miércoles, 30 de mayo de 2018

GRAYS OF WESTMINSTER : 33 YEARS AT THE FOREFRONT OF NIKON PHOTOGRAPHIC GEAR SALES AND REFERENCE-CLASS CUSTOM SERVICE

                                                                                                                                 © jmse

July 1991. 40 Churton Street, SW1. Pimlico, Central London.

                                                                                                                                   © jmse

Six years have elapsed since 1985, when a visionary man named Gray Levett founded the Grays of Westminster Company, devoted to the dealing of very high quality photographic equipment from different brands, utterly refurbishing what throughout forties and fifties had been a well-known barber´s shop located very near Victoria Station, Buckingham Palace and the House of Parliament and whose selected clientele included Sir Winston Churchill.

From an international viewpoint, 1991 is a highly significant year in the evolution of 35 mm photographic cameras, because after the periods of worldwide long lasting dominance by two firms :

a) Leica between 1925 and 1959, with rangefinder models like the Leica 1 ( 1925- 1936), Leica II (1932-1948) , Leica III (1933-1939), Leica M3 (1954-1966, the best 35 mm rangefinder camera ever made, both in the analogue and digital domains, with a formidable 0.92x viewfinder excelling in its sharpness and only equalled hitherto by the one featured by the also superb Nikon SP rangefinder from 1957 with its 1.0x VF magnification and an effective rangefinder base length of 58 mm) and Leica M2 (1958-1967, which became a mainstay among pros thanks to its viewfinder optimization for 35 mm focal length, the photojournalistical one per excellance).

and

b) Nikon between 1959 and 1986, with 24 x 36 mm format reflex flagships like the Nikon F (1959-1973, a hugely successful camera which revolutionized the professional photography market, becoming known as the hockey puck because of its amazingly sturdy building and resilience to damage or mechanical failures, and whose sales skyrocketed to 862,600 units) , Nikon F2 (1971-1980, a real entirely mechanical workhorse which was for almost a decade the best 35 mm reflex camera in the world), Nikon F3 (1980-2001), Nikon FM2 (1982-2001), etc.

Minolta has presented in February 1985 its Maxxum 7000 AF, the first 24 x 36 mm format camera with integrated autofocus and motorized film advance, a trend which will be massively adopted by both professional and amateur photographers from early nineties.

On its turn, after the launching into market of the Canon T-90 (1986), one of the most beautiful cameras ever made, still sporting the FD mount and manual focusing lenses, but with a ground-breaking and far-reaching design made by Luigi Colani featuring the contours and shapes inherent to a just born lineage of Canon AF cameras boasting a new EF mount, whose first offspring has been the Canon 650 presented in March of 1987, Canon has introduced the Canon EOS-1 autofocus camera in 1989 and is starting to dispute Nikon (which has launched into market a year before the Nikon F4, first professional autofocus camera in history, pioneering the built-in motordrive and the modern matrix light metering) the international preponderance in the 35 mm cameras photographic scope.
                                                                                                   © Grays of Westminster

Tetsuro Goto, current General Manager of Imaging Product R & D Laboratory Nikon Corporation and one of the greatest geniuses in the history of camera design along with Oscar Barnack and Yoshihisa Maitani. He has been a fundamental figure in the quantum technological leap experienced by photography between late seventies of XX Century and second decade of XXI one. Throughout an impressive career of 45 years since he began his professional activity in Nikon in 1973, he has been the designer of the analogue Nikons F3 (1980), F4 (1988), F5 (1996) and the digital full frame Nikons D3 (2007), Nikon D700 (2008), D3s (2009) and Df (2013) slr cameras. Here appears a picture of him dedicated to his great friend Gray Levett, founder and owner of Grays of Westminster inside this famous Nikon store.

In the period between mid seventies and first half of eighties, 35 mm photography had already achieved an incredible level of optomechanical perfection, not only with the aforementioned cream of the crop of professional Nikon slr cameras, but also thanks to a slew of likewise extraordinary 24 x 36 mm format cameras from other firms like the Canon F1 (1971-1976), Canon New F1 (1981-1992), Olympus OM-1 (1972, entirely mechanic, a milestone camera designed by the genius Yoshihisa Maitani, sporting tiny dimensions inspired by the screwmount Leicas and boasting an extraordinary viewfinder), Olympus OM-2 (1975), Olympus OM-3 (1983), Pentax LX (1980-2001), Pentax Spotmatic F (1973-1976), etc.

                                                                                                                  © jmse

Gray Levett, founder and owner of Grays of Westminster, speaking at his desk in the first floor of the shop at 40 Churton Street, London, 33 years after its opening.

As a matter of fact, Nikon had to strenuously fight with those other firms during seventies and first half of eighties to keep the leadership of the photographic professional world market which it had attained since early sixties with the Nikon F camera, subsequently creating the F2, FM, F3 and FM2 models, being likewise bound to struggle tooth and nail to compete in the amateur and advanced connoisseur sphere, where particularly the Canon AE-1 Program (1976-1984, featuring highly accurate meter and automation and of which more than five million units were sold ) and the completely mechanical Pentax K1000 (1976-1997, a workhorse with only the essential functions, widely used in photography schools, boasting a very smooth shutter release and which was nothing less than twenty-one years in production), put on sale at very competitive prices, became tough contenders for Nikon, which was bound to create the Nikon FE (1978-1983, an exceedingly reliable and sturdy semi-professional electronic camera whose film advance was greatly enhanced with the MD-11 or MD-12 motordrives, masterpieces of Nikon engineering) and the Nikon FA (1983-1987, a heavily computerized version of the Nikon FE2 and first Nikon slr camera featuring shutter priority autoexposure) .

And if it were not enough, the array of manual focusing superb professional Nikkor lenses from seventies and eighties (epitomized by such excellent optical designs with top build quality like the Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5 P.C, the Nikkor 85 mm f/1.8 Pre AI, the 24 mm f/2.8 Pre AI, the 28 mm f/2 Pre AI, the 35 mm f/1.4 Pre AI, the Nikkor 50 mm f/2 AI, the Nikkor 28 mm f/2.8 AI-s, Nikkor 35 mm f/1.4 Ai-S, Nikkor 50 mm f/1.2 Ai-s, Micro-Nikkor 55 mm f/2.8 AI-s, Noct-Nikkor 58 mm f/1.2, Nikkor 85 mm f/1.4 AI-s, Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5 AI-s, Nikkor ED 200 mm f/2 IF Ai-S, Nikkor ED 300 mm f/2.8 IF) is greatly matched by the elite of professional lenses manufactured by Asahi Pentax (Takumar 50 mm f/1.4 Super-Multi-Coated, Takumar 55 mm f/1.8 Super-Multi-Coated, Takumar 85 mm f/2 Super-Multi-Coated, Takumar 135 mm f/2.5 Super-Multi-Coated), Olympus (Zuiko 21 mm f/2, Zuiko 21 mm f/3.5, Zuiko 24 mm f/2, Zuiko Auto-W MC 28 mm f/2, G-Zuiko Auto-S 50 mm f/1.4, Zuiko Macro 50 mm f/2, G-Zuiko Auto-S 55 mm f/1.2, Zuiko Auto-T 85 mm f/2, Zuiko Auto-T 100 mm f/2, Zuiko Auto-Macro 90 mm f/2, Zuiko Auto-T 180 mm f/2 ED-IF, Zuiko Auto-T 250 mm f/2 ED-IF, Zuiko Auto-T 350 mm f/2.8 ED-IF) and Canon ( FD 14 mm f/2.8 L, FD 24 mm f/1.4 L, FD 50 mm f/1.2 L Aspherical, FD 50 mm f/1.4, FD 85 mm f/1.2 L, FD 135 mm f/2, FD 200 mm f/1.8 L, FD 300 mm f/2.8 L, FD 300 mm f/4 L).

In 1990 and 1991 a significant percentage of professional photographers go on working with those professional cameras and lenses from seventies and eighties.

But a new turning point in the evolution of 35 mm photography is underway with the increasingly accurate and fast AF technology which has resulted in the birth of breakthrough professional autofocus cameras like the Nikon F4 (1988), Nikon F4s, Canon EOS-1 (1989) and Pentax Z-1 (1991).

And the firm making the starting decisive move towards the massive spreading of AF technology in the photographic market has been Nikon (which had began to produce its first AF lenses in 1986) with his Nikon F-801 (aimed at the advanced amateur sphere, appeared in 1988, some months before the Nikon F4), which has brought about an article in the New York Times of April 17, 1988 written by Andy Grundberg and titled The Future is Here in which it is stated that computerized control is the future of 35 mm photography and that autofocus has come to stay.

Besides, a number of AF excellent autofocus Nikon lenses have already been introduced, standing out the AF Nikkor 24 mm f/2.8s (1986-1991), the AF Nikkor 28 mm f/2.8s (1986-1991), the AF Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4s MK1 and MKII, the AF Nikkor 50 mm f/1.8s, the AF Micro-Nikkor 55 mm f/2.8s (1987-1989), the AF-Nikkor 180 mm f/2.8s ED-IF Third Version (1988-1995), the AF Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8s ED-IF (1987), the AF Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8s ED-IF (1988), the AF Nikkor 300 mm f/4S ED-IF (1987-2000), the AF Zoom Nikkor 28-85 mm f/3.5-4.5s Macro (1986-1990), the AF Zoom Nikkor 35-70 mm f/3.3-4.5N Macro Second Version (1989-1995), the AF Zoom Nikkor 35-70 mm f/2.8s Macro (1987-1992), the AF Nikkor 70-210 mm f/4s, the AF Zoom Nikkor 80-200 mm f/2.8s ED Version 1 (1988-1992), the AF Nikkor 75-300 mm f/4.5-5.6s (1989-1998) and others.

