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.
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,
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.
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.
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, 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