Today, when we stand in 2020 and look back at the development of the entire imaging industry, 1917 must be a node that cannot be ignored. This year, in Japan, an optical meter department, a mirror department, and a lens manufacturing company formed a comprehensive optical company “Nippon Optical Co., Ltd.”, which was the predecessor of Nikon. More than a hundred years have passed, and it is still tirelessly pursuing the art of cameras and lenses, and it has exerted an indisputable influence in the imaging industry.
Beginning in 1932, Nikon began to produce lenses under the name Nikkor and officially began the road of lens manufacturing. Beginning in 1975, in Akita Prefecture, a quiet and peaceful county in Japan, Nikon established the Optical Glass Company, also known as the Optical Glass Akita Business Office, dedicated to maximizing the art of lens. With ups and downs along the way, Nikon’s lens brand Nikkor must be a document worth writing.
1. Military background-NIKKOR lens takes off from the sky
The starting point of NIKKOR lens is extremely high. This high is not limited to the solid lens quality, but also the NIKKOR lens when it first debuted. Military aerospace lens for the military to draw maps. Due to the extremely high requirements of the military on maps, it needs to be very detailed and accurate. The high accuracy of the NIKKOR lens just meets this requirement. In 1933, NIKKOR released the first Aero-NIKKOR 18cm f/4.5 lens used in aerial photography. Then, in 1937, 7.5cm f/3.5 was released, and in 1939 10cm f/5.6 was born.
Although it started in the military, Nikon has gradually begun to explore the road to civilian use. In 1945, after the end of the Second World War, Nikon decided to produce photographic lenses for mass consumption, and successively produced a batch of interchangeable lenses for Lycra mounts, led by 5cm F3.5, and 5cm F2, 13.5 cm F4, 8.5cm F2, 3.5cm F3.5 and 5cm F1.5.
At this time, Nikon has not yet formed its own camera and lens product line. After the 1960s, Nikon ushered in a turning point.
2. From rangefinder to SLR—camera and lens develop hand in hand
As of June 2016, the cumulative number of NIKKOR lenses produced has exceeded 100 million, most of which They are all SLR lenses. Nikon has taken every step of the way in the development of SLR lenses.
In 1957, Nikon released the rangefinder camera SP. “P” stands for Professional and is a model designed for professional users. At that time, the best rangefinder camera was basically monopolized by Leica. The Leica M3 was well received, but Nikon’s SP could compete with it. Many people believed that the Nikon SP surpassed the Leica M3.
Two years later, in 1959, Nikon made many breakthroughs based on SP. First released a symmetrical wide-angle lens NIKKOR-O 2.1cm f/4. Later, Nikon designed the first professional SLR camera, named the F series. Since then, Nikon’s F mount era has kicked off.
is still in this year, the standard lens for “Nikon F”, “Nikkor-S Auto 5cm f/2” was launched. Today, we have many excellent standard zoom lenses, and the 50mm is much dim. But more than sixty years ago, 50mm was released as a standard lens, which shows Nikon’s preference for it. Nikon believes that “50mm lens can be used for both wide-angle and telephoto, and it is a universal lens.”
But as of this time, Nikon’s achievements in the lens field are mainly limited to fixed focus lenses, and standard zoom lenses have not yet appeared. In 1963, finally, a zoom NIKKOR automatic 43~86mm F3.5 lens that was affectionately called “4386” appeared. It was also the first Japanese-made standard zoom lens at that time.
This lens has a lightweight positioning and low price. After its launch, it has been recognized by the market. The color balance performance is excellent. Of course, in the era when there was no multilayer coating, the performance of backlit shooting was mediocre, and ghosting and flare may appear. But the flaws are not concealed, this lens still has epoch-making significance.
In 1971, Nikon launched the follow-up model of the F series, Nikon F2, followed by Nikon developed the “low-dispersion lens”, and the low-dispersion ED lens was successfully applied to the follow-up lens. In 1970, Nikon released a limited edition of the “180mm F2.8” lens for the Sapporo Winter Olympics. Later, Nikon improved this lens and adopted a new 5-group 5-element structure lens design and low-dispersion lenses, 1981 The follow-up version of “180mm F2.8” was launched in 2009, which greatly improved the performance of the lens and can capture clear nebulae and star clusters.
was also designed for the Sapporo Winter Olympics. There is also a “300mm f/2.8” lens, also affectionately called “3 28”. This telephoto lens is specially designed for the photojournalism industry. At that time, many sports photographers entered the professional lens of choice.
In 1977, the F mount ushered in unification. With the introduction of the “Automatic Maximum Aperture Transmission” technology in the Nikon F mount, the maximum aperture can be automatically transmitted to the body, and more importantly than this, the F mount has begun to have continuity until today. Last year, it had its 60th anniversary.
In 1980, with the release of Nikon F3, autofocus also began to standardize. The “Nikon F3 exclusive AF lens” is equipped with a built-in motor. Previously, the “AF NIKKOR” lens was driven by the body motor. After the “F3 exclusive AF lens”, the type of lens equipped with a built-in motor has gone further, evolving to an “AF-S” driven by a quiet wave motor, and the standardization of autofocus has been further developed.
3. The era of micro-single-Z mount lens continues to write the legend
In the 21st century, as people’s demand for lightweight travel is increasing, micro- Single era. Even though Nikon’s road to mirrorless is a bit difficult, Nikon now has outstanding Nikon Z6, Z7, and Z50 professional mirrorless lenses, and has designed 13 Z-mount lenses.
In 2011, Nikon launched the 1 series of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras, and a year later, introduced the entry-level J series. These fuselages can carry their own NIKKOR lenses. Nikon plans to use “SLR compatible lenses” to promote the mirrorless series, but the market did not pay for it. The J series continued to be discontinued after 2015.
Some people believe that the main reason for the failure of the Nikon J series was the environment and product problems at that time. At that time Olympus occupied the M4/3 micro-single market, Sony focused on cultivating the E-mount, while Nikon still focused on SLR products, and the configuration of the micro-single was not outstanding. In 2018, Nikon changed its mindset and re-opened its mirrorless product line. In 2018, it launched the full-frame professional mirrorless Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z6. In 2019, it launched the APS-C mini-professional mirrorless Z50 and Nikon’s Z series mirrorless cameras. The product line is initially formed.
The Z-mount lens is also a new chapter. The inner diameter of the lens mount is 55mm, which is currently the largest full-frame lens mount on the market. It is 25% wider than the F mount. The Z mount has more room to play than the F mount. There are currently 13 lenses in the Z series, and more lenses are still on the way. It is reported that Nikon will release several Z-mount F1.2 ultra-large aperture prime lenses in the future, and at least ten Nikon mirrorless lenses are on the road.
Nikon, not only as a pioneer, pioneered the development of the imaging industry, but also, in the history of more than 100 years, ups and downs, adhere to the original aspiration, and face challenges. Whether it is a camera or a lens, its future must be worth looking forward to. We are waiting for its next decade, a hundred years.
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