Meanwhile, Canon has also put into market a wide range of top quality AF lenses featuring its new EF mount and ultrasonic motor (USM) like the Canon EF 50 mm f/1L USM (1989-2000), Canon EF 50 mm f/1.8 II (1991), Canon EF 85 mm f/1.2 L USM (1987-2006), Canon EF 200 mm f/1.8L USM (1989-2004), Canon 200 mm f/2.8L USM, Canon EF 20-35 mm f/2.8L (1987-1996), Canon EF 50-200 mm f/3.5-4.5L, Canon 300 mm f/2.8L USM (1987-1999), Canon EF 100 mm f/2 USM (1991) and others.

And Pentax has just presented its very good assortment of new AF lenses like the Pentax FA 24 mm f/2 AL IF (1991), the Pentax FA 28 mm f/2.8 AL (1991), the Pentax FA 50 mm f/1.4 (1991), the Pentax FA 50 mm f/1.7 (1991), the Pentax FA 50 mm f/2.8 Macro (1990), the Pentax FA 100 mm f/2.8 Macro, the Pentax FA 135 mm f/2.8 IF (1991), the Pentax FA 300 mm f/4.5 ED IF, the Pentax FA 600 mm f/4 ID EF, the Pentax FA 28-80 mm f/3.5-4.7 (1991), Pentax FA 70-200 mm f/4-5.6 (1991) and Pentax FA 250-600 mm f/5.6 ED IF (1991).

Therefore, in 1991 the main brands of the 24 x 36 mm format photographic reflex scope are manufacturing first-class autofocus cameras and lenses, so to be able to sell gear from all of them seems to be the easiest, fastest and most profitable way to make business within this realm.

A MILESTONE ENTREPRENEURIAL DECISION : EXCLUSIVELY NIKON

                                                                                                                        © jmse

But it is now when against all odds, Grey Levett, founder and driving force of Grays of Westminsters (and with a vast experience in the photographic sector, harking back to second half of sixties during his stage at the N. Hartle Photographic Store in Bournemouth when being still a late teenager, subsequently working during seventies in other camera shops like the Winchester Head Office and Bournemouth branch of the London Camera Exchange Group, Fox Talbot in London, Keith Johnson Photographic, Leslie S. Miller Photographic and others) takes the most important decision in his life: his small but exceedingly charming and elegant London photographic shop at 40 Churton Street will sell exclusively Nikon cameras, lenses and accessories.

This is undoubtedly a very risky gamble, particularly bearing in mind that in early nineties Great Britain is facing a threatening economical recession, in the midst of rising unemployment and high interest rates impinging upon the consumer markets, so financial losses are beginning to be commonplace in a number of the businesses at this time.

                                                                                                                                  © jmse

But Grey Levett, a true gentleman featuring a unique personality firmly grounded on an unselfish humanism, outstanding cultural background, having a way with people, an iron will, tremendous working capacity, very good taste, an unswerving search for perfection, the best feasible attention to customers as a fundamental life goal, a remarkable insight of the market circumstances and its evolution, previous experience in the Hollywood cinematographic industry as a producer and a penchant for setting a new path enabling to distinguish Grays of Westminster from other respected camera stores, has just made what has probably been the most daring and significant entrepreneurial decision in the History of Photography since June 1924 when Ernst Leitz II gave the go ahead to the construction of the Leica I (Model A), the first 35 mm camera produced in series, at the Leipzig Spring Fair of 1925, putting the whole future of the firm in the hands of Oscar Barnack and changing the main activity of the Wetzlar Leitz Factory from microscopes to 24 x 36 mm format photographic cameras, it all in mid twenties, a period of massive unemployment and hyperinflation, and with many other consolidated concerns of the photographic industry dealing with the widespread medium format and large format photographic cameras of the time.

                                                                                                                 © Grays of Westminster

                                                                                                                     © Grays of Westminster

                                                                                                                      © Grays of Westminster

                                                                                                                       © Grays of Westminster

THE REASONS FOR AN UNEXPECTED AND MEANINGFUL SUCCESS

Inevitably, thirty-three years after the foundation of Grays of Westminster in 1985 and the impressive journey through history of this uncommon photographic store exclusively selling Nikon photographic gear when a significant percentage of people thought that it didn´t work and which has been the flagship shop on earth of the brand for so many years, some key question arise:

- Why did Grey Levett decide to focus exclusively on Nikon brand ?

- What have been the fundamental reasons for the international steady great success and recognized prestige of Grays of Westminster for more than three decades?

- How a man who set up this unique shop in mid eighties with very little wherewithal and as a modest mail order company was able to turn it into a record sales store and a world-class Nikon hub having currently almost 50,000 very loyal customers all over the globe who consider Grays of Westminster as part of their family ?

- How did Grey Levett tackle the technological knowledge, expertise and relentless updating necessary to carry forward a business like this in constant evolution ?

- How did he manage to make his business known in the beginning when he lacked the economical resources of other dealers and bigger stores to advertise king size in the foremost photographic magazines in an epoch when there wasn´t internet?

                                                                                                                                      © jmse

                                                                                                                                       © jmse

                                                                                                                                        © jmse

- How could he consolidate a timeless partnership with Nikon Japan managing directors, marketing CEOS, camera designers and optical designers to get their utter trust and very high esteem ?

                                                                                                                       © Grays of Westminster

- How is it possible that a relatively small company like Grays of Westminster is presently to great extent unanimously considered as having the best customer service in the whole photographic industry ?

- Why every visitor from the wealthiest to the most unassuming one is treated like a VIP ?

- What has been the role of Grays of Westminster team highly qualified persons in the increasingly thriving evolution of this unique shop ?

- What has been the method to accurately grasp the needs of Nikon both professional and amateur photographers throughout these thirty-three years ?

The answers are linked to a myriad of concepts, of which perhaps the most important ones are :

The decision to sell only Nikon equipment stemmed from the fact that during the first six years of Grays of Westminster existence (between 1985 and 1990), the shop had mainly excelled dealing with products from this Japanese brand, which was still by far the leading firm of the photographic industry, as well as enjoying great kudos among professional photographers and advanced connoisseurs, who appreciated the stunning ruggedness of their 35 mm cameras, the excellent sturdiness and optical performance of its lenses, even at full aperture, and the original F-mount (featuring exceedingly rugged construction and reliability thanks to its peculiar design making possible to adapt future system advances and which has been virtually unchanged since 1959, enabling the coupling to both analogue and digital Nikon cameras of virtually every lens produced from that year hitherto, throughout almost sixty years, whether manual focusing or AF.

It should be added that during some trips to Japan, Grey Levett had the chance of meeting a number of directors and designers of Nikon, in addition to visiting its main factory at Sendai (Miyagi Prefecture) and Ohi (Fukui Prefecture), where he could see how the Japanese workers of Nikon made things, in a very thorough way and giving all of themselves with high doses of passion, unwavering commitmment for the firm and love for photography.

Evidently, their technological prowess and skill regarding innovative engineering and optical breakthroughs were amazing, turning them into the benchmark multinational brand in the 35 mm photography field, but besides and not less important, they were people you could trust on for any enterprise, since their awesome toil, chivalry and learning capacity was highly related with the ancient bushido code, its moral values underscoring sincerity, loyalty, righteousness, heroic courage, benevolence, compassion, respect, honour, self-control, honesty until death and a collective sense of things, always searching for the common welfare of persons.

From scratch, this Japanese philosophy and life raison d´être made a great impression in Grey Levett and would be instrumental in improving him as a human being in many respects.

Furthermore, he was reported first-hand the beginning of Nikon legend as a photographic brand when during the Korean War (1950-1953)

                                                                                                                                           © jmse

A Nikkor lens is checked at Nippon Kogaku camera plant in Ohi (Japan) in early fifties. © Bob Schutz

David Douglas Duncan, Life photographer, in 1950, at the beginning of the Korean War, with his Leica IIIc coupled to a 4 elements in 3 groups Nikkor-Q.C 13,5 cm f/3.5 (a very good lens for its time (though at full aperture its performance was a bit soft compared to f/5.6, f/8 and f/11, diaphragms in which its image quality improved significantly), delivering moderate saturation of colours but with a very nice and characteristic vintage image and based on the Carl Zeiss Jena 13,5 cm f/4 slightly increasing its widest aperture) manufactured by Nippon Kogaku in LTM39 thread mount.

                                                                                                                         © jmse

The book My Century (Arcade Publishing) by David Douglas Duncan, one of the best war photographers in history, signed and personally dedicated to his great friend Gray Levett.

David Douglas Duncan (Leica IIIc), Jun Miki (Leica IIIf) and Horace Bristol (Zeiss Ikon Contax II) used excellent Nippon Kogaku lenses (originally designed for the Nikon S rangefinder camera created by Masahiko Fuketa but provided for the three photographers with their respective German mounts) like the Nikkor S.C 5 cm f/1.4, Nikkor P.C. 8,5 cm f/2, Nikkor S.C 8,5 cm f/1.5 and Nikkor-Q.C 13,5 cm f/3.5 which approached very much in resolving power to the best Carl Zeiss and Leitz lenses of the time and outperforming them in sharpness and contrast, so the pictures made with the Japanese lenses delivered better results in terms of acutance and global image quality on being reproduced on the pages of the best illustrated magazines of the time like Life.

On the other hand, Gray Levett´s concept of brand product quality is a very comprehensive one, including not only optomechanical factors like imaque quality, resolution, contrast, tonal range, bokeh, colour precision, mechanical build, flawless working of components and first-string level of the metals used, AF speed and accuracy, endurance of cameras and lenses under harsh professional conditions and the most different extreme environments and so forth,

                                                                                                                       © jmse

Commemorative oak wood plaque celebrating the 1985-2011 25th Anniversary of Grays of Westminster with sincere accolades as a world-class camera store given to Gray Levett and the Grays of Westminster team by Makoto Kimura, President of Nikon Corporation Japan, Professional Photographer magazine, Amateur Photographer magazine and the British Photographic Industry News for its endeavour to help professional photographers, its understanding of the Nikon brand and its unmatched after sales service and care with clients.

but also an unrivalled attention to customer as top priority for which the whole Grays of Westminster team has always worked full-blast, striving after solving any problem as soon as possible, with a second to none attention and technical support, exceedingly fast turnarounds and a continuous effort as a Nikon highly experienced and knowledgeable specialist to provide all kind of advice to get good pictures.

