is March 1953, same as the announcement for the name change, I'm inclined to side with Peter Kitchingman.

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Canon Lenses

Throughout at least the first half of the 1950s, Canon produced “Directions and Tables”, suggesting a user manual, for first Serenar lenses and then Canon Lenses. By 1958, the equivalent booklet was simply called “Canon Lenses”, implying more of a brochure which is what they increasingly became in the 1960s. Nevertheless, whatever purpose or form, they are a useful source of information. Below is an undated Canon Lens Directions and Tables, which in both appearance and content, is identical to August 1954 and January 1955 printings, i.e., from near near the end of the bottom loaders but before the 50 mm f/2.8 replaced the 50 mm f/3.5:

(Click on cover for PDF manual)

50 mm f/3.5 Canon Lens

The Serenar f/3.5 lens was renamed “Canon Lens” in December 1952:

(Web image)

With the release of the new f/2.8 lens, production ceased in February 1955.

50 mm f/1.8 Canon Lens

Also renamed “Canon Lens” in December 1952 was the f/1.8 Serenar. Initially, it remained the same chrome on brass lens as before:

With the release of the Canon VT in 1956 with new features and a new modern look, the f/1.8 lens was updated with a new black light alloy barrel with silver aperture ring and DoF scales (Peter Kitchingman's Type 5). In the redesign, the minimum aperture changed from f/16 to f/22 and the number of aperture blades increased from 10 to 13 initially but soon reduced to 11 (between lenses 201062 and 204800 according to a Canon Historical Society discussion). In 1959, the rear focusing ring was redesigned and the number of aperture blades was reduced to 8 (Type 6). Peter Kitchingman says the change occurred between 250xxx and 252xxx, my copy below, 250191, is a Type 5. The lens lasted until 1975 with another 2 minor variations in name only. Although an excellent performer, increasingly, it played second fiddle to the larger aperture lenses, finally becoming the budget option for the 7 series. This Type 5 is probably from around April 1959:

The Canon 50 mm f/1.8 was also one of three lenses offered in mostly all black, except for satin chrome DoF scale ring, to match the black body versions of some camera models. The other two lenses are the very rare 35 mm f/1.8 and the 50 mm f/1.2. Black 50 mm f/1.8:

(Web image)

This is a Type 6 lens (see above) with black ring and mounting tab for infinity lock knob, the Type 5 lenses featured a satin chrome ring and mounting tab.

50 mm f/1.5 Canon Lens

The Serenar 50 mm f/1.5 was renamed to “Canon Lens” at the same time as the f/3.5 and f/1.8 lenses. It retained its chrome on brass construction until its demise in 1957:

(Web image)

50 mm f/2.8 Canon Lens

The first standard “Canon Lens” without a Serenar predecessor was the 50 mm f/2.8 released in January 1955 to replace the collapsible f/3.5. It was made of alloy and featured a black nose and focusing ring with an in-vogue zebra pattern invoked by the ridges of the scalloped focusing ring being picked out in silver. The optical design is 4 elements in 3 groups, presumably a Tessar design. The number of aperture blades is 8. A December 1957 update saw the barrel redesigned to mimic the then current black f/1.8 50 mm lens, in the process adding an infinity lock, missing on the original, and increasing the filter thread from 34 mm to 40 mm with lens caps going from 36 mm to the more common (for Canon) 42 mm. First type on left, later version on right:

(Web image on right)

50 mm f/1.2 Canon Lens

Also released with the VT and promoted as its standard lens was the all new Canon 50 mm f/1.2 lens, a 7 elements in 5 groups design. It has 11 aperture blades, a 55 mm filter thread and takes a 57 mm lens cap. The barrel design was similar to the new f/1.8 except instead of a ribbed focusing ring, it was scalloped. An all black version of the lens was available for black cameras. It lasted until the end of 1967:

(Web images)

Peter Kitchingman describes it as the then “fastest 50 mm screw-mount lens available.” It was the fastest Canon lens and Nippon Kogaku only released its faster f/1.1 also in 1956 but both were responding to the legendary Zunow f/1.1 released in 1953, and updated in 1955, the 1954 Fujinon f/1.2 and the 1955 (maybe released January 1956) Konishiroku (Konica) Hexanon f/1.2, albeit this was a 60 mm lens rather than a 50 mm.

50 mm f/1.4 Canon Lens

The Canon 50 mm f/1.4 replaced the f/1.5 but not until August 1959 with Canon heavily promoting its f/1.2 instead. Another 6 elements in 4 groups design, it is considered to be one of Canon's finest performing rangefinder lenses and remained in production until 1972:

(Detail from larger web image)

It has 9 aperture blades, a 48 mm filter thread and 50 mm lens cap.

50 mm f/2.2 Canon Lens

A new 5 elements in 4 groups entry level lens, it was only produced from January to July 1961. It has 10 aperture blades, 40 mm filter thread and takes a 42 mm lens cap (now plastic). What looks like an infinity lock is simply a focus assist lever:

(Detail from larger web images)

Peter Kitchingman believes it to have been made for the domestic Japanese market Canon P only. His reasoning for that is that the two colour distance scale of the lens matches the colours of the late type Canon P film reminder dial on the back, however, this also featured on the late VI L which was still in production until March 1961 and even on the very last of the VI Ts which ended production in July 1960. It is a hard to find lens these days and not identified in Peter Dechert's book.

50 mm f/0.95 Canon Lens

Released with the Canon 7 in June 1961, the 50 mm f/0.95 was Canon's ultimate hero lens, the fastest 35 mm rangefinder lens then available, and became to be known as the “Dream Lens”. It has 7 elements in 5 groups, 10 aperture blades, a 72 mm filter thread and 75 mm lens cap. Because of its size and design, it isn't LTM compatible relying instead on the three pronged external bayonet mount around the threaded LTM flange. The rear of the lens features a breech lock to secure the lens in place:

(Detail from larger web images)

It was made as a rangefinder lens until 1970 and then as a TV lens until 1984.

Canon Accessory Lenses

Serenar accessory lenses still in production underwent a name change from January 1953, i.e. 12 months after the standard lenses. Interestingly, the now “Canon” 28 mm f/3.5 wide angle lens was also made with a Contax mount and for, in Canon's words, “cameras of similar design ”. Who could Canon possibly mean? Actually, there are differences between the Contax and Nikon specs which cause focusing problems with longer focal lengths but are not relevant with shorter focal lengths.

The renamed Canon 85 mm f/1.9:

(Web image)

Below is the Canon version of the recently released 100 mm f/3.5 light alloy Serenar:

(Web image)

Typical of Canon's longer lenses from this period, 135 mm f/3.5 set with viewfinder (stored under a flap in the leather case lid), end cap and Series VII lens hood (specifically for the 135 mm lens) with Series VII adapter ring for the 48 mm lens filter thread and screw on dust cap when the hood is stored reversed over the front (two felt rings inside to retain it in place like/instead of lens cap). The lens serial number, 48342, suggests 1953:

Note, earlier lens hoods, such as the Serenar 135 mm f/4, used a push-on adapter ring and dust cap.

The 800 mm f/8 lens was one of the first Canon named lenses to be released (as noted earlier, Canon lists it as a Serenar) and Canon's first lens longer than 135 mm apart from the very limited production 1946 20 cm f/4. As 135 mm is usually considered the limit for accurate focusing, longer focal lengths require different focusing aids (the first Serenar 20 cm lens would have required a separate long base length rangefinder, or very long tape measure). The first versions of the 800 came with a permanently mounted reflex housing (mirror box) turning the rangefinder camera into a crude SLR. Later versions required first the Mirror Box 1 and then the Mirror Box 2 which would only mount on the external bayonet of the 7 Series cameras and also only accept bayonet mount lenses. It is a long black tube with a 2 elements in one group lens at the big end, typical of Canon's 600 mm to 1,000 mm rangefinder lenses. From a circa 1956 lens brochure, an earlier 800 mm lens with its own reflex housing:

In 1956 came the shorter 5 elements in 4 groups 400 mm f/4.5 lens use with the Mirror Box 1, updated for the Mirror Box 2 in 1961. From the same brochure as above, a 400 mm lens with the Mirror Box 1:

Also a new 25 mm f/3.5 wide angle lens:

(Web image)

1957 saw the release of updated 28 mm f/3.5 and 35 mm f/2.8 lenses and the addition of a new 200 mm f/3.5 lens which used the Mirror Box 1 for focusing. There also seems to have been an intention to to release a reflex version of a 135 mm lens with large f/2.5 aperture which required more precise focusing. It appears in the 26 March 1957 price list as “To be announced” and the What's New Trade Notes and News in the June 1957 edition of Popular Photography begins; “Canon Camera Co.,Inc., 550 Fifth Ave., New York, announces new lenses. The 135 mm Canon f/2.5 features a reflex system ...” The direct mount f/3.5 would remain as the common use lens. However, the f/2.5 version disappeared from subsequent brochures, manuals etc. and Peter Kitchingman only lists the Mirror Box 2 version M135 released in 1961 and the Canon Camera Museum seems to get both the 135 mm and 200 mm wrong (see 1958).

These were followed by 35 mm f/1.8 and 28 mm f/2.8 lenses. Typical 35 mm f/1.8 on left below and on the right, a very rare black version. Although not mentioned in his book, confirmed by Peter Kitchingman to exist:

(Web images)

Canon lens list and display from the Canon L2 and L3 user manual, October 1957 printing (longer lenses are not pictured):

There was a slew of updates and new lenses in 1958. The 100 mm f/3.5, 135 mm f/3.5 and 85 mm f/1.9 received updates and a new 35 mm f/1.5 and 600 mm f/5.6 lens were released. Oddly, the Canon Camera Museum claims that an M200 mm and M135 were also released, the “M” signifying that they were made for the Mirror Box reflex housing. Presumably, the M200 mm was to replace the earlier 1957 200 mm and the M135 would replace its earlier f/2.5 version, if it existed (see 1957). According to Peter Kitchingman, the two lenses didn't get their “M” prefix until the Mirror Box 2 was released with the Canon 7 in 1961 and that is when he also says the 135 mm f/2.5 lens was launched. The 1961 date makes sense and that is what the documentary evidence of manuals and brochures suggest too but the earlier version of the 135 mm lens remains a mystery. Updated with black alloy barrels, the Canon 135 mm f/3.5 and 85 mm f/1.9:

(Web images)

Large aperture Canon 35 mm f/1.5:

(Web image)

According to Peter Kitchingman, Canon also released the first version of its longest LTM lens, the 1,000 mm f/11 in 1958. Canon quotes 1960 but that is actually likely to be the 1961 update to mount to the Mirror Box 2 (that also applies to other lenses updated for the Mirror Box 2 bayonet mount too).

This is what the Canon lens line up looked like circa 1959 but without the 400 mm and longer lenses included:

Canon lists a 300 mm f/4 released in 1960 for export only but this lens is not mentioned by Peter Kitchingman and doesn't seem to be mentioned in English language catalogues other than as the R version SLR lens. However, the R version, if used with the typical “intermediate support”, will mount to the Mirror Box 2 but will not focus to infinity, but if screwed directly to the Bellows R, it will focus to infinity - a sort of hybrid lens and that to some extent applies to all Canon's long lenses.

The last new lens releases included the 85 mm f/1.8 (replacing the f/1.9) in 1961, 35 mm f/2 in 1962 and the 19 mm f/3.5 in 1964. In 1971, when Canon released the Canon F1 SLR, it also apparently updated 10 existing rangefinder lenses with FD-like beauty/ID rings with “Canon” replacing “Canon Camera Co., Inc.” and “No.” in front of the serial number being dropped.

