lunes, 16 de enero de 2017


The legendary Leica, Nikon and Cosina Voigtländer Meister and member of the LHSA and NHS Tom Abrahamsson died last January 6th 2017 at the age of 73 in Vancouver (Canada).

This is a huge loss to the world of photography, since this unique and great man has left an indelible imprint through his amazing technical skills in the sphere of gorgeous CNC machining of aerospace alloys with his world famous Classic Softreleases and Minisoftreleases for a number of different cameras and brands, his masterpiece rapidwinders for Leica analog RF cameras, tons of experience, insightful and practical approach on getting pictures as a first class black and white photojournalist using rangefinder cameras to share space with his subjects and beget interactions in reportages and images teeming with life, and above all by virtue of his human qualities and kindness who turned him into a reference-class benchmark whenever he was, being beloved by all the ones who had the privilege of meeting him and learning very much listening to him and his wife Tuulikki Abrahamsson.

Abrahamsson Rapidwinder Classic for Leica M4-2, M4-P, M6 and MP.

A hand manufactured product oozing impressive quality and sturdiness, handcraftedly made by Tom Abrahamsson with a painstaking level of noble metals (high tensile strength alloy, stainless steel and brass) machining inside his famous workshop in Vancouver (Canada).

This very well built device replaces the base plate on Leica M cameras and allows the rapid advance of the film inside the camera using your left hand on the lever located in the base of the Rapidwinder to pull it outwards, so the photographer doesn´t have to take his/her eye away from the viewfinder.

The drive is a reinforced toothed belt quieter than the original chain drive of the Leicavit MP, and optimized for avoiding stretching, and the multiple pin clutch used in it allows the photographers to shoot very fast, in the 2-2,5 frames/second range, a mechanical accomplishment in the scope of 24 x 36 mm format analog rangefinder cameras.

Unlike loud and bulky motordrives, it doesn´t use any batteries, remains utterly integrated with the body of the rangefinder camera (it only adds 1,4 cm to the height of the camera along with 125 g more) and preserves its small size and weight, as well as working in a very smooth way.

He started to design, manufacture and sell these highly useful gadgets featuring a thorough attention to detail in 1987, after a very hard self teaching of machining from late seventies, until by dint of strenuous work, love for the well made products and an unswerving commitment to spread out the photographic possibilities of rangefinder cameras, he gained breathtaking proficiency in the use of lathes, milling machines and a wide range of tools of every size and shape in symbiosis with CNC milling machines which enabled him to improve the precision of cases machined from alloys progressively upgrade parts and designs.

The mythical Mr Barnack softie, which has currently become a cult object among users of 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder cameras all over the world. The highly appreciated and very special cat passed away on August 4, 2010, after twelve years of loyalty to Tom and Tuulikki Abrahamsson.

Tom Abrahamsson, a towering figure in the XX and XXI centuries history of rangefinder cameras and black and white photography knowledge.

After having begun his career as a photojournalist for a Swedish newspaper during sixties working with a repainted in gray Leica M2, he subsequently travelled worldwide during seventies and first half of eighties until he settled in Vancouver (Canada) in 1987.

His indefatigable labor was instrumental in the Renaissance of RF cameras since mid nineties, along with other keepers of the faith in that scope like Joseph K. Brown, Sal DiMarco Jr, Vahan Shahinian, Mervin Stewart, Eric Bohman, Shin Yasuhara, Hirofumi Kobayashi, Ed Schwartzreich, Seth Rosner, Carl Merkin, Roger Hicks, Hans Ploegmakers, Rick Oleson, Jason Schneider, Stephen Gandy, Michael Agel, Will Wright, Eli Kurland, Daniel Zirinsky, Ron Johnson, Raymond Piganiol, Stan Tamarkin, Igor Reznik, Terry Maltby, Stefan Daniel, Roy Moss, Joseph K. Brown, Dick Gilcreast, Albert Bruce Knapp, Richard Gladden, Bill Rosauer, John Patterson, Dick Santee, John E. Hayden, Bill Caldwell, Norm Woodward, Thomas Campbell, Alex Shishin, Shiniziro Mizuchi, Stephen Wright, Terance Dixon, David Schumaker, Richard Wasserman, Dr. Michael Schwartz, Shinichi Nakamura, Bruce Young, Edward Kowaleski and many more on the five continents, after almost twelve years in which

the Leica M6 was the only 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder camera in production until the arrival of the Contax G2 (1996), the Yasuhara T981 (1998), the Konica RF (1999), the Bessa R with Leica screwmount assortment of lenses (1999), the Bessar R2 with Leica M bayonet mount (2002), the Rollei 35 RF (2002), the Bessa R2S in Nikon rangefinder mount (2002), the Bessa R2C in Contax rangefinder mount (2002), the Leica M7 with aperture priority (2002), the Bessa R2A in Leica M mount (2004, with 0.7x VF magnification and framelines for 35, 50, 75 and 90 mm lenses and automatic exposure), the Bessa R3A in Leica M mount (2004, with 1x VF magnification and framelines for 40, 50, 75 and 90 mm lenses and automatic exposure), the Zeiss Ikon (2005), the Bessa R2M in Leica M mount (2006, equivalent to the R2A but with utterly manual exposure), the Bessa R3M in Leica M mount (2006, equivalent to the R2A but totally manual exposure), the Bessa R4A and R4M in Leica M mount (2006, featuring a 0.52x VF optimized for use with 21, 25, 28 and 35 mm wideangle lenses, as well as enabling to easily use standard 50 mm lenses).

This ten year stage between mid nineties and 2005 was fundamental in the preservation of the very small 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless with rangefinder concept camera and top-notch tiny and quite light highly luminous lenses (whose compactness and optimization for handheld shots without trepidation even in dim light conditions at very low shutter speeds, its amazing smoothness and almost inaudible sound on pressing their shutter release button, the keeping of eye contact with the subject right through the moment of exposure thanks to the lack of a swivelling mirror, the invaluable help of the area visible outside the framelines, particularly in the Leica and Cosina Voigtländer rangefinders, to anticipate unpredicted moving subjects that may enter the frame and an exceedingly short shutter lag turn the RF cameras into the best by far choice for street photography and people photography from short distances) before the definitive consolidation of the digital Leica M concept, firstly embodied by the Leica M8 and

since 2009 by the full frame digital rangefinders Leica M9, Leica M9-P (2011), Leica M Typ 240 (2012), Leica M Monochrom (2012) and the slim Leica M10 ( 2017, harking back to the original M System gist conceived by Willi Stein and Ludwig Leitz with the Leica IV Prototype in 1936 as to body dimensions and weight, in synergy with the first focal plane shutter including the main traits of the future Leica M cameras and which was patented in 1934) which meant a seamless analog to digital transition (preserving the classic keynote of intuitive handling and concentration on only the essential functions, with fast access to the settings relevant to photography) accomplished by the charismatic Leica Camera AG owner and Entfernungsmesser believer Dr Andreas Kauffmann, who saved the German photographic firm and revived it with werewithal of his own, turning it into a profitable and very solid company in only four years since the beginning of his tenure in 2006.

Tom Abrahamsson with his black Leica M2 coupled to a Voigtländer Nokton Classic S.C 35 mm f/1.4.

He is pressing the Abrahamsson softie (installed on the threaded socket of the shutter release button of the camera) using the special technique recommended by him, hooking one´s finger on it so that the second joint applies the pressure.

Gorgeous Tom Abrahamsson´s softie manufactured to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the LHSA during the Annual Meeting held in Louisville (Kentucky) in 2008.

The polishing of this thoroughly engineered tiny product is simply stunning, flawless, without any hint of imperfection, paint rugosity or any minute metal cranny. A real masterpiece of miniaturization accuracy, boasting a very beautifil cosmetic look which enhances the appearance of the camera.

Likewise first class is the high resistance of its very special ultralight aerospace alloy which makes possible the engraving of all kind of inscriptions, logotypes, drawings, diagrams, letters, etc, a long lasting permanence being achieved through an avantgarde technique based on laser beam

From scratch, they were made to the highest standards of quality, solving the problems inherent to previously available softies from different companies and countries, made in cheap cast aluminum, which had too small diameter or featured a concave surface resulting in the need to use the tip of the finger, exerting pressure on the shutter release button of the camera, so on shooting with slow and very slow shutter speeds, there was frequent trepidation and blurred images.

