Happy Birthday Little Nikon

Nikon F  by Dnalor_01. Source is Wikimedia Commons. Used under license CC-BY-SA 3.0

Toronto. If you meet a professional photographer today, chances are he uses a Nikon. This Japanese manufacturer was formed in 1917 with the amalgamation of three other optical companies. The new company was called Nippon Kogaku K.K.

Their first camera lens (Aero-NIKKOR) was made in 1933 for aerial surveys and maps. After the second war, in 1948 the company made its first consumer 35mm camera – a rangefinder camera dubbed the Model I. Its design borrowed heavily from the Contax and the Leica.

The company was relatively unknown in the west until 1959 when an American distributor imported and promoted the now famous Nikon F. This SLR was quickly adopted by professional photographers. Today the major professional lines of digital SLRs are Nikon and Canon – both Japanese.

When I was a youth, the common opinion was that Japanese companies made good imitations of German products but seldom innovated. That myth was forever refuted by the innovative Nikon F. My first quality camera was a Japanese model, albeit a Minolta A. The f/2 Rokkor lens and its images were to my eye as good as any I had ever seen. While the camera and lens were well made, the instruction book used “pidgin English“, rife with spelling and grammatical errors. Ironically I use a Sony NEX-6 digital mirrorless camera today. Minolta folded into Konica and Konica sold its camera department to Sony when that company decided professional DSLRs were the future.

Happy birthday little Nikon – you have come a long way in 100 years.


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