These are the Mirror Box 2 versions of the long 600 mm, 800 mm and 1,000 mm lenses from a 1962 Canon products guide:

Below is a table of then Canon rangefinder lenses and specs from a 1968 product brochure:

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Mirror Boxes

As noted earlier, the 135 mm focal length is considered to be the practical limit for accurate rangefinder focusing. With a large aperture and shallower DoF, even a 135 mm lens is problematical. Canon's first practical long lens was the 800 mm with its own permanently mounted reflex housing. Subsequent versions and other long lenses first used the Mirror Box 1 and from 1961, the Mirror Box 2. Note, Mirror Box 2 is conveniently called that by Canon on its front but Mirror Box 1 is collector invention, Canon simply referred to its reflex housing as a “mirror box”.

Mirror Box 1

The Mirror Box 1 mounts to the camera flange by the Leica thread mount. The lens mounts to the front of the Mirror Box either by the internal Leica thread mount (200 mm lens), directly to the external two prong bayonet (400 mm lens) or via the separate focusing bellows (longer lenses):

(Web images)

The Mirror Box 1 is operated with a double cable release with one cable screwed into the shutter release button, the other, via what is often called a “Leica Nipple”, connected to the external thread around the Mirror Box mirror release plunger. The button on top of the plunger is missing in the above photo but can be seen in the photo below:

(Web image)

Mirror Box 2

The Mirror Box 2 will only mount to Series 7 cameras by their external bayonet mounts. The lens mount on the front is also a three pronged bayonet - lenses made for the Mirror Box 1 won't mount. Like with the Mirror Box 1, focusing can be done from above using the focusing screen, or with the pentaprism mounted, from behind like a typical SLR. The Mirror Box 2 doesn't use cables, instead it has an actuating lever with the end sitting over the camera's shutter button. Pressing the lever flips the mirror up and releases the shutter. The mirror remains in the up position until it is manually lowered and cocked with the lower shorter lever. Whilst it operates like a basic SLR, its convenience factor is many times less.

(Web images)

The Canon M135 f/2.5 and Canon M200 f/3.5 feature their own focusing helicoids and mount directly to the front bayonet of the Mirror Box2. Canon M200 and Mirror Box 2 mounted on Canon 7:

The 400 - 1,000 mm sets use bellows focusing and in addition to the lens and Mirror Box 2, require a number of separate components: a lens specific Intermediate Tube to connect lens and bellows (supplied), Lens Supporter and Bellows R. Complete 400 mm set:

(WestLicht Auctions)

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Viewfinders

Canon produced viewfinders for every focal length from 135 mm and below (i.e. those not using a reflex housing), including 50 mm, and there are many types and variations. Note that depending on lens focal length and camera viewfinder magnification and/or frame lines, an accessory viewfinder is not always needed.

Frame Finder (Sports Finder)

Generically referred to as a sports finder, Canon variously referred to it as “Sport Frame Finder”,“ Universal Frame Finder” and “Frame Finder”. The first version dates from 1939. It is also mentioned in the circa 1951 Canon III brochure and although less visible later, it is still an item in a 1957 price list. Although they all look similar, there were a number of versions over the years, the earliest just featuring a frame for 50 mm lenses, then a frame for 135 mm was added in the centre. The one below is a late one with different frames for different focal lengths which can flip down if not required. As with other viewfinders, it slots into the accessory shoe:

(Web image)

Early Viewfinders

These were all silver and called “Special Viewfinders”. They were suppled with the accessory lenses. The silver version seem to have been discontinued with the release of the 1956 Canon VT when new finders were introduced, the black wide angle versions retaining the Special Viewfinder name/description. Below are front and rear views of a 135 mm finder belonging to a Canon f/3.5 lens, likely from 1953, although most earlier viewfinders supplied with the Serenar f/4 look the same to me except that on the one from the MIOJ period, “135 mm” appears above the name which is engraved as “Canon Co.”. Also, whilst earlier viewfinders have serial numbers, this one has none:

Peter Kitchingman pictures an earlier Seiki Kogaku Serenar 135 mm f/4 whose finder is also similar but doesn't have the parallax scale around the eyepiece.

Front and rear views of a wide angle 35 mm version:

(Web images)

Both above types feature manual parallax correction adjusted by the dial around the eyepiece.

Universal Viewfinder

The Universal Viewfinder first appears in the 1951 Canon III user manual and circa 1951 brochure. The original is still listed in an October 1956 lens catalogue but an updated one for Series V cameras is displayed in a Canon L2 & L3 user manual printed in October 1957. It has a variable field of view to match lens focal lengths from 35 mm to 135 mm. Individual front lens attachments were available for Canon's 25 mm and 28 mm lenses, the 28 mm version pictured mounted below:

(Web images)

New Viewfinders for older Models

As well as the continued availability of the Universal Viewfinder, the October 1956 lens catalogue also mentions manually operated parallax correction version of the new Special Viewfinders (see below, the Lumi-field versions for longer lenses are not included yet) plus a new Twin-turret Zoomfinder II specifically for the older models:

For Series V and VI T and VI L Cameras

The first Series V model, the Canon VT, introduced a new feature, a parallax correcting pin at the front of the accessory shoe which moves up and down with focusing. This connects to a pin in the bottom of the viewfinder shoe which moves the front of the viewfinder up and down. Canon L2 shoe:

There were several different viewfinders which made use of this feature (if used with a standard plain shoe, there would be framing errors but Canon did offer an accessory “Finder Coupler” which is a manual adjuster that fits between the shoe and finder):

Erect Image Viewfinders: Somewhat like the Universal Viewfinder in appearance, these are fixed focal length and were produced in a range from 25 mm to 135 mm, all looking very similar. They were released with the VT but were very soon replaced, making them very hard to find for collectors:

Special Viewfinders V: These were available for 25 mm 28 mm and 35 mm wideangle lenses:

These were also available in a non-V version with manual parallax correction for Series IV and earlier cameras.

Lumi-field Viewfinders V: Somewhat similar in appearance, these provide a more expansive view outside the margins of the brilliant white frame and are the longer focal length counterparts to the Special Viewfinders V. They were available for 50 mm, 85 mm, 100 mm and 135 mm lenses:

(Web images)

Universal Zoomfinder: Later identified as “Zoom-finder V”. It featured click stops for each standard focal length and came in two versions, “S” and “L”. The first is for wide angle lenses from 35 mm to 50 mm, and with the optional Front Attachment Lens, also for 21 mm, 25 mm and 28 mm lenses and the second is for longer lenses from 85 mm to 135 mm. Zoomfinder and Front Attachment Lens:

Universal Viewfinder V: Making an appearance in the Japanese Canon L2 & L3 user manual printed in October 1957 is a new version of the Universal Viewfinder redesigned for the automatic parallax adjustment of Series V cameras. It continues to cover the 35 mm to 135 mm focal length range but there is no mention of a wide angle attachment other than for the Zoomfinder:

Below is an actual example, note that the eyepiece is different to the rendered user manual image:

(Web images)

For Canon P and Series 7 Cameras

Note, to mount a viewfinder, the Canon 7 model requires use of the “Canon Accessory Coupler”:

(Detail from larger web image)

The Canon P and subsequent 7 models did away with the parallax correcting pin and therefore the Series V viewfinders are unsuitable for these cameras and the earlier bottom loaders (unless used with the Finder Coupler mentioned above). For these cameras, the parallax correction of the black Special and Lumi-field Viewfinders reverted to manual via a lever at the back of the base:

(Web images)

The Special Viewfinders with a manual lever were around since at least 1956 for bottom loading models, I don't know when the Lumi-field versions were released.

Universal Viewfinder: Featured in the Canon P user manual and sales brochure, this still looks the same as the Universal Viewfinder V, except that it has lost the automatic parallax correction feature. However, there doesn't appear to be any obvious manual parallax correction either:

25 mm Viewfinder: These are for the 25 mm lens first released in 1956. There are both manual correction types and V-type automatic parallax correction types. Some examples have an extended chrome bezel around the eyepiece, these examples also have two screws per side to retain the front chrome bezel instead of one. First two images are of manual correction type, third has chrome eyepiece bezel but interestingly, this particular example appears to have no parallax correction at all (V-type have a pivot point towards the rear of the shoe, manual type towards the front):

(Web images)

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Lens Hoods and Filters

In this overview, I have included lens hoods and filters together because of the way that Canon fully embraced Series Filters and their mounting options from approximately 1950 onward. Series filters, which come in standard sizes, don't have a thread and require the correct size adapter for the lens. Typically, the Series adapter used a push-on fitting to mount to the lens and then filter retainers and or hoods screwed into that. Most had a plain metal rim but earlier ones were simply a glass disc. They originated as early as the 1920s when most camera bezels didn't feature filter threads but it also offered a form of standardisation by allowing one set of filters to fit many size lenses. I don't know who introduced Series filters but Kodak certainly helped to popularise them and in that context, it is not surprising that they are based on imperial measurements.

Except for the Serenar 5 cm/50 mm f/3.5 lens, Canon's lenses featured filter threads as well so that screw-in filters could also be used but they weren't part of Canon's system until later in the 1950s. Initially, Canon's adapter rings were also push-on but in 1952 changed to screw-in. Many of Canon's lens hoods, including later clamp-on types, were also threaded to fit Series size fittings and act as a retainer for the filter (see further below).

Canon used both Series VI and VII filters. Series VI are 1 5/8" (41.3 mm) in diameter and Series VII are 2" (50.8 mm). Series VI yellow and Series VII green filters pictured:

Note, the filter type is not marked, not for these B & W types anyway.

Whilst the Canon Bakelite case for the Series VI yellow filter seems to be typical of all cases for Series filters, some feature a yellow lid, others are all black - I don't know which is earlier, or whether there is any other reason for the two types:

There was also a step-up adapter allowing the larger Series VII filters to be used on Series VI fittings but it was trickier with lens hoods whose length and diameter must be matched to focal length as well to remain effective. Until Canon started offering screw-in filters across the board, the early exceptions were the 85 mm f/1.5 lens for which there were 58 mm screw-in filters and special filters for the Mirror Boxes which screw into their front part before the lens is mounted.

There is also an earlier, but hard to find, range of filters from the 1940s. The filters are the rimless glass disc type and mount much in the same way as Series filters typically do. Peter Kitchingman refers to these as “drop-in” filters, as he also seems to in regard to Series filters. Whilst somewhat similar to Series filters, they don't seem to conform to Series specifications. Two sizes of filters (glass discs) were available, 30 mm and 40 mm diameter, which are slightly smaller than the Series V and VII filters (30.2 mm and 41.3 mm). Initially, the 30 mm fitted the very early 36 mm clamp-on hood for the 5 cm f/3.5 lens and the 40 mm fitted the early 44 mm push-on hood for the 13.5 cm f/4. The earliest black hoods were simply marked “Seiki Kogaku” with no size markings and the boxes for the 40 mm filters were marked “Seiki Filter”, “40 m/m” and “Seiki Kogaku. K.K.”, presumably, the early 30 mm are similar. Seiki kogaku 36 mm hood and filter found with a Canon S II (note the early clamp-on fitting):

(Web image)

There was a later chrome version hood simply marked “Canon”. A found example has a 36 mm push-on mount (instead of the earlier clamp) for the 50mm f/3.5 Serenar and a leather case with dividers for two rimless filters, both present. The case has a Katakana version, <シーピーオー>, of the CPO mark so it is from before the end of 1949.

With reference to Series filters for B&W photography, a 1954 price list explains:

“Set consists of five filters with Plastic Case. Canon Filters, except for 85mm f:1.5 lens, must be used with Lens Hood and Adaptor Ring or Adaptor Ring and Adaptor Ring Insert.”