PERMANENT CONTACT WITH PROFESSIONAL NIKON PHOTOGRAPHERS

Another of the seminal factors in the maturity and host of accomplishments achieved by Grays of Westminsters during these thirty-three years has been the unabating feedback received by many professional Nikon photographers, who to all intents and purposes have become members of the family :

                                                                                                                         © jmse

Big enlargement inside Grays of Wetsminster shop of a black and white picture showing professional photographer and movie director Stanley Kubrick during the shooting of a film with an Arriflex 35 BL camera. The famous American cinematographer began his career working as a teenager photojournalist for Look magazine in 1946 and used a wide range of cameras like the 4 x 5 ( 10 x 12 cm) large format Graflex Peacemaker Speed Graphic, the Leica IIIc, the Zeiss Ikon Contax II, the Pentax K, the Kodak Monitor 620, the Rolleiflex Automat Model RF 111A, the Rolleiflex K2, the Rolleiflex Automat Model K14, the Polaroid SX-70, the Minox and others, though his favourite one was the Nikon F. He kept a great friendship with Gray Levett until his death in 1999, visiting the Grays of Westminster shop very often during his trips to England and being advised on Nikon technical aspects by both Gray Levett and the great Geoffrey Crawley (one of the most important experts on optics in the history of photography, editor of the British Journal of Photography magazine for 21 years, author of legendary articles in Amateur Photographer magazine on scientific aspects of photography, lenses, colour management standards, etc, sadly passed away in 2010) as was explained by Tony Frewin, Stanley Kubrick´s personal assistant.

Heather Angel, Stanley Kubrick, Tony Hurst, Andrew Main Wilson, Simon Stafford, Nigel Atherton, Garry Coward-Williams, Michael Doven, Michael Eleftheriades, Daniel Lezano, Neil Lucas, Mike Maloney, Sir Simon Marsden, Joe McNally, Moose Peterson, Chris Weston, Richard Young, Becky Danese, Mark Gibson, Konstantin Kochkin and many others, without forgetting the also invaluable help and advice provided by recognized film directors like John Krish and Tristan Oliver.

Therefore, Grey Levett and his highly proficient staff (Tabitha Hardy, Becky Danese, Konstantin Kochkin, Caroline Nolan, Raffi Silvanian, Mark Gibson, Katrin Ruckert, Pablo Monteagudo, Tracey Winskill, Eniko Varadi, Daniel Croft, Andreja Obadic and Xam) have always had a practical approach to photography, deeming the opinion of experienced pros on the go much more important than MTF curves and all kind of technical analyses of cameras, lenses and accessories, in addition to considering that real photography is a haptic tangible entity on paper and that pictures are not only made by cameras and lenses, but above all by the eye, heart and head of the photographer, his/her ability to be at the right place at the adequate moment, his/her accuracy to press the shutter release button of the camera capturing the defining instants, the talent to see the picture and the best directions and qualities of light, etc.

                                                                                                                                          © jmse

THE MOST EXTENSIVE STOCK OF NIKON NEWEST AND USED DIGITAL GEAR OF XXI CENTURY, IN ADDITION TO SECOND HAND REFLEX AND RANGEFINDER CAMERAS AND LENSES FROM XX CENTURY

Grays of Westminster is a sancta sanctorum not only of Nikon brand products and its history but particularly of looking after anybody arriving at the store, and from the very moment you enter the shrine, you feel a very special atmosphere in which there isn´t any hurry, pressure on the customer to make him/her purchase or stress of any kind, and every visitor can comfortably and quietly take the time he/she needs to touch the desired camera, lens or accessory, verify its cosmetic appearance and working and then buy it or not.

Have no doubt. You are very well treated and feel like at home as a result of the hallmark customer service of the company, which is simply the best, with an upright goal as pivotal tenet : if the customer decides to acquire something, he will leave the store with the full confidence and knowledge that now he has got the right camera, lens or accessory for his specific needs or favourite photographic genres, after having been served by a highly experienced professional who has patiently listened to his problems, solving them and paying attention to every detail, with the added bonus of being cognizant that the items have been meticulously checked before being put on sale, so they boast an impeccable operation as well as featuring a great cosmetic condition fostering their beauty of lines and industrial design.

                                                                                                                                         © jmse

There´s a vast range of Nikon equipment instantly available on display and a highly discerning, professional and trained staff with great product knowledge, astonishing attention to detail and constantly assisting customers with insightful advices, because the team´s genuine passion for helping them never seems to wane and keeps on with the same intensity after the sale, to such an extent that the legendary nature photographer and movie maker Jim Brandenburg has often said that Grays of Westminster is one of his favorite places in the whole world.

                                                                                                                                            © jmse

                                                                                                                                            © jmse

                                                                                                                         © jmse

Early Nikon F coupled to a 7 elements in 5 groups Nikkor-S Auto 5 cm f/2 early non Ai lens (the first standard one made for the Nikon F mount in 1959 and produced until 1964) featuring a very accurate scalloped focusing ring. Though not delivering the excellent values of resolving power, contrast and sharpness of other Nikkor lenses like the 6 elements in 4 groups Nikkor-H Auto 50 mm f/2 (1964-1972), the 6 elements in 4 groups Nikkor 50 mm f/2 AI (1974-1979, sharing the character of the Nikkor-S Auto 5 cm f/2 at full aperture as well as adding its peculiar flare similar to a delicate veil surrounding each light of source generating a gorgeous kind of vintage image, but improving its resolving power, sharpness and contrast on being stopped down), the 5 elements in 5 groups Nikkor-S Auto 50 mm f/1.4 (1966-1974), the Nikkor 50 mm f/1.2 AI and AI-s ( 1978 until nowadays), the 7 elements in 6 groups Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 Ai (1977-1981), the 6 elements in 5 groups 50 mm f/1.8 AI and others, the Nikkor-S Auto 5 cm f/2 non Ai is a very interesting lens from an optical viewpoint, particularly at its widest f/2 aperture, where it exhibits a unique image aesthetics and signature of its own, beautifully depicting atmospheres and feelings, in addition to rendering two utterly different kinds of images depending on being used at f/2 or stopped down between f/4 and f/11. Besides, it is a very good lens for portraits, where its a bit low contrast and muting of colour range is adequate for skin tones and helps create images with special feel and glow.

And of course, both camera and lens are in near mint condition, id est, almost brand new, a conspicuous trait of vast majority of the second hand items on sale at Grays of Westminster. The unique stand was designed by Tony Hurst and made by Michael Eleftheriades.

As a matter of fact, each user of Nikon photographic tools turning up at Grays of Westminster will be carefully listened and will have the opportunity to explain his / her specific needs for as long as wished until finding the most adequate camera and lenses for his/her shootings.

Moreover, a craftsmanship philosophy pervades every activity inside the three floors of this temple of photography placed in Pimlico, Central London, and whose very beautiful wooden cabinets hold real treasures, including highly valuable historical cameras and lenses working flawlessly.

ONLY MINT OR NEAR MINT SECOND HAND ITEMS ON SALE

Obviously, Grays of Westminster is a very good choice to acquire new professional full frame digital photographic cameras like the


Nikon D810,
D850,

In the summer of 2017 the NASA bought 53 bodies of the Nikon D5 full frame reflex camera, of which ten were sent to the ISS (International Space Station) following a previous stage in which it used some other Nikon professional digital reflex cameras like the Nikon D2Xs and the Nikon D4.

D5,


Df, semiprofessional ones with 24 x 36 mm format sensors like the D610, D750, or amateur ones featuring APS-C format sensor like the D500, D5300, D5500, D7200, D7500, etc.

But from the ground up thirty-three years ago, a futher choice for customers and one of the most decisive keynotes of Grays of Westminster has been to also buy second hand items, because it only  puts on sale mint, near mint or excellent ++ cameras, lenses and accessories, both in the analogue and digital scopes, and only after each used article has been thoroughly checked.

This praiseworthy labour is very appreciated by customers, and has two main areas of activity:

a) Second hand Nikon digital cameras, specially professional models like the Nikon D3 (2007), Nikon D3S (2009), Nikon D3X (2008), Nikon D4 (2012), Nikon D4S (2014). It is true that generally speaking customers are more apprehensive to buy second hand digital cameras (being afraid of deteriorated sensors, electronic components or CPUs) but the very painstaking work of Grays of Westminster in this regard, checking the proper functioning of everything does reduce very much the risk of purchase and if there is any problem they will fix it free or change the camera for another one of the same model.

This can be a very interesting option for customers wishing to buy top-notch Nikon digital gear, because the price of a second hand professional digital full frame Nikon camera can often be half or less than the original price tag.

And of course, there´s a vast array of second hand modern professional AF FX, AF-S FX Silent Wave, AF-S & AF DX Nikkor lenses on sale.

Even, now and then the latest professional Nikon cameras and lenses appear second hand when only one or two years have elapsed since their launching into market, so it is possible to find very good offers with the stuff in really very good condition.

b) Second hand Nikon analogue 35 mm format rangefinder cameras and lenses. This is one of the most stunning highlights of Grays of Westminster, which has on sale real jewels from fifties and early sixties like the

                                                                                                                       © jmse

Nikon S rangefinder camera (1951-1955) with Nikkor-S.C 5 cm f/1.4 lens in near mint condition with its original blue box inside one of the glass cabinets of the Nippon Kogaku Room in Grays of Westminster lower floor.

