1950 was an important year for Canon. As they continued to make the Model IIB,
incorporating some changes that resulted in an improved camera, they also produced
several trial versions, between serial 50000 and serial 50200, of the models
that later became the Canon IV and Canon III.
A typical Skinner Canon IV-1950. From this angle, the non-Skinner
Canon IV-1950 looked exactly the same.
Most, if not all, of the concepts first reflected in these new 200 or fewer
cameras originated with Hiroshi Suzukawa, a talented designer who had joined
Canon in '48. The trial cameras all incorporated a completely new shutter
design: the highest speed was increased to 1/1000 sec, and the speeds on the
fast and slow dials were now split at 1/25 instead of 1/20. A "T,"
for "Time," setting was included on the slow speed dial; when engaged,
it locked the shutter open until the slow dial was moved to another setting.
The "B" setting remained on the fast speed dial. The shutter guard
ring was also redesigned to be wider and allow the use of a cable release without
first having to remove the ring. Although the novel pop-up take-up film wind
spool did not appear until '51, the reworked '50 winding shaft was
designed with a notch that allowed use of the Rapid Wind Baseplate, a Leicavit-like
accessory. Later Canon literature states that this accessory can only be used
with cameras with serials above 50200, but it will in fact work with all bottom-loading
Canons beyond 50000. Since Canon itself made a distinction between cameras numbered
below and above 50200, it seems very likely that all the cameras in the 50000-50200
group were originally regarded as trial models or prototypes.
Top view of Canon #50004, the apparently unique double-prototype
based originally on a IV-1950.
As part of the shutter redesign, the Advance-Rewind lever mechanism was also
revised: its fulcrum was now set on a slight step which formed the right-hand
end of the cover shell for the rangefinder-viewfinder. The trial cameras have
various markings for the lever's function: some are marked with a quarter-circular
arrow and the single letter "R," others with a quarter-circular
double arrow and the letters "A" at the advance end and "R"
at the rewind end. Still others have simply the double arrow with the letter
"A" on the camera's main top plate and the "R"
on the step incorporated into the cover shell. These variant markings simply
suggest unimportant ongoing cosmetic second thoughts.
Cameras introduced by other manufacturers in `50 included the Leica IIIf,
Contax IIa, and the later synchronized variant of the Nikon M. With its `49
IIB-style triple-magnification combined view and rangefinder and the new internal
and external changes, the Canon models that developed from the tests carried
out in this small trial batch could easily outperform any of their contemporaries;
and time has shown, as most camera repairmen will testify, that Canons of this
period were built at least as well as those from any other 35mm manufacturer.
Skinner Canon IV-1950 showing the new flash rail. The neckstrap-attaching
device was provided by Skinner for the first Canons that he imported.
The `50s Canons were also important because, for the first time, most
of them included a provision for internal flash synchronization, which became
the Canon standard until the Model VT. Outwardly, this was apparent in a new
rail on the rewind end of the camera body, onto which it was possible to slide
a flash bulb firing unit. Synchronization was now a function of the camera shutter
mechanism, not of an accessory. The synchronized `50 camera was a trial
version for the model eventually named the Canon IV: it can be distinguished
by the side flash rail, the newly designed 1/1000 sec shutter, and the fact
that its serial falls within the 50000-50200 range.
We can call this model the "Canon IV-1950." Its mechanism was housed
in a new variety of outer body shell, which was shared with the late version
of the Canon IIB, finished on the inside in a dull gray rather than the black
that later became standard. Also new was an internal bottom cover for the shutter
crate: it incorporated a loading diagram and kept prying eyes (and also ill-informed
folk with screwdriver mania) away from the shutter drum tensioning adjustments
and the new flash contacts. Some of these cameras were used to illustrate the
earliest Canon IV instruction book, and many were retained within the Canon
organization for testing.
The loading diagram under the baseplate of the 1950 cameras does
not have the later Synchronizer Patent number found on production
Some of them, however, were distributed during `50 to a few experienced
photographers for more widespread evaluation under practical circumstances.
For example, Canon later advertised in several US photo magazines that "Wallace
Litwin uses his Canons (Serial Nos. 50065 & 50095) for his Magazine Assignments."
Another who very likely received one or two cameras for testing was Horace Bristol,
a highly respected photojournalist who, about `52, published a book, largely
photos, about American soldiers on furlough in Tokyo. In this book he gave generous
credit to the Canon equipment that he had used to illustrate the Tokyo nightlife
scene. Some trial cameras later reached the used camera market, and still turn
Under the loading diagram: the sync circuitry shared by the 1950
and IV Canons.