The Least expensive Professional Digicam Canon Has Ever Launched


Cameras are costly, and Canon is not any stranger to climbing 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 are going to discover which of Canon’s pro-grade cameras — beginning with the F-1 in 1971 — price probably the most and which have been surprisingly inexpensive.

A Transient Historical past of Canon

A duplicate of the unique Kwanon digital camera that Canon based mostly on Leica’s designs. Photograph by Morio and licensed beneath CC BY-SA 4.0.

Canon was based in 1933 as a digital camera producer, and the corporate predicated its first mannequin — the Kwanon (and later the Hansa Canon) — on the Leica II, but it surely was gradual out of the beginning gates to supply 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.

Actually, to be honest to Canon, it was by no means designed to be a match. The corporate was extra fascinated with servicing a broader vary of merchandise, to a wider viewers, to be able to construct the enterprise; in brief, the pro-grade mannequin was a small market in relation to the burgeoning beginner market and will wait.

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

The Canonflex was nonetheless digital camera, constructed to a excessive commonplace, but it surely adopted the same trajectory to different producers, reminiscent of 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 digital camera “pro-grade”? Merely put, it’s a digital camera that may service the wants of the hardest-handling professionals and so is constructed to the very best requirements. Nevertheless, it additionally means that there’s a vary of equipment to fulfill each conceivable want and, specifically, lenses that supply the best-in-class efficiency throughout the complete vary of focal lengths.

When the Nikon F was launched there have been 9 lenses obtainable from day one and this grew quickly. For the digital digital camera period, this has meant they’re designed for fast capturing with quick auto-focus monitoring, glorious low gentle efficiency, and sometimes 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 may be the trade fee between currencies, which varies over time. Then there may be the impact of the overall rise within the value of merchandise year-on-year (or inflation) signifies that that $678 price ticket for the F-1 shouldn’t be akin to the 1D X!

Now whilst you can’t state precisely what a 1971 product is value immediately, 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 best choice after which calculated the 2020 equal costs for all of Canon’s pro-grade fashions. For these, I’ve pulled the record costs from a variety of locations, together with Ken Rockwell and Wikipedia.

What the chart under exhibits 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.

For those who 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 additionally that it needed to construct its shopper base up. I nonetheless discover it odd that it went for the F designation, somewhat than distinguishing itself from Nikon. The one factor more unusual 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

After all, 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 under the worth 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. Actually, it’s value saying that these — in digital camera phrases — have been astronomical value hikes!

When the 1D landed in 2001, it price an eye-watering $8,000, a pinch under 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 it’s important to pay for it. Nikon wouldn’t observe swimsuit for one more six years till the D3 lastly landed.

The 1DS line was the top of Canon’s vary each by way of 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 worth stabilizing on the $6,500 mark. That is additionally the worth Nikon has hit with the D6 (with the D5 and D4 solely barely larger), 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.

Be aware that I’ve included the R5 on the plot above, though by way of options, value, and, certainly, designation, it could possibly’t be thought-about “pro-grade”. If the “R1” certainly lands in 2022, will probably be fascinating to see its options, however maybe extra importantly how will probably 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 digital camera Canon launched? Undoubtedly the F-1, which was remarkably inexpensive for the interval as Canon tried to tug in customers to its system and model. What’s stunning about Canon is that none of its digital fashions stand out as being “low-cost” — presumably a results of cameras evolving from mechanical units into high-tech imaging and computing units.

Certain, Canon’s authentic 1D, 1DS fashions, and 1D X have been all costly, however each different digital mannequin has been near the $6,000 mark. That’s really slightly 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 photograph by s58y and licensed beneath CC BY 2.0.



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