The 24 x 34 mm format Nikon S (1951-1955) was the first big sale success of the Japanese photographic firm, on being massively exported to the United States, after the great results obtained by Life magazine photographers Carl Mydans (who had visited the Nippon Kogaku factory in Ohi, Tokyo, in July 1950) and had changed his Contax II for a Nikon S in 1951), Hank Walker (coverage of Incheon invasion), Margaret Bourke-White (coverage of the operations against guerrilla units behind the line front during the stalemate stage of the conflict) and Michael Rougier (coverage of D.W.Eisenhower visit) using Nikon S and Nikkor lenses.


Launched into market in 1951, the Nikon S combined the best virtues of the Contax II and the LTM39 thread mount Leicas, with the added benefit that its Nikkor lenses beat in optical performance in the center and specially in contrast to the equivalent focal length objectives featuring identical widest apertures of both famous German firms, and at a much cheaper price.


Though evidently the external appearance of the Nikon S greatly resembles the Contax II, its inner mechanical components are in a very high percentage fruit of the ingenuity and perseverance of the Nippon Kogaku Japanese engineers, who chose to include a horizontal travelling focal-plane shutter following the track of the classic screwmount Leicas, whose working reliability and duration over time were far superior to the much more complex metallic focal-plane vertical travelling shutter of the Contax II.


On the other hand, the Nikon S viewfinder featured a 0.6x magnification (the same as the Konica Hexar RF launched into market forty-eight years later, in 1999) and combined with the rangefinder - simple but getting good accuracy - in an only window, in the same way as in the Zeiss Ikon Contax II and IIa. Obviously, both the viewfinder magnification and the RF effective base length were far from the ones in the Zeiss Ikon Contax II and IIa by which the Nikon S is strongly inspired, but no other thing could be done in that regard to implement cost savings. Besides, the aim was to create a camera optimized for use with 35 and 50 mm lenses, although it could also be used through special auxiliary finders with the excellent Nikkor P.C 8,5 cm f/2, Nikkor S.C 8,5 cm f/1.5 and Nikkor-Q.C 13,5 cm f/3.5, which were together with the Nikkor S.C 5 cm f/1.4 the lenses that really catapulted Nikon to international fame after being used by the photographers Jun Miki (in LTM39 thread mount on Leica IIIf), David Douglas Duncan (in LTM39 thread mount on Leica IIIc) and Horace Bristol (with Contax bayonet on his Zeiss Ikon Contax II which subsequently would change for a Nikon S) during the Korean War from 1950 on.


The 7 elements in 3 groups and 12 diaphragm blades Nikkor-S.C 5 cm f/1.4 lens features a blue tonality single coating and replaced the Nikkor 50 mm f/3.5 and Nikkor H.C 5 cm f/2 (which had been sported by the Nikon I and Nikon M cameras) as standard lens.


                                                                                                                          © jmse

Nikon S3 Year 2000 Limited Edition with Nikkor-S 50 mm f/1.4 Limited Edition lens, everything in brand new condition, including the box. This camera was made by Nikon as a chrome finish modern identical version of the famous Nikon S3 rangefinder camera produced between 1958 and 1967.

And to match it, Nikon created one of the best standard f/1.4 lenses for 24 x 36 mm format ever made: the 7 elements in 5 groups Nikkor-S 50 mm f/1.4 Limited Edition featuring a new optical formula, state-of-the-art multicoatings and a 9 blades diaphragm.


It has often been stated that this is the best lens made by Nikon in its whole history, which is true, but probably an underestimation, since through tests carried out by Tom Abrahamsson (a professional photojournalist, member of the LHSA and the Nikon Historical Society and world-class expert on Leica and Nikkor lenses, sadly demised in 2017) and Dr. Edward Schwartzreich (also member of the LHSA and the Nikon Historical Society and likewise a remarkable pundit on Leica and Nikkor lenses) between 2006 and 2008 proved that the Nikkor-S 50 mm f/1.4 Limited Edition (manufactured between 2000 and 2002) was almost as good as the 8 elements in 5 groups Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH designed by Peter Karbe in 2004 and delivering a stratospheric optical performance even at full aperture, to such an extent that for the first time in forty-five years, the non aspherical 7 elements in 5 groups Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 created by Walter Mandler in 1959 and which had reigned supreme throughout 47 years, could be improved.


If we bear in mind that the Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH designed by Peter Karbe (Head of Optics Development at Leica Camera AG and nowadays the best optical designer in the world) was the best standard lens on earth until the introduction of the 12 elements in 10 groups Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Apo- Distagon T* in 2017,  we can understand the huge achievement attained by Nikon with the Nikkor-S 50 mm f/1.4 Limited Edition, a stellar performing lens in terms of resolving power, contrast, sharpness, correction of distortion and mechanical build, along with a great bokeh and a commendable correction of vignetting (barely visible at widest aperture and non existing at f/2).


Nikon S3 (1958-1964),

                                                                                                                                       © jmse

Nikon SP (1957-1962) with a Nikkor-S.C 5 cm f/1.4 lens, everything in near mint condition inside one of the glass cabinets of the Nippon Kogaku Room within the lower floor of Grays of Westminster snazzy photographic shop.

The Nikon SP has been the best rangefinder camera ever made along with the Leica M3, and it is an easily recognizable model because of its huge viewfinder covering almost half of the camera front top.

This viewfinder of the Nikon SP is the most comprehensive made hitherto, since it has projected parallax corrected frame lines for 50, 85, 105 and 135 lenses, each one being introduced by a lens selector dial.

But if it weren´t enough, on the left of the VF there are frames for 28 mm and 35 mm wideangle lenses that are fixed in position.

The first 14,000 Nikon SP cameras had cloth shutters, while the rest of production boasted titanium shutter curtains.

Grays of Westminster has on sale in almost brand new condition the 18 x 24 mm half format Nikon S3M (1960) rangefinder camera with S72 motor drive.

And of course, there´s also available a wide range of vintage lenses which can be coupled to all of these wonderful Nippon Kogaku rangefinder cameras, like the W-Nikkor.C 3.5 cm f/1.8 black with chrome aperture ring version, the W-Nikkor.C 3.5 cm f/2.5 Chrome, the W-Nikkor.C 2.8 cm f/3.5,

                                                                                                                           © jmse

W-Nikkor.C 3.5 cm f/3.5 wideangle lens for Nikon S mount Nippon Kogaku rangefinder cameras beside its original box. Featuring 4 elements in 3 groups, this is a small Tessar type lens with old design and ergonomics, since it was created in 1948 (inspired by some Carl Zeiss Jena wideangles from thirties) as one of the objectives to be coupled to the 24 x 32 mm Nikon I rangefinder launched into market that year. It delivers good image quality in the center, though its optical performances drops significantly in the corners, where it is clearly beaten by the excellent 7 elements in 5 groups W-Nikkor.C 3.5 cm f/1.8 and the 6 elements in 4 groups W-Nikkor.C 3.5 cm f/2.5, which in addition, outperform it in sharpness and contrast. Anyway, the W-Nikkor.C 3.5 cm f/3.5 is a very interesting lens from a historical viewpoint and generates a beautiful vintage aesthetics of image with a distinctive look, is usable at full aperture, sharp from f/5.6 onwards and its slight barrel distortion inherent to the wideangle lenses of its time is not a problem in most photographic situations, though the two aforementioned other W-Nikkor are much better choices to shoot with low levels of light. 

the W-Nikkor.C 3.5 cm f/3.5, the Nikkor N 5 cm f/1.1 with external mount, the Nikkor N 5 cm f/1.1 with Internal Mount, the Micro-Nikkor 5 cm f/3.5, the Nikkor-P.C 8.5 cm f/2 chrome, the Nikkor-P.C 10.5 cm f/2.5 black, the Nikkor-Q 13.5 cm f/3.5 and others.

c) Second hand Nikon slr cameras and lenses. It´s by far the most comprehensive choice available in the world, as usual with mint and near mint units of such top quality cameras like

The Nikon F (1959-1974) ,

                                                                                                                             © jmse               
Undoubtedly, there have been few more significant milestones in photography than the advent of the slr Nikon F in 1959, fruit of painstaking planning, anticipation and getting everything right from scratch, which resulted in a reference-class photographic system in terms of ruggedness, reliability of impeccable operation, durability, versatility and sheer optical and mechanical quality of a huge and steadily expanding range of lenses and accessories . Here we can see a Chrome Nikon F with a 7 elements in 5 groups Nikkor-S Auto 5 cm f/2 inside one of the glass cabinets of Grays of Westminster. Beside them there´s a Nippon Kogaku F 52 mm snap-on lens hood and the lens cap.

The Nikon F was manufactured between 1959 and 1974, fifteen years of huge technical advances, so this camera is a homage to the strength of the starting design concept living up to the reliability of Leica M cameras and being better than any other slr on the market as one of the fundamental key factors for success, since the camera body was essentially unchanged throughout that period, bearing a great resemblance to the Nikon S2 and S3 rangefinder models once the lens and prism are removed.


All of it is very praiseworthy, because from 1959 onwards the Nikon F managed to win the battle against the German Contarex Bullseye, which was the best engineered and highest quality 24 x 36 mm slr camera in early sixties (as well as offering some world-class chrome lenses like the CZ Biogon 21 mm f/4.5, CZ Distagon 35 mm f/4, CZ Planar 50 mm f/2, CZ Planar 55 mm f/1.4, CZ Sonnar 85 mm f/2, CZ Sonnar 135 mm f/4, Carl Zeiss Sonnar 250 mm f/4 and CZ Vario-Sonnar 40-120 mm f/2.8), though extremely complex, very large and heavy and with an exceedingly high production cost), though the Japanese firm prevailed with the Nikon F giving news and magazine photographers using 24 x 36 mm format what they wanted : speed, style, simplicity, versatility, reliability, ruggedness, a slew of top-notch lenses, much smaller size and weight and a lower price than the extraordinary camera made in Stuttgart, with the added bonus (unlike the Contarex Bullseye ) of many interchangeable viewfinders and focusing screens, so a photographer could set up one Nikon F camera for wideangle focusing and a second one for a telephoto lens, working with both of them.