That´s why Tom Abrahamsson took the decision of striving upon stretching the handheld capabilities of Leica rangefinder cameras when getting pictures at low and very low shutter speeds, conceiving his own softies with a bigger diameter (15mm) and a dome convex shaped upper area, in addition to using the most adequate stuff to manufactured them: an expensive top quality very tough and resistant aerospace metallic alloy assuring maximum strength and durability which avoided any snapping or getting stuck of the softies in the cable release thread and simultaneously enabled to engrave and anodize them in a wide range of colours.

Lateral view of the LHSA 2008 softie made by Tom Abrahamsson showing the painstaking accuracy in the machining of both the knurled edge, the screwed tip for inserting the softie on the thread for cable release socket of Leica rangefinder cameras and its exceedingly sturdy base.

From the beginning, manufacturing these masterpieces of machining work proved to be a conundrum, particularly if we bear in mind that it was an utterly private adventure, far from any craving for huge revenue and based on the keynote of top-notch craftsmanship, making use of the best materials in existence, and fulfilling a personal control unit by unit of each softie and the different stages until completing them.

A self-made man in many a respect, Tom Abrahamsson´s iron will and his impressive know-how and prowess on machining of metals and alloys learned the hard way since mid eighties (when he began to thoroughly study the design of the first ones of his famous rapidwinders) was pivotal in the beginning of the Abrahamsson Softrelease Classic devices production on July 23, 1998, and the turning of this great photographer, artisan and Renaissance man workshop into a very high level center using CNC machines.

Abrahamsson softie for the 39th Annual Meeting of the LHSA held in Rochester (New York) in 2007, featuring an engraving of the Ur-Leica from 1914, the first 24 x 36 mm format camera ever made, designed and manufactured by Oskar Barnack in Wetzlar (Germany), a staggering photographic tool for the time and the most influential camera of all time from the viewpoint of design along with the professional slr Canon T90 from 1986 devised by Luigi Colani.

These state-of-the-art little wonders enabled to extend the handheld safe slow shooting capabilities of the rangefinder cameras up to a shutter speed of 1/8 s with lenses between 50 and 90 mm without trepidation, while on using lenses between 21 and 35 mm a photographer can often reliably work hand and wrist at 1/4 s and even 1/2 s.

As a matter of fact, Tom was able to shoot indoors at a shutter speed of 1/8 s with a Cosina Voigtländer Bessa R4M rangefinder camera coupled to a prototype of the Elmar-M 24 mm f/3.8 Asph lens during the LHSA visit to the Woodword Bourbon Reserve Distillery in 2008.

Tom Abrahamsson getting a picture of Bill Rosauer, Editor of Viewfinder magazine, the reference-class illustrated international publication on Leica along with LFI and Vidom.

Tom Abrahamsson, a true gentleman, was always one of the Viewfinder flagships with his superb articles about Leica and Voigtländer cameras and lenses, whose pictures and texts (he was also a gifted writer) were a true relish for any enthusiast of photography.

He was a great lover and authority on black and white photography and the concept of latent image, with a tremendous knowledge on the specific traits of every kind of b & w chemical emulsions (which he tested once and again, often making his own developers), having a gift to choose the right subjects for each film, getting a lot of pictures on a daily basis and treating them in different "soups", specially his beloved Beutler developer, which was also used by Leica for many decades from mid fifties to get maximum image quality in its promotional prints and show the performance of its lenses.

Tom was a real maven on black and white films, to such an extent that he was even able to shoot Kodak Plus X movie stock exposed between 80 and 100 ISO and then develop it during 6.5 minutes (which he reduced 30 seconds if the pictures had been taken under scorching sun conditions) in 1:1:10 diluted Beutler to get fantastic outdoor results regarding smooth grain, midtones and highlights, since he perfectly controlled the superior grain edge of Beutler in comparison to the classical 1:100 Agfa Rodinal.

In addition, he used a slew of black and white films like the Fuji Across 100, Efke 25, Kodak Super-XX rated at iso 250, Ilford Pan F 50, Spurs DSX, Ilford SXF, Kodak TMax 100 and of course the Kodak Tri-X 400, having the knack of optimizing results with each one by means of painstakingly tested developing times, adequate agitations and a vast choice of homegrown solutions he always liked to share with his legion of worldwide admirers.

The upshot of it is that in addition to creating the best possible black and white images according to his talent, experience, intuition, remarkable quickness and exceedingly accurate timing on shooting (Tom was consistently able to get pictures of people from a very short distance going unnoticed at the defining moments), he was a great advocate of the significance of acutance and the visual perception of sharpness inherent to it in synergy with contrast over the resolving power of a lens.

Instrumental for it was his very deep discernment on the chemical properties of every b & w film in existence and particularly his long lasting know-how in the sphere of chemical emulsions and the analysis of black and white negatives and the resulting images on photographic paper, so he had an enormous interest in the transitions between edges and differences in density which vary with the subject matter, lighting, exposure, contrast and other aspects, including the relevance of Mackie lines to acutance in pictures when they´re born at gradations between areas of different densities, it all being influenced by the developers and agitation techniques used, a further realm in which Tom Abrahamsson was a full-fledged master.

A Leica M3 mirrorless with rangefinder camera with the mythical Mr B softie threaded on its shutter release button.

When he was only fourteen years old, Tom Abrahamsson started getting pictures in Sweden with a second hand unit of this breathtaking entirely metallic photographic tool and fell in love with the Leica M System of cameras and lenses, a passion which would keep on throughout his whole lifetime.

The milestone Leica M3 camera (the best ever made along with the Nikon SP) launched into market in 1954 has an extraordinary 0.92x magnification viewfinder whose crispness, contrast and clarity is far superior to the viewfinders of the cream of the crop of excellent current 24 x 36 mm digital slr full frame professional cameras like the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EOS 1DX Mark II, Canon EOS 5DS R, Canon EOS 5DS, Nikon D810, Nikon D810A, Nikon D5, Pentax K-1, Sony full frame mirrorless and rangefinderless EVF digital cameras with a very good price/performance ratio and top of the range sensors like the Sony A7, A7II, A7R, A7S, A7RII, A7SII, APS-C sensor Fujifilm cameras (though to match the amazing compactness and low weight of these cameras and avoid very large and heavy objectives in comparison with bodies, the best choice when it comes to getting top image quality is coupling to them manual focusing Leica M, Leica R or Asahi Takumar Super-Multi-Coated lenses) , and Micro 4/3 Olympus and Panasonic cameras.

Back view of the 24 x 36 mm format Leica M3 rangefinder camera with the Mr B softie made by Tom Abrahamsson installed on the thread of its shutter release button.

The digital mirrorless EVF (electronic viewfinder) cameras are not rangefinder cameras, because the different models of rangefinder cameras have had (since 1936 with the Zeiss Ikon Contax II and since 1954 with the Leica M3) and go on having superb optical viewfinders in which the VF and the rangefinder (an engineering masterpiece made up by 150 components) are combined and work integrated, so a mirrorless digital camera lacking rangefinder and featuring EVF (for example all the varieties of Sony A7, the Fuji X-Pro 1, Fuji X-Pro 2, Fuji XT-1, Fuji XT-2, etc) or any digital camera with " electronic rangefinder simulation " like the Fujifilm X-100T, Fujifilm X-100F and other models are not rangefinder cameras, but very different things, not only in terms of optomechanical quality but also in a much lower production cost.

Therefore, to go out to the street with a mirrorless without rangefinder camera or a 

Leica M mirrorless with rangefinder camera (whether 24 x 36 mm format analog or digital one) is not the same thing or similar experience at all, of course always understanding that anybody is free to buy the camera or lenses from the brand he/she wishes.

To properly understand what we´re speaking about and the real differences, suffice it to say that only the optical rangefinder (a masterpiece of engineering precision featuring more than 150 parts and much more expensive and complex to manufacture than an electronic viewfinder) of the mirrorless with RF current digital 24 x 36 mm Leica M9, Leica M9-P, Leica M, Leica Monochrom RF and slim Leica M10 RF cameras is worth approximately the selling price of a Sony Alpha 7II, a Fujifilm X-T2, an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II or a Panasonic Lumix GH5, while the state-of-the-art entirely made of glass and best ever rangefinder of the Leica M3 featuring an RF effective base length of 63.71 mm would presently have an even superior price tag.

