Canon and Nikon Collaboration Produced Japan’s First Camera

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The origins of Canon date back to the founding of its predecessor, Seiki Kogaku Kenkyusho (Precision Optical Instruments Laboratory) in 1933. At the time, German Leica and Contax cameras dominated the market – although they were quite expensive. But when Goro Yoshida disassembled one, he was shocked to find it was constructed of relatively simple parts made of inexpensive materials such as brass, aluminum, iron and rubber.

Together with his entrepreneur brother-in-law Saburo Uchida, and Takeo Maeda, Yoshida founded the company to develop an alternative to the Leica – a 35mm rangefinder camera that people actually could afford.

Kwanon prototype

In 1934, Yoshida’s prototype camera was ready – a 35 mm focal-plane-shutter camera. The prototype was named the ‘Kwanon’, the name of the Buddhist goddess of mercy. The camera’s lens was called ‘Kasyapa’, named after Mahakasyapa – a disciple of Buddha.

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At this time, the company adopted a logo for the camera. The logo included the word ‘Kwanon’ together with an image depicting the thousand-armed Kwanon and flames.

In 1935, while Precision Optical went about planning how to produce their cameras in quantities to bring them to market, the decision was made to change the Kwanon name to ‘Canon’.

Nippon Kogaku Kogyo logo (1939-1949)

At this early stage in the company’s history, Precision Optical lacked the resources and facilities to produce an entire camera on their own, so they turned to another Japanese company for help. The company they selected was Nippon Kogaku Kogyo (Japan Optical Industries), an established optical manufacturer that had been in business since 1917. (Nippon Kogaku later became today’s Nikon Corporation).

Nippon Kogaku agreed to build and provide Seiki Kogaku with the rangefinder mechanism, focus mount, and the all-important lenses needed for their new camera. The lens was a Nikkor 5cm f/3.5.

Hanza Canon

With this technical support, Precision Optical’s first production model camera – the ‘Hansa Canon’ – went on sale in 1936.

Hanza Canon - bottom view

Nippon Kogaku’s contribution to the Hanza Canon can be seen on the camera itself. Early models are clearly marked “Nippon Kogaku” on the bottom of the focusing helical. And of course, the name ‘Nikkor’ can be seen on the lens. (Nikkor lenses continued to be used in Canon cameras until 1948, when Canon began using their own lenses – which were sold under the ‘Serenar’ brand name).

Canon Serenar 5cm 50mm f2 lens

So, with the help of Nippon Kogaku Kogyo (Nikon), Precision Optical (Canon) had succeeded in launching Japan’s first 35 mm focal-plane-shutter camera.

Hanza Canon - top view

Although the Hansa Canon didn’t introduce any revolutionary features, it is credited with putting a Japanese camera in the same league as Leica – quite a coup for the company that would later become Canon.

The Hansa Canon also kick-started Nippon Kogaku on the road to becoming Nikon. Although they had produced camera lenses in small numbers before, the Hanza Canon marked Nippon Kogaku’s entry into the mass production of camera lenses – which eventually led to their entrance into camera manufacturing.

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The collaboration between Seiki Kogaku Kenkyusho and Nippon Kogaku Kogyo marked the beginning of Japan’s camera industry.

 

Contemporary Japanese Photographer’s Saturated Colors Create A Distinctive Style

Self-image, 2013

Japanese photographer Mika Ninagawa first trained as a graphic designer, before turning to photography.

Close-up of goldfish

In addition to achieving success through her commercial work in fashion and advertising, Ninagawa has also won numerous awards for her art photography which explores themes of Japanese youth culture, the dark side of eroticism, and the effects of light on color.

Woman in red dress

Ninagawa is best known for her vibrant and brightly colored photographs of flowers, goldfish, and landscapes.

Praying Mantis on flower

Further expanding her creative repertoire, Ninagawa directed her first full-length film in 2007 (Sakuran), followed by a music video for the popular group AKB48, and a film adaption of Helter Skelter (the Japanese manga).

Open field with trees

It’s always a pleasure to see a talented creative person who continues to explore different medium.

Where to shoot in Kuala Lumpur

KL Night scene

Visitors to KL (Kuala Lumpur) will find that the city has several places that are of interest to photographers – ranging from towering skyscrapers and colonial architecture, to lush greenery and stunning religious structures.