The Nikon F Photomic (1968-1973) ,
                                   
                                                                                                                             © jmse

Black Nikon F Photomic in mint condition inside another of the glass cabinets of Grays of Wetsminster. To be able to get pictures with a camera like this is a true relish for any lover of photography and enthusiast of top-notch utterly mechanic devices who will also swoon with  the possibility of finding a lot of different and fully functioning Photomic metering heads (not only the Photomic T from 1965 featuring TTL, the Photomic Tn with centerweighted metering, and the Photomic FTn from 1968 boasting automatic aperture coupling with " horseshoe " Nikkor lenses, but even the  earliest non TTL Photomic metered prisms from 1962 working through a flip-up blind masking the selenium cell and which turned the meter on and off) inside Grays of Westminster, something usually uncommon but accomplished by this exclusive Nikon shop in London whose hallmark has always been to strive after finding items in flawless condition for its worldwide customers.

Needless to say that the sounds yielded by this mythical camera while working like a charm in spite of the many decades elapsed since it was made, is certainly unutterable and a feast for the senses.

                                                                                                                             © jmse

Near mint Photomic FTN finder for black Nikon F in flawless working condition. Its main advantage for the time was that it could recognize the diaphragm of the lens being used. It has also a small slot on front of the finder, under the Nikon letters, with a maximum aperture diaphragm scale that must be checked to verify if the meter is set for the maximum aperture of the lens used. On its top is the meter window housing the meter needle for exposure estimation and battery checking. Its introduction in 1968 meant a significant improvement in comparison to previous F meters like the Photomic T and Photomic Tn, since it allowed the fast coupling of a lens to the meter, as well as attaching it to the camera body more safely thanks to a new front latch over the nameplate. And depending on the ASA set by the photographer on the prism, a spring loaded mechanism in the finder automatically makes the maximum lens aperture known to the metering circuit. In addition, the Photomic FTN finder features a shutter speed index and a shutter speed scale.

Nikkormat FTn (1965-1978, a very solid and amazingly well built camera boasting a mechanic Copal shutter with metal blades and working at every shutter speed without batteries, with which Nikon managed to provide tha advanced amateur users with the same level of quality than the professional market with the Nikon F, to such an extent that it was even chosen by foremost professional photographers like the great photojournalist Terry Fincher, who used two Nikkormat FTn cameras coupled to 50 mm, 105 mm and 200 mm Nikkor lenses during his coverage of the Vietnam War, in which on assignment for a daily newspaper, he proved an uncommon gift to tell a story with only one or two pictures), Nikkormat FT2 (1975-1977), Nikkormat EL (1972-1976),

                                                                                                                            © jmse

Nikon F2, an utterly mechanical masterpiece built according to the highest quality standards and manually assembled. Produced between 1971 and 1980 (with a production run of roughly 900,000 bodies), the Nikon F2 was the best 35 mm camera in the world for almost ten years and its design dates back to mid sixties, when though clearly dominating the international slr market with the Nikon F becoming the standard choice of most professional photographers, it dawned on Nikon that the genius Yoshihisa Maitani would launch into market extraordinary 24 x 36 mm format slr cameras from early seventies (as happened with the amazing and exceedingly breakthrough Olympus OM-1 in 1972) and that Canon would do likewise (as a matter of fact, it launched the Canon F-1 in 1971). Both of them were formidable slr camera systems with a huge variety of accessories, motordrives, focusing screens, backs, eyepieces and first-rate lenses, so Nikon was bound to create a camera replacing the superb Nikon F which had taken it to the summit, if it wanted to go on being the flagship brand in the 35 mm slr cameras scope. And that camera was the Nikon F2, a rugged professional tool built like a tank, with titanium horizontal shutter and in which improvements with respect to the Nikon F were extensive: shutter speeds up to 1/2000 s, 1/80 s flash synchronization speed, ISO 6 to 6400 with initial DP-1 head, large reflex mirror to minimize VF vignetting with some lenses, integrated on/off switch in film advance lever, rounded contour body for better ergonomics, rewind crank with a 6 mm raised position for easier manual film rewinding, removable hinged back, depth of field preview lever, mirror-lock up, self-timer between 2 and 10 seconds, and many more things, being the core of a very comprehensive camera system including: five photometric viewfinders (the DP-1, DP-2, DP-3 and subsequently the DP-11 and DP-12 for the new AI lenses), four specific finders apart from the photometric ones (the sporting finder, the non photometric pentaprism, the astrophotographic finder DW-2 and the waist level folding DW-1 finder), twenty different focusing screens, two motordrives varieties, four different backs, and many more accessories.

Nikon F2 (1971-1980), Nikon F2 Photomic, Nikon F2A Photomic, Nikon F2 SB Photomic,

                                                                                                                             © jmse

Nikon F2S Photomic with the DP-2 meter prism, with three leds for the exposure instead of a needle. This prism could meter from -2 EV. It is essentially a F2 body fitted with the DP-2 meter prism including the eyepiece, the prism and the meter, which increased significantly the versatility of the camera. An entirely mechanical camera manufactured between 1973 and 1976, it boasts a horizontal titanium foil focal-plane shutter and a 100% coverage viewfinder, in the same way as the Nikon F, Nikon F2 and Nikon F3. Its shutter speeds range between 10 seconds and 1/2000 s, B and T. Both the Nikon F2 and the Nikon F2S Photomic are cameras designed to last a lifetime.

Nikon F2S Photomic, Nikon F2A, Nikon FM chrome, Nikon FM3A, Nikon FM2 chrome, Nikon FM2n chrome, Nikon FE2, Nikon F3, Nikon F3 HP,

                                                                                                                            © jmse

Nikon F3 Titanium from 1982 in mint condition within one of the glass cabinets of Grays of Westminster. 

The Nikon F3 (1980-2001) is a great electronic manual focus camera whose contours were created by Giorgetto Giugiaro. It features a horizontal focal plane titanium shutter, a 100% image field coverage viewfinder, speeds from 8 seconds to 1/2000 s, flash synchronization at 1/80, depth of field preview, mirror lock-up and uses the MD-4 motor drive. In addition, there´s available a host of focusing screens (up to 24 different ones, of which the most versatile one is the standard K screen) and accessories for the Nikon F3, which was also a landmark camera because it introduced the diaphragm priority automatic exposure, very useful for professional photographers.

On the other hand, it is as robust as the Nikon F2, but lighter and likewise a very strong workhorse able to endure the hardest professional use in all kind of photographic assignments and extreme temperatures, as well as being a great choice for astrophotography and macrophotography.

Though being a manual focusing camera lacking AF, the Nikon F3 was the turning point that opened the way for the future professional Nikon electronic autofocus cameras like the Nikon F4, Nikon F5, Nikon F90x, Nikon F100, Nikon F6, etc.

And the driving force of this technological evolution was the genius Tetsuro Goto, a world-class expert in electronics and microchips applied to photographic cameras who worked in the Nikon F3, was the chief designer of the electronic part of the Nikon F4 (1988-1997, first professional autofocus camera of the Japanese brand, which also pioneered the multi-segment matrix metering in the F series cameras) and subsequently would create his supreme work: the Nikon F5 (1996-2004) with which he managed to optimize the percentage of correct exposures complementing the classic information about brilliance and contrast of a scene with a highly efficient and reliable 3D colour matrix metering analyzing the subjects and detecting information on the colour of each one of the 1005 pixels of the Red Green Blue CCD, and then the colour data were transferred to a data base with algorithms in synergy with the microcomputers of the camera and a strenuous previous work of some years in which nothing less than 30,000 pictures were made in a myriad of different real photographic contexts making up an image library, so the final result, obtained in a split second, is an exceedingly accurate estimation of the exposure value, which enhances to the utmost the percentage of perfect images. 

Nikon F3 Titanium, Nikon F4, Nikon F5, Nikon F6 and others, and top-notch manual focusing lenses like the Nikkor 28 mm f/2.8 AI-s, Nikkor 35 mm f/1.4 Ai-S,

                                                                                                                                              © jmse

Nikkor-H Auto 50 mm f/2, Nikkor 50 mm f/1.2 Ai-s, Micro-Nikkor 55 mm f/2.8 AI-s,

                                                                                                                                           © jmse

Noct-Nikkor 58 mm f/1.2, Nikkor 85 mm f/1.4 AI-s, Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5 AI-s, Nikkor ED 200 mm f/2 IF Ai-S, Nikkor ED 300 mm f/2.8 IF Ai-S, Nikkor ED 400 mm f/2.8 IF Ai-S, Nikkor ED 800 mm f/5.6 IF AI-s and many others.

The great advantage of these old gorgeous manual focusing lenses lacking chips or any kind of inner electronic circuitry is that they deliver impressive optical performance, even at full aperture, along with a highly distinctive and very beautiful image aesthetics impossible to emulate with Adobe Photoshop or other softwares, in addition to boasting a second to none very robust mechanical construction which guarantees a flawless working for many decades of intensive use.

Besides, a significant percentage of them deliver a wonderful bokeh when used at their widest diaphragms, and can be coupled not only to 35 mm Nikon analog cameras from last century but also to digital ones from XXI century, with the great convenience that means being able to use them (thanks to the versatility of the mythical Nikon F mount) in synergy with Nikon digital cameras featuring full frame and APS-C sensors delivering great image quality without noise at very high sensitivities of ISO 3.200 and often much more.

