The Most cost-effective Professional Digicam Canon Has Ever Launched


Cameras are costly, and Canon is not any stranger to mountaineering its costs when it sees match — the EOS 1D X Mark III flagship DSLR prices a reasonably sizeable $6,500. However has it at all times been this manner?

On this article, we’ll discover which of Canon’s pro-grade cameras — beginning with the F-1 in 1971 — price probably the most and which had been surprisingly inexpensive.

A Temporary Historical past of Canon

A duplicate of the unique Kwanon digicam that Canon primarily based on Leica’s designs. Picture by Morio and licensed beneath CC BY-SA 4.0.

Canon was based in 1933 as a digicam producer, and the corporate predicated its first mannequin — the Kwanon (and later the Hansa Canon) — on the Leica II, nevertheless it was sluggish out of the beginning gates to provide a professional-grade mannequin. That’s to not say it wasn’t revolutionary – it was – however when Nikon launched the high-end F in 1959, Canon’s personal SLR, the Canonflex, was no match.

In actual fact, to be truthful to Canon, it was by no means designed to be a match. The corporate was extra curious about servicing a broader vary of merchandise, to a wider viewers, to be able to construct the enterprise; briefly, the pro-grade mannequin was a small market in relation to the burgeoning newbie market and will wait.

Canon’s Canonflex was no match for the legendary Nikon F SLR. Picture by Kevin Murray and licensed beneath CC BY-SA 4.0.

The Canonflex was nonetheless a great digicam, constructed to a excessive customary, nevertheless it adopted an identical trajectory to different producers, akin to Pentax and Minolta, in pushing out 35mm SLRs however not essentially full methods. The Canonflex got here armed with the R-mount, which morphed into the FL-mount in 1964 after which the FD-mount in 1971 with the discharge of the F-1.

It was the discharge of the F-1 that was transformative for Canon: a high-quality physique, supported by a forward-thinking mount and full vary of equipment allowed them to compete with Nikon.

However what makes a digicam “pro-grade”? Merely put, it’s a digicam that may service the wants of the hardest-handling professionals and so is constructed to the best requirements. Nevertheless, it additionally means that there’s a vary of equipment to fulfill each conceivable want and, particularly, lenses that provide the best-in-class efficiency throughout the complete vary of focal lengths.

When the Nikon F was launched there have been 9 lenses accessible from day one and this grew quickly. For the digital digicam period, this has meant they’re designed for fast capturing with quick auto-focus monitoring, wonderful low mild efficiency, and infrequently with portrait/panorama grips for mixed-mode capturing.

Evaluating Canon’s Professional-Grade Fashions

Canon launched the F-1 with a price ticket of ¥78,000, or about $678. Sadly, you’ll be able to’t simply evaluate historic launch costs for 2 causes. Firstly there’s the alternate price between currencies, which varies over time. Then there’s the impact of the final rise within the value of merchandise year-on-year (or inflation) implies that that $678 price ticket for the F-1 isn’t corresponding to the 1D X!

Now when you can’t state precisely what a 1971 product is price right now, we are able to estimate it utilizing a generic value index. I’ve picked the US Bureau of Labor Statistics “Shopper Worth Index (1967) for All City Shoppers” as the most suitable choice after which calculated the 2020 equal costs for all of Canon’s pro-grade fashions. For these, I’ve pulled the checklist costs from a spread of locations, together with Ken Rockwell and Wikipedia.

What the chart beneath reveals is how remarkably inexpensive the F-1 was at $1,600 when it first got here out.

Canon Pro-Spec Prices Compared
The launch dates and costs of Canon’s skilled grade cameras (in 2020 {dollars}). Click on to enlarge.

In the event you take a look at pricing for Nikon’s pro-grade fashions, then the F was launched in 1959 at $2,900 and the 1971 F2 at $3,500. Canon knew it had a aggressive product but in addition that it needed to construct its client base up. I nonetheless discover it odd that it went for the F designation, quite than distinguishing itself from Nikon. The one factor more odd was naming its alternative (in 1981), the “New F-1”! This was additionally low-priced at $1,800, in comparison with Nikon’s F3 at $3,700.

An previous print commercial saying Canon’s New F-1 SLR.

The Upward March in Canon Flagship Costs

In fact, the large change got here with the discharge of the EOS system and EF-mount, which considerably leveraged Canon’s technical capabilities. The 1989 EOS-1V jumped in value to $2,600, the 1994 EOS-1N to $3,800, and the 2000 EOS-1v to $4,000, though nonetheless beneath the value of Nikon’s 1996 F5 at $5,000.

Nevertheless, it was the daybreak of the brand new millennium and the arrival of digital that noticed the actual value hikes arrive. In actual fact, it’s price saying that these — in digicam phrases — had been astronomical value hikes!

When the 1D landed in 2001, it price an eye-watering $8,000, a pinch beneath Nikon’s D1 at $8,500. That paled when in comparison with the 2002 1Ds, which got here in at $11,500 (once more, in 2020 {dollars}); Canon went full-frame early, and boy did you need to pay for it. Nikon wouldn’t comply with swimsuit for one more six years till the D3 lastly landed.

The 1DS line was the head of Canon’s vary each when it comes to options and value, however that pattern was downward since its first look and eventual merger with the 1D line within the type of the 1D-X, the place we see the value stabilizing on the $6,500 mark. That is additionally the value Nikon has hit with the D6 (with the D5 and D4 solely barely increased), which is why the looks of the Z9 at $5,500 is such a line within the sand — it marks a real discount in costs that we haven’t seen earlier than within the digital period.

Word that I’ve included the R5 on the plot above, though when it comes to options, value, and, certainly, designation, it will probably’t be thought-about “pro-grade”. If the “R1” certainly lands in 2022, it will likely be fascinating to see its options, however maybe extra importantly how it will likely be priced. Issue within the ongoing chip scarcity within the sector and it’ll make the yr eventful if nothing else.

So what’s the least expensive pro-grade digicam Canon launched? Undoubtedly the F-1, which was remarkably inexpensive for the interval as Canon tried to tug in shoppers to its system and model. What’s shocking about Canon is that none of its digital fashions stand out as being “low-cost” — presumably a results of cameras evolving from mechanical gadgets into high-tech imaging and computing gadgets.

Positive, Canon’s unique 1D, 1DS fashions, and 1D X had been all costly, however each different digital mannequin has been near the $6,000 mark. That’s truly a bit of cheaper than Nikon has managed to supply previous to the Z9. It stays to be seen how Canon will reply.

Picture credit: Canon F-1 picture by s58y and licensed beneath CC BY 2.0.


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