Petronas Towers at Night 2

Arguably the most photographed locale in Kuala Lumpur, shots of the iconic 88-story Petronas Twin Towers are a must. In particular, photos of the towers at night are guaranteed to be worth the effort. And, if you want to take breath-taking photos of the city, take the elevator up to the double-decked Skybridge, situated on the 41st and 42nd floors.

Flower stall in "little India" or Brickfields of Kuala Lumpur

If you’re in the mood for color, Little India in Brickfields is an ideal location to shoot. This bustling street is lined with pastel-hued buildings, filled with stalls and shops selling traditional Indian goods such as saris, flower garlands, spices, and more.

Busy food street = happy

For photos of KL’s local’s, a visit to Jalan Alor in Bukit Bintang in the evening is worth considering. Packed with hawker stalls and seafood restaurants, you’ll find throngs of locals sitting outside enjoying local foods under bright fluorescent restaurant signs and red Chinese lanterns.

Bird Park KL

A visit to Kuala Lumpur’s Bird Park gives you a chance to get some great shots of tropical birds. The 21-acre aviary contains over 200 different species, giving you a wide variety to photograph.

Mosque - Kuala Lumpur "Masjid Jamek"

No visit to KL would be complete without shots of Masjid Jamek, the city’s oldest mosque. While the red and white mosque is picturesque on it’s own during the day, silhouettes of the minarets and domes against the dawn sky can result in some dramatic photos.

Many first-time travellers to Asia, particularly those on business, have asked about easily accessible photo opportunities in the cities they visit. This post is part of an ongoing series, each on a different Asian city, introducing a few photo locations for visitors with limited time.

Maitree Siriboon – Thai Village Boy Becomes Acclaimed Artist

Portrait of Maitree Siriboon

Maitree Siriboon was born iand raised in a rural village in Ubon Ratchathani, Isan, (in the north-eastern region of Thailand). At age 15, he Around 10 years ago he moved to Bangkok to study art, first at the College of Fine Art and later at Silpakorn University where he received his Bachelors in Fine Art.

Buffalo Boy with Flowers

The multi-talented Thai artist works in various media – mosaic collages, installations, performances, and most recently, photography.

Mosaic Buffalo

Maitree incorporates much of his childhood landscape into his art, where one can view a colorful scheme of trees, farmers, rice paddies, and water buffalo.

Buffalo Boy with Laptop

According to Maitree, “I’m an Isarn Boy who dreams of making art that heals the world both naturally and spiritually. My home, Ubon Rathchantani, gave me life as a child.”

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The 30-year-old has a wonderful collection of photography and mosaic pieces that pay tribute to water buffalo – appropriately entitled “Buffalo’s Heart”.

Panda buffalo

In recent times, a common insult in Thai is to call someone ‘kwai’ _ a ‘buffalo’. The term is used to describe someone who is less educated, difficult to teach, foolish, or stupid.

Maitree Siriboon in staw pile with water buffalo

Maitree is not amused by the term, as he believes that the buffalo, through its hard work that helped build Thailand into a rice-farming nation, was a key component to building Thailand into the modern nation it is today. Through his work, the artist hopes to restore the dignity of the lovely kwai.

Maitree Siriboon lying on water buffalo

Maitree is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bangkok Bank Art Award, and the Silpakorn Pradit Award. His art has been featured in an array of publications, such as The Nation, Elle, Contemporary Magazine, and Art Asia Pacific.

November Photo Opportunity: The Monkey Banquet of Lopburi

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Looking for an unusual festival to photograph? Head over to Thailand for the Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival held at the Phra Prang Sam Yot shrine. Located in central Thailand’s provincial capital of Lopburi, this Khmer shrine is inhabited year-round by hundreds of long-tailed macaques.

Monkeys climbing pile of food at the Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival, Thailand

Despite stealing food and generally being a nuisance, the monkeys are a part of the daily life of the local community, as the townspeople believe they bring good luck and fortune. Having free reign of the town, the monkeys enter public buildings and traverse roads like any other citizen.

Close-up of monkeys feasting at the Lopbuti Monkey Banquest Festival

On the last Sunday of November, the Lopburi monkeys are honored with a huge feast set out on long tables in the ruins of the shrine. The delicacies offered include an abundant spread including sticky rice, tropical fruit salad frozen in ice blocks and an egg-yolk pudding.

