Camera market dominator in 1960s, 70s and 80s?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by csirre, Nov 28, 2010.

  1. Hello all,
    Just came up with this question, as of now, I believe Canon is #1 in SLR camera industry, followed by Nikon and Sony (maybe).... I wonder what the camera market was like in 60s, 70s and 80s? After being into photography for some years, I believe that things were not much different as the most advanced models released during such periods were of Canon and Nikon (I am talking about Canon FTb, F1, A1 and Nikon F, F2, F3, F4), and this must reflect something as the players who were able to release the state of the art models much be financially strong so that they could fund their research. If you are from such periods, or if you happen to have the information on this, please resolve my curiosity. Thank you!
    Chanchai A.
  2. There are a whole lot more Nikon F, F2, and F3 bodies than there are Canon F1 bodies, if eBay and are any indicators.
  3. as the most advanced models released during such periods were of Canon and Nikon​
    Chanchai - I don't know whether Canon and Nikon were the largest selling Japanese SLR manufacturers in the 60s and 70s (probably but I don't have the data to support it) but I definitely do not think they were the undisputed leaders when it came to body technology. For example, Pentax produced the first TTL metering camera with the Spotmatic, though Topcon beat them to market with the RE Super. Either Topcon or Konica produced the first auto-exposure body. And then there are differences in shutter technology - Konica was the first to introduce the vertical travel focal plane shutter with the Copal Square.
    In the 1970s you could argue that Canon had stepped up the technology war by introducing the AE1, which may (I'm not sure) have been the first electronically controlled programmed AE camera, but even as late as the 1980s Canon and Nikon were not the undisputed kings of technology. Minolta beat them to market with the first AF camera, the venerable Minolta 7000. Canon of course took the high-ground back with the T90 (first with TTL flash metering) and then the EOS system.
    I've never used a Nikon so one of the Nikonistas please correct me if I'm wrong here, but I've never thought of Nikon as a technology-driven camera company (though they were the first to introduce matrix metering with the FA). Their hallmark has always been producing beautifully designed, solidly built camera bodies to pair with their outstanding lenses. And they had the most prestigious brand value amongst the Japanese manufacturers. This makes sense to me - when a market structure crystallizes innovation is often led by the "lesser" brands who have to do so in order to capture market share. This is Michael Porter's argument, that corporations grow when faced with limitations that force innovation, rather than having an abundance of resources. As a former business school professor, I'm sure SP could shed some interesting light on this.
    Can't comment on lens technology.
  4. There are a whole lot more Nikon F, F2, and F3 bodies than there are Canon F1 bodies, if eBay and are any indicators.​
    Or maybe Canon F1 owners are less willing to let go of their precious F1s than Nikonistas are..:-D
    Sorry, couldn't resist a quick Nikon jab.
  5. Depends on how you define #1. Most advanced features or most used by professionals?
    During the 60s-early 80s, Nikon was #1 for professionals. It is debatable whether Canon was second, I would group Canon somewhat equally with the other strong players of the era (Minolta, Pentax, Olympus).
    I know people who recently bought their first SLR (Nikon) without even considering Canon. The Nikon brand reputation from the past was so strong they didn't even consider other brands. Paul Simon didn't sing about Canons.
    BTW, I was a Minolta manual focus user in the 80's and a Canon EOS user since.
  6. Zeiss Ikon, of course!
  7. Canon, didn't enter the "pro" SLR market until the early 70's with their F1. Nikon, dominated the pro market from 1960 onward after the 1959 release of their F. And during the 60's,70's,80's and 90's, very few pros used anything other than Nikon. Companies such as Minolta, Pentax, Olympus, Topcon (and to some degree) Canon etc were all just minor players. They catered mostly to the amateur markets. The pro gear they did make never sold anywhere near Nikon's numbers.
    Canon never caught Nikon in sales with any of their film cameras. It was only during the last decade or so, that Canon surpassed Nikon in sales with their pro and pro-sumer DSLR's. Optically, most of the big makers always made glass as "good" as Nikon. But in the last decade, Canon has certainly raised the bar with their interesting lens designs.
