- Nikon wasn't the company's name until 1988.
Prior to this, the company was officially called Nippon Kogaku K.K. - many people believe the name changed earlier, but it wasn't until the late 80's. 1st April 1988, to be precise, Nikon Corporation was officially (re)born.
Of course, they had been using Nikon as a trademarked brand for many years (history suggests the name Nikon was first invented in the mid 1940's), so why did they eventually decide to switch? Well, this little story direct from Nikon's website may shed some light.
Then-president Shigetada Fukuoka met with former French President Jacques Chirac. On hearing the name Nippon Kogaku Kogyo, Mr Chirac simply tilted his head in bewilderment. When Mr. Fukuoka said the word "Nikon," however, the Parisian mayor understood immediately.President Fukuoka said "From hereon, I don't want us to be limited by the name Kogaku ("optics"). Let us work toward even greater advancements."
- Nikon didn't manufacture their first camera until 1948.
Thirty-one years after the company was founded by the merging of three separate optical manufacturers in 1917, Nikon launched their first camera, the Nikon I. Prior to this, Nikon made lenses under the Nikkor brand, along with binoculars and microscopes.
Demand for the camera in Japan was huge, but it wasn't without its problems. A rush to manufacture left the camera somewhat unreliable, with the film advance often failing to work, which led to many customer complaints and forced Nikon into financial difficulties. However, they rebounded with 1949's Nikon M and 1950's Nikon S, then the S2, SP and finally the classic Nikon F SLR, quality and reliability improving with each model.
- Nikon originally made all of their now arch-rival Canon's lenses.
Canon's first cameras were inexpensive Japanese Leica clones, and in 1934 it announced a 35mm rangefinder called the Kwanon. The Kwanon was just a prototype never put into production - it was followed by their first commercial camera, the Hansa Canon, in 1936. Canon had one problem, however - they didn't have any experience of making lenses, so they contracted Nippon Kogaku Kogyo, already a proven optical designer and manfufacturer, and used Nikkor lenses. The Hansa Canon actually shipped as standard with a Nikkor 50mm f/3.5 lens.
In fact, a large part of the first Canon camera was made by Nikon - Nippon Kogaku was responsible for the lens, the lens mount, the viewfinder, and the complete rangefinder mechanism. Canon did start developing lenses in 1937, but they weren't available until after WWII, and they didn't launch their fast 50mm Serenar f/2 until 1947.
- When launched in 1959, the Nikon F cost an average of three months salary.
We may think that we have it bad with the price of today's digital SLRs, but the first Nikon SLR cost 67,000 Yen - three times the salary of a Japanese government employee at the time. They still managed to sell a million of them over the next 15 years!
This was the camera that introduced us to the F mount - the very same mount (albeit with added features, especially in the electronic age) that is still in use today. This mount was revolutionary at the time, having a huge diameter in comparison to its rangefinder peers, which allowed Nikkor F lenses to be far more resistant to mechanical vignetting.
- Nikon's first Digital SLR, the D1, was developed from scratch in just two years.
We may take for granted now that a new camera will be digital, but just over 10 years ago this was certainly not the case. Although the first Coolpix (the 0.3mp Coolpix 100) was produced in 1997, Nikon's classic D1 wasn't introduced until 1999.
The order to produce a DSLR came from Nikon's president in 1997, and engineers responded by saying it would take four years, three at a minimum. They were given two.
The result was a 2.7mp DSLR with many features bettered by even today's entry-level cameras, but at the time it was revolutionary. The D1 quickly displaced Kodak from dominance of the DSLR market, and sales exceeded the target of 100,000 bodies per year even at its US$5500 asking price. With the D1, Nikon's market share eclipsed that of Canon. Strangely, the camera used the NTSC colorspace, not the SRGB or AdobeRGB we use today.
Footnote: As Tom Grier points out in the comments below, there were in fact Nikon-branded DSLRs before the D1. The E2/E3 series models were not pure Nikon, but co-developed with Fuji and also sold as Fuji-branded cameras. They were especially unusual in that they used a 2/3" image sensor (similar to today's high-end bridge cameras), but via an ingenious optical subsystem they captured the full 35mm field of view. Look for an article on these cameras here on NikonHQ soon.
- 5 things you ddint know about nikon
- when were nikon cameras invented
- when was the first nikon camera made