The 1957 price list also lists UV screw-in filters in 34 mm, 40 mm, 48 mm, 55 mm and 58 mm sizes and adds 55 mm screw-in filters for the new f/1.2 lens but a January 1959 Canon P brochure still refers to “Canon filters in Series”. By the 1962 Bell & Howell price list, the full range of B&W and colour filters are listed in screw-in sizes only.

As already alluded to, the large aperture lenses with big front elements, i.e. 85 mm f/1.5, 50 mm f/1.2 and 50 mm f/0.95, didn't use Series filters or lens hoods adapted for them.

The best resource for checking filter sizes of the many Canon lenses is one of the lens brochures downloadable from Pacific Rim Cameras, or the Lens Hall of the Canon Camera Museum. Note, the Serenar f/1.9 collapsible and f/1.8 rigid as well as the both the chrome and black Canon f/1.8 50 mm lenses feature an unusual 40 mm filter thread, not the much more common these days 40.5 mm. This also applies to both the Serenar and Canon f/1.5 50 mm lenses and the Canon f/3.5 25 mm, f/3.5 28 mm II and f/2.8 35 mm II lenses. The Canon f/1.4 50 mm is 48 mm, the f/1.2 mm is 55 mm and the f/0.95 is 72 mm.

Adapted from a 1955 Canon accessories brochure, this is an example of how the Canon Series sytem could be used:

Below are four versions of Series VI lens hoods for the Serenar/Canon 50 mm f/1.8 and select wideangle lenses. Note, the first three lens hoods are marked with the Series number and the first two adapters are marked with the Series number and either the push-on, or screw-in, size of the particular lens. All four hoods are marked with the lenses that they are suitable for. These are typical of contemporaneous lens hoods in other sizes as well. The first version uses a push-on Series VI adapter ring and the second, like the above system, a screw-in adapter introduced in 1952 (note, whilst the other three are marked 42 mm to fit over the lens bezel, this one is marked 40 mm for the lens filter thread). Both of these would have been supplied with dust caps, the first slip-on, the second screw-on, see further below:

(Web images)

These two later lens hoods clamp over the lens bezel. The black hood is typical for black lenses. Note that silver one is still a “Series VI” hood but there is no longer mention of Series on the chrome clamp-on part, only “42 mm A”. The black 50 mm f/1.8 version is the same in this respect but now there is no mention of Series on the hood either even though the hood still unscrews from the adapter and accommodates Series VI filters regardless that it is often found in a leather case with divider for one filter which, if there, is invariably a screw-in type. It was initially supplied in a brown leather case with ribs on the edges, then plain, then black (this is not the last version of the hood, see end of section):

(Web images)

There were also Canon square black lens hoods offered from 1951 to 1956. These were available for the f/1.9 and f/1.8 50 mm Serenar/Canon lenses and for the 35 mm wide angle lenses from the period. Below left is one suitable for the Serenar f/1.9 50 mm and f/3.5 35 mm complete with Series VI to 42 mm slip on adapter and Series VI yellow filter and below right is one for the Canon (and Serenar) f/1.8 50 mm and f/2.8 and f/3.2 35 mm lenses, again with Series VI to 42 mm push-on adapter (these only seemed to be offered with the push-on type). Note the corner viewfinder cut-out:

(Web images)

Below are two silver lens hoods for the Serenar 135 mm f/4 (the very earliest were black). Both are Series VI and mount to an earlier Series VI push-on adapter ring. The left image shows the adapter ring screwed to the hood and the dust cap which looks like a lens cap and pushes over the adapter when the hood is reversed over the lens for storage. The whole assembly replaces the normal lens cap, a felt ring inside the hood providing a friction fit. The right image shows the hood and adapter ring separated:

(Web images)

Below is a Series VII screw-in adapter ring and Series VII lens hood for the 135 mm f/3.5 lens. Its dust cap screws onto the back of the adapter when the hood is reversed (see Canon 135 mm lens above). This one features two felt rings inside the hood:

And with Series VII green filter added:

At some point in the late 1950s, perhaps in 1958 when the black versions of the telephotos first appeared, Canon changed its lens hood naming system. Apart from special lens specific hoods such as for the 50 mm f/1.2 and f/0.95 lenses, they no longer featured the actual names of lenses the hood was suitable for, e.g. “CANON LENS 50 mm f:1.8, 35 mm f:2.8”, as on the late black and chrome hood further above, but used a more generic description, in this case it became “S-42” on the black hood and “42 mm” on the chrome clamp-on part. Complete cased set including screw-in 40 mm Y3 filter (this type of set and filter was already a feature of the black hood above):

As with the earlier hoods, the adapter can still be unscrewed and a Series filter mounted, in this case with the yellow Series VI from further above:

The screw-in filters designed for use with the clamp-on hoods are quite thin depth-wise and consequently have a wider, flat frame viewed from the front. They were presumably made that way to allow the hood clamp to grasp more of the lens bezel rather than the filter and/or to reduce possibility of vignetting with wide angle lenses:

S-42 hood and screw-in filter mounted on a Canon L2:

The “S” in the name refers to “standard” whereas the number is obviously the mounting diameter, e.g. the hood for the 50 mm f/1.4 with 50 mm filter thread is named “S-50”. There are also “T” for “telephoto” hoods and “W” for “wide angle”, although I'm not sure that I have seen any W ones specifically for rangefinders, only for SLRs (a June 1962 Bell & Howell price list states that all then current wide angle rangefinder lenses had the lens hood “built-in” and there were no accessory types available). Some of these hoods would also suit Canon's first R SLR lenses and subsequent FL lenses introduced in April 1964 and some would only be for R or FL lenses. Some of the naming I'm not clear with, e.g. the “T-42” seems to be for a 100 mm f/3.5 rangefinder telephoto but there is also a “T-42-2” which looks the same, only a little shorter. This one might be for the 100 mm f/3.5 R preset Canonflex lens. The table from a 1968 product brochure at the end of the lenses section above lists available hoods as S-42, S-50, T-42, T-50 and T-60 and “Exclusive” hoods for the f/1.2 and f/0.95 50 mm lenses and 400 - 1,000mm mirror box lenses.

Whilst by the early 1960s, Canon had stopped offering Series filters at all, even FL specific hoods initially continued to make provision for them. A very late 50 mm f/1.4 lens hood marked “S-50” (lens made until 1972) is the only rangefinder specific hood that I have seen that has abandoned the ability to mount Series filters (apart from the large diameter and mirror box exceptions). It's box is marked “for Canon Lens 50 mm f:1.4”, the rangefinder lens being the only standard f/1.4 lens with 50 mm lens cap that I'm aware of:

(Web images)

Two of the afore-mentioned larger diameter lens hood exceptions for both naming and the ability to take Series filters, 50 mm f/1.2 lens hood on left and 50 mm f0.95 lens hood on right:

(Web images)

Earlier screw-in filters were named by their common description, e.g. the 40 mm yellow filter below left is marked “Y3 2X” meaning dark yellow with a 2X filter factor, or doubling of required exposure. This changed in the early to mid-1960s to the Japan Industrial Standard (JIS) classification with the equivalent name “SY 50.2C” (the “.2C” does not refer to the filter factor). The metal rim style and plastic case remained the same as did the lens hood with filter set above:

(Web image on right)

This table from Canon filter instructions shows all the equivalent names for then current filters:

(Click on table for most the of full English side instructions)

The flat thin rim style of the filters, with writing on the front, are typical of the screw-in filters that replaced Series filters, however, the larger filters and even earlier 55 mm filters, i.e. those made for larger diameter lenses without Series lens hoods, are more like modern filters in appearance. Just to confirm that they belong to the same period as the two above, here are two examples of UV filters, one marked “UV 1X” and the other with the JIS classification instead, “SL39.3C”:

(Web images)

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Lens Caps and Other Caps

The Hansa Canon lens cap was black metal with white writing, left below. I've also seen a couple on early Canon S cameras. The next type seems to be the silver metal, slightly domed, version in the middle below. I don't know when it was introduced but there are several on Canon S cameras and it was certainly in use in the early post-War period and well into Canon S II production (first versions of Serenar 5 cm f/3.5 lens). Although I'm not sure about the early black face and white lenses, presumably all versions of the the domed caps for later 5 cm f/3.5 Nikkors are the Leica Elmar 36 mm “standard”, the Serenar ones are. On the right is another example found with a Canon S II:

(Detail from larger web images)

The majority of late 1940s and 1950s models were fitted with appropriately sized versions of the silver metal type below. The first is a little worn with some brassing confirming that like most metal lens caps of the time, it was made of plated pressed brass. There were two styles of lettering, the earlier with short fat serifs (the little angled bits on the “C” and “n”s) and the later with with more pronounced sharper serifs:

I believe Peter Kitchingman calls these T4 and T5 and his book suggests that the T5 type arrived with the 1956 black alloy revision of the previously chromed brass 50 mm f/1.8 lens for the Canon VT release. I understand that lens caps get changed but there are hell of a lot of IV Sb era and later examples with the T5 style caps and conversely, T4 caps are simply uncommon. Based purely on following Japanese sales and auctions, I'd be guessing that the change from T4 to T5 occurred not long after the name change from Serenar to Canon Lens.

Below are examples mounted on their 50 mm lenses. First is an earlier 42 mm type on an f/1.9 Serenar, second is a later 42 mm example on a chrome f/1.8 Canon, the third 36 mm one belongs to a first type f/2.8 50 mm fitted to a Canon L2 and fourth is a 42 mm black plastic lens cap on an alloy f/1.8 lens - it and the f/1.4 and f/1.2 50 mm lens caps changed when the f/2.2 50 mm lens was released in January 1961 with this style cap (usually, time has not been kind to these with the soft plastic easily marked and scratched):

Note: The Serenar and Canon 5 cm and 50 mm f/2, f/1.9, f/1.8, f/1.5 and f/2.2, as well as the second type f/2.8, all use 42 mm lens caps.

The f/0.95 “Dream Lens” released with the Canon 7 still featured a silver metal cap (75 mm) of the same style as the earlier ones. I have also seen a black metal f/0.95 lens cap, if original, presumably meant for a black bodied Canon 7 but it was fitted to a lens mounted on a chrome body, possibly a later swap.

For a large part of the Canon rangefinder lifetime, rear lens caps were metal, generally silver but black on later black lenses. After mid-1959, they were hard plastic. Below left is silver version from the MIOJ period (1947-1949), later silver ones were plain without text, the one on the right from a Canon 135 mm f/3.5 lens:

(Web image on left)

There are a number of silver metal body caps with slightly different Canon markings and coarseness of the milled edge grip. This is one example:

(Web image)

For the following items, I am again relying on information posted by author Peter Kitchingman on the Facebook page, “Canon Historical Society”.