  8. I was already into photography by the late 60's, and more seriously by 1975. I don't have any business statistics, but my impression at the time was always that, in terms of SLR cameras, Nikon was tops, Pentax not far behind at that time (in the 60's and up to mid 70's anyway). Minolta wasn't too far behind either. Funny, I don't recall Canon as being a camera most people would think of if they were suddenly in the market for one... not until the late 70's or early 80's. Olympus really only started to take off when they became the pop photography magazines' darling for having the brightest viewfinders, with the OM's in the mid-70's. In the 70's, the fixation in SLRs was with the brightness of the viewfinder, like megapixels are today.
    My real impression was that if you were a pro, in the 60's, early to mid-70's, you would choose a Nikon, and if you were a consumer, you would probably think of Pentax first. Buyers of Canon and the others were comparable to the people who bought Ramblers vs Chevs and Fords.
    If you're talking about compact rangefinder 35mm cameras, that was a whole other ballgame, and you would probably have a Minolta or a Canon. Nikon and Pentax didn't play much in that market, if at all.
    Price did play a role in buyer choice, I imagine. It was easier to get into Pentax than Nikon, for example.
    In those days, Nikon was more into solid cameras, and they were a bit conservative in terms of the latest and greatest features and technology.
  9. I figured Canon had caught up with Nikon in the market and passed them in some markets (like sports shooting) when they beat Nikon to market with fast in-lens AF motors (they introduced USM in... well, it was before 1990 anyway) and it's been Nikon doing the catch-up since the 90's.
  10. My data from the Montgomery Ward annual camera catalogs don't address the question of which marque was ahead in terms of the OP, but here is the relative number of "serious" cameras for 35mm and 120/620 shooters, presumably the major target audience for the catalog other than simple box cameras and mass-market cameras. It may be of some assistance in assessing the conditions of changes in the market.
    Some of the rangefinder cameras are fairly simple, but almost all have coupled range-finders of one kind or another. Note that at the end of the series here, RF models still outnumber either TLRs or SLRs, taken separately.
    Twin-lens reflexes (USA ones are often 620 film, European ones, mostly 120) were briefly less popular than waist-level 35mm single-lens reflexes (Exaktas) but pick up in frequency and then continue at a steady level, but increasingly mostly Japanese (e.g., Yashica) except for the persistence of a couple of Rollei models.
    Exakta was the early professional choice in waist-level SLRs and that continued. After the introduction of eye-level prism SLRs, the Germans (East - M42, Exakta, and Praktina --- West - leaf shutter SLRs like the Kodak Retina and Contaflex) briefly dominated, but the pioneers into the USA market from Japan were neither Canon nor Nikon (still making Leica and Contax RFs at the time). Rather, outfits like Miranda, and Minolta were among the first from Japan.
    Of course
    • These are camera types offered in the MW catalogs, not numbers sold
    • It's only the USA market in one catalog.
    Literally off the chart--later than the chart, it is my understanding that Nikon dominated the professional market until the situation was changed by the introduction of the EOS systems in 1987 by Canon, and specifically, the EOS 1 camera in 1989.
  11. Reliable data from those years by manufacturer is not available that easily. Also, the market shares were divided largely due to the Cold War persuasions. Some East European makers turned out huge volumes. So did Yashica, with TLRs, SLRs and RFs.
    Also, market preferences are not necessarily an indication of the technological quality or advancement. Business and industry sustain, improve, decline and close down for varied reasons; not all of them are necessarily rational. The history of the automobile industry and the camera industry are full of such examples.
    Despite many personal opinions of what was good or bad, utilitarian, advanced, etc., it is very difficult to arrive at an objective assessment of what was "the best" and correlating that with what sustained and grew for a long time. Often such assessments regress into strong opinions or what the sociologists term functionalism as the rationale. My two pennies' worth. sp
  12. SCL


    My first SLR cameras in the late 1960s (Exakta was pretty much the forerunner SLR leader here) was an Olympus followed by a Leica in the early 1970s, followed by a Canon in the 1980s, and on and on to Nikons. As I recall the Pentax Spotmatic was a market leader in the late 1960s-early 1970s.
