For the people interested in photography — this is interesting stuff! Let’s get to know the camera companies…
Sony Corporation was founded in Tokyo, Japan, on May 7, 1946, by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita. The company initially started as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation), focusing on the repair of radios and the development of innovative electronic products. In 1958, the company adopted the name “Sony,” derived from the Latin word “sonus,” meaning sound, and the American slang term “sonny,” reflecting the founders’ ambition to create a global brand.
One of Sony’s early triumphs was the development of the world’s first commercially available transistor radio, the TR-55, in 1955. Throughout the subsequent decades, Sony continued to innovate, introducing the first Trinitron color television in 1968, the first Betamax VCR in 1975, and the iconic Walkman portable cassette player in 1979. In the 1980s and 1990s, Sony expanded into the entertainment industry, acquiring CBS Records in 1988 and Columbia Pictures in 1989.
Panasonic Corporation, formerly known as Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., was founded by Konosuke Matsushita in 1918 in Osaka, Japan. The company began by manufacturing duplex lamp sockets, expanding later into a wide range of electronic products. The company’s first significant innovation was the introduction of a battery-powered bicycle lamp in 1923. In 1931, Matsushita Electric introduced a radio, establishing the National brand.
Post World War II, Panasonic expanded its operations internationally, establishing Matsushita Electric Corporation of America in 1959. Throughout the 20th century, the company continued to innovate, introducing products such as VHS video recorders, plasma televisions, and digital cameras. In 2008, the company officially changed its name to Panasonic Corporation to better align with its global brand recognition.
Canon Inc. was founded on August 10, 1937, in Tokyo, Japan, by Goro Yoshida, Saburo Uchida, and Takeo Maeda. The company initially focused on the development and manufacturing of high-quality cameras. The first prototype, the Kwanon, was named after the Buddhist goddess of mercy, and this would later evolve into the company’s official name, Canon.
In the post-war era, Canon expanded its product offerings, introducing X-ray cameras, television cameras, and calculators. In 1976, the company introduced the AE-1, the first microcomputer-controlled 35mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. Canon continued to innovate in the imaging industry, becoming a pioneer in digital imaging with the introduction of the EOS D30 digital SLR camera in 2000.
Nikon Corporation was founded on July 25, 1917, as Nippon Kogaku Kogyo Kabushikigaisha, a merger of three leading optical manufacturers in Japan. The company initially focused on the production of optical glass and precision optical instruments. Nikon gained international recognition during World War II for the quality of its optics, particularly with its Nikkor camera lenses.
Post-war, Nikon entered the consumer camera market with the introduction of the Nikon I in 1948, which evolved into a line of professional-grade cameras known for their quality and durability. The company continued to innovate in the photography industry, developing autofocus SLR cameras in the 1980s and transitioning into digital imaging in the late 1990s.
Eastman Kodak Company:
The Eastman Kodak Company, commonly known as Kodak, was founded by George Eastman in Rochester, New York, in 1888. Eastman’s vision was to simplify photography and make it accessible to the general public. In pursuit of this vision, he introduced the first easy-to-use camera, the Kodak No. 1, which was sold preloaded with film, allowing users to take 100 photographs before sending the camera back to the factory for film development and reloading. This innovation revolutionized photography, transforming it from a specialized craft to a popular hobby.
In 1900, Kodak introduced the Brownie camera, a simple and affordable box camera that further popularized photography among the masses. Throughout the 20th century, Kodak continued to innovate, leading the industry in the development of color film, motion picture film, and instant photography. The company also played a significant role in the development of digital photography; however, it was slow to transition from its traditional film business, resulting in financial struggles in the digital era.
The Polaroid Corporation was founded by Edwin H. Land in 1937 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Initially, the company focused on the development of polarizing technology for various industrial applications. However, it was Land’s invention of instant photography that would define the company’s legacy.
In 1947, Land demonstrated the first instant camera, the Land Camera Model 95, which utilized a proprietary film to develop an image within minutes of exposure. This groundbreaking innovation captured the public’s imagination and transformed the photography industry. Over the subsequent decades, Polaroid continued to develop and refine its instant photography technology, introducing iconic products such as the Polaroid Swinger and the SX-70.
In the late 20th century, Polaroid faced increasing competition from digital photography, which ultimately led to the company’s decline. Despite attempts to adapt to the digital market, Polaroid declared bankruptcy in 2001. The brand has since been revived, focusing on niche markets for instant photography and related products.