On the other hand, the Leica M lenses set the standard for quality in the 35 mm photography field (with excellent sharpness and contrast at their widest apertures, to such an extent that on stopping down, performance is very similar and you only gain more depth of field) and always stand the test of time, as well as sporting exceedingly small size, very short diameter and amazing low weight for their very large apertures (something much more difficult and expensive to design and manufacture than building lenses featuring big size, long front diameter and heavy weight), and their prior specifications defining base parameters, mechanical tolerances and optical system performance are the most exacting.

That´s why Leica M lenses deliver superb results coupled through adapters to a very comprehensive range of mirrorless professional cameras from different brands and 24 x 36 mm, APS-C and Micro 4/3 sensor formats.

Leica M2 with Summicron-M 5 cm f/2 Rigid Dual Range with shade and goggles for near focusing range.

The camera has a Tom´s Abrahamsson´s black colour softie screwed on the shutter release button thread for cable.

Detail of the same camera with the Tom Abrahamsson´s black colour softie being pressed with the special technique recommended by him to greatly expand the handheld shooting capabilities of rangefinder cameras in subdued light conditions, enabling to safely get pictures using very low shutter speeds of 1/8 s and even 1/4 s and 1/2 s to experienced photographers once they get the hang of it.

In spite of being a great admirer of the standard 50 mm lenses (he used all of them, particularly the Summicron Rigid 50 mm f/2, the Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 in M mount, the Carl Zeiss Sonnar C 50 mm f/1.5 for the Zeiss Ikon camera, the Carl Zeiss Planar 50 mm f/2 for the Zeiss Ikon camera, the non aspherical Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4, the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 Asph, the Voigtländer Heliar 50 mm f/2, the Voigtländer Skopar 50 mm f/2.5, the non aspherical Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 versions 4 and 5, the Heliar 50 mm f/3.5 from the Bessa T limited edition, the Summitar 5 cm f/2 and many others) and the iconic historical pictures made with them by the foremost photojournalists in history like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Izis Bildermanas, Robert Capa, David Seymour "Chim", Inge Morath, Werner Bischof, Elliott Erwitt, René Burri, Larry Burrows, Erich Lessing and others, the main and most used lens for Tom Abrahamsson was always the Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 (so the Leica M2, optimized for this focal length, was his favourite camera), because he considered the 50 mm lenses as short teles, while the 35 mm was the par excellence photojournalistic focal length and with which he took roughly 80% of pictures throughout his lifetime, without forgetting his frequent use of under 35 mm lenses like the 1957 Zeiss Biogon 21 mm f/4.5, the Elmarit-M 21 mm f/2.8, the Zeiss C Biogon 21 mm f/4.5, the Super  Angulon 21 mm f/3.4 (by far the superwideangle lens most used by him during his life), the Voigtländer Color-Skopar 21 mm f/4, the Ricoh 21 mm f/3.5 in screw mount and other 35 mm lenses like the Summaron-M 35 mm f/3.5, Summaron-M 35 mm f/2.8, Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4, Voigtländer Nokton 35 mm f/1.2 Aspherical, Voigtländer Nokton Classic 35 mm f/1.4, Voigtländer Color-Skopar 35 mm f/2.5, etc.

Voigtländer Bessa R4M analog rangefinder from 2006, one of the best and most interesting cameras manufactured by Cosina Voigtländer under the guidance of its president Hirofumi Kobayashi (who had the wisdom of ignoring the "Advanced Photo System" during the second half of nineties and devote his efforts to the making of 24 x 36 mm format rangefinder cameras with an amazing price/quality ratio and highly luminous manual focusing first class primes strongly inspired by legacy lenses whose performance was most times improved using modern glasses and multicoatings, as well as oozing great beauty.

Voigtländer Bessa R4M with 10 elements in 8 groups Voigtländer Ultron 28 mm f/2, a very compact and luminous wideangle lens with a weight of 237 g, a length of 51.2 mm and a diameter of 55 mm.

It features a silky-smooth focusing ring with metallic tab and a 10 blade diaphragm. The barrel is made in black anodized aluminum and the mount is built in chromed brass.

As happens with the vast assortment of lenses manufactured by Cosina Voigtländer, the Voigtländer Ultron 28 mm f/2 delivers very good image quality at a hugely competitive price considering its excellent mechanical construction entirely made in metal, its excellent optical performance on the image center it renders even at full aperture (the best values of uniformity of top optical performance between center, borders and corners will be attained stopping down from f/5.6), and its beautiful bokeh thanks to its high number of blades.

Needless to say the using this classic lens scheme wideangle lens is a treat, becoming a stellar performer when it comes to tackling the drawing of ten-point sunstars.

Voigtländer Bessa R4M rangefinder, sagely defined by Tom Abrahamsson (who loved it) as a milestone camera, because of its highly versatile 0.52 x viewfinder optimized to be used with a very comprehensive range of wide angle focal lengths through built-in framelines for 21, 25, 28 and 35 mm, as well as enabling the accurate use of standard 50 mm lenses stopping down between f/2 and f/22 (the short rangefinder base length of this great camera doesn´t enable exact focusing accuracy with standard 50 mm lenses when shooting at diaphragms f/1.1, f/1.2, f/1.5 and f/1.9) through a further frameline for this specific focal length.

This way, the Voigtländer Bessa R4A and R4M are certainly unique rangefinder cameras excelling with wide and very wide lenses, and the framelines for 21 mm lenses are a hallmark trait which hadn´t existed before.

Only the great Nikon SP rangefinder (also highly appreciated by Tom, who had a black one) manufactured between 1957 and 1962 beats the Bessa R4M and its electronic version Bessa R4A in terms of VF capabilities on coupling lenses of different focal lengths, thanks to its state of the art two finder windows (the main one on the right, with 1x magnification for 50, 85, 105 and 135 mm lenses, and the left one with 0.4x magnification for 28 and 35 mm lenses), it all with the added benefit of a very large rangefinder base length of 60.5 mm.

10 elements (three of them aspherical ones) in 7 groups Voigtländer 35 mm f/1.2 chromed version 1 from 2007 (the black version was manufactured from 2003), an extraordinary lens made by Cosina Voigtländer.

Only 300 units of this chromed lens were produced and its appearance is really fabulous with the scalloped focusing ring inspired by the ones featured by the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Rigid (1956-1958), the Asahi Takumars and Super Takumars 50 mm f/1.4 and 55 mm f/1.8, in addition to delivering superb image quality with an excellent bokeh between f/1.2 and f/2.8 thanks to its twelve blade diaphragm.

It´s a great performer in all kind of low light environments where has proved its mettle both with analog and digital professional Leica rangefinder cameras like the M9, M9-P, M Typ 240, etc, along with the Bessas R2A, R2M, R3A, R3M, R4A and R4M.

Hirofumi Kobayashi helped by the advice and experience of professional photographers like Tom Abrahamsson (who was also a great friend of his and had frequent meetings with him in Japan) created a number of very high quality Voigtländer lenses like the Heliar-Hyper Wide 10 mm f/5.6 Aspherical, Skopar 21 mm f/3.5, Ultron 28 mm f/1.9, Skopar 35 mm f/4, Nokton 35 mm f/1.2, Nokton 40 mm f/1.4, Nokton 50 mm f/1.5, Ultron 50 mm f/1.7, Skopar 50 mm f/2.5, Heliar 50 mm f/3.5Heliar 75 mm f/2.5, Apo-Lanthar 90 mm f/3.5 and others, in different mounts including Leica M mount, Nikon S mount and Zeiss Contax mount, wholly made in metal with sturdy mechanical construction able to endure a lot of decades of intensive use and delivering high scoring optical performance.

And all of these manual focusing Voigtländer Leica mount lenses boasting a full-metal construction and built to very high standards can be coupled to all Leica M rangefinder (both analog and digital ones) and with the correspondent adapters to all digital APS-C format Fuji-X series, Sony NEX, and Micro 4/3 Olympus and Panasonic cameras, with the added bonus of excelling in Full HD and 4K videography.

Front view of the Voigtländer Nokton 35 mm f/1.2 Version 1 Chromed lens.

Tom Abrahamsson tested intensively with black and white films one of the first version 1 prototype black units of this lens  (the most luminous 35 mm wideangle made hitherto for 24 x 36 mm format) in 2003, verifying its remarkable sharpness even at full aperture (typycal in much more expensive f/1.4 lenses of the same focal length), on a par with the Leica Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4, in addition to a great bokeh.