Prior to the introduction of the new clamp-on style lens hoods in April 1956, Canon also supplied rear dust caps for their lens hoods for use when the felt lined hood was reversed over the lens for storage. The dust caps mounted to the Series adapter ring, slip-on earlier, and screw-on from the second half of 1952. It is easy to confuse the slip-on type for lens caps which look like the typical silver lens caps but came in 40 mm, 46 mm and 54 mm sizes. Below is 40 mm size for Serenar 135 mm f/4 lens hood:

(Web image)

The screw-on types came in 35 mm, 41 mm and 49 mm sizes. Left below is a screw-on type fitted to Series VII to 48 mm adapter ring of 135 mm f/3.5 lens hood (see also further above in “Lens Hoods and Filters”), right below is a screw-on cap fitted to Series VI to 34 mm adapter ring of 50 mm f/2.8 lens hood:

(Web image on right)

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Lens Cases

A February 1954 price list confirms that Canon was supplying all its wide angle and long focal length lenses in leather cases together with the appropriate Special Viewfinder. Long focal length lens cases made provision for storing the lens hood, not included, reversed over the lens. If you bought a standard lens by itself, it was supplied without either but a plastic case was listed separately and a 1955 brochure lists both the plastic and also leather cases for them. This probably continued until at least the release of the VT camera and new viewfinders in 1956. The March 1957 price list lists lenses, cases and viewfinders with separate prices but how that worked in practice, I'm not sure. I can't imagine a lens being sold without a case but viewfinder options were now more complicated. There were camera makers in the 1950s and 60s that priced ever-ready cases separately but you couldn't buy the camera without one.

Canon produced a very complete range of lenses with many variations over time so that there are many variations of lens cases too. Below is a selection of 35 mm and 135 mm cases and one 85 mm case. The first five are 35 mm cases starting with an early 1950 Serenar f/3.5 case. How do I know that? This case has MIOJ marked on the bottom and the lens was only released in March 1950 - that must be one of Canon's last MIOJ markings on anything (bottom of similar 35 mm case shown). This case stores the viewfinder vertically above the lens like the longer focal lengths below. Next is a Serenar f/2.8 side by side case with lens and viewfinder stored next to each other (note the <EP> mark above the latch) and a Canon version of the case, both closed and open. The fourth case is a late brown case that no longer makes provision for a viewfinder and was presumably supplied without it and the fifth one is the final version in black:

(Web images)

The Serenar 85 mm case (for the f/2) is another with MIOJ marking on the bottom:

(Web image)

The 135 mm case, like the 85 mm one above, is extra tall and the viewfinder is stored inside the lid above the lens. Its lens is most likely from 1953. The case also allows for the optional lens hood to be reversed on the lens (see Canon 135 mm f/3.5 lens further above).The second image shows the inside cover to the viewfinder storage compartment:

The last two are late 135 mm cases for the black alloy version of the lens, the brown earlier and the the black later. They are the same style as the late 35 mm cases and don't store the viewfinder.

(Web images)

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Canon Flash System

Before attaching a flashgun to a camera, it is necessary to understand how the flash synchronisation works and what the limitations are. The Canon options are more complex than they might at first seem. Typically, Canon used high shutter speed synchronisation (FP sync) for FP bulbs, slow shutter speed synchronisation (M sync) for M and F bulbs and X sync for electronic flash. In some user manuals, M sync maxed out at 1/8 or 1/15, in others at 1/125 and even 1/250 (Canon VT and Series VI models). As an example, below is my summary of the flash sync options from the Canon 7s user manual:

“FP sync from 1 to 1/1000 plus B and T, except 1/30. M sync from 1 to 1/15 plus B and T, also from 1/60 to 1/250 where only the central part of the picture is necessary. F bulbs 1 to 1/30 plus B and T. Electronic flash at X, B, T and 1 to 1/30 positions”

There are summaries for each of the relevant models on the main Canon page (under the first table for each model) but it is recommended that for flash use, the appropriate camera manual be sought out. Manuals for most sync'd models are available from one or the other of the sites in Links to the Good Stuff. Notable exceptions are the Canon II F and the Canon IV Sb2 and its derivatives, however, the tables and notes in the late Flash Unit Y user manual further below provide a guide to both these and the earlier models.

For convenience sake, it is easiest to break up Canon's flash systems into a number of groups. First, there were flash units for unsynced bottom loading models. Second, there were flash units for the rail mount models. Third, there were flash units for the bayonet mount models. My choice is to only focus on bulb type units in those categories and then consider Canon Speedlights/Speedlites for both rail and bayonet as a separate fourth group because of similarity and lack of detailed information. I have also added a fifth group which is a brief overview of both a bulb type flash and two more modern compact Speedlites for the Canon 7s which did away with Canon's proprietary fittings.

I am a big fan of Canon's 1950s flash systems. Anyone familiar with Leica's flash contraptions before it finally added flash sync to the Leica IIIf in 1950 will appreciate the simplicity of the Canon solution for unsynced cameras, although the long D cell battery pack added to the bottom of the camera looks both ungainly and probably handles accordingly.

To me, the rail sync solution was genius. At the time, PC sockets were hardly ubiquitous, there were multiple connectors and methods in use. It also has to be remembered that the main use of accessory shoes was accessories which for a rangefinder camera meant most commonly, accessory viewfinders and a little later, also shoe mount exposure meters. Shoe mount flashguns were available, e.g. the Minolta 35 had debuted in 1947 with both a shoe mounted flash gun and hot shoe sync. And there was also Canon's own B series units for unsnynced models. However, more serious flashguns and probably most professional units, which Canon certainly saw their's as being, were bottom mount on usually some type of base plate bracket. None of them ever feel really secure, although the early Nikon type was probably the best of them. On the other hand, the Canon Flash Units X and Y are completely secure and stable, are more compact with the camera and easier to hold without bracket bits getting in the way. They are very fast to attach and remove and the hot sync built into the rail means that there are no cables to bother with. Simply a better solution for 1950s photographers, although I accept that it's a bother for anyone wanting to use modern electronic flash these days, mainly because the required accessories are hard to find. Also, the rails can be annoying for anyone that didn't/doesn't use flash.

The change to bayonet mount was forced on Canon by the 1956 Canon VT and subsequent models with hinged opening backs. I don't feel that these are as good to hold with an original flash mounted as the rail models but they are still quick and secure and it is possible to use flash with an accessory finder attached. Plus the mounts are less physically and visually obtrusive. The hot bayonet mount doesn't have to be used, simply mount a generic flash in the accessory shoe and plug it into the PC socket inside the bayonet - the best of both worlds.

Note, metal bodied bulb type flashguns for both unsynced and rail models are all serial numbered, as are some other parts including e.g. the Flash Unit X Synchroniser.

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For Unsynced Cameras

The Flash Units B, B 1, B-I and B-II are designed for using D cell batteries only. All four units are very similar in appearance and operation, the B 1 user manual is available for download further below and the B-II manual is available from Flynn Marr. Each one has a tubular body to which either a short or long extension can be added for more cells for more power, e.g., if firing one or more sidelights. The B-III is a later more compact self-contained battery-capacitor type only but operates the same way. All five operate by cocking the lever on the photographer's left and when the lever on the right over the shutter button is pressed (the “trigger”), the flash fires and the bottom pad of the lever (the “hammer”) strikes the shutter button after the correct delay.

Flash Unit B

The B is very hard to find and I suspect was only made in quite limited numbers, starting possibly in 1949, or more likely, early 1950, given that the B 1 user manual was printed in December 1950.

The original flash unit only featured the “Canon” engraving without the model name. As far as I can tell, the only/main differences to the subsequent B models are coaxial connector sockets on the battery tube for both flashgun and extension units instead of the 3 pin type for the flashgun and 2 prong type for extension units of the later ones and the bulb ejector button of later models is not there, or at least in the same place on the body:

(Detail from larger web images)

Flash Unit B 1 (or B-1)

The B 1 uses the Arabic numeral “1” in the name and no hyphen on the flash body but it is there in the user manual and on the ever-ready case. Note the two prong extension socket on the D cell battery tube and 3 pin flashgun to battery tube plug:

(Detail from larger web images)

Many examples of the B, B 1, B-I and B-II are found with leather kit cases similar to the above and I suspect these, and the Flash Units X until quite late, were supplied with the cases as standard.

The date on the back of the user manual is December 1950 which is one month later than the first user manual for the flash sync'd Flash Unit X released in time for the trial series Canon IV (what Peter Dechert originally called the “Canon 1950”), see Flash Unit X below.

Below left is the B 1 packing slip listing the set contents and on the right, the user manual. Both have a December 1950 date:

(Click on packing slip for larger image, click on manual cover for PDF of manual, the original of which is a double sided 3 panel sheet)

The side lighting unit in the B 1 user manual is simply referred to as a “Canon”, but given that the B 1 and the Flash Unit X seem to have been released at a similar time and the change to the extension sockets, it is likely to be the Side Lighting Unit, Model X, as named in the B-II user manual.

Flash Unit B-I

The B-I uses the Roman numeral “I” in the name. To the casual observer, it looks the same as the B 1 but includes a number of small improvements including to the bulb holder and the extension sockets on the battery holder tube are now named with “EXT.”:

(Detail from larger web images)

This is another rare one and couldn't have lasted long given the previous B 1 user manual date of December 1950 and a reference to the B-II in a March 1951 Canon III brochure.

Flash Unit B-II

Similar to earlier types, standard B-II kit case and contents:

(Web images)

There are at least two user manual printings for the B-II, dated August 1951 and December 1952, but as noted above, it already appeared in a March 1951 Canon III brochure. The user manual helpfully tells us that its new features include provision for using a self-timer (or cable release) via a new shutter button on the right side (requires use of a Canon self-timer, or “Leica nipple” connector/adapter) and a guide number table on the back of the body:

(Web image)

The user manual also demonstrates the connection of the sidelight designed for the rail mount Flash Unit X.

Flash Unit B-III

This is the final version of the unsync'd flashguns. It appears in 1955 and 1956 Canon product brochures but may have beeen released a bit earlier. The featured camera in the user manual is named as the Canon II D and it has the 50 mm f/3.5 lens mounted - this still appears to be the Serenar version. The B-III looks different because it is mainly a rethink of the power system, replacing the the D cell battery holder tube of the previous models with a battery capacitor system incorporated into the main body of the unit, using the same capacitor as the battery capacitor version of the rail mount Flash Unit Y. Unlike earlier and rail mount models, there is no provision for connecting extension units. I believe that this type of box replaced the standard kit case found with earlier models:

(Web images)

On the left, power supply compartment, only the capacitor is present, not the 22.5 volt battery. On the right, page from the fold-out instructions demonstrating unique fold-out accessory shoe for mounting accessory viewfinders:

(Web images)

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For Canon Rail Mount Cameras (bottom loading)

Flash Unit X

It might be assumed, and as claimed by Canon, that this arrived with the release of the 1951 Canon IV, first Canon mainstream model with flash sync and side mounting rail, however, it debuted with the model Peter Dechert calls “Canon 1950” (an earlier trial series for the forthcoming Canon IV which made it to the US in small numbers). The camera and flash are pictured in an ad by US importer C. R. Skinner in the February 1951 edition of US magazine Photography (camera called II C by the importer because it was unnamed by Canon and followed the II B). In that context, the date on the back cover of the early user manual further below, November 1950, suggests that the flashgun was ready in its final form well before the Canon IV was officially released (Peter Dechert says produced from April 1951).

User manuals and the late box further below describe the flashgun as “Flash Unit Model X” whereas the bottom mounting bracket of the actual flashgun calls it “Flash Unit Main” - that is because it is the “main” flash unit and not an optional sidelight. That also causes a lot of seller confusion these days and makes Internet searches more difficult. The leather kit carry case, similar to the B series ones, combines both names into “Main Flash Unit Model X” (based on significant numbers found, like the earlier B series before the B-III, I suspect the X units were supplied with these until the Y style presentation box was introduced near the end of their production):

(Web image)

Select pages from November 1950 user manual:

Some optional flash system components. The Self Extension Adapter is also an option with the Flash Unit Y. It mounts to the camera's rail in place of the flash and enables off-camera flash with an extension lead:

Flash Unit X with D cell extension case and 7" accessory reflector for use with large ES flashbulbs. Note the November 1950 date on the back cover:

Whilst the main body looks like it is meant for D cells, it is but it isn't. The upper part of the tubular body contains the connector sockets and internal flash circuits, in standard form, the lower part contains a cylinderical holder for four penlight (AAA) batteries side by side. There was no battery/capacitor version as with the later Flash Unit Y. The accessory body extensions allow the use of D cells instead of the penlight pack.

