From the introduction of the Daguerreotype in 1839 to the digital equipment of today, technological advances have transformed the field of photography. And for 100 of those years, Nikon Corp. has striven to be a leader in the field of optical technologies.
Founded in July 1917 as Nippon Kogaku K.K. (Japan Optical Industries), the company initially focused on optical equipment such as microscopes, telescopes, and binoculars, and on the mass production of optical glass. It was Nippon Kogaku’s foray in 1932 into the manufacture of its Nikkor-brand of compatible lenses for cameras by Leica, one of the world’s leading brands at that time, that set it on the path to renown.
The development of consumer products was interrupted by the advent of World War II, but it was only natural that, once hostilities ceased, Nippon Kogaku would redirect its resources from the military to the market. The company introduced its first Nikon camera, the Nikon 1, in 1948. Produced for just over a year, and marked “Made in Occupied Japan,” the Model 1 was not a commercial success and is extremely rare. (One example recently fetched $6,100 at an online auction.)
Improvements in design led to the Nikon M in 1949 and the even more popular Nikon S in 1951. With the release of its first single lens reflex (SLR) camera, the icon Nikon F, in 1959, the brand quickly became one of the most popular among professional and amateur photographers alike worldwide.
Though Nippon Kogaku had continued to maintain a strong presence in other areas of optical equipment (as it does to this day), by 1988 the company’s identity had become virtually synonymous with the Nikon brand. On April 1 of that year Nippon Kogaku changed its name and logo to Nikon Corporation in recognition of that success, and its reputation has only been enhanced with the addition of its line of digital SLR cameras, beginning with the D1 in 1999.
Naturally, many collectors have fond memories of their Nikon cameras, and many more are appreciative of the role Nikon has played in the history of photography. So it is not surprising that on the 100th anniversary of the company’s birth, the secondary markets are finding renewed interest in, not just the cameras themselves, but also advertisements, catalogs, and accessories.
Interested in finding more information on this collectible? Check out the resources listed below, and
Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digit, by Todd Gustavson
Nikon: A Celebration, by Brian Long
The Nikon Camera in America, 1946-1953, by Michael Wescott Loder
Nikon Rangefinder Camera: An Illustrated History, by Robert Rotoloni
Nikon 100th Anniversary – Official site includes a special movie and an illustrated history.
Nikon F Collection & Typology – Collector Richard de Stoutz includes everything from camera bodies to production dates. Great site! (Switzerland)
Nikon F History (CameraQuest) – Thoroughly engaging piece. And check out all the other articles about cameras.
Nippon Kogaku Klub – Well-done history filled with arcane facts; nice pics; interesting links.
Vintage Nikon Cameras (Collectors Weekly) – Concise, nicely done history includes links.