Likewise, there are on sale a number of highly valuable rare cameras and lenses making up coveted items for collectors or investors, also in new, mint or near mint condition and working like a charm, like the Nikon F Apollo, the Nikon F Photomic FTn " Apollo ", the Nikon F Chrome German Market Edition, the Nikon F3 Press, the Nikon F3 Limited Edition, the Nikon F3/T black, the Nikon F3/T Champagne,

                                                                                                                     © jmse

Nikon F High Speed Motor Drive Camera Type 1 from 1971. It features a pellicle mirror, so there isn´t any reflex mirror movement or image black-out during the exposure. This camera was able to shoot 7 fps, an impressive technological breakthrough for the time. After a search of thirty years, Gray Levett could acquire a unit of this very rare camera (only approximately fifty of them were made) which is nowadays displayed in the Nippon Kogaku room at Grays of Westminster shop. On top of the pentaprism, installed in the hot shoe, can be seen the 135-300 finder showing 80 % of the image field. The lens attached to it is a 6 elements in 4 groups Nikkor-H.C Auto 50 mm f/2 non Ai ( 1972-1974 ) multicoated delivering very good image quality, specially regarding sharpness, and boasting a superb silky smooth and exceddingly accurate focusing ring that makes it a great choice for HD and 4K video recording, delivering images with unique vintage character and look, in addition to offering an uncommon price/quality ratio.

the Nikon F High Speed Motor Drive Camera Type 1 from 1971, the Nikon F3H (High Speed), the Nikon FM2n Lapita, the Nikon FM2n with 50 mm f/1.4 AIS Dragon Millennium Edition Kit, The Nikon FM2 T Year of the Dog 1994, the Nikon FA Gold camera outfit, the Nikon F2 Titanium, the Nikon F High Speed Sapporo Camera,

                                                                                                                              © jmse

Manual focusing Nikkor 13 mm f/5.6 AI-s inside the mythical lower Nippon Kogaku Room of Grays of Westminster store. This amazing ultrawide rectilinear lens surrounded by a fixed petal hood was an optical feat for 1972, year in which it was designed, being produced between 1976 and 1988 in Pre AI, AI and Ai-s versions (the latter ones being by far the most abundant ones). It features 16 elements in 12 groups and was created by Ikuo Mori, one of the best optical designers of Nikon ever. Only 350 units were made, so it is a coveted collector´s item with a very steep price.

                                                                                                                             © jmse

The Nikkor 13 mm f/5.6 AI-s includes Nikon Integrated Multi Coating and floating rear elements to get very good image quality also at the shortest focusing distances. Its resolving power, sharpness and contrast is very good (obviously such a hugely wideangle lens designed in 1972 lacking aspherical elements can´t reach the stellar performance in those aspects of much modern extreme wideangle lenses like the 14 elements — two of them being hybrid aspherical ones and one ED— in 12 groups AF-D Nikkor 14 mm f/2.8 ED from 1999 or the 14 elements — three of them glass molded aspherical ones and two ED —  in 11 groups AF-S Nikkor 14-24 mm f/2.8G ED from 2007 including nano crystal coating).

But when it was introduced in mid seventies, this lens was a world-class impressive tour de force with which Nikkor managed to beat in 2º the wide coverage of the rectilinear 1972 Carl Zeiss Distagon 15 mm f/3.5 and 1972 Takumar 15 mm f/3.5 Super-Multi-Coated (the latter featuring a large aspherical element, the third one nearest to the film) designed by Erhard Glatzel, slightly improving them in the correction of distortion, coma and falloff, sides in which the Nikkor 13 mm f/3.5 excels with very low values, truly negligible, even slightly bettering in those regards the Leica Super-Elmarit-R 15 mm f/2.8 ASPH (superior in resolving power, contrast and sharpness thanks to the shape and curvature of its aspherical element, the second one, located behind the very big front lens, but showing a slight barrel distortion of approximately a 2% in the peripheral areas of the image).

                                                                                                                              © jmse

Back area of the Nikkor 13 mm f/5.6 lens showing the sturdy Nikon mount and on top of it the L1Bc Skylight bayonet filter, which is part of the optical formula and must be permanently attached.

On the other hand, this is a lens built to the highest mechanical level.

                                                                                                                         © jmse

Detail of the L1Bc Skylight bayonet filter.

the Nikkor 13 mm f/5.6 AI-s ultra wide angle rectilinear lens, the Nikkor 7.5 mm f/5.6 Fish-eye, the Nikkor AI-s 8 mm f/2.8 Fisheye, the Nikkor 8 mm f/8 Fisheye, the Nikkor 10 mm f/5.6 OP pre-AI, the Noct-Nikkor 58 mm f/1.2 AI-s, the Nikkor 105 mm f/4.5 UV AI-s, the zoom Nikkor 80-200 mm f/2.8 ED AI-s, the Nikkor 200-400 mm f/4 IF-ED AI-s, Nikkor ED 400 mm f/5.6 IF AI-s, Nikkor ED 500 mm f/4P IF AI-S

MANUAL FOCUSING NIKKOR LENSES DELIVERING GREAT RESULTS IN HD AND 4K VIDEO RECORDINGS

This is one of the most interesting spheres of activity of Grays of Westminster, whose highly professional staff will give very useful advice to professionals and advanced amateurs when it comes to obtaining splendid image quality in their movies according to their needs.

And the fascinating evolution of digital photography has resulted in cameras like the 45.7 megapixel Nikon D850 with a state-of-the-art sensor featuring backside illumination optimizing the brightness of pixels and the quality of the entering light and the added advante of recording video in HD and 4K in full frame

Evidently, cameras like this can get great photographies with impressive image quality in terms of resolving, power, resolution, dynamic range, ability to preserve image quality at very high ISOS beyond ISO 3200 and so forth.

But it isn´t less true that the video recording possibilities of professional and advanced amateur filmmakers have been hugely enhanced to unthinkable levels only ten years ago. Such is the unrelentless pace of digital technology steadily bettering itself and whose symbiosis with vintage Nikkor AI and AI-s manual focusing lenses can be truly wonderful, thanks to the compatibility of Nikon F mount, which makes possible to connect them to first-rate professional digital Nikon cameras like the Nikon 800, 810, 850, D5, Df and advanced amateur ones like the D610, D750 and others.

It is apparent that any of these cameras will deliver excellent image quality regarding resolving power and contrast connected to the vast array of AF-S Nikkor G ED lenses like
the AF-S Nikkor 14-24 mm f/2.8G ED (a superb and highly versatile ultra wide angle zoom, not as superlatively well corrected in distortion and vignetting as the Canon EF 14-24 mm f/4L but sporting a widest f/2.8 aperture, slightly outperforming it in resolution and contrast in the center, and is nowadays the best zoom lens in the world for 24 x 36 mm format sensor cameras in the sphere of reportage and landscape photography, in addition to excelling in its awesome evenness of optical performance at every diaphragm between f/2.8 and f/11 and in every and each of its focal lengths, even outperforming in this sphere the superb Leica Vario-Elmar-R 21-35 mm f/3.5-4 ASPH, something really laudable, because the AF-S Nikkor 14-24 mm f/2.8G ED reaches a 7 mm wider angular coverage, so its design was much more difficult and greater the investment on its development, also delivering splendid colours, whereas on the corners there´s a slight qualitative decrease at f/2.8 which approaches results in the image center from f/4),
the AF-S Nikkor 24-70 mm f/2.8G ED, the AF-S Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8G ED VR II, the AF-S Nikkor 24 mm f/1.4G ED, the AF-S Nikkor 35 mm f/1.4G, the AF-S Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4G, the AS-S Nikkor 58 mm f/1.4G, the AF-S Nikkor 85 mm f/1.4G, Nikon AF-S VR Micro 105 mm f/2.8G IF-ED, the Nikon AF DC-Nikkor 105 mm f/2 D (delivering an extraordinary bokeh at its widest aperture) and others.

But many professional videographers shoot videos entirely in manual focus mode and vast majority of experts agree that the best possible results in professional video recording with Nikon objectives will be achieved with manual focusing Nikkor AI lenses from seventies and Nikkor AI-s lenses from eighties, because of some major factors :

1) These old manual focusing lenses have most times preserved intact their fantastic optomechanical qualities, thanks to their extraordinary entirely metallic build and the great quality of the glasses used in their optical formula, being very sharp and a relish to use.

2) The centering of their optical elements and groups is excellent.

3) The focusing helicoid of Nikkor manual focusing lenses is very frequently silky smooth and features a longer focus throw than AF lenses (whose focus throw is much shorter and difficult to accurately focus by hand), a very important virtue for videographers, particularly when they work at the widest apertures to get selective focus.

4) Their bokeh is often marvellous, far more beautiful than the one rendered by modern aspherical lenses whose performance is specially biased to get maximum resolving power and contrast.

5) These vintage manual focusing Nikkor lenses were usually designed with a lot of diaphhragm blades (usually sporting a higher figure of them than modern AF lenses) to enhance the beauty of the out of focus areas when shooting at full aperture, in synergy with a certain degree of some optical aberrations which were intentionally preserved to foster that kind of image.

6) The image aesthetics and sharpness delivered by the manual focusing Nikkor lenses from seventies and eighties is more filmic and three dimensional than the modern AF aspherical ones.

And among these superb manual focusing Nikkor lenses specially competent for HD and 4K recording highlight :

- The Nikkor 24 mm f/2 AI-s.

- The Nikkor 24 mm f/2.8 Ai-s


- The Nikkor 28 mm f/2 AI


- The Nikkor 28 mm f/2.8 AI-s.


- The Nikkor-H.C Auto 50 mm f/2


- The Nikkor 50 mm f/1.2 AI


- The Nikkor 50 mm f/1.2 AI-s.


- The Nikkor 85 mm f/1.4 AI-s.


- The Nikkor 85 mm f/2 AI-s.


- The Nikkor-P Auto 10.5 cm f/2.5 Multicoated.

- The Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5 Ai-s.


- The Nikkor 135 mm f/2 AI-s.


- Nikkor 135 mm F/2.8 AI.


- The Nikkor 135 mm f/2.8 AI-s.