  13. Nikon easily dominated the SLR market in those years. I owned a Canon and loved it, but had to finally switch to Nikon to be able to borrow my photojournalist/colleagues lenses, who were all using Nikons. While I use predominantly Nikon digital cameras, I also own a Canon and numerous lenses. Canon, by all accounts, has led the DSLR market for some time, though Nikon has led in certain areas. For example, Nikons high end D3 series leads Canon because, many reports say, Canon has no answer to the D3 system. I find this intriguing because Canon has a high megapixel camera. In markes, like Japan, Nikon now leads Canon, and analysts generally say that Canon's star is falling a bigt, while Nikon's is rising. This is not a definitive article, but one typical of what I have been reading:
  14. One major hit to Nikon's dominance here in the US occurred when National Geographic switched from Nikon to Olympus, sometime in the 1970's. Nat Geo photographers are held in very high esteem, here and around the world. Many photographers based their equipment selection on what they perceived as the pro's choice.
    I knew the gentleman who serviced the Nikon equipment for Nat Geo. When they switched to Olympus he resigned and set up his own repair business, doing nothing but Nikon. Highly respected individual in the professional photo industry in Washington DC and nationally.
    I worked for him for a while, doing Nikon repairs. Unfortunately, as digital models became more popular the business dropped off, since a small shop can't afford the expensive computerized equipment required to service them.
    - Leigh
  15. Leigh, During that time, the National G photogs I knew, never gave up their Nikons and Leicas.
  16. I first became interested in 35mm photography in Vietnam in 1966, and the PX had a good variety. Unfortunately, there was not internet to to turn to for information. So I relied on the advice of those that got to Vietnam before me. On RFs, there was near unanimous agreement of the Konica auto S2, with a much smaller group going for the Canon GIII because it was more compact. One of my teamates was planning on being a professional photographer upon return to the States and he had purchased a Canon Pellix and a Topcon RE Super. He gave me a demo on their strong points and he felt the Topcon was superior in every way. After using the Konica for a few months, I wanted to get a mid-level SLR, and my two primary choices were the Canon FT-QL and the Nikkormat FT. I handled them and clicked the shutter in the PX and the Canon felt quite a bit more comfortable so that is what I bought. Excellent camera and still working (with a workaround for the mercury battery problem).
    I now am into collecting big time, and the one manufacturer I have managed to avoid is Olympus, for no good reason except I prefer to buy used cameras from trusted sources and I rarely encounter an Olympus. In the world of digital, I prefer Nikon DSLRs and Canon for P&S, I use the Nikon D90 and D300 (very interested in the D7000) and a Canon A650IS with the wonderful CHDK mod (and am very interested in how the competition of the Canon G12 and Nikon P7000 plays out).
    I would guess that there are lot more amateur photographers than professionals, and that Canon and Nikon get a lot more income from amateurs.
    Lastly, I just have to ask. Chanchai, do you get writers' cramp every time you sign a check? :)
  17. While Nikon may have had "The Rep" among professionals in the 1960's and 1970's, Pentax was absolutely whopping them in market share, especially in the screw-mount Spotmatic era. Much much more affordable, but with superb glass. Also no gigantic Photomic finder trying to flip the camera upside down. The K-mount Pentax cameras were also a great success, there were more K1000's made than any other single SLR model.
  18. Camera brand popularity varied between different regions of the world, and I doubt there are any world-wide statistics on camera sales for as long ago as the 1960s.
    It also makes a big difference whether we are talking about all camera sales, or the pro market (which pro market? Fashion? Photojournalism? School portraits?). Hasselblad's medium-format models, Nikon's 35mm SLRs, and Kodak's Instamatics were not really selling to the same audiences.
    My understanding is that Pentax was a major player in England (very popular with British photojournalists, for example) and the Far East during the 1960s, but less so in the USA. Canon, as far as I can tell, was well-respected (as were Olympus and Minolta) but not a market leader until a few years after they introduced the EOS system in 1987. Minolta and Olympus both went through bursts of popularity between the 1960s and 1980s, but this again is a very SLR-centric view and probably does not tell us anything about actual unit sales of all camera types.
