Facts about Nikon (which you did not know, or did you?)

Are you a die-hard Nikon fan? If you are, then here is a compilation of some interesting facts about Nikon. Some of these are just bits of history whereas some others are crazy.

Nikon F3

(Nikon F3 camera with some Nikon lenses)

  • Nikon was founded by a collaboration of three different Japanese companies. It was founded in 1917 as Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha (日本光学工業株式会社 “Japan Optical Industries Corporation”)
  • Zeiss was upset by the name ‘Nikon’ since it seemed to steal the limelight from its very successful rangefinder model from that time, called ‘Ikon’. Some even say that Nikon was actually inspired by Ikon and the letter N was prefixed to represent Nippon.
  • Nikon has also manufactured lenses for Canon for some time.
  • Nikkor is the name Nikon uses for its lenses. Nikkor is derived from a Japanese word ‘Nikko’ meaning sunlight. (Nikko is also a town in Japan)
  • At the height of World War II, Nikon made all sort of optical instruments for the Japanese army, like – binoculars, periscopes, official cameras etc. The company had to run 19 factories with over 23,000 workers to keep up with the demand of the war.
  • Nikon cameras that were made after World War II, bore the inscription ‘Made in Occupied Japan’. These are now collectors’ items.
  • For those who harp on the fact that Nikon has never changed its mount, there is another company that has also maintained its mount. The other company is Pentax. This also reminds me of another interesting fact. Nikon had released a consumer-grade series of cameras with interchangeable lenses. This series was called Nikkorex and had a mount which was very different from Nikon’s usual F-mount. So, even Nikon has tried changing the mount though not in the main-stream cameras. (Nikon’s mirrorless also use a different mount but that is a different matter).
  • Nikon’s first SLR model, introduced in 1959, was termed ‘F’. The Nikon mount, therefore, came to be known as the F-Mount.
  • Nikon manufactures some of the best microscopes too. Their first microscope titled JOICO (English abbreviation of the company name) was launched in 1925. In fact, they were also the first ones to have a proper autofocus system for medical/biological applications.
  • Nikon has been a supplier of space capable cameras to NASA since 1971. Nikon NASA F4 was its first fully digital camera for NASA. By the way, did you know that Hasselblad was the earlier camera that was used by NASA?

Vintage Camera

  • Nikon FM10, a very successful manual focus SLR was not manufactured by Nikon. It was made by Cosina and marketed by Nikon. Even the consumer-grade Nikkorex which I have mentioned earlier were not made by Nikon but by Mamiya.
  • The first underwater SLR was introduced by Nikon. These models were called Nikonos and were very popular with scuba divers.
  • Nikon completed its 100 years since foundation recently in 2017. However, the company was renamed to ‘Nikon Corporation’ from the original ‘Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha’ in 1988.
  • A photographer named Don McCullin deflected a bullet with a Nikon F. No, the camera was not bullet-proof. It got irreparably damaged in the process.
  • Kiev Arsenal factory from erstwhile USSR (now in Ukraine) made cameras that had the F-mount and supported Nikon lenses. Similarly, China’s Phenix cameras that supported the Minolta mount mostly, also released cameras with F-mount. Some other companies like Ricoh, Mamiya and even Horseman (yes, the expensive studio camera company) have released cameras that have had Nikon’s F-mount. Regula Reflex 2000 CTL is another obscure model that supported the F-mount.
  • In 1991, the first DSLR was released by Kodak and called Kodak Professional Digital Camera System or DCS. For this, a customized camera back with a digital sensor was mounted on a Nikon F3 body. This had an external storage unit which was like a shoulder camera bag in size. For those of you wondering, the camera had a 1.3 MP sensor.
  • When smiling Asian faces were photographed, using face detection technology, a message would pop up on the Nikon compact camera screens asking, “Did someone blink?” Nikon was accused of racism and in their later firmware, this flaw was corrected.

Disclaimer: These facts are just a compilation of what I have read or heard about Nikon. I can’t vouch for the truthfulness and completeness of any of these facts. I have never worked with Nikon and am not in a position to know what Nikon says.


Do check this out, if you ever happen to visit Japan: Nikon Museum

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