The flash head is removable on the Model X to allow for direct vertical mounting of ES press type flashbulbs, as on page 50 of the user manual above. Peter Dechert's book has two photos of the flash unit, one mounted with the 7" reflector for ES type bulbs and one displaying “all parts” including optional flash tester and importantly, the plug-in synchroniser. However, his example has an optional vertical bayonet mount flashbulb head for mounting on top of the body called “Bulb Adapter”, presumably, the “Midget Bulb Adapter” referred to in the user manuals and no 90 degree head shown. So the set is not as complete as Peter Dechert may have thought. It is also not some prototype, or an earlier form of the flash, confirmed by the presence of the synchroniser, which seems to be absent with the initial retail version of the Flash Unit X.

The later, more refined, Flash Unit Y features a built-in synchroniser, i.e. variable delay, whereas the X typically features a separate synchroniser, called “Micro Sync” in later user manuals, which plugs into the side of the main body. However, it doesn't feature on the November 1950 user manual cover photos, or the inside pages I have access to, and I believe it wasn't offered when the flashgun was first released (the relevant areas are not visible in the C. R. Skinner ad photo). The proof is the earliest Unit X in my database, serial number 1380 (the others are in the 590x to 885x range). When viewed front-on, most Unit X bodies have one set of rectangular socket pairs on the left front, one set on the right front and one set on the right rear plus a round socket on the left rear for the synchroniser connector to plug into. The right front sockets are labelled “Ext.” and “Tripper” and the right rear are labelled “Ext. Micro Sync” where the synchroniser body mounts. The round left rear connector socket is labelled “M.S.”. On the body of 1380, both the right-side socket pairs are simply labelled “Ext.”, but more significantly, there is no round left rear socket for the Micro Sync connector. First image shows 1380 body without round connector socket (normal position is to the picture right of the black eject button), second shows it with right rear (from the front) sockets marked “Ext.” and third image is of a later Flash Unit X body with Micro Sync connector socket and right rear sockets marked “Ext. Micro Sync”:

(Detail from larger web images)

Note, 1380's reflector with grey hammertone painted back is almost certainly a later replacement, probably from a Unit Y. I would expect the original reflector to have been painted black like the one below and as it appears in both the November 1950 and August 1952 user manuals.

Typical Flash Unit X Micro Sync showing its rectangular pins for plugging into the right rear socket and the inside of the connector plug (cord folded under):

(Detail from larger web image)

The synchroniser is easily lost. It's not uncommon for Flash Unit Xs to be offered for sale as a bare handle/head/reflector assembly, i.e. workable but likely incomplete as was this one below:

The flash head is adjustable for angle of coverage by loosening the thumbscrew and sliding the reflector mount forward or backward:

(Web images)

Late box with design shared with B-III and Y units:

(Web image)

Below is a downloadable late user manual with August 1952 date on the back cover. Note, both the box and manual show synchroniser mounted:

(Click on cover of PDF)

As noted above, Flash Unit X serial numbers run from 1380 to 885x. They seem to be repeated by early Flash Unit Y numbers which run in parallel from 121x to 35281 (there are a lot more Ys). Both the earliest (as also noted above) and last Unit X reflectors are painted silver grey on the back like the following Unit Y types whilst the rest are black. Although I am almost 100% certain that the first is a later replacement, it's impossible to know with the last one unless more are found.

The Side lighting Unit, Model X (see also both early and late user manuals above), with spring mounting clamp is similar to the Flash Unit Y version further below except that like the main units, the head of the X is removable for mounting the 7" reflector whilst the Y head is fixed. Rear view, minus the reflector and extension lead plugged in upside down from socket to socket:

(Web image)

It is also named as the side light for the unsynced Flash Unit B-II and presumably also fits the earlier B 1 and B-I models (similar vintage to the B 1).

Flash Unit Y

As can be seen from the user manual further below, there are quite a few optional accessories, including universal and TLR mounting brackets, and 10 different combinations of battery numbers/types and capacitors. This one below and another bare handle I own use four side by side AA batteries, or penlight batteries as they were called then, in the short cartridge in the third photo. This seems to be the most common type found. Canon sold it in two basic forms with separate catalogue numbers; when fitted with the Canon 200 mfd capacitor (for use with a 22.5 volt battery), it was referred to as the “Model YK” with catalogue number CA-20602K, when fitted with the penlight cartridge, it was referred to as the “Model YL” with catalogue number CA-20602L. With extension tubes for the battery holder, D cells could also be used. Late Model YL boxed set:

For protection, the presentation box was delivered in a plain cardboard external box, these have rarely survived:

(Web image - dfferent set)

Note supplied soft vinyl cover/diffuser, now somewhat yellowed and brittle (more detail further below). The earliest Y in my database and another early example with the shiny chrome reflector still feature the same type box but with a red liner instead of yellow:

In my database, Flash Units Y from serial number 121x (and probably from the beginning) to 570x (and probably a bit higher) feature smooth shiny chrome reflectors whilst those from 1049x to 35281 (this set) feature a satin textured finish.

Model YK components, from an otherwise identical late set to the one above, with capacitor and cylinderical battery/capacitor holder. The 22.5 volt laminated battery (not with set) sits beside the capacitor, the circular disc goes between the two and the end cap:

(Web image)

Boxed sets often still include a soft vinyl cover, with elasticised band, over the reflector and sometimes also a draw string bag made of the same material for the flashgun. In many cases, the cover and bag have yellowed, as above. There are two types, a textured one with a fine chequered pattern to the vinyl surface, again as above, rendering it translucent, the other completely smooth and clear. I have seen the reflector cover called both a “diffuser” and “dust cover”, I believe the textured type is a diffuser but whilst both could also serve as a dust cover, their intent is more likely to be a protective cover to contain an exploding flashbulb (I have an original early 1950's MiniCam handle flash with 3 sided sleeve; blue for using clear bulbs with colour film, textured for diffusion and clear for safety use only). I have seen nothing in the user manual about it, nor in any other Canon documentation, however, a January 1955 Canon flash brochure (and also a Japanese version of the user manual) lists “Shield Set and Shield Holder” with one of the set of four being “clear for protective use” and another, a “diffuser”. The set seems to be a more extensive and substantial version of what was in the box. Clear version of the cover and bag from a boxed set:

(Details from larger web images)

I don't believe that I have seen any of the covers together with the earlier shiny chrome reflectors. The textured ones seem to appear throughout the serial number range of the satin textured reflectors but whilst there are almost as many examples of the clear covers, unfortunately not one of their bodies has the serial number visible - I'm guessing from the textured range spread that the choice was either this one or that one, or it was the luck of the draw, but not that one was earlier than the other.

There are a number of user manual versions for the the Flash Unit Y. The earliest I have seen is from November 1953 (downloadable from Pacific Rim Camera) and is in English, cover below left (23 pages). The cover on the right belongs to a July 1954 manual, still featuring the shiny reflector, and is in Japanese (15 pages):

Whilst the paper quality and internal typesetting of the earliest manual is more basic than the rest (more so than the earlier X unit manuals in English), all export manuals seem to share its basic cover design (most have a camera image rather than line drawing) as does the downloadable manual below. This one is quite a late one from October 1955 (contents appear identical to a July 55 printing), matching the accompanying flash unit's late serial number (No. 35281), and featuring separate tables for using Canon IV Sb, II S and II F cameras up to serial number 169999 and over 170000, i.e. IV Sb type models with 1/25 cross over speed and IV Sb2 type models with 1/30 cross over speed, noting that the “2” models were not name differentiated back then (31 pages):

(Click on cover for PDF manual)

(Note for MacOS users only: Safari is sometimes displaying only the left half of double page scanned PDFs if the first scan is a single page - common with my cover pages. If it is a problem, suggest using different browser, or Preview, instead.)

Below left is a reasonably rare accessory Canon Flash Unit Y leather kit case, the red and blue arrows pointing to zipper issues, and below right is an also rare “Side Lighting Unit Model Y”. The kit case is quite different to the earlier types and I believe that whilst this was an extra, the earlier flashguns, including earlier versions of the Unit X, may have included theirs as standard:

(Details from larger web images)

Flash Unit III

As strobes were becoming more common for professional use, flashbulb flashguns were becoming simpler, more compact and more accessible. The Flash Unit III was Canon's first modern type with plastic body and fanfold reflector. An extension sidelight with coaxial connector, the Canon Side Lighting Unit, Model III, was also available. The user manual (available for download from Pacific Rim Camera) shows the model III mounted to an IV Sb2 era camera and the printing date is October 1955. It still appears in a 1956 Canon product guide featuring the Canon VT already along with its older sibling, the Flash Unit Y. Its price of $17.50 was slightly less than half of the penlight battery powered model Y, which incidentally was the same as the B-III for unsynced cameras:

Note the solid construction and coaxial extension socket on the side:

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For Canon Bayonet Mount Cameras (hinged back)

The side mounting flash rail was not a practical option for the hinged back models introduced by the Canon VT. The solution was a two tongue bayonet mount on the end of the top plate surrounding a standard PC socket and a matching connector and breech lock on the flash unit. A flash lead could be used for off-camera flash, or using a non-Canon flash.

Flash Unit V

The Flash Unit V was released with the Canon VT in 1956 and remained the standard flashgun until after the Canon 7 was released in 1961. With the exception of a tripod socket, it has similar features to the model III for bottom loading cameras, however its new accessory Canon Side-lighting Unit V uses an all new two pin connector:

A user manual is available for download from Flynn Marr.

Flash Unit V-2

This unit only appears in later Canon 7 user manuals, although it can be used with any earlier Series V and VI camera. It has a vertical body instead of angled and its primary difference is that the head can be rotated to provide bounce flash. It continues to use the accessory Side-lighting Unit V. Mounted on Canon 7:

A user manual is available for download from Flynn Marr.

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Canon Speedlights for Rail and Bayonet Mount Cameras

Canon initially called “their” early electronic strobe units “Speedlight”, the name “Speedlite” came later. “Speed Light” (two word form) was also a generic term Canon used in, e.g. the circa 1954 Flash Unit Y user manual above when connecting strobes to a camera with sync rail (a US Heiland Strobonar shoulder strap power pack model and an unknown brand pictured).

Canon introduced their own two models with shoulder strap power packs (as the most portable types were in the mid-50s, although under new owner Honeywell, Heiland released the first of the their power pack in handle type, the impressive Futuramic Strobonars in 1958). These were the “Canon Speedlight Unit” and the “Canon Speedlight Unit Model V”, which as far as I can tell were identical except for the flash heads which were designed to be mounted to the rails of Series IV cameras with X sync in the first instance and to the bayonet fitting of Series V cameras in the second instance. In time, this would include Series VI cameras and the Canon 7. The earliest that I have seen them mentioned is in the Canon VT de luxe user manual printed in March 1957. This is the Unit V photo in the manual:

Detail of the Speedlight Unit version showing flash head with rail mount and two upper hooks and clip at the bottom on the power pack for storing the flash head (note the two slots in the reflector rim for the the hooks):

(Detail from larger web image)

For Canon 7s

The Canon 7s (and the 7sZ) no longer featured the bayonet mount of the Series V, VI and Canon 7 cameras and therefore specialised flash units were not offered for it. The 7s user manual lists three suitable flash units; the Flash V-3 and Speedlite 100 and 200. These are displayed with other items on a Canon brochure page featuring the Canon 7s; left to right; Speedlite 100s, Speedlite 200 and Canon Flash Unit V-3:

Flash Unit V-3

Speedlite 200

(Web image)

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Useful Flash Accessories for the Modern Photographer

More than anything else, two things are likely to frustrate a modern photographer using a Canon rangefinder camera. The first is connecting a modern flash to the side flash rail of the X synced bottom loaders and the second is the lack of an accessory shoe on the Canon 7 making flash use difficult and the use of auxiliary finders next to impossible. Back in the 1950s, Canon had solutions for both and whilst these days they are difficult to find, they do sometimes appear on Japanese auction sites and market places.