Lateral view of the Voigtländer Nokton 35 mm f/1.2 chromed lens 1st Version with its shade on. The machining of the metallic brass surfaces covered by chrome, including the gorgeous scalloped focusing ring, is truly breathtaking, together with the anodizing of the lens hood.

This scalloped focusing ring is also present in some of the best Cosina Voigtländer M mount lenses like the Heliar-Hyper Wide 10 mm f/5.6 Aspherical, Super Wide Heliar 15 mm f/4.5 Aspherical Version III (introduced in Maerch 2015 and correcting colour fringing on digital bodies of any format size), Ultron 21 mm f/1.8 Aspherical, Ultron 28 mm f/1.9 Aspherical, Ultron 35 mm f/1.7 Aspherical, Nokton 50 mm f/1.5 Asph and Nokton 50 mm f/1.1 Aspherical.

domingo, 1 de enero de 2017

Nikon 100 Anniversary: A Landmark Book by Uli Koch

Seldom indeed you come across a unique book made through strenous effort of years, amazing knowledge and expertise acquired for many decades and particularly with a high level of passion and love for what you do.

And if we add to it an uncompromising level of quality in the chosen paper for the 416 pages, the elegant hardcover, the 30 x 21 cm large format size and the superb quality of reproduction of the nothing less than 2,200 color pictures got by the author (who has an experience of more than 40 years as a Nikon enthusiast and collector) all over the world, showing every kind of Nikon cameras, lenses, accessories, binoculars, microscopes and other technical instruments over a period of 100 years from 1917 until 2016 and making up the core of the book, along with the information on each picture in English and the preface and the chapters descriptions both in English and Japanese, it seems apparent that this is a very special and historical work.

The advent of the Nikon F SLR in 1959 was a milestone in the history of photography, on a par in significance with the launching into market of the Leica I (Model A) in 1925, the arrival of the medium format Rolleiflex during thirties, the inception of the Kine Exakta (the first 24 x 36 mm single lens reflex camera) in 1936 and the appearance of the Leica M3 in 1954.

The Nikon F brought with it enormous changes to professional photography which would have far-reaching influence in the subsequent decades, and quickly became the yardstick by which other 35 mm SLRs were measured.

Until then, in addition to the 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) medium format Rolleiflexes and 4 x 5 " (10 x 12 cm) large format Speed Graphics, the 24 x 36 mm format Leica and Contax rangefinder cameras had mostly held a sway within the scope of professional photography, thanks to their remarkable compactness and low weight and above by virtue of their second to none highly luminous lenses delivering exceptional quality in terms of sharpness and contrast and an unsurpassed ability to shoot handheld at very low shutter speeds of 1/8 s, 1/15 s, 1/20 s and 1/30 s without trepidation (and even slower if the photographer managed to find something to lean his/her back on), because this kind of cameras lack a swivelling mirror and it enables the optical designers to create top-notch objectives with uncompromising optomechanical quality.

But though the full frame mirrorless with rangefinder cameras were, are and will go on being by far the best choice for street photography and reportages shooting from short distances in which human interactions take place, they are not at all the universal photographic tools to succesfully tackle every kind of photographic assignment, since the range of  focal lengths available to meet the principle of mirrrorless with rangefinder cameras is limited (between around 21 mm and 135 mm) and its possibilities for microphotography, macrophotography, astrophotography, sports and wildlife assignments are rather scarce, without forgetting that rangefinders aren´t the best choice for exact and tight framing.

Therefore, the huge worldwide triumph of the Nikon F concept from 1959 onwards, was based in a number of factors: a thorough planning and anticipation, getting everthing right from the very beginning,

with the legendary previous stage of Nippon Kogaku rangefinders during fifties (some of them really formidable as the Nikon SP), the Nippon Kogaku wide assortment of excellent lenses (painstakingly optimized for contrast, acutance and very good resolving power in the center, as well as boasting a superb and durable for many decades centering of the optical elements through the use of vertexometers, so though not reaching the resolution levels of the cream of the crop of Leica and Carl Zeiss lenses - specially on borders and corners-, they often delivered better printed results on paper when the negatives and slides were used in photomechanics of illustrated newspapers and magazines, thanks to their superior contrast and visual feeling of sharpness) manufactured from 1948 and which became the common choice of such famous photojournalists like David Douglas Duncan, Horace Bristol. Miki Jun, Hank Walker, Carl Mydans, Margaret Bourke-White, Michael Rougier, Max Desfor and others during their coverage of Korean War between 1950 and 1953, without forgetting the praiseworthy labour developed by the Nikkor Club (founded in 1953 by Ihei Kimura, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yusaku Kamekura, Ken Domon, Jun Miki and Hideko Takamine) who edited the first Nikkor Club newsletter magazine in 1953.

Notwithstanding, albeit the Nippon Kogaku rangefinder cameras were superb,

in the same way as their lenses and the Nippon Kogaku factory at Ohi (Tokyo) had already become a full-fledged international benchmark of optical designing (only second at the time to the Leitz factories at Wetzlar and Midland, Ontario, Canada and Carl Zeiss Oberkochen, though the Japanese managed to significantly reduce the distance in terms of optomechanical performance, thanks to the intensive labour fulfilled by optical wizards like Kakuya Sunayama, Saburo Murakami, Hideo Azuma, Zenji Wakimoto and others, and at a hugely competitive price/image quality ratio), to such an extent that Nikon Optical Co., Inc. had been founded in the United States already in 1953, Nikon President Nagaoka Masao and the great American Nikon distributor Joe Ehrenreich (who made some annual trips to Ohi factory to check the quality, reliability and market prospects of every Nikon product), realized that the future cornerstone camera of the firm should have to be much more versatile than rangefinder cameras, with many more attachable lenses of different focal lengths, from extreme wideangles to supertelephotos and with much higher possibilities of expansion through the added bonus of a very comprehensive array of accessories for micro and macro photography.

That was the beginning of the Nikon international spreading embodied by the rugged Nikon F camera (an exceedingly reliable model, whose shutter could be released 100,000 times in less than eight hours keeping on working like a charm) and the photographic system born with it (featuring a heap of different interchangeable viewfinder systems and focusing screens, a unique standard viewfinder that showed exactly 100% of what would appear on the negative and a slew of excellent lenses between 21 mm and 1000 mm), which would result in such extraordinary cameras as the utterly mechanic Nikon F2, Nikon F2S Photomic (1973-1976), Nikon F2AS (1977-1980). Nikon FM2 (deemed as a semiprofessional camera but highly used by professionals because of its shutter speeds up to 1/4000 s and its flash sync up to 1/250), working flawlessly without batteries throught many decades under the most extreme temperatures, the electronic Nikon F3 (1980-2001) and the last analog flagships Nikon F5 (1996-2004) and Nikon F6 (introduced in 2004).

But the book Nikon 100 Anniversary created by Uli Koch (one of the greatest experts in the world on the legendary Japanese photographic camera, along with Robert Rotoloni, Hans Braakhuis, Stephen Gandy, Hans Ploegmakers, Takayuki Kawai, Bill Kraus, Yutaka Ohtsu, Akihiko Suzuki, Bob Rogen, Thierry Ravassod, Niko van Dijk, Jim Emmerson, Tom Abrahamsson, Dr. Ryosuke Mori, Dr. Manabu Nakai, Shoichiro Yoshida, Mikio Itoh, Hirosi Kosai, Dr. Zyun Koana, Akito Tamla, Michio Akiyama and others) and edited by Ostlicht GmbH goes far beyond the most well-known optomechanical achievements and market feats accomplished by Nikon company.

It´s an extraordinary 412 page visual compilation of every Nikon camera, lens, accessory and all kinds of devices manufactured by the Japanese brand from its very birth in 1917 (when the three leading optical manufacturers in Japan merged into a fully integrated optical company named Nippon Kogaku K.K, with the research on manufacture of optical glasses beginning the following year)
until nowadays in full digital age, with the added bonus of accurate captions on all and every item, providing very interesting information and occupying the middle area of each page, revealing a thoroughly devised layout of the pages regarding the location of pictures and texts about them.

Uli Koch during the world premiere of his book Nikon 100 Anniversary at Westlicht Photographica Auction (Vienna) on November 19, 2015.