The Giant Lantern Festival, San Fernando, Pampanga, Philippines

People come from all over to attend the festival and watch the monkeys as they scamper on the tables and enjoy the feast.

Monkeys feasting at the Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival, Thailand

Initially shy in front of the hundreds of spectators, the monkeys eventually get in the swing of things – gorging on the food, guzzling sodas, throwing pudding at each other, and generally causing a ruckus. This riotous monkey spectacle will delight any and all photographers.

Monkey walking of food banquet at the Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival

Once the monkeys’ appetites are satiated, and the remainder of the food is on the ground, the monkeys return to the treetops to sleep off their indulgence. A fun, and unique, festival, you’ll leave the Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival with a lot of great shots in your memory cards.

Crowds photographing the monkeys at the Lopburi Monkey Banquet Festival

October Photo Opportunity: India’s Festival of Lights

Lit candles at Hindu Festival

Celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains across the world, Diwali is one of the most important festivals in India.

Candles lit on Ganges during Diwali

Celebrated between mid-October and mid-November each year, Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ – due to the clay lamps that Indians traditionally lit outside their homes. The candles, lights and fireworks during Diwali give every photographer a lot to work with.

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Believed to have originated as a harvest festival, today Diwali is celebrated for various reasons by Hindus depending on the region of India in which they reside. Non-Hindu communities also celebrate this holiday, again, for their own reasons. The main theme common throughout all the celebrations is the triumph of light over darkness, and good over evil.

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During the five-day festival, homes, temples, and other buildings throughout the country are decorated with colorful lights, and large firework displays are held in many communities.

Snacks at Diwali

During the holiday, houses are cleaned, people dress in new clothes, sweets are exchanged, and prayers given – typically to Lakshmi, the goddess of fertility and prosperity.

India Festival

Diwali offers photographers a variety of subjects to shoot – from the light and fireworks, to the interactions of families and communities celebrating together.

People lighting candles at riverside during Diwali

Man shopping for Diwali electric lights

Basic tips for first-time night photographers

Setting a DSLR to shoot at night

Frustrated with your attempts to take photos at night? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Shooting at night is one of the more challenging subjects in photography.

Regardless of the subject of your night photography – night cityscapes, light painting, etc. – the following tips will help get you started to mastering a number of basic photography techniques that will enhance your night photography results.

Camera on tripod overlooking Hong Kong

The first thing you need to do is to buy and use a tripod. Shooting at night when there’s less light means you’ll have to use slower shutter speeds. Your shutter speed could range from 1-30 seconds – much too slow to shoot hand-held. So using a tripod is a must if you want sharp results when shooting at night.

Your tripod should be solidly placed (the heavier your tripod the better).

When taking long exposures at night, even with your camera mounted on a tripod, you need to do everything you can to avoid any movement of your camera. Just pressing the shutter button can create enough movement to result in blurred shots. Avoid this by either using a remote shutter release, or the self-timer built-in to your camera.

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Remember, the slightest movement can create unwanted camera shake, even the movement of the mirror in your camera. So, enable Mirror Lock-Up (easy to do – your manual will outline the steps). And finally, if your camera has Image stabilization, make sure to turn it off as the movement of the stabilization motor can also cause blurred shots.

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Once your camera is set-up on the tripod, set your camera to Manual mode, so you will be able to control both aperture and shutter speed. If your subject is static, begin by setting a wide aperture (which allows more light to hit your camera’s sensor) – f2.8 for example. Then dial-in the correct shutter speed until your Exposure is set at ‘0’. Take the shot and review it on your camera’s LCD screen. If your photo looks too bright, narrow your exposure by one or two stops, adjust the shutter speed, and retake the shot. By experimenting, you’ll get the right combination.

Night shots of moving Ferris Wheel and trails of automobile tail lights

If you want to capture movement at night – car taillights or a moving Ferris wheel – a longer exposure is required – figure at least one second for a start. Set a narrow aperture, f8 for example, dial-in a shutter speed that brings your Exposure to ‘0’, and take a shot. Again, experiment to get the right settings.