The PC flash connector is called the “Flash Terminal Coupler” and slides onto the rail and sits over the sync pressure ball. Unfortunately it's not the most convenient or comfortable looking arrangement with the hard small diameter external socket likely to catch you unawares when there is no cable attached:

(Web images)

There were actually two solutions for the Canon 7, both are accessory shoes mounted to the flash connector bayonet on the end of the camera's top plate. The first is called the “Canon Flash Unit Coupler” and is a reasonably neat unit which places the flash over the end of the camera. The second is called the “Canon Accessory Coupler” which places the shoe over the middle of the camera and whilst it can be used for flash, or any accessory with shoe mount, it's prime purpose is to enable use of accessory finders. It is not the most attractive contraption and has to be removed for rewinding the film. Canon Flash Unit Coupler and two views of Canon Accessory Coupler (stop pin/screw at front of accessory shoe is missing in second image):

(Detail from larger web images)

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Canon Meters

Leica branded selenium cell exposure meters had been around since the 1930s, Leitz calling them “Leicameter” (as many people do) or “Leica Meter” (as Leitz more often did including with a hyphen between the names, sometimes alternating from what was on the meter to what was on the case, instructions or marketing material). They weren't actually made by Leitz, the earlier uncoupled shoe mounted Leica Meter 2 and 3 and the shutter dial coupled Leica Meter M released with the Leica M3 in 1954 and later models, were made by Germany company Metrawatt. As far as I know, Canon made its own meters.

Although physically almost twice the size, being uncoupled, the first Canon exposure meter, Canon Meter A, broadly equates to the Leica Meter 2 and 3 and was designed for the Canon Series V cameras. The name is hardly likely to be coincidence. They are quite hard to find:

(Web images)

Like the Leica Meter M, the Canon Meter (named that in an early VI T/VI L user manual) and improved Canon Meter 2 (as named in later documents) were shoe mounted shutter dial coupled designs for use with Canon Series VI cameras, the VI T, VI L and P, which have non-rotating shutters and the necessary grooves in the shutter dial to allow a mechanical connection with the prongs of the meter. The two meters are essentially the same, except that the Canon Meter 2, which replaced the original, can rotate 90 degrees around its accessory shoe mount to allow rewinding of the camera without removing the meter. As the Canon Meter was released with the VI T and VI L in September 1958 (production had commenced in June) and the Canon Meter 2 was already featured in a Canon P brochure printed in January 1959 for its release in March, the original Canon Meter had a relatively short life and is therefore comparatively uncommon. Below is the Canon Meter with its fixed shoe secured by 4 screws. Note, it has three prongs on the shutter dial coupling, there is a slightly later version with four prongs like the Canon Meter 2 (see below). Note also the circular contact pin on the left of the selenium cell for the accessory “Booster” cell connection which could increase low light meter sensitivity by 2 stops (4x). This was omitted from late versions of the Canon Meter 2:

(Web images)

Image adapted from early VI T/VI L user manual showing Canon Meter with Incident Light Attachment mounted, Booster and Incident Light Attachment for Booster:

When used with the incident attachments, the user manual assumes that the meter would be removed from the camera but it could be left on if the camera was taken to the subject position and pointed back to where the camera position would be.

Late version Canon Meter 2 mounted on a Canon P. The “Canon” name on top of the body behind the selenium cell disappeared first and towards the end, the contact for the Booster cell was removed:

(Web image)

Base of meter showing the rotating shoe, note four prong shutter dial coupling:

(Web image)

Canon P brochure showing the rotating function of the Canon Meter 2. Switch on lower left corner is for high or low sensitivity:

There were a number of minor Canon Meter 2 variations, the last and one of the rarest is that the black aperture value dial on top was engraved rather than screen printed.

Both Canon Meters and Canon Meters 2 were available in black to match black bodies. This one is earlier, it still has the Canon name on the body and the contact for the Booster cell:

(Web image)

As noted earlier, the Canon Meter and Canon Meter 2 could be fitted with the Incident Light Attachment. This also fits the earlier uncoupled Canon Meter A. A black version was available for black Canon Meters and Canon Meters 2:

(Web images)

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Ever-ready Cases

Leather ever-ready cases can be useful things and they certainly add character to a camera and help locate it in the right time period. However, they are not great for camera storage, some people don't like them and the people that do have used them as intended, to protect the camera. Therefore, not that many have survived and nice ones are often difficult to find.

The ones below are broadly in chronological order with a little bit of fiddling when a slight change in order makes sense, mainly in the 1956-1958 period. Cases for models not mentioned may be similar to the preceding type or next type but there is no guarantee of that. There is also a big variance in colour, I suspect because of aging and wear, some because of lighting and reflections and some because they were leather and also changing fashion. Consider the colours indicative but not necessarily accurate.

(All the images below are reduced size from the Internet and mainly from auction sites unless credited, or mine if in a larger size.)

Hansa Canon case on left, Canon S case on right with painted name, the couple of others I have seen have been embossed:

Although not obvious from the photos, both cases above feature similar style metal strap mounts riveted to the case:

Possibly during the War years, the strap mounts changed to a leather strop type riveted to the case, somewhat similar to the later Canon II D case. This one is for a post-War Canon J II:

Canon III case below left is the same as the Canon S II and II B cases. Note the neck strap passing through 2 leather saddles each side and underneath the camera and the way the serif on the “a” in the Canon name stretches into the mouth of the “C” (the name on the J II case is the same). The Canon IIIA case on the right updates the font used for “Canon” on the case snout and does away with a separate neck strap for the ever ready case, instead providing slight cutaways in the sides of both top and bottom halves allowing use of the camera's own strap. This was no doubt Canon's solution to dealing with the opening case flap for the flash rail on IV and related models:

Between the IIIA and the IV Sb cases were ones for the IV, IV F/IV S, II A and II D - I have only seen cases for the II D. Whilst both the III A and IV Sb did away with a separate strap for the case, uniquely, the II D used a leather strop and square metal ring strap hanger riveted to the case side:

The II D case was also used for the later II D2.

My Canon IV Sb ever-ready case is in a sorry state but it illustrates how the Canon IIIA case was modified with a side flap to allow use of the Canon flash units mounted on the camera's rail:

The rectangular “card” is made of some type of synthetic material and is used with assisting with film loading:

Flap wide open and flash mounted normally:

I'm confused by the ever-ready case below. This example belongs to a Canon S II2 and the back view of the same style case in the two photos below that belongs to a Canon IV Sb2. However, more than than half of the cases for the models with the updated shutter are the previous type with round snout but it's not like one is early and the other is late, these cases are distributed at random amongst the earlier type. Perhaps they were an option, or different markets featured different types, I just don't know:

Although the right side is not visible in the above photo, there is no flap visible at all from the front, however, this one features a back opening flap rather than the side type of the earlier case. Like with the previous ever-ready case, the Canon II D2 received one without a flap but it doesn't have the other II D case's separate strap hangers:

(Images courtesy of Terry Byford)

The Canon VT was a departure from the past and hence it received a new more modern and streamlined ever-ready case, but which one? I have seen two with VT de luxe style cases and two with VT de luxe Z/M cases but suspect all four are later replacements. I have also seen four Canon VTs with this style case, including the one with highest serial number, the metal trim perhaps linking it to the stylistic thinking behind the case above, found with some updated Series IV cameras. There appears to be a metal hinge between the top piece and the snout:

Note the gold metallic name on the case snout of the then top model and also the return of strap lugs to this and later cases.

The simpler Canon L1/L2 cases set the style for subsequent Series V and VI models, L1 case shown with gold lettering:

The Canon L2 (and L3) ever-ready cases were otherwise the same as the L1 but being more budget models, their names on the snout were embossed instead of metallic. The one VL2 case I've seen is the same as the L2:

Canon VT de luxe case in the L1 style, the differences being increased height and the slot for the trigger winder:

Black Canon VT de luxe case, no doubt for a black camera, and the snout is shorter, probably intended for a retail set with standard 35 mm lens.

Canon VT de luxe Z and VT de luxe M cases are both the same as the one below which are like the earlier Series V cases except for the large “V” and smaller “Canon” lower down:

Canon VI L case below continues the Series V style but with just the metallic Canon name and a bulge for the mounted Canon Meter:

The standard brown Canon P case below is the same as the VI L case but as with Series V every-ready cases for step-down models, the name is embossed. The black example for a black Canon P features a metallic name as does the other black Canon P in my database with a case - I suspect that because of the small numbers involved, black Canon Ps shared the black VI L case:

The re-styled Canon 7 ever-ready case is black and more angular with a larger snout but not big enough for the f/0.95 dream lens. Canon, having first eliminated strap lugs with the Canon III A/IV, reintroduced them with the VT - the Canon 7 and 7s cases have both strap lugs and cutouts for the camera's lugs:

(Image courtesy of Chris Whelan)

Boxed Canon 7 sets with the f/0.95 lens included this version of the ever-ready case instead (the 7s case for the f/0.95 lens is similar and perhaps even the same):

The standard Canon 7s case is similar to the Canon 7 one but more angular still, especially the snout:

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Canon Rapid Winder

The “Canon Rapid Winder” is Canon's interpretation of the Leitz Leicavit. The accessory replaces the standard base plate. It was introduced with the Canon III in February 1951, Canon says to fit cameras from serial number 50200 onward (to the end of the bottom loaders) but Peter Dechert says that the model he calls Canon 1950 (trial Canon III/IV series) also has the required modification (serial numbers 50000 to 50199):

Rapid Winder mounted on IV Sb2. Use with the included grip, or “Handle-bar”, would be most effective for rapid shooting:

(Web image)

Instructions are downloadable from Flynn Marr. It's a great accessory in some use cases such as sports photography, but a pain in the backside when used for portrait orientation photography, or on a tripod etc. As a removable accessory (tricky with film loaded), it made sense but not so much when Canon decided to permanently build it into some Series V and VI cameras instead.

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Accessories Other

Canon offered many, many types of accessories for its cameras and often there are multiple versions or variations to get collectors excited. Finding them is not easy though. This section is a brief overview of some of the basic items not yet mentioned, however, it barely scratches the surface. For more information, check the Facebook page “Canon Historical Society” and the brochures, product guides, price lists and catalogues available for download from Pacific Rim Camera.

Whilst no doubt Canon produced many of its own accessories, like other Japanese camera makers from the period, it is almost certain that Canon also rebranded items and collaborated with specialist accessory makers, especially those items that were largely generic across brands and relatively low cost and volume - there would have been little to gain from setting up design and manufacturing facilities for these items. One such item is the Auto-Up close up attachment and I'm also a little doubtful about at least some of the self-timers, both of which are examined further below.