This is a remarkable book with two most significant aims:

a) To celebrate the centenary of Nippon Kogaku K.K / Nikon Corporation, Japan (NK).

b) To provide an exceedinly valuable trove of 2170 colour pictures made by himself (most of them reproduced in big or very large size, with impressive quality thanks to a very hard labor fulfilled by the author, who had to travel to a number of countries throughout some years to photograph all the Nikon items (a high percentage of them belonging to private collections), many of them real jewels, with a Nikon D800 full frame camera, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5G lens and Bowens and Elinchrom flash lights) of virtually all existent rangefinder and slr Nikon cameras, lenses, accesories, binoculars, microscopes, telescopes and many other products manufactured by the Japanese company throughout its history in 

eleven chapters beginning with the 1917-1926 starting period 

and ending with the most recent 2007-2016 stage already in full digital age: lenses made for third parties, early Compur shutters, collapsible magnifiers, early Nikkor lenses without shutters for 6.5 x 9 cm cameras, enlarging lenses, film development acessories, military rangefinders,

Aero-Nikkor lenses for 13 x 18 cm format, leather cases, aircraft 5 x 38 observation binoculars,

naval alt azimuth scopes in wooden boxes, stereoscopic military viewers for analysis of stereo images taken from airplanes,

Nippon Kogaku SK 100 aerial cameras with Nikkor 18 cm f/4.5 lenses, Aeyo filter to reduce haze in black and white photogrammetry made from aircraft and 6 x 9 cm film, Niko infantry periscope with hand grip, Nikko panoramic machine gun sight device, Nikko military 10 x 70 aircraft spotting binoculars. Nikko rangefinder with lens spacing of 100 cm, Nikko artillery spotting telescope, Nikko naval antiaircraft sights, Nikko Galilean design infantry binoculars, Canon S cameras with Nikkor 5 cm f/2 lenses in Canon bayonet mount, tons of images of the superb Nikon rangefinder system of cameras and lenses

(Nikon I 24 x 32 mm format from 1948 with Nikkor 5 cm f/3.5 lens, very early Nikkor S.C 5 cm f/2, Nikkor S.C 8.5 cm f/2 and Nikkor S.C 13.5 cm f/4, 24 x 34 mm format Nikon S, Nikon S2, Nikon S3, Nikon SP), the very rare Variframe Type I viewfinder engraved 24 x 32 mm for the Nikon I, Nikon L experimental camera with Leica screwmount, Nikkor 5 cm f/1.8 prototype lens for Nikon 1, Nippon Kogaku telescope adapter for screw mount cameras,

Nicca camera with Nikkor 5 cm f/3.5 lens in screw mount, Nikon M 24 x 34 mm format with CPO logo, Tower III cameras with Nikkor 5 cm f/3.5 and Nikkor 5 cm f/2 lenses, microscopes O-Series from thirties, Micron and Nikon binoculars, pictures of all types of Nikon Variframe finders for Nikon rangefinder cameras,

Apo-Nikkor 30 cm f/9 lenses used for photoengraving during fifties, Nippon Kogaku lenses for an early Nikon profile projector from 1950, the rare Nikon S camera diopter from 1951, medium format 6 x 6 cm Airesflex and Aires Automat from 1958 with Nikkor lenses. cutaway Nikkor lenses for rangefinder cameras used to show the inner optomechanical construction of the objectives, lens shades for Nikon rangefinder lenses, Nippon Kogaku Reflex Housings from 1952 for Nikon rangefinder cameras, long telephoto Nikkor 50 cm f/5 lenses for Nikon RF cameras with additional Nikon reflex housing, Nippon Kogaku specific tripod for the Nikkor 50 cm f/5 rangefinder lens.

Nikkors 13.5 cm f/3.5 lenses in Exakta mounts, Nippon Kogaku Microscope K with extendable tube, the gorgeous Nippon Kogaku Theodolite or Transit Level universal surveying instrument for field measurement with compass and all of its accessories (reproduced in full page 30 x 21 cm with wonderful green and orange colours), Nippon Kogaku individual chrome finders for Nikon I, M, S and S2 cameras. Nippon Kogaku bulb flashes for Nikon rangefinder cameras,

Nippon Kogaku Microscope KUG with extendable tube length, Nippon Kogaku close-up attachments for Nikon S, Nikon S2, Nikon S3 and SP, Nikon Copy Stand S from 1953, two Nikkor 5 cm f/1.4 lenses with attractive serial numbers (this picture is amazing, depicting the very beautiful blueish single coating),  Nikon Copy Stand P from 1957, Nippon Kogaku 65 mm telescope, tiny and rare -5.0 to +5.0 diopter lenses for S2 camera users wearing eyeglasses,

Cine-Nikkor 6.5 mm f/1.9, 13 mm f/1.9 and 38 mm f/1.9 lenses for 8 mm cameras with D mount, Nippon Kogaku laboratory Microscope J from 1955 with a Nikon SP camera mounted, Nippon Kogaku Transit Level Model-H for land surveying from 1955, Micro-Nikkor 5 cm f/3.5 lenses in Nikon rangefinder bayonet mount,

Stereo-Nikkor 3.5 cm f/3.5 outfit on a black Nikon S2 camera with special stereo finder and getting two 17 x 24 mm images on 24 x 36 mm format film, and many others.

And of course, there´s a lavish coverage of the 1957-1966 period (one hundred and six pages of the book devoted to this stage) in which Nippon Kogaku made many of their milestone photographic products, which were the core of its well-known reputation all over the world, particularly

the Nikon SP, Nikon F and the Nikon S 36 electrical motor drive, the first serial production electrical motordrive in the world for a 35 mm camera, without forgetting the movie cameras for 8 mm format which were also manufactured and a wide assortment of other products: the very rare Nikkor 5 cm f/1.1 lens in screwmount on a Tower Type 3 camera,

a fabulous near mint Nikon 36 motor drive in original box, Nikon Underwater Housing for Nikons S2, SP and S3, Nikon S3 camera from 1958 with Nikkor 2.8 cm f/3.5 lens and Nippon Kogaku Variframe finder type 7 from 1955, Nikon exposure meters for rangefinder cameras in different versions with booster and incident light plates, different Nikon leather camera cases for Nikon SP camera, wire shutter release cables for Nikon rangefinder cameras, 6 x 6 cm medium format Nippon Kogaku Sky cameras with Fish-Eye Nikkor 16.3 mm f/8 and an angle of view of 180º,, Nippon Kogaku TV-Nikkor lenses for RCA camera mount, Nippon Kogaku Mikron monocular version specially made for golf players, Nikon S3 with Nikkor 5 cm f/1.4 lens, Black Nikon S3 cameras with Nikkor 2.5 cm f/4 lens and finder, Black Olympic Nikon S3 with special Olympic Nikkor 5 cm f/1.4 lens,

Nikkor lenses for Zenza Bronica "D" mount: Nikkor 18 cm f/2.5 f/4 preset, 35 cm f/4.5 and 50 cm f/5 with large bayonet adapter for Bronica "S" mount cameras.

Following it, there´s  a chapter devoted to the 1962-1970 period in which Nippon Kogaku used their brand name Nikkor for all merchandized items in Germany, with a lot of images of items from this period: one of the first Nikkor F cameras with Micro-Nikkor 55 mm f/3.5 lens, a Nikkor J (German version of the Nikkorex F) with Nikkor J leather case, the Nikkor 8 (German version of the Nikkorex 8 cine camera), Nippon Kogaku accessories for Nikkor F cameras, Nippon Kogaku close-up accessories for Nikon F cameras ane different slide copying adapters for Bellows II, chrome and black Nikkormat FT for the German market and Nikkormat FTN cameras, Nippon Kogaku Calypso/Nikkor II underwater camera,

Nikkor Super Zoom 8 camera with 8.8-45 mm zoom lens, early Nikkor F camera with two Nikkor F250 motor drives, and many others.