- The famous Noct-Nikkor 58 mm f/1.2 AI and AI-s Aspherical (manufactured between 1977 and 1997) should also be included in this list, because of the exceptional values of sharpness and contrast it reaches at its widest aperture, very similar to the ones it attains at f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6 and f/8, with an uncommon uniformity of extraordinary performance across its whole range of diaphragms and focusing distances, to such an extent that on stopping down you only gain depth of field.

But inevitably this lens is very expensive, because it was built by Nikkor as an astro photography and very low light handheld objective to outperform the 1975 8 elements in 6 groups Canon FD 55 mm f/1.2 S.S.C Aspherical ( a stellar objective for the time thanks to its aspherical element which generated a marked reduction in spherical aberration and coma at full aperture in comparison with traditional objectives featuring spherical lenses), which it attained with one less element and a state-of-the art hand ground aspherical forward surface of the fron element, also beating it with its legendary bokeh, the best of all time generated by a manual focusing reflex lens for 24 x 36 mm format along with the out of focus rendering delivered by the Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4, Minolta MC Rokkor 58 mm f/1.2, Zeiss Otus 85 mm f/1.4, Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Pancolar 80 mm f/1.8 MC, Summicron-R 90 mm f/2, Olympus Zuiko Auto-Macro 90 mm f/2, Asahi Pentax Takumar 55 mm f/1.8 Super-Multi-Coated, Asahi Pentax 85 mm f/1.8 Super-Multi-Coated and Asahi Pentax 135 mm f/2.8 Super-Multi-Coated, the Pentax FA 77 mm f/1.8, etc.

A NUMBER OF PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS

Throughout its 33 years of existence, Grays of Westminster has won plenty of important prizes who have recognized its undefatigable labour promoting the Nikon brand, its customer service and the inherent values that have enabled this Japanese company to keep on top, within the most important firms of the photographic industry since 1953, when Joe Ehrenreich, President of Ehrenreich Photo-Optical Industries (EPOI), reached an agreement with Nippon Kogaku Tokyo and began importing the Nikon S and highly luminous Nikkor lenses to United States, making a toilsome labour together with his team made up by Herbert Sax ( a highly experienced man in the scope of photographic equipments quality controls) and Joseph K. Abbot (a very knowledgeable professional in finance and marketing), making the brand known and getting big sales figures, in such a way that between 1951 and 1955 a total of 37,000 Nikon S cameras were sold worldwide (a very significant figure for the time), United States being the country in which most of them were sold.

                                                                                                                                                © jmse

But from almost 1991 onwards, the work of Gray Levett and Grays of Westminster has probably been the most important one in the whole history of Nikon brand to defend and promote the Japanese firm in specially difficult conditions, because many of the 24 x 36 mm format AF cameras and lenses launched into market by other brands since then, both analog and digital ones, have been truly superb, with an increasingly competitive photographic market.

It´s true that Gray Levett has sincere friendship with many world-class famous photographers, movie directors, highly influential people from the scopes of art, sciences, music, sports, finance, politics, and even enjoyed great acquaintanceship with already passed away foremost writers like Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson and others, as well as having photographed during seventies with black and white films and Nikon cameras and lenses many live concerts of Ozzy Osbourne, Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac with its great guitarist Peter Green, The Nice with its keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson, Rod Stewart, Jon Bavin (future production engineer and additional keyboard player of Eurythmics), Bob Geldof, Bob Dylan, John Gilston (a few years later drums for Donna Summer), Stanley Clarke (Grammy winning bassist, producer and composer of jazz, who founded the fusion band Return to Forever with Chick Corea, Lenny White and Bill Connors), etc.

But Gray Levett is above all a self-made man and humanist who has had to work and fight very hard for almost fifty-five years since he started his way in the photographic market at the N.Hartle Photographic Store of Bournemouth in mid sixties to subsequently develop his professional career in many other photographic stores and outlets all over Britain, until setting up Greys of Westminster in 1985 with very little money, but with long expertise and savv in the key elements of photographic business, product know-how, dealing with people and the way to provide a truly professional service to customers.

There was a lot of suffering and uphill battle for two decades prior to the foundation of Grays of Westminster, something which greatly kept on throughout his subsequent more than thirty years at the helm of this unique photographic shop.

Because Gray Levett has never rested on his laurels, working to his utmost during more than half a century with identical intensity and illusion.

Anybody having the chance of meeting him will quickly realize his towering human dimension, how he loves his trade and that the maximum welfare of both Grays of Westminster customers and its staff are top priority for him.

                                                                                                                                  © jmse

He´s a very experienced man fathoming all the aspects of his business to amazing levels and is able to speak for hours about market circumstances, kinds of lenses, different types of customers, market trends, prospectable users of future products still to appear, historical milestones in Nikon History and its evolution from a leading optical manufacturer to a global brand, well-known Nikon photographers, oodles of anecdotes and many more things.

Gray Levett realized from scratch that the quality/price ratio of the cameras and lenses made by Nikon was a decisive factor and grasped the immense future possibilities of those Japanese products, particularly among the professional photographers, to such an extent that he strengthened the concept of after sales support and counseling to customers by the firm, personally choosing the members of Grays of Westminster staff, managing to create the best customer service and travelling to Japan and the Nikon main factory in Ohi many times a year to report the Nippon Kogaku top directors on the improvements suggested by top class professional photographers with whom he has always been in steady contact.

This way, by dint of very strenuous effort, passion, competence and honesty, he could establish a sincere and everlasting rapport and unboundless mutual confidence with Nikon Japan.

Among the many important awards bestowed to Grays of Westminster hitherto stand out :

- The Buying Cameras Dealer of the Year Award 1993-1994.

- The Amateur Photographer Dealer of the Year Award 1994.

- The Practical Photography Awards 1994 in the People´s Choice and Dealer of the Year     categories.

- The Nikon U.K. Limited and Nikon Corporation Japan Award 2003 presented to Grays of Westminster in October of that year to commemorate its outstanding effort in promoting the Nikon System.

- The Nikon U.K. Limited and Nikon Corporation Japan Award 2007 presented to Grays of Westminster to celebrate its unprecedented sales during that year.

- The 50th Anniversary of the Nikon F Award presented to Grays of Westminster by Nikon U.K. Limited for its record-breaking sales 2008/2009.

                                                                                                          © Grays of Westminster

Special Award bestowed to Grays of Westminster in 2010 for its 25th Anniversary by Kazuo Ushida, President of Nikon Japan, during his visit to the shop in November 2014.

- The Pixel Magazine Trade Award presented to Grays of Westminster as Independent Retailer of the Year 2011.

- The What Digital Camera / Amateur Photographer " Gold Winner " Good Service Award 2011, voted by What Digital Camera readers and website visitors.

- The Nikon U.K. Limited Award 2011 presented to Grays of Westminster to celebrate its 25th Anniversary and its oustanding effort to help and give advice to Nikon users.

- The What Digital Camera / Amateur Photographer " Gold Winner " Good Service Award 2012, voted by What Digital Camera readers and website visitors.

- The What Digital Camera / Amateur Photographer " Gold Winner " Good Service Award 2014, voted by What Digital Camera readers and website visitors.

- Gear of the Year 2014 Gold Service Award, voted by Digital Photo & Practical Photography magazine readers and website visitors.

- The Her Majesty´s College of Arms " Lead in Order to Serve " , presented by Nikon Corporation to Grays of Westminster on October 29, 2014 as the only camera shop in the world to be granted a Coat of Arms.

- What Digital Camera  / Amateur Photographer " Gold Retailer " Good Service Award 2015, voted by What Digital Camera readers and website visitors.

- BPI News Trade Awards 2015 Promotion of the Year for the Grays of Westminster Coat of Arms story.

- Gear of the Year 2015 Gold Service Award, voted by Digital Photo & Practical Photography magazine readers and website visitors.

March 5, 2018 inside Grays of Westminster Exclusively Nikon Shop. From left to right ; Grey Levett (the most important Nikon dealer in history along with Joe Ehrenreich) and Mr. Toru Iwaoka (President of Nikon Europe ) at the instant of presentation of the Swarovski glass Nikon I rangefinder to Grays of Westminster for its many years of outstanding service to Nikon brand. © Grays of Westminster.

                                                                                                                                     © Tony Hurst
- 100th Anniversary Swarovski Glass Nikon I Award presented by Mr. Toru Iwaoka, President of Nikon Europe, to Grays of Westminster on March 5, 2018 for its years of outstanding service to Nikon. This is a very meaningful award, since Nikon Europe presidents have traditionally been instrumental for the worldwide development of the brand, a trend that became particularly relevant since the spring of 2000 year when Michio Miwa was elected Nikon General Director of European Operations and began to set forth the analog / digital transition in an interview made to him in Amsterdam by Nikon Pro magazine, in which he elaborated on the capabilities of the new Nikon D1 digital camera, created to satisfy the professional photographers needs in a number of scopes and with a reliability comparable to the the Nikon F5, then still the flagship of the firm.

On his turn, Toru Iwaoka (who started his professional career in Nikon in 1980, had vast previous experience as Nikon United Kingdom Director between 1989 and 1996, General Manager International Sales and Marketing Imaging Products of Nikon Singapore from 1999 to 2004, President and CEO of Nikon United States and gave the opening speech of the Photokina Köln 2010) has fulfilled a praiseworthy activity already in the digital era, promoting the brand, and doing his best to help integrate the Nikon world-leading camera expertise with the stunning advances in digital technologies resulting in the making of full-frame dslr cameras able to tackle the changing landscape of professional photography., in addition to creating corporate values within the frame of the major restructuring implemented by Kazuo Ushida (President of Nikon) and Masashi Oka (Senior Executive Vice President) since November 2016 aiming at improving profitability and investment efficiency, in synergy with the fundamental keynote expressed by Hiroshi Nakamura (Director of Tochigi Nikon Corporation for optical component production and technology center) that it is necessary to increase productivity in mainstay businesses with much more flexible production structures than the ones previously optimized for individual business unit basis, laying the foundations for future growth as soon as possible with highly differentiated products, as well as enabling a wide variety of technologies to be deployed to other businesses and easing the transmission of techniques.