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Reloadable Film Magazines

The reloadable 35 mm film cassette, called “magazine” by Canon, was developed for the original Leica, presumably by Oskar Barnack, as 35 mm film was only available in bulk for movie camera use. After Kodak released the disposable film cassette in 1934, the reloadable types remained popular into the 1950s for several reasons. Without a felt light trap, there was less friction to film transport and hence also less chance of scratching the older, softer emulsions. Not least was the economy of buying film in bulk. Once loaded into the camera, the Leitz cassette was opened to allow winding on by turning the the key on the bottom plate which also secured the bottom plate to the body. Unlocking the key to remove the base plate closed the cassette.

The Leica style cassette, also used by a number of Leica copies (most not interchangeable), is typified by a flat spring secured pin-in-groove controlled inner and outer case operation. When Zeiss released its Contax, it developed an improved easier to operate version which did away with the spring and made the Leica style's rectangular hole in the the external casing for the film leader a slot instead. Canon offered two basic types, not interchangeable, over the life of its rangefinders, the first to suit the bottom loaders was based on the Zeiss design, the second was to suit the hinged back models and was a hybrid Leica/Zeiss design with spring operation but retaining the more convenient slot opening in the outer casing.

There were a number of slight variations of the first type. Author Peter Kitchingman has presented his various examples on the “Canon Historical Society” Facebook page, mainly of the first type. The one below is mine, probably a later example of the first type.

Although the Canon VT and the first version of the VT de luxe with the new hinged back bodies omitted the magazine key, all other Series V, VI and 7 cameras gained it back. However, the required film magazine was the new redesigned hybrid type with Leica style flat spring on the side and single opening pin on top but with Zeiss style open slot in the outer casing:

(Detail from larger web images)

Initially packaged and marketed as the “Film Magazine V”, later packaging dropped the “V”, presumably with regard to Series VI and 7 camera models, although a 1961 products guide still calls it “Film Magazine V”.

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Canon Camera Holder

This is a most useful accessory for using with tripods and other mountings such as copy stands (not required, or possible, with the Canon copy set up further below). It holds the camera securely and not only moves the tripod mount to the centre, there is a forward position for heavier lenses, a portrait position and other options and includes a bubble level. It came in several versions, the first for bottom loaders (in March 1951 Canon III brochure already). The second is for Series V and VI hinged back models and is called the “Canon Camera Holder V” in a brochure but this seems to be split into two as well, one unmarked with version name, presumably for lever wind models, the other with higher sides to the base and marked with “VT” for trigger wind models (see images 5 and 6 below). The only problem is that Canon's brochure photo seems to show a Canon VT mounted in the lower profile V version. The final version is the “Canon Camera Holder L” for Series 7 cameras. The three types are all very similar, the main differences are to accommodate the different bodies.

For bottom loading Canons, note the bubble level visible in image 2:

(Web images)

V versions of the Camera Holder from Canon brochures, noting that the trigger wind model seems to be using the wrong holder:

Camera Holder L detail:

Instructions for the bottom loader model can be downloaded from Flynn Marr.

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Auto-Up

The Auto-Up is a close-up lens attachment also incorporating a frame held close-up lens over the rangefinder to enable accurate rangefinder focusing. It was initially made to suit specific 50 mm focal length lenses but seems to work with 35 mm lenses with a suitable bezel diameter as well, note the later 35 mm exception below, and brochures for the Canon 7 450 version which changed from naming lenses to mounting diameters. However over time, it was offered in many versions to suit both lenses and each of the three broad body groups of Canon Rangefinder cameras, Series II/III/IV, Series V/VI and Series 7 to ensure that the rangefinder/viewfinder was properly covered. Then most of these were offered in two shooting lengths named in a 1956 Canon product catalogue as No. 1 from 100 cm to 56 cm, or 40” to 22” and No. 2 from 52 cm to 39 cm, or 20” to 15” (except for the 450 version below, I'm using the product convention of the furthest distance first, some of the catalogues are the reverse, also, some of the metric measurements vary by a cm or so between versions).

My earliest sighting of the Auto-Up has been in a March 1951 Canon III brochure which only offered it for the Serenar f/1.9 in the 40” to 22” range. With the earliest type, there were no filter threads for a screw-in filter but they were there before the V series arrived in 1956:

Note the “174601” patent number, always the same when marked. There is no serial number yet (most metal Canon accessories were serial numbered until later in the 1950s)

Mounted on Serenar 50 mm f/1.9 lens on Canon II B:

Later brochures offer versions of the first type for the Serenar/Canon f/1.8 (except for the change in lens names and a Canon serial number on the front, these appear identical to the f/1.9 Serenar version and no doubt can be mixed and matched) then add the f/1.5 and finally the f/2.8. It probably wasn't until 1954, or more likely 1955, that the closer 20” to 15” range was also offered. Below is an early example of the No. 2, marked “II” with serial number 10611 for the f/1.5 lens only, which is rather strange for several reasons as an apparently identical II with only slightly earlier serial number, 10150, is marked as suitable for the f/1.5, f/1.8 and f/2.8 50 mm lenses - both the f/1.5 and f/1.8 make sense with their shared 42 mm bezels but at this pre-“V” series time (cameras made before 1956), the 28 mm lens featured a 36 mm bezel and its own Auto-Up (see below). To me, there seems to be some confusion, perhaps because as we will come to, another company was involved:

(Web image)

December 1955 instructions for bottom load cameras can be downloaded from both Pacific Rim Camera (higher resolution) and Flynn Marr.

Auto-Up description for bottom loaders in 1956 product catalogue:

Auto-Ups for Series V cameras are found marked “V-I” or “V-II”. V-I and V-II equate to No. 1 and No. 2 respectively and whilst the cases for both are simply marked “V”, depending on the case, there is usually a smaller “No. 1” or “No. 2” below that. The serial number is now on the back with the patent number. This is a cased V-I version for the Canon 50 mm f/1.8 but note, the instructions add the f/1.5 and 35 mm f/1.8:

Mounted on Canon 50 mm f/1.8 lens on Canon L2 and fitted with 40 mm screw-in filter:

Although this V version looks almost identical to the Serenar model further above, the parallax indicator, whilst a different shape (square vs sharp triangle), is a little closer to the top edge and the rectangular lens for the viewfinder/rangefinder is a little wider.

Below are the V series June 1957 Japanese instructions that came with the set (double sided, multifold sheet):

(Click on cover for PDF instructions)

I have seen V series Auto-Ups for the f/2.8, f/1.8, f/1.4 and f/1.2 50 mm lenses. The f/2.8 (see further below) and, I think, the f/1.2 versions are a little different to the others. I have come across a number of Auto-Ups for the f/1.2 lens and they all look the same so I don't think that there is an earlier and later version which will become clear in a minute. The f/1.2 versions have a rangefinder/viewfinder frame/lens which rather than being rectangular, wraps down around the taking lens and has a separate peep hole for the rangefinder. I am assuming that this has to do with the size of the lens. I believe that this one is from the same period as the rectangular f/1.8 and f/1.4 V series, and the patent number, 174601, remains the same:

(Web image)

This V-II Auto-Up says that it is suitable for both f/1.8 50 mm and 35 mm lenses, because no doubt of the shared 42 mm bezel diameter, the only mention I have seen of 35 mm focal length lenses on an actual Auto-Up, although this duality also appears on the cover of the V-I instructions with the cased set above. Lens set which says “For Canon Lens 50 mm - 35 mm” and case which suggests the same:

(Web images)

Below is an all black Auto-Up for a Canon f/1.4 lens simply marked No. 2 on the rim. Previously, the f/1.4 version was rectangular, this one wraps around the lens and looks like a black version of the f/1.2 lens type. They are a very similar design but I think it is from later, probably for Series VI cameras with their parallax correcting viewfinders (would still suit the earlier V Series cameras as well):

(Web image)

On these and the later Canon 7 type, there is no longer a patent or serial number, or at least any obvious ones.

Auto-Ups for Series 7 cameras are included in a March 1962 Bell and Howell price list. These are now called “Auto-Up 450 No. 1 (for) 55~100 cm” and “Auto-Up 900 No. 2 (for) 39~52 cm”. There are “42 mm”, “50 mm” and “57 mm” named versions for the f/1.8, f/1.4 and f/1.2 lenses respectively. Presumably the 42 mm model will also suit the second type f/2.8 and the f/2.2 lenses and the f/1.8 35 mm lens too.

This is an actual Canon Auto-Up 450 for the Canon 7, but mounted on a Canon VI-T (also mounting the Canon 7 Flash Unit Coupler). Note the wider frame to cover the longer rangefinder base, but I would think that it will work equally as well with Series V and VI cameras, obviously no earlier ones would suit the Canon 7:

(Web image)

To provide an accurate field of view of the subject, the Auto-Up was recommended to be used with an appropriate 50 mm accessory viewfinder and the “Parallax Compensator” in the 1955 instructions, or the “Parallax Compensator III” in both the 1957 Canon price list and 1962 Bell and Howell price list:

(Web image)

The Auto-Up for the first Canon f2.8 lens with 36 mm bezel mounts differently to those for other Canon lenses. Instead of a close-up lens with attached viewfinder frame, the two parts are separate and the viewfinder frame mounts to the accessory shoe, perhaps because of the increased loading that would be applied to the smaller diameter lens. This one is a V-II version, i.e. Series V camera, 20” to 15”:

(Web images)

The patent number is still 174601.

Earlier, I identified the Auto-Up as something Canon may not have made itself. Minolta 35 maker, Chiyoda Kōgaku (later Minolta) also offered an Auto-Up which appears in one of its instruction manuals. The example below left mounts the same as the Canon f/2.8 lens version and is perhaps for the Super Rokkor 45 mm f/2.8 which also features a 36 mm bezel. The image on the right is from the accessories page of the Japanese Minolta 35 II type b2 user manual which features a lens mounting more like the other Canon types and one of the larger diameter later lenses:

(Web image on left)

But not only Minolta, there are Auto-Ups for Nikon, Konica, Yashica, Kodak Retina IIa, Leica and Contax IIA that I have found plus versions for both Mamiya 35 and Mamiya 6 cameras. Some have leather cases very similar to some Canon examples. For further information, I am referring to Flynn Marr's generally excellent page The Canon Auto-Up which details the back story. An instruction sheet with a generic OEM version made for Leica type cameras tells us that the Auto-Up was invented by Mr K. Shimada, a former technician of Mamiya-Koki Camera Works (Mamiya in other words) and that it was designed by Dr Z. Koana. Mr Shimada was issued patent 174601 and it was manufactured under the Pleasant Brand. The instruction is headed, “Auto-Up Super Nooky” (also appears on OEM boxes), the Super Nooky being a play on Leitz's catalogue name “Nooky” for it's close focusing device for the Elmar f/3.5 (not an auxiliary lens, more like an extension tube with attached viewfinder). Various brands and camera models are mentioned in this early instruction sheet including Canon for the f/1.8 and f/1.5 lenses.

From what I can make out from inscriptions on the devices and packaging and cases, the Auto-Up name is consistent across camera brands, but some camera makers fully incorporated the device into their own identity and branding like Canon, on others, the Pleasant name can still be found somewhere and models made for Leica and Contax and some others were usually inscribed e.g. “for Leica” with the Pleasant name and patent number on the rim, these usually having no connection to the camera maker:

(Web image)

We know that Canon's Auto-Ups were a Mr Shimada design by the afore mentioned patent number, 174601, that appears on both Pleasant and Canon devices to at least the late 1950s. At this point I have to disagree with Flynn Marr. He assumes that Canon physically manufactured the Canon Auto-Ups and speculates that because Mr Shimada's patent number appears on it, Canon acquired the patent. He claims that this must have happened prior to 1953 (logical if Canon had acquired the patent) and further claims that other versions disappeared from the market around that time. Well, that's definitely not correct. The Minolta 35 II type b2 referred to previously was introduced in 1956. There is also a Yashica version for the Electro 35, a camera released in 1966 (this one has a revised design but looks familiar):

(Web image)

I also have a copy of the Konishiroku issued instructions for the “Konica Auto-Up 3” mounted to the 1973 Konica Auto S3 and Japanese market version Konica C35 FD.