  19. I think you have to separate out the pro/amateur/snap-shot segments of the market. During the 1960s and 70s and 80s - Nikon dominated the pro 35mm market. Canon had too many inconsistencies in its lineup and until the F1, did not have a pro-quality camera. Go to the 90s, and once AF became the big selling point, Canon's EOS system finally matured and became Nikon's only rival on a global scale. Without sales figures, it's hard to compare, but when one looks today at events and photographers, a majority seem to be using Canon. On the Amateur segment, I agree with Pentax being the dominant brand, followed by Nikon and Minolta, Canon and Olympus (in no particular order), with the remaining brands (Topcon, Konica, Miranda, etc.) bringing up the rear. My first SLR was an Exa 1a in 1973, my second was a Pentax ME in 1983.
    Of course, it's not only units sold, but persistence in the market. I imagine far more Kodak Instamatics sold than all SLRs combined...
  20. because, many reports say, Canon has no answer to the D3 system [emphasis added]​
    Like the similar comments on the superiority of the Nikon flash system, such comments, strangely enough, come almost exclusively from Nikon users so far as I can track down their "affiliation". ;-)
  21. Smena 8 and Smena 8M were produced in 21 041 191 copies. Lots of them went to the export. Is that not a marked domination?
  22. Don't be so defensive, JDM. I don't think anyone has a vedetta against Canon. I own all three F-1 versions, 3 T90s, 3 FTb's one AE-1 and one FT-QL. I also Nikon Fs, F2s, F3HP, F4s, F100, but all my DSLRs are Nikon because I have quite a few Nikon MF lenses. I recently bought an adapter to use Nikon lenses on my FD equipment. I honestly don't know if FD lenses can be adapted to other non-Canon cameras.
    I don't boycott the post FD Canons for personal reasons. It's just that I don't want to start on a new line of products. Same reason I don't own any Olympi (?).
    And quit sniping at Ivor Matanle. :) He is the tops at covering a broad range of cameras.
  23. Vincent Peri , Nov 28, 2010; 09:44 a.m.
    There are a whole lot more Nikon F, F2, and F3 bodies than there are Canon F1 bodies, if eBay and are any indicators.
    That's because there many F-1 in shooters hands and being used than being sold : LOL
  24. My recollection of the late 60s and early 70s was that Nikon dominated the professional market and Pentax dominated the advanced amateur market. Minolta was also making a fairly strong showing. Canon was a respected also-ran, and then there were all the others, and there were a lot of them.
    Topcon probably should have made a stronger showing in the professional market, but for various reasons they did not seriously challenge Nikon's dominance.
    Exakta was in its twilight by then, though in its day (a decade or two earlier) it was THE professional SLR camera.
    From the point of view of diversity of products and manufacturers the late 60s-early 70s was a kind of a golden age of photography.
  25. Nikon was not a company with a lot of innovation in technololgy. They did introduce the first matrix meter. I liked the Nikons back in the 70's and the early 80's. Nikon did sucessfully launch the Nikon F a system camera. Nikon was certainly the leader in the pro market back then. Canon passed Nikon in the 90's. Canon decision to drop the FD mount was complained by many Canon users but it was one of the smartest move by Canon. Although many would Nikonians would think otherwise but Canon went pass Nikon thanks to the Nikon F4 poor AF performance. Canon wasn't first in making DSLR either (Nikon has the E2 before the canon D30) but it helps a lot when Canon introduced the 11MP full frame 1Ds.
  26. Kozma's argument is valid. We are talking about different markets. Amateurs, professionals, U.S. market, european market, asian, western vs. eastern world. My first steps into photography were done in the late 70ies in West Germany. Most Pj used Nikon, portrait photogs Hasselblad, most amateurs used Minolta, Canon, Pentax and Praktica. Olympus, Konica and the like were marginal. Just my observation.