NIKON 100TH ANNIVERSARY

                                                                                                                       © jmse

Commemorative glass plaque of the Nikon 100th Anniversary inside one of the cabinets of Grays of Westminster.  
         
2017 was the year of Nikon 100th Anniversary, since the Japanese brand started its path as a manufacturer of precision optical glass until 1925, when the company expanded into optical instruments, specially microscopes, subsequently beginning to make Nikkor lenses for photographic cameras in 1932 and launching into market the Nikon I, its first camera, in 1948.

Then, the decade of fifties saw the arrival of further top-notch Nikon rangefinder cameras like the Nikon S, Nikon S2, Nikon SP, Nikon S3 and others and a slew of firt-class lenses which created a sensation among magazine and press photographers during the Korean War, being even hailed by the New York Times.

1959 became a milestone year in the History of Photography with the arrival of the Nikon F, the 24 x 36 mm reflex camera with interchangeable lenses that truly placed Nikon as the brand of choice for a very high percentage of photographers around the globe.

                                                                                                                                              © jmse

Big picture inside Grays of Westminster showing a black Nikon F from 1959 with its waist level finder and a Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4 lens, while a National Geographic magazine can be seen in the background. A very significant percentage of the photographers working for this world-class illustrated magazine used Nikon cameras and lenses, like Jim Brandenburg, Joe McNally, Steve Curry (famous 1984 cover with the portrait of the Afghan girl Sharbat Gula, me with a Nikon FM2, a Nikkor AI-s 105 mm f/2.5 and Kodachrome 64 colour film), Brian Skerry, Alessandro Barteletti, Ami Vitale, Keith Ladzinski, Bob Holmes and many others.

And from early sixties, Nikon cameras became the common choice of vast majority of National Geographic magazine thanks to its versatility, rugged construction, reliability of working under the most extreme temperatures and top-notch assortment of lenses available.

In 1971, a NASA modified Nikon F camera with an FTn Photomic finder and a built-in F36 motor drive travelled to the moon on Apollo 15 mission and in 1978 the Japanese leading explorer Naomi Uemura took a Nikon F2 Titanium camera to the North Pole, being the first man to reach it alone.

                                                                                                                                           © jmse

Nikon 100 Anniversary, a landmark book by Uli Koch, one of the greatest experts in the world on the legendary Japanese photographic brand, along with Robert Rotoloni, Hans Braakhuis, Stephen Gandy, Hans Plegmakers, 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, Hiroshi Kosai, Dr. Zyun Koana, Akito Tamla, Michio Akiyama and others) and edited by Ostlicht GMbH.

This historical work, on sale at Grays of Westminster, is an extraordinary 416 page visual compilation of every Nikon camera, lens, accessory and all kind of devices manufactured by the Japanese brand from its very birth in 1917 (when the three optical manufacturers in Japan merged into a fully integrated company named Nippon Kogaku K-K, with the research on manufacture of optical glasses beginning the following year), all of it with an uncompromising level of quality in the chosen paper, an elegant hardcover, large format size of 30 x 21 cm and the superb quality of reproduction of the nothing less than 2,200 colour 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 chapters descriptions both in English and Japanese, it seems apparent.


                                                                                                                                     © jmse
This is a very special and historical work, in which vast majority of images are reproduced in big or very large size, with impressive quality thanks to a very hard labour 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 jewel, 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, accessories, binoculars, microscopes, telescopes and many other products manufactured by the Japanese company throughout its history.

A COMPREHENSIVE CHOICE OF SUPER TELEPHOTO LENSES BETWEEN 300 MM AND 1700 MM

Grays of Westminster has also available a very wide range of second hand (often in near mint condition) or brand new professional super telephoto lenses, both manual focusing and AF ones featuring focal lengths between 300 mm and 1700 mm.


                                                                                                                                            © jmse
From left to right :

Two Nikon CT-302 lens boxes with 8 elements in 6 groups manual focusing Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8 AIS IF-ED (manufactured between 1982 and 1986) super telephoto lenses in near mint condition inside, a Nikon CT-402 lens box (slightly out of focus) with an 11 elements in 9 groups AF-S Nikkor ED 400 mm f/2.8 D super telephoto lens (made between 1998 and 2010) in near mint condition with built-in AF motor, Super Fast AF operation and Silent Wave Motor and first-class ED glass elements, as well as boasting M/A mode for quick switch between autofocus and manual focus operation.


The manual focusing Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8 AIS IF-ED has a weight of 2.5 kg and for a very low price yields a superb image quality connected to full frame Nikon dslr cameras like the Nikon D810, D800, D850, D5, DF, etc, though obviously, on lacking AF its working is slower than a Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8 AF telephoto lens, but from a mechanical construction viewpoint, the Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8 AIS IF-ED is second to none, with an optical performance of first level even to modern standards, which will only be surpassed by AF much modern lenses like the 11 elements (three ED glass elements) in 8 groups Nikkor AF-S 300 mm f/2.8 G ED VR II with superintegrated and nano crystal coatings and delivering stratospheric image quality, but it will be inevitably much more expensive.

Anyway, Grays of Westminster will find a workable solution for any professional or advanced amateur photographer with respect to the choice of his/her adequate super telephoto highly luminous lens, whether second hand belonging to the eighties golden era of manual focusing AI-s lenses (for nature and wildlife photography taking the necessary time to do things and not needing fast burst shooting in continuous AF), second hand AF ones made between 1986 and 2009 (AF, AF-n, AF-I, AF-S, AF-S II and VR) or the cream of the crop of present Nikkor AF-S G ED VR II lenses (for nature, wildlife and sports photography if maximum AF speed, exceedingly fast operation and frequent burst shooting in steady AF are necessary).

AF-S Nikkor 400 mm f/2.8 D ED, one of the best super telephoto lenses for sports, nature and wildlife ever made in this focal length. Nikon managed to reduce the weight to 4,800 g, 1,500 g lighter than the previous Nikkor AF-1 400 mm f/2.8D IF-ED, as well as working in absolute silence thanks to its inner Silent Wave motor featuring a high torque and using a highly advanced system through which ultrasonic waves are transformed into rotational energy. It delivers extraordinary sharpness, a reduction of chromatic aberration to negligible levels and an excellent colour balance. In addition, the Nikon M/A system makes possible to use the automatic AF with manual priority, in such a way that the photorapher can quickly change between AF and manual focusing at any moment.

Optical Designer John Tesar holding a Nikon Corporation Glass Division Map from 2014 showing the different optical glasses, some of them really exotic and expensive, used by Nikon in its comprehensive variety of professional lenses. Photo: jmse

Optical Designer John Tesar holding another Nikon Corporation Glass Division Map from 2014 showing the vast assortment of top-notch optical glasses use by Nikon in its many professional lenses. Photo : jmse

The evolution of Nikon know-how in the optical sphere and the knowledgeable combinations of different optical glasses in the elements of lenses accomplished by its legendary optical designers throughout the history of the firm can be defined as amazing since mid twenties of the Twentieth Century, when Kakuya Sunayama (Head of the Nippon Kogaku Lens Design Department) learned a great deal from the German Zeiss engineer and optical designer Heinrich Acht (who had gone to Japan in 1921 hired by Nippon Kogaku), subsequently visiting Germany in late twenties and took advantage of the huge German know-how in lens designing to throughly disassemble and study Tessar, Triplet and Dagor scheme lenses, starting with the three 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.

And within time, Nikon would create many world-class lenses, to name only a few : the 5 elements in 3 groups Nikkor P.C 8.5 cm f/2 designed by Saburo Mukarami in 1949 (and benefiting from subsequent further improvements made by Kenji Wakimoto), 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 designed by Kenji Wakimoto, the 9 elements in 7 groups Nikkor Auto 35 mm f/1.4 from 1971 designed by Yoshiyuki Shimizu (and which would be bettered with some changes introduced by Teruyoshi Tsunajima in the composition of the glasses and the optical formula elements and the curvature of the lens, significantly improving the performance at full aperture, as well as being a real tour de force for the time, with its very small size and weight for an 1.4 lens), the 11 elements in 8 groups Nikkor 300 mm f/2 ED IF from 1981 (in which Nikon whowed its prowess in lens designing and created this supertelephoto lens of amazingly large aperture, in addition to specifically manufacturing for it the 1.4 x TC-14C teleconverter turning it into a 400 mm f/2.8 lens with almost no loss in image quality), the 16 elements in 12 groups 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 its focal length, with two elements of its optical formula made of fluorite and two more with ED glass, the added benefit of a fluorine coated front meniscus glass elements for added extra protection, 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 exceddingly fast, accurate and quiet autofocus.

AN EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT OF ITS OWN

In its unflagging craving for strengthening its already second to none custom service and commitment to excellence, Grays of Westminster created its own editorial department in August 1992, having launched until now two illustrated magazines:

                                                                                                                                            © jmse

a) The Grays of Westminster Gazzette, which has been to customers all over the world from 1992 until now.

It is a 36 page publication devoted to provide information on Nikon developments and products, accessories and latest techniques, in addition to being an invaluable source of data regarding the continuous evolution of the Nikon system.

Its staff is made up by Gray Levett (Editor), Gillian Greenwodd (Features Editor),

                                                                                                                              © jmse

First two pages of the article titled " Nikon D850 Overview " featured inside the Grays of Westminster Gazette Number 69 and written by Becky Danese (Technical Editor of this publication which was founded in 1992 as well as being a highly experienced professional photographer who has developed all of her career with Nikon brand, so her knowledge on cameras and lenses of this Japanese firm is truly praiseworthy, in the same way as