I suspect that quite a number of the others that I have photos of are also later than 1953. Canon may have possibly produced the Auto-Up under licence but given the post-War Japanese camera industry reputation for cooperation and other examples of rebranding of bought in items on this site by Nikon (flash systems), Nicca (flash and most accessories), Yashica (flash, self-timers, tripods, lenses) etc., I doubt that Canon would have wanted to spend resources unnecessarily setting up a production facility for a relatively low value and volume item which a specialised company could do more economically. If it did, surely its Auto-Up would have looked at least a little different to all the others and the name may have changed?

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Self-timers

Flynn Marr posts some nice Canon self-timer examples on his Canon Self-Timers page but there are some relevant ones missing and the time-line is not correct. My reference for this section is the German Autoknips site Japanese and Canon pages. This is the most authoritative site of its kind but whilst it identifies the makers of some brands of self-timers, it doesn't link them all.

Before the War, the German Haka Autoknips brand was first imported and then produced under licence in Japan. After the War, the two biggest manufacturers of Japanese self-timers were accessory maker Kobayashi Seiki Seisakusho (Kobayashi Precision Works), abbreviated KSS, founded in 1948, using the “Kobal” and “Kopil” brand names (Camera-wiki.org) and Suehiro Photo Industry Corporation which started manufacture of self-timers in 1949. Both made self-timers under their own brand names and also under other names for camera makers and many distributors and importers. With just one Suehiro model, I have found 14 different brand names under which it was sold including Yashica (with bold engraved name) plus there are more brands when including minor update variations. Shutter maker Copal is known to have made at least one (its name is on it) and perhaps both of Asahi Optical Co.'s Pentax self-timers from the late 1950s. Few camera companies would have contemplated making their own.

Initially, Japanese makers were heavily influenced by the Autoknips designs and the first Kobayashi Kobal self-timer is said to be a copy of the Autoknips IV. The fact is that apart from setting levers/dials and release levers/buttons, there is great similarity in the design of most Japanese self-timers.

The Autoknips site tells us, “Canon also built Leica copies and was initially supplied with self-timers by KSS.” But which ones and who made the later ones? The site gives us the order and some clues:

1949, Canon Self-timer

As expected, the Canon does look like the Autoknips IV with rectangular body and a setting/winding lever with a red circular indicator flag and is very similar to the 1949 (marked MIOJ) KSS Kobal which seems to have an almost identical body with release lever and back plate screw positioning:

(Web images)

The differences are in the detailing of the direction arrow and the winding lever lever/flag which is slightly tapered at the ends on the Canon. If I was being picky, the Canon also looks slightly less angular. Like nearly every generic Japanese self-timer, the Kobal features a connecting stem with thread requiring an adapter for use on Leica style unthreaded shutter buttons rather than a stem specifically made for it like the Canon version. Until the end of 1949, the Canon was also marked with MIOJ, this one is later:

(Web images)

July 1951, Canon Self-timer II

This is one of the most common Canon types and looks almost the same as the first type but there are some minor external variations; the finishing of the body edges is more chamfered than smoothly rounded, the knurling detail is slightly different and the central nut is also different (now hexagonal instead of two sided):

(Web images)

February 1954, A Jardine Alternative

As an aside, a 1 February 1954 Jardine, Matheson & Co., (Japan) Ltd., Canon price list for US Armed Forces includes “Self-Timer (Walz Brand)”. It is probably something that the exporter arranged, who knows why? Possibly a supply shortage? Business connection - an April 1955 Canon product brochure with Jardine's name at the end mentions “Exposure Meter (Walz)”? There are several Walz self-timers with a similar design to the Kobal/Canon but with key differences. Walz was a seller of many accessories and even TLR cameras but no one seems to know whether it made its own self-timers, or in fact anything it sold. It may have been something like this one, the Leica nipple adapter shown belongs to a Suehiro made Yashica model:

May 1955, Canon Self-timer III

If Canon produced any of their own self-timers, this and the later threaded release version V of this self-timer would have to be the prime candidates. They have hexagonal bodies to match the Canon hexagonal camera bodies and they are uncompromising in their suitability only for the shutter button types they were designed for. Whilst there are many Japanese brands with similar/same bodies to each other, this is the only one of this style that I know of. Of course, Canon may have commissioned someone to make a bespoke body style for it but on balance, including the claims of the Autoknips site, I think that is less likely.

The Self-timer III, and the original Self-timer are the only two without a model name on the body. Flynn Marr mounts an argument why he thinks that this one is earlier than the Self-timer II. Whilst the Autoknips site doesn't support that theory, it is also not supported by Canon documentation - a January 1955 brochure shows a Self-timer II (the III was released in May) whilst a 1956 brochure shows a Self-timer III with the caption, “Screws into shutter release button cup of Canon cameras other than Model V. New easy-to-see green setting dial”. Note the threaded cup/“Leica nipple” compared to the Self-timer V cup further below:

(Web images)

Circa March 1957, Canon Self-timer IV

Until the Canon VT was released in August 1956, no Canon models had featured a built-in self-timer and they all featured plain shutter buttons requiring a “Leica Nipple” to connect cable releases or self-timers. The VT did away with the need for a self-timer and introduced a tapered thread in the shutter button (Compur thread). However, the Canon L2 was released in March 1957 without a self-timer and Canon hadn't prepared for it. As a stop gap apparently, the Canon Self-timer IV is a Self-timer II with threaded connector released for a very brief period until the Self-timer III was converted to the Self-timer V with Compur thread. To me, that suggests that the Self-timers II and IV were more or less available off the shelf and that the Self-timer III needed time to be redeveloped into the V. The IV is named in the 26 March 1957 Canon price list but I've not seen one - this is almost certainly the rarest of all by a considerable margin.

1957, Canon Self-timer V

As mentioned above, the Canon Self-timer V is the III with a Compur thread connector. In the process, “Japan” moved from the front to back. Note, it still looks like it has a Leica nipple but that is a plain cup that simply sits over the shutter button and the threaded connector is inside that. It is an unusual arrangement not employed on later Canon Self-timers, or any other that I am aware of. Presumably, it was dictated by the original III body shape and probably provides additional stability. It seems simple but may have taken some head scratching to come up with:

(Web images)

1963-1974, Canon Self-timers 6, 7 and 8.

When the Canon L3 ended production in December 1958, there were no more Canon rangefinder models without a built-in self-timer. Whilst the Canon Self-timers 6, 7 and 8 can be used on Canon L1, L2 and L3 models and in fact, if you wanted to, on any models from the VT onward, or earlier with an adapter, they were not intended for the LTM rangefinder cameras when released. According to the Autoknips site, the 1963 Self-timer 6 was offered as an accessory for the 1963 Canon Demi, Canonex and Dial 35 and the 1968 Canonet 28 and the 1968 Self-timer 7 was a more powerful version of the 6 designed for the Canon TL - it looks the same but the body is slightly wider. However, an August 1968 Canon product guide for the USA features both the 6 and 7 and states that the 7 is “exclusively for the Canonet QL 25”:

The Self-timer 8 was offered as an accessory for a number of 1974 and 1975 models and was Canon's last mechanical self-timer. The Autoknips site has this to say about the Self-timer 6, “Canon now obtained its new model from a third-party manufacturer ”. As it claimed that the first version/s were supplied by KSS, that seems to imply that the III and V were indeed Canon made. The Self-timers 6, 7 (this one fitted with a “Leica Nipple” adapter) and 8 certainly look more generic than the III and V (to me, the 6 and 7 bodies and stems particularly have a KSS look from that period):

(Web images)

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Copy Stands

Canon offered at least two copy stands for its rangefinders, a table model with a solid timber baseboard and a portable version of the same setup that disassembles into a timber case which, when opened up and turned upside down, becomes the baseboard. In 1953 and 1954 ads and brochures, Canon called its copy stands “Copying Unit, CK-A Portable” and “Copying Unit, CK-C Non-Portable”. The same units in a 1956 brochure are called “Copying Unit, Portable Model” and “Copying Unit, Table Model”. Not pictured but Canon Product Guides from 1961, 1962 and 1963 refer to the “Copy Stand 3 (for Canon Rangefinder Cameras)”, however, the August 1966 Guide only lists the SLR version.

Collector Kirk Thorsteinson features his CK-A portable unit on the Canon page of his Flickr site and provides details of camera mounting and focusing mounts along with component lists etc. Low resolution images are below:

(Images courtesy of Kirk Thorsteinson)

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Camera Boxes

As a collectible, a boxed camera has more value than one without. They are also part of the historical record. The camera boxes are often called a “presentation box” and that is a good description of particularly the earlier ones. Canon's boxes, like contemporary boxes supplied by other camera makers in Japan and elsewhere, were initially substantial and well made and something that could be kept for camera storage. They were heavily influenced by Leitz for 35 mm and Franke & Heidecke (Rolleis) for TLRs. However, by the late 1950s and early 1960s, they had become more disposable like modern packaging.

The earliest box is perhaps this one for a Hansa Canon, the camera itself being reasonably early production with mount number 433. The WestLicht Auction photo shows a luxuriously crafted box with velvet finish, chamfered edges, curved corners and classy graphic design. There doesn't appear to be any Hansa, or Omiya, reference. The box on the right belongs to a Canon Original, from almost the end of production. Despite its damaged state, it is clearly not as luxuriously finished as the other, lacking its chamfered edges and curved corners for a start and the text font and execution seems more crude and more of the period. The more I look, paradoxically, the more modern the Westlicht box looks to me (both boxes were part of complete sets with instruction manuals and original papers and tags) - are the two separated by time, cost reduction, or simply different points of sale?

(Details from WestLicht Auction photo on left, web image on right)

I haven't seen any boxes for the Canon S, or the following models which were mainly Wartime production followed by the austere post-War period. However, this type, belonging to a camera with March 1951 inspection tag, takes presentation boxes to a new level. The colour, the finish, the brass clasp and gold writing are very similar to Nicca boxes from this time until a little bit later (circa 1955) - was one company copying, or was there a common supplier? Exterior and interior views:

(Web images)

Canon moved on quickly to this simpler, but still substantial, box with more useful information and marketing potential on store shelves. First example is a Canon II D box and its base which would normally include the kit's serial numbers. Helpfully, the box is marked with a date, September 1952:

(Web images)

The IV Sb box is the same design, as it is for the remainder of the bottom loaders. The second image Shows the complex packaging involved. The presentation box is given its own protective box, the ever-ready case has a single basic cardboard box and both camera and case boxes slot into what I call a delivery box:

(Web images)

Below left is a Canon L2 box, still with lift-off lid, and on the right, a VL2 box which looks identical except for a cut-out on the front of the base identifying the model. Presumably, the L and L2 boxes were identical with perhaps the actual model identified on the bottom. The L3 box, being introduced a little later, is like the VL2 box with the cut-out:

(Web images)

VI L presentation box with its delivery box, including provision for the ever-ready case:

(Web image)

The Canon P box. The separate lid is gone and the box has become more utilitarian and disposable:

(Web image)

The Canon 7 box pretty much represents modern packaging, only the cardboard may be a little thicker:

(Images courtesy of Chris Whelan)

With the Canon 7s box, Canon ditched the recent stuck-on labels and went back to a less busy and more eye-pleasing graphic design:

(Web image)

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