Final tip – keep your ISO as low as possible (100 to 400). While increasing ISO allows you to take photos in low-light situations, it also increases noise in your photos. With your camera on a tripod, you’ll be able to shoot at night using a low ISO with no problem.

Japanese umbrellas and lanterns at night

Night photography is challenging, and experimentation is the key to success. The more you practice with the combinations of apertures and shutter speeds settings, the better you’ll get at taking beautiful night photos.

Lang Jingshan – A Pioneer of Chinese Photography

Lang Jingshan
Photo of Lang Jingshan, Chinese photographer

The influence of Lang Jingshan (郎静山) on Chinese photography is indisputable. Lang (his family name) was born in China in 1892, and was first influenced by his military father who had an interest in both art and photography. While attending middle school in Shanghai, Lang received his only formal instruction in photography from his art teacher at age 12.

During the 1920s, Lang became one of China’s first photojournalists, working for newspapers and magazines covering news and events, shooting fashion spreads and advertisements, and publishing art photography and pictorials in magazines.

Yanbo Yaoting (1963)
Yanbo Yaoting – photo by Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan.

When the China Photography Association was founded in 1928, Lang who was one of the first participants, began experimenting with more artistic work including nudes – which was a first in China. “Meditation”, which he shot in 1928, is considered the earliest surviving Chinese artistic nude photograph. This was followed by the publication of the ‘Album of Nude Photographs’ in 1930 – the first of it’s kind in China.

Meditation
Meditation – photo by Chinese photographer Lang Jingshan

After briefly experimenting with a modernist style, Lang developed a style he called “composite photography” (jijin sheying 集锦摄影), whereby he printed different parts of various negatives on the same sheet of paper, resulting in seamless landscapes, still lifes, and portraits following the composition and style of traditional Chinese ink painting.

Left: actress Li Hua; Right: Chiin-san Long. Photos by Lang Jingshan.
Left: actress Li Hua; Right: Chiin-san Long. Photos by Lang Jingshan.

After the communist takeover of mainland China, Lang followed the nationalist government to Taiwan where he continued to create ground-breaking photographic works. He also spent 42 years as the director of the re-established China Photography Association in Taiwan. Throughout the remainder of his life, Lang committed himself to teaching and promoting the idea of a Chinese style of photography until his demise in April 1995.

September Photo Opportunity: The Masked Dancers of Korea

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Korea’s annual Andong Mask Dance Festival is an series of events celebrating the traditions of Korean mask dancing. If you’re lucky enough to attend, bring your camera, and get ready to get some really fun photos.

Yecheon Cheongdan-noreum, Andong Mask Festival
Yecheon Cheongdan-noreum, at the Andong Mask Festival in Korea

Originally a two-day event, the festival has expanded into a 10-day festival starting at end of September and continuing into the beginning of October.

Sandae-nori at Songpa, Andong Mask Festival, Korea
Sandae-nori at Songpa, Andong Mask Festival, Korea

The history of Korea’s Mask Dances reach back centuries. They were once used in shamanistic rituals, as local custom believed that wearing a mask warded off evil spirits. The performances of the masked dancers during the festival allow for some really interesting photos.

Byeolsandae-nori at Yangju, Andong Msk Festival, Korea
Byeolsandae-nori at Yangju, Andong Msk Festival, Korea

Each mask dance has it’s own significance, from making an offering to a goddess for health and wealth, to dancing for an abundant harvest, and finally a dance to chase away demons.

Goseong Ogwangdae at Andong Mask Festival, Korea
Goseong Ogwangdae at Andong Mask Festival, Korea

Andong, and its surrounding area, are famous as a center of Korean culture and folk traditions. If you visit during the festival, make sure to take the time to make some side trips with your camera. (Don’t miss the nearby folk village of Hahoe).

Masked dancers at the Andong Mask Festival, Korea
Masked dancers at the Andong Mask Festival, Korea

Indian Photographer Captures Fleeting Moments of India’s Street Life

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Born in Delhi, Vineet Vohra gains satisfaction from capturing fleeting moments happening around him.

Boy playing with top
Boy playing with top in rural village

Vineet always tries to be ‘invisible’ and doesn’t carry a camera bag, just a extra battery in his pocket.

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Although constantly looking for interesting backgrounds, situations and faces, Vineet says ‘light’ is his main area of interest.

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