Leica Camera AG:
Leica Camera AG was founded by Ernst Leitz in 1914 in Wetzlar, Germany. The company’s genesis can be traced back to the Optical Institute, established by Carl Kellner in 1849. However, it was the invention of the Leica I, a compact 35mm rangefinder camera, by Oskar Barnack in 1925 that would define the company’s future. The Leica I was a groundbreaking innovation, offering exceptional image quality in a portable and easy-to-use design. This marked the beginning of the 35mm format, which would become the industry standard for decades to come.
Throughout the 20th century, Leica continued to develop high-quality, precision-engineered cameras and lenses that garnered a reputation for their superb optical performance and durable construction. The company’s M-series of rangefinder cameras, introduced in 1954 with the Leica M3, has become a symbol of excellence in the world of photography.
In the face of the digital revolution, Leica has managed to adapt, maintaining its commitment to quality and craftsmanship while integrating modern technology. The company introduced its first digital rangefinder camera, the Leica M8, in 2006, and has since continued to develop both digital and film cameras, as well as a range of high-performance lenses.
Carl Zeiss AG:
Carl Zeiss AG, founded in 1846 by Carl Zeiss in Jena, Germany, is renowned for its contributions to the field of optics and precision engineering. While the company initially focused on the production of microscopes, it expanded into the photographic industry with the introduction of the Protar lens in 1890, designed by Paul Rudolph. The Protar lens was the first anastigmat lens, which corrected optical aberrations and dramatically improved image quality.
Over the years, Zeiss has continued to innovate in the field of optics, creating iconic lenses such as the Planar, Tessar, and Sonnar. While the company itself does not manufacture cameras, its lenses have been used by many camera manufacturers, including Hasselblad, Rollei, and Contax. Zeiss lenses have become synonymous with exceptional image quality and precision engineering, earning the company a prestigious reputation in the world of photography.
Rollei was founded by Paul Franke and Reinhold Heidecke in 1920 in Braunschweig, Germany. The company initially focused on the development of high-quality cameras and lenses, with its first product, the Heidoscop, a stereo camera, introduced in 1921. However, it was the launch of the Rolleiflex in 1929 that established Rollei as a major player in the camera industry. The Rolleiflex was a twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera, featuring a distinctive waist-level viewfinder and offering medium-format image quality in a compact design.
Throughout the 20th century, Rollei continued to develop and refine its TLR cameras, as well as expanding into other camera formats, including 35mm SLR cameras and medium-format systems. In the digital era, Rollei has diversified its product range, offering digital cameras, action cameras, and photographic accessories, while maintaining its commitment to quality and innovation.
Founded in Sweden in 1841 by Fritz Victor Hasselblad, the Victor Hasselblad AB company has had a significant impact on photography, particularly through its connection with the U.S. space program. The company initially focused on the import and distribution of photographic equipment. However, it was Victor Hasselblad, the founder’s grandson, who propelled the company into the realm of camera manufacturing.
In 1941, Victor Hasselblad began developing cameras for the Swedish Air Force, culminating in the creation of the Hasselblad 1600F, a medium format single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, in 1948. This camera’s innovative design and exceptional image quality established Hasselblad as a leading manufacturer of professional-grade cameras.
During the 1960s, NASA selected Hasselblad cameras for use in the American space program. The Hasselblad 500EL was specifically modified for use during the Apollo missions, capturing some of the most iconic images of space exploration, including the first photographs taken by humans on the surface of the moon.
Fujifilm Holdings Corporation, more commonly known as Fujifilm, was established on January 20, 1934 in Tokyo, Japan through the merger of Dai-Nippon Celluloid Company and Fuji Photo Film Company.
Fujifilm concentrated on researching, developing, and producing photographic film, X-ray film, and motion picture film. The company became a leading supplier of photographic materials in Japan. In the 1960s, Fujifilm expanded its product lineup to include cameras, starting with the Fujica 6, a medium-format folding camera. Over time the company developed a wide range of camera models, including rangefinders, single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, and compact cameras.
As the photography industry shifted from film to digital technology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Fujifilm adapted by focusing on digital cameras. The company introduced its first digital camera, the DS-1P, in 1988 and continued to innovate in the digital camera market with a variety of compact, mirrorless, and medium-format cameras.