Camera Geekery: The original Canon logo


by Bellamy /

2 min read
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Camera Geekery: The original Canon logo
I found out something that I didn’t know today. I had no idea that the company we now know as Canon started out with a different name and a logo that you would never recognize now. Come and learn something.

Today I was perusing one of my favourite little camera stores with a friend who had just bought a film camera after a hiatus of about 20 years. He had just got his hands on a lovely little Canonet QL17 from me and we were after some film. As I know the manager of the shop we started to have a chat about the merits of different films when he told me he had something interesting to show me. And this is what it was:

I thought he had handed me a flyer for some camera shop that I had never heard of or some kind of new club. But I was wrong, he actually explained to me that this is the original logo for the Canon corporation, back when they were called Kwanon.
Kwanon (or Kannon) is the name for a buddhist goddess and very early Canon cameras were actually called Kwanon cameras. Now we are talking about a long time ago here, back in the 1930’s, so marketing was a very different animal.
In the mid thirties it was decided that the religious icon for the logo would have to go as it may alienate customers (and imagine trying to engrave that on a camera). So the name was changed to a very similar sounding Canon, which still retained the core meaning of high standards and thoughtfulness, but was more accessible to the general public.

Over time the logo changed and evolved to become what is now one of the most instantly recognizable brands in the world. Who would have thought that the original would be something so very different.
I am not the first to have written about this and it is not really a breaking news story. In fact you can read about it on the Canon website. But it is an interesting fact, that I was in the dark about until now. I hope it has been an eye opener for you as much as it has for me.

Just imagine that logo on the top plate of your camera…Woah, not sure about that.

5 comments on “Camera Geekery: The original Canon logo”

    ZDP-189 September 9, 2012 at 9:42 pm / Reply

    Yup, Quanyin, Goddess of Mercy. That is why they didn’t bring out a full frame mirrorless camera: Mercy to Leica.

    InFrame September 9, 2012 at 10:43 pm / Reply

    Any takers for a Goddess Tattoo?

    Jukka vatanen September 9, 2012 at 11:28 pm / Reply

    When I was in Tokyo in mid eighties, Canon was a office machine company with some sidekick activity in amateur cameras. It was NIKON, all the way, in professional equipment and Nikon gallery in many leading markets. Sadly Nikon missed a beat later on, only now recovering some of the former glory. I hope LEICA will be the next Pro camera maker, if they make wise decisons, and don`t rely on former glory and “Collector market”

    Thomas Cremers February 12, 2013 at 11:47 pm / Reply

    I Read the name of my favorite little rf film camera the Canon Cannonet QL17. I have 2 version 3 of this little snapper and I absolutely adore them I’ve done multiple projects with them. Basically all street portraits here: http://theodoorthomas/poland

    Just had to declare my love for this little camera when I saw its name fly by ;-)

    Von September 18, 2016 at 10:10 am / Reply

    I think you are mistaken about Canon, Canon has always made professional products starting with TV camera and low light fast lens, The big switch from Nikon to Canon came in the early 70’s with the F-1 camera system

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