Subsequently, Uli Koch gets into the prolific 1967-1976 stage in which Nikon developed a lot of new 35 mm cameras like the extraordinary Nikon F2 and its lenses, in addition to a host of optical instruments for industrial and scientific use: Nikon F high precision with modified pressure plate for pictures with Kodak Infrared HIE 2480 film, 

a Nikon F with Mikami rapid winder getting a faster winding of the film without motor drive, Nikkor-P.C 400 mm f/5.6 telephoto lens type 1 from 1973, Nikon F finders and ocular accessories, Nikkormat FTN chrome and black from 1967, Nikkormat FTN type 2 from 1971, Nikkormat FTN3 with AI modification from 1977, Nikkormat autofocus projector GC-2, 6 x 9 cm medium format Japanese Marshall Press camera with fixed 105 mm f/3.5 Nikkor lens,

Nippon Kogaku Apophot research microscope, Nippon Kogaku Slit- Lamp for ophthalmic work with flash, Nikon binoculars 7 x 35 mm, four different types of the Nikon F testers to choose the best screens out of 17 models and diopters, Nippon Kogaku SB-1 flash unit for Nikon F/F2 with GN-Nikkor 45 mm f/2.8 and acessories, repro copy outfits for Nikon F cameras, Nippon Kogaku Microflex PFM type 2 and Microflex AFM with automatic exposure and control box, extremely rare Nippon Kogaku Oscilloscope Unit for Nikon F,

Nippon Kogaku Microflex CFMA type 1 with integrated intervalometer made for Bolex H16 cine camera, Nikonos II underwater camera with very early UW-Nikkor 15 mm f/2.8 lens and 15 mm underwater finder, Zenza Bronica S2A medium format camera with Fisheye-Nikkor 30 mm f/4 prototype lens, Nikkor 400 mm f/4.5 lens mounted on a Bronica gun stock, Nikon Microscope H type 2 mounted on a Nikon F with waist level finder on a Nikon Microscope adapter, the Nippon Kogaku  Microscope Lke, large format Apo-Nikkor 45 cm f/9 and 60 cm f/9 lenses with a huge 60 cm right-angle reversing prism, Nippon Kogaku Photographing Screen with Nikon wooden cassettes for a Nikon 6c Profile Projector, Nikon F36 motor drives with standard battery pack, Nikon Inc. USA Intervalometers type 1 and type 2,

Fisheye-Nikkor 6.2 mm f/5.6 230º with Symmetrical Angled Projection with an angle of view of 230º equaling the angle of view of the human eye, Nippon Kogaku Autocollimator Model 6 used for non contact measurement of angles, Nippon Kogaku Microtester Type 5 optical instrument for linear measuring of the thickness, depth or diameter of machined parts as thin as 0.005 mm, Nikon F NASA with a special Nikkor 55 mm f/1.2 NASA lens and an F36 modified motor drive, very rare Nikon F High Speed Camera for 7 fps with modified F36 motor drive and Nikkor-H 300 mm f/2.8 preset lens,

early Nikkor F2 cameras in chrome and black with Nikon MD-1 / Nikon MD-2 motor drives, Nikon finders for Nikon F2 cameras, Nikon F2 camera backs MF-1 for 250 exposures, Fisheye-Nikkor 6 mm f/2.8 lens covering an angle of 220º,

Reflex-Nikkor 2000 mm f/11 lens mounted on a Nikon F2 Photomic camera, Nikon dummies with Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 lenses, Nikon NT-2A theodolite in orange carrying case and AE-3M auto level for levelling the ground of buildings,

MF-2 camera back for 750 exposures on a Nikon F2 AS and 55 mm f/1.2 Nikkor lens, Nikon binoculars J-B7 (9 x 35 mm) Micron (8 x 50 mm) and CF (10 x 25 mm), Nikon Profile Projectors lenses, rotatable screen for Nikon C-6/2 profile projector and a Nikon spare bulb, very rare Nikon F High Speed camera for 9 f.p.s (with pellicle mirror) and modified Nikon F36 motor drive with a 300 mm f/2,8 preset Nikkor ED lens, ultra-wide-angle Nikkor lenses 15 mm f/5.6, 15 mm f/3.5 and 13 mm f/5.6 with exceptional correction of distortion,

ED Zoom-Nikkor 360-1200  f/11 lens mounted on a Nikon F2 High Speed camera, Nikon Enlarger RA-350 Auto-Focus with 50 mm f/2.8 EL-Nikkor lens, and many others.

Afterwards comes the chapter focused on the 1977-1986 decade, which meant another milestone for the Japanese brand with the introduction of the Nikon F3 camera designed by Giorgietto Giugiaro, in addition to the launching into market of the 15 mm f/3.5 lens and a lot of telephoto lenses with special ED optics and internal focusing like the famous Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8 IF-ED or the Nikkor 300 mm f/2 IF-ED and many other top-notch cameras, lenses and devices: Nikon F2 Data camera with Nikon MF-10 (36 pictures) and MF-11 (250 pictures) data backs, Nikon F2 Anniversary and Nikon F2 Titan cameras, Nikon F2 camera for the 25th Anniversary of the US distribution by the Ehrenreich Company, Nikon F2 High Speed Outfit for 10 fps (with pellicle mirror), Nikon F2 High Speed with modified Nikon MF-1 Back for 250 exposures,

unknown Nikon F2 Titan version in champagne colour, dummy of Nikon FM, Nikon EM cutaway, cutaway PC-Nikkor 28 mm f/3.5, Nikkor 300 mm f/4.5, Nikon SB-12 flash, Zoom-Nikkor ED 80-200 mm f/2.8 lens, Nikon MF-18 data back, Nikon F3 with MF-4 back (250 pictures), Nikon F3 tester with four rails of screens (20 screens) and diopters, Nikon F2 medical modified camera with special eye level finder and special Nikkor lenses, Nikonos IV underwater camera with Nikkor 35 mm f/2.5 lens, Nikon Diaphot TMD Inverted research microscope with EPI Fluorescence attachment used to clone sheep " Dolly", Nikon Microflex CFMA type 2 on a Bolex 16 mm cine camera, Nikkor ED 300 mm f/2 lens coupled to a black Nikon F3 Titan camera, Industrial Nikkor lenses Apo-Nikkor 1780 mm f/14, EL-Nikkor 360 mm f/5.6 and COM-Nikkor 88 mm f/2, Nikon F3 AF outfit, Nikonos V underwater cameras with Nikkor 35 mm f/2.5 lenses, special gold edition Nikon FA camera bestowed to Nikon as a winner of the Camera Grand Prix 1984, four Nikon FM golden cameras for the 60th anniversary of Nippon Kogaku in 1977, Nikon NT scanner transmitter for the scanning of standard 35 mm film and to transmit the electronic image to the editorial office by phone connection, Nikon NW-100 printer,

Nikon F3 NASA with special Nikon MD-4 motor drive and special Micro-Nikkor 105 mm f/2.8 NASA lens, Nikonos RS SLR underwater camera with Nikkor 50 mm f/2.8 and 28 mm f/2.8 lenses, Nikonos RS cutaway with Nikkor 20-35 mm f/2.8, superb Nikkor W 180 mm f/5.6 and Nikkor-Q 105 mm f/3.5 large format lenses, Nikon lenses for Measuring Microscopes, Nikon stage for profile projectors with 17 cm surface area, digital encoders for X- and Y- axis with Nikon SC-102 digital counter, modified Nikon F3 for use inside a submarine and featuring a special action finder and Nikon F3 different types of finder.

Thereupon, we come across the 1987-1996 chapter, covering among many others Nikon items like

the Nikon F4 camera with its available finders, the rare Nikon F4 NASA using a small 12 x 12 mm square format, the TV-Nikkor 8.5-127.5 mm f/1.7 for use on Sony Betacam SP/Ampex/Fuji professional videocameras,

the Kodak DCS 100 (the very first professional digital camera based on a Nikon F3 camera and featuring a 1.3 megapixel sensor), Nikon F3 special editions, Nikon 35 Ti and Nikon 28 Ti high quality compact autofocus cameras with titanium casting, the Nikon F5 camera, a cutaway of a Nikon F5 camera, and others.

The next chapter delves into 1997-2006 period which meant the transition from 35 mm analog cameras (whose last flagship is the Nikon F6) to digital ones and the beginning of professional Nikon "D" series digital cameras, as well as providing further information on:

Nikon Scan Touch AX-110 flatbed scanner and Nikon Coolscan LS 10 scanner for 35 mm, Nikon F5 Anniversary Limited Edition,

Nikon D professional cameras with DX Sensors (24 x 16 mm format) Nikon D1 and Nikon D1x, Nikon S3 Limited Edition with Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 Olympic lens, Nikon SP Limited Edition with Nikkor 3,5 cm f/3.5 lens,

Nikon F6, and many others.