  27. Nikon was not a company with a lot of innovation in technololgy.​
    Well they were a good enough implementor of technology. Their motor drive systems helped to make them the defacto cameras in some photographic disciplines. Nobody had better or more interchangeable finders and screens. They implemented film stops on their drives to prevent film from being yanked out of its cassette, and rewind so the photographer could get loaded faster. And I could go on. I wouldn't say they were without some very key technologies where it counted.
  28. I think a key difference between 1950s-1980s Nikon and Canon was that Nikon's system started AS A SYSTEM. Everything that came after the F was compatible at least via lens mount, and the F had a long run until the F2 replaced it, followed by a very long run of the F3. Meanwhile, during that time, Canon made a variety of cameras that tried out new technologies, some of which were DOA, such as the Pellix. Nikon kept improving their bodies and except for the Nikkormats, you could pick up any Nikon body and know where all the controls were located. Pick up a Canon FtQL, Ftb, Canon A-1, and F-1, and count how many differences there are between those bodies and the controls. That's not putting down the Canons, but you can see how until the EOS system came along, Canon really was behind Nikon and even Pentax in that aspect. I know people will point out that Canon had all sorts of accessories starting with the Canonflex, but accessories that die with one body do not constitute a "system". Of course, the ultimate system camera is the Hasselblad.
  29. accessories that die with one body do not constitute a "system".​
    It's nice if the "system" lasts for a long time, but so long as all the parts are there, a system is still a system.
    Of course, the ultimate system camera is the Hasselblad​
    with leaf-shutter lenses? Come on, it's a "Classic camera", but the "ultimate" system?
    Ultimate in this regard belongs to the Nikon F and no other, even though many of us nowadays use Canon EOS cameras and gear. IMHO, of course.
  30. Oh, not all Hassies have Compur shutters. There are several models with focal-plane shutters (not the old 1600F and 100F). I say ultimate, because you can put a digital back on a 40 year old camera, and as "pro" systems go, it IS the ultimate, but that's my opinion. :)
  31. “…I believe Canon is #1 in SLR camera industry…”
    This may be true but we need to specify how we define #1.
    Is it gross income, net income, profit margin, gross sales, sales growth, number of units sold, technological advancements, market penetration, public recognition, advertising, customer loyalty, etc.

  32. When I worked as a model in the 1970s and 80s, I saw nothing but Nikon and Hasselblad in pro studios. Occasionaly Mamiya RB/Z. And sometimes 4x5, usually Sinar or Deardorff--with a surprising number of old Voigtlander Heliar lenses. The pros who mostly did weddings used all sorts of brands, mostly MF. When they shot 35, it was Canon as much as Nikon.
  33. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    Canon sold over 4 million AE-1's starting in the summer of 1976. How many Nikons of any model sold?
    This debate is a joke. Since neither Canon nor Nikon will release sales figures even for 40 year old cameras.
    You can only guess.
  34. Actually, I think there are some models of Zenit SLRs that were made in quantities over 4,000,000, but I could be wrong.
    Mark, aren't those Hasselblads with working focal plane shutters made by Киев ?
    ;) Jes' funnin' ya.
  35. I say Kodak and Fuji are the leaders, with all those single use cameras sold.
  36. Later
    all my DSLRs are Nikon because I have quite a few Nikon MF lenses​
    That's funny since I also have a rather large set of lovely Nikon lenses (all non-AI) and that is why my dSLRs are Canons.
    I enjoy Ivor the same way I enjoy Ken. Just don't bet the house on the information given.
  37. Thank you all for your comments and responses. Cannot agree more about the statement that 1970s should be regarded as the golden age of 35mm SLR cameras, I had lots of fun reading about them (and buying and using some cameras from such period.) And also, I believe it is undisputed that Hasselblad is the longest lasting camera system, to my understanding, the current model is hardly different from the original 500C (which makes the current used 500Cs' price kind of expensive still.)
    Thank you all again!
    Chanchai A.
  38. And also, I believe it is undisputed that Hasselblad is the longest lasting camera system​
    Whether it is or isn't, it certainly is NOT "undisputed."
  39. Ah, then, JDM, why don't u shed me some lights about the fact? Honestly and with my limited knowledge, I cannot think of any system that last longer than the v series (born in 1950s and still in production).

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