Canon Rangefinder Model Finder

Even for experienced collectors of Canon rangefinder cameras the naming of the various models can be frustrating. There is simply so much to remember and no obvious logic to the names. For the beginner or casual collector is seems impossible to sort out. Without Peter Dechert’s very excellent book on the Canon rangefinders we would be lost. I want to acknowledge his contribution to this utility right up front. Buy his book. It is an essential tool for the Canon collector.

There are 39 models of Canon classic rangefinder, give or take a couple.  We are excluding the Canonets and other “point and shoot” rangefinders here and dealing with the serious photographic instruments used by serious amateurs and professionals around the world. They are, with their date of introduction, as follows:

Model Date Model Date Model Date
Canon J Jan 1939   Canon II A Mar 1952   Canon L2 Dec 1956
Canon NS 1940   Canon II D Oct 1952   Canon VTD Feb 1957
Canon JS Apr 1945   Canon II D1 Oct 1952   Canon L1 Feb 1957
Canon J II Dec 1945   Canon IV Sb Dec 1952   Canon VTDZ Apr 1957
Canon S I Dec 1945   Canon II AF Jun 1953   Canon L3 Oct 1957
Canon S II Oct 1946   Canon II AX Jun 1953   Canon VL Dev 1957
Canon II B Jan 1949   Canon II F Jul 1953   Canon VL2 Jan 1958
Canon 1950 Jul 1950   Canon II S Feb 1954   Canon VI-T Jun 1958
Canon III Feb 1951   Canon IV Sb2 Mar 1954   Canon VI-L Sep 1958
Canon II C Mar 1951   Canon II S2 Feb 1955   Canon P Dec 1958
Canon IV Apr 1951   Canon II D2 Mar 1955   Canon 7 Jun 1961
Canon III A Dec 1951   Canon II F2 Jun 1955   Canon 7s Apr 1965
Canon IV S Dec 1951   Canon VT Apr 1956   Canon 7sZ Aug 1967

When I have finished this “app” the names in this chart will lead you to descriptions of any of the cameras listed. But to find out which camera you have you will have to follow along answering the questions posed.

Here I have tried to create an app that makes this process easier. It is not perfect because there are many cameras out there that don’t really fit anywhere. But we can be pretty certain in most cases. By answering a few questions about the camera in your hand the idea is to tell you what you have

So let’s get started with some questions.

First Question:

 Is there a Model Name on the Camera

Some of the later Canon rangefinders did have the model name on the camera. That name would appear on the top plate, on the front or on the bottom. If your camera has a name on it in one of these locations chose the button on the left.

Model name on front of Camera.

Model name on bottom plate.

Model name on top of Camera.

Caveat:   Canon has not helped this process. During production of their cameras the company often introduced changes in a model without changing the model name. Usually small changes, they did create sub categories. Added to that we have the problem of upgrades to cameras by repair personnel, either at Canon or privately, that created sub categories or even changed a model from one classification to another. These can be confusing. I will comment on these as we go but not all possibilities will be covered.

Serial Numbers:     Although I mention serial number ranges for various cameras I don’t rely on them. Canon was not meticulous in assigning ranges to various models. If you find your camera falls outside the ranges given, do more research. You may have a significant variation.

The Fast Finder: You may find the explanations and guidance offered in this app too simplistic for your taste. I know the problem but I am writing for the uninitiated as well and I want to make sure we bring everyone along and that no one gets lost in the jargon. However, if you know all this stuff, then use the Fast Finder. All the questions but no commentary. And if you have a question you can jump over to the Model Finder for an explanation and then jump back to the Fast Finer. The best of both worlds.

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