Finally, the book ends with the chapter encompassing the 2007-2016 period, the most recent one, showing new Nikon items of the digital era like the

top class telephoto lenses AF-S 200 mm f/2G ED VR, AF-S Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8G ED  VR, AF-S 400 mm f/2.8 ED VR,

the PC-E Nikkor 24 mm f/3.5D ED tilt and shift lens with ED lenses, aspherical elements and Nano Crystal Coat, the Nikon D4 full frame camera with 24 x 36 mm sensor and 16.8 megapixels, the Nikon D4s with great high ISO capabilities and Full HD video, the special golden edition of the Nikon Df 24 x 36 mm format  digital camera with special Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8G lens, and

the Mr David Douglas Duncan Happy 100th Birthday with a typical Nikkor screwmount lens from the early 1950s and others.


Highly probably an irrepeteable work in which the author has made a colossal effort of years to beget the book and commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Nikon, along with Leica and Carl Zeiss the most important and influential brand within the photographic market in the History of Photography (it said with all respect to the rest of photographic companies), regarding the Japanese brand particularly between early sixties and early nineties, above all from the moment in which compact motordrives like the MD-1, MD-2 and MD-3 drew the professional market towards the extraordinary Nikon F2, F2S Photomic, Nikon F2A and Nikon F3.

Consequently, after almost thirty years of dominance of the professional photographic market by the 24 x 36 mm Leica and Contax rangefinder cameras between early thirties and late fifties, the Nikon F System became the common choice among the foremost pros between 1960 and 1990, in many different photographic genres like photojournalism (Bill Eppridge, Malcolm Browne, John Dominis, George Silk, Göksin Sipahioglu, Bob Adelman, Josef Darchinger, Alain Ernoult, Volker Rost, Ursula Meissner), war photography (Nick Ut, David Douglas Duncan , Eddie Adams, Dana Stone, Reza Deghati, Don McCullin, Henri Huet, Larry Burrows, Slava Veder, Taizo Ichinose, Art Greenspon, Steve McCurry, many of whom also used Leica rangefinder cameras coupled to 28, 35 and 50 mm primes for pictures made from very near distances), sports photography (John G. Zimmerman, Marvin E. Newman, Herb Schafmann, Andrew D. Bernstein, Robert Beck, Bill Frakes, John W. McDonough, Nigel Snowdon, Valeria Witters, Jerry Lodriguss, Rick Tomlinson, Christine Lalla, Robert Bösch, Stefan Warter), nature and wildlife photography (Heather Angel, Jim Brandenburg, Frans Lanting, Art Wolfe, Fritz Pölking, Chris McLennan, Galen Rowell, David Tipling) , fashion photography (Peter Lindbergh, Bill Cunningham, Christopher Morris, Katrin Thomas, Jean-Louis Coulombel, Paul Van Riel), live concerts photography (Amalie M. Rotschild, Jerry Schatzberg, Henry Diltz, Ed Caraeff, Jill Furmanovsky, Barry Plummer, Michael Putland, Allan Titmuss) and others.

Furthermore, this is the most comprehensive work ever made about Nikon firm in terms of quantity of pictures of cameras, lenses, motor drives, all kind of accessories, special editions, microscopes, telescopes, etc, and an accurate description of each one, fruit of many decades of painstaking research.

To properly understand the magnitude and significance of this colossal work (whose production cost has been very high because of the first class thread-sewn binding system used to guarantee a good cosmetic appearance of the book throughout many years, the very expensive top quality thick paper chosen to enhance the beauty of the tons of 100% colour photographs included in the book, the hard cover and the many trips to a number of countries to get a high percentage of the pictures belonging to fantastic private collections (with many classic Nikon items featuring a lot of decades of antiquity in near mint, A- and A/B condition), suffice it to say that the photographs of the book pages illustrating this humble article don´t make up even the 5% of the total figure of 2170 images that it contains.

The fabulous images of the myriad of products appearing in this unique work (made by the author in different countries with a Nikon D800 full frame digital camera, and AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5G lens and Bowens and Elinchrom flash lights, one by one, with a huge level of endeavour and often hiring equipment in foreign cities, as well as managing to get access to private collections) feature a far superior quality and aesthetic appearance on the superb glossy paper pages of the book (oozing gorgeous beauty and an impressive level of detail inherent to the medium format scope, since the full frame professional digital cameras have reached that level of sharpness, contrast and tonal range) than on the screen of any computer, are the core of the book and become a true relish and unforgettable experience for any lover of both the history of photography and particularly of photographic devices manufactured with a very high standard of optomechanical quality and able to flawslessly work through many decades, as happened with workhorses like the Nikon SP, Nikon F, Nikon F2, Nikon F2S Photomic, Nikon F Photomic FTN, Nikon F3 and Nikon FM2, which are among the best pieces of engineering in the History of Photography.

On the other hand, Nikon has always been a great admirer of the German optical designs, and from twenties (a period in which the Carl Zeiss Jena engineers Heinrich Acht, Hermann Dillmann and Max Lange visited Japan between 1921 and 1928) it was inspired by them.

As a matter of fact, since mid twenties, they had paid a lot of attention to the legendary Carl Zeiss binoculars which had been used by Roald Amundsen in his Polar trips since he bought them in 1902, preserving identical optomechanical qualities and centering of the optical elements for twenty-two years, working flawlessly under the most extreme temperatures and intensive use.

It is also true that Kakuya Sunayama (Head of the Nippon Kogaku Lens Design Department) visited Germany in late twenties, learned very much and took advantage of the huge German know-how in lens designing to thoroughly disassemble and study Tessar, Triplet and Dagor scheme lenses, starting with the 3 element Carl Zeiss 50 cm f/4.8 Triplet, to such an extent that Nippon Kogaku had already created the Tessar type Anytar 50 cm f/4.5, until the Nikkor breed of lenses was born in 1932.

Nippon Kogaku lenses manufactured between 1946 and late fifties like the Nikkor H.C 5 cm f/2 and the Nikkor S.C 8.5 cm f/1.5 were clearly inspired by the Carl Zeiss lenses (though the Japanese firm was able to approach in resolving power in the center and often improve contrast and acutance).

Anyway, Uli Koch´s book undoubtedly proves with oodles of wonderful images in big size that Nippon Kogaku had already manufactured between early twenties and mid forties a very wide range of top class optical products (binoculars, scopes, telescopes, transit levels, collapsible magnifiers, large format lenses, infantry periscopes, Nikkor lenses for 24 x 36 mm format Hansa Canon cameras, large format aerial photogrammetry lenses, naval azimuth scopes, stereoscopic viewers, lenses for industrial devices, aircraft spotting binoculars, artillery rangefinders, etc), though because of circumstances the designers of the firm had to mostly create items for the Japanese Army and Navy.

To all intents and purposes, it meant an impressive optical and mechanical expertise that would be fundamental before the definitive success of Nippon Kogaku in the photographic market from early fifties, something which was greatly fostered by the huge advances made by it during thirties in the sphere of single coatings

which resulted in the state-of-the-art 15 meter main rangefinder and 10 meter secondary rangefinder of Yamato battleship, at the frorefront of innovation in this field and by far the best ones in the world at the time of its launching on August 8, 1940, featuring an extraodinary accuracy up to a distance of 37 km and whose specifications were kept in utmost secret at every moment, as well as having exceptional single coatings in their huge optical elements.

But from around mid fifties they went their own way in lens designing for photographic cameras, an ongoing trend epitomized by the amazing for the time 7 elements in 5 groups W-Nikkor 3.5 cm f/1.8 highly luminous wideangle lens designed by Hideo Azuma in 1956, boasting an aberration balance which would be the hallmark of Nikkor lenses in future.

And within time, Nikon would create many more world class lenses whose highlights were:

- The 5 elements in 3 groups Nikkor P.C 8.5 cm f/2, designed by Saburo Murakami in 1949 (and benefiting from subsequent further improvements made by Kenji Wakimoto).

It features a Sonnar optical scheme and delivers superb sharp and high contrast images with excellent rendition of textures even at the widest aperture, along with a commendable control of spherical aberration and coma on the whole image surface and meant the turning point which made Nikon worldwide known as a manufacturer of top-notch photographic lenses.

- The 5 elements in 3 groups (5 elements in 4 groups since 1970) Non-ai Nikkor-P Auto 10.5 cm f/2.5 from 1959 with Nikkor F mount, designed by Kenji Wakimoto.

A lens attaining impressive image quality and which became one of the favourite objectives among photojournalists and portrait photographers during sixties and seventies.

- The 6 elements in 6 groups Nikkor -H Auto 2.8 cm f/3.5, designed in 1960 by Zenji Wakimoto, who accomplished the optical feat of greatly correcting the chromatic aberration present at the edge of the image (which had been until then the weak spot of wideangle retrofocus designs), though it suffers from field curvature.

- The 5 elements in 4 groups Micro Nikkor 55 mm f/3.5 from 1961, designed by Kenji Wakimoto (who managed to extend 5 cm the length of the rear focus, so modifying the 1956 Micro-Nikkor 55 mm f/3.5 design created by Hideo Azuma for the Nikon S camera) for Nikon F mount.

- The 8 elements in 7 groups PC-Nikkor 35 mm f/3.5 from 1962, the first PC lens for slr cameras made in the world, featuring tilt-shift and an amazing compactness which proved the prowess of Nikon mechanic engineers.

- The OP Fisheye-Nikkor 10 mm f/5.6 from 1968, a superb orthographic projection lens rendering subjects in very big size in the middle area of the image. It was the first aspheric lens made for slr cameras.

- The 9 elements in 7 groups Nikkor Auto 35 mm f/1.4 from 1971, designed by Yoshiyuki Shimizu. Nikon used all of its optical and mechanical expertise in this photojournalistic par excellence lens, the first one in the world boasting f/1.4 large aperture, introducing a lot of new technologies during its manufacturing, which were even more enhanced when Teruyoshi Tsunajima modified both the composition of the glasses of its optical formula elements and the curvature of the lens, bettering its performance at full aperture.

This lens was a real optical and mechanical tour de force at the time, since it is very small (front diameter of 52 mm) and light for an f/1.4 wideangle lens for slr cameras, as well as having been the first Nikkor lens featuring the famous NIC (Nikon Integrated Multilayer Coating), a seminal factor to achieve high contrast and color accuracy.

- The 6 elements in 5 groups Nikkor-H 300 mm f/2.8, designed by Yoshiyuki Shimizu in 1972. It was an extraordinary for the time supertelephoto lens, featuring a very wise optical balance optimized for high resolving power, colour accuracy and very beautiful bokeh, thanks to its very good correction of chromatic aberration, an almost negligible spherical aberration, highly reduced astigmatism and Petzval curvature, avoiding any out of focus zones even on the most off-centered areas, truly an achievement for the time to such an extent that it proves that Nikon optical designers fully understood the major degrading effect of field curvature on image quality and the huge importance of controlling it during the lens design (since it won´t change during any subsequent optimization stage), striving upon finding a lot of methods to correct the Petzval sum in the optical system and glimpsing significant aspects in this regard that would be tackled forty-four years later by Yuhao Wang in his Advanced Theory of Field Curvature set forth at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences.

It included special low dispersion glasses and a diaphragm located in the center of the optical path.

This super telephoto meant the birth of a breed that would be embodied in the future inception of 300 mm f/2.8 stellar performers by different brands, like the manual focusing 8 elements in 6 groups Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8 EDIF from 1977, the 11 elements in 8 groups Nikkor AF-S from 1996, the manual focusing 8 elements in 7 groups Carl Zeiss Tele-Apotessar T* 300 mm f/2.8 from 1992 for Contax/Yashica Mount cameras, the manual focusing 8 elements in 7 groups Leica Apo-Telyt-R 280 mm f/2.8 from 1984, the manual focusing 9 elements in 7 groups Canon New FD 300 mm f/2.8L and others.

- The 16 elements in 12 groups  Nikkor 13 mm f/5.6, designed by Ikuo Mori in 1971 and launched into market in 1976. It is the best rectilinear extreme wideangle prime under 14 mm ever made for 35 mm format cameras, with a superlative correction of distortion

- The 11 element in 8 groups Nikkor 300 mm f/2 ED IF from 1981, in which Nikon showed its prowess in lens designing created this supertelephoto lens of amazingly large aperture, as well as specifically manufacturing for it the 1.4 x TC-14C teleconverter turning it into a 400 mm f/2.8 lens without almost no loss in quality.

- The AF-S Nikkor 400 mm f/2.8E FL ED VR from 2014, a masterpiece supertelephoto lens designed by Toshinori Take, who managed to greatly reduce the weight and dimensions with respect to previous lenses featuring this focal length.

This is a state-of-the-art objective with an optical formula of 16 elements in 12 groups (two of them made of fluorite and other two ED glass, with the added benefit of a fluorine coated front meniscus glass element for added extra protection) with a remarkable electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism that keeps very consistent exposures during high speed shooting, Nano Crystal Coat in its elements and SWM (Silent Wave Motor) technology making possible exceedingly fast, accurate and quiet autofocus.

Therefore, the book Nikon 100 Anniversary by Uli Koch also pays homage to the Japanese photographic firm designers who were able to create a number of milestone optical designs, something particularly praiseworthy between mid forties and sixties, when the legendary Saburo Murakami, Hideo Azuma and Zenji Wakimoto managed to spawn excellent lenses with very few means, making intensive calculation of ray tracing with abacus and table of logarithms along with thousands and thousands of trial and error hours, as well as using classical optical bench testing techniques with collimators and T-Bar nodal slides, in a time when Nippon Kogaku lacked any IBM 650, Z5, Elliot 402F computers used by Leica optical wizards Walter Mandler and Max Berek from mid fifties onwards or any computer programs for optimizing optical systems like the adapted automatic correction method incepted and used by Zeiss genius optical designer Erhard Glatzel during sixties.

And during the following decades, Nikon would develop breaktrhrough optomechanical technologies like

- The machining workshops, where brass blanks are converted to intricate lens mounts by means of multi-staged computer controlled automatic lathes made from late eighties.

- The steady improvement of AF algorithms since the launching into market of the Nikon F-501 in 1986 until the 51-point Multi-CAM 3500 AF System of the Nikon D4 and D4s full format professional digital cameras taking advantage of its great 3D-tracking mode which keeps following moving subjects, and the recent state-of-the-art Multi-Cam 20k AF module featuring 99 points of autofocus.

This has been a feat accomplished by Nikon, since on increasing the total number of AF points, the probabilities of wrong focusing soar a great deal.

In this regard, the historical evolution and constant betterment attained by Nikon with its superb AF algorithms (the international benchmark in this respect) delivering an outstanding performance interaction between the RGB and AF sensors has been truly amazing.

- The early nineties method for producing glass blanks fulfilled by Takashi Inoue, Tadayoshi Yonemoto, Toshihiro Muroi and Yoshiyoki Shimizu.

- The high precision optical glass components manufactured without grinding and polishing the glass thanks to an avantgarde method (dropping melted glass from the glass outlet from a glass melting furnace to a mold and cooling the dropped glass on the mold) to make glass blanks used for optical glass elements incepted in mid nineties by Hiyoshi Hayashi, Toshiro Ishiyama, Yoshiyuki Shimizu and Yutaka Suenaga.

- The manufacturing of aspherical lenses through a press molding technique using glass or resin developed by Akira Hosomi, Yoshiyuki Shimizu and Akira Morimoto whereby at least one of the dies is created by etching a rotational symmetric surface of a base material, unevenly, so the etched surface becomes rotationally asymmetrically aspherical in shape.

- The MTF measuring systems adopted from late seventies and which have been replaced by the Nikon Optia Metrology System since 2012, a breakthrough device that measures all of the elements of the lens, something which has revealed to be of instrumental importance to simulate the combination of lens elements.

Optia measuring system analyzes lens performance bearing in mind such traits as resolving power, bokeh, reproduction of textures, sense of depth, etc, in symbiosis with the specific image simulating software created for it.

It all has meant in practice an extraordinary progression by Nikon since the times of classic design softwares used in optical design and working by ray tracings algorithms which didn´t enable to anticipate lens features like the bokeh and others, to such an extent that now Nikon is able to carry out a designing stage simulation with a painstaking control on a wide range of optical qualities of the lens roughly tantamount to real photography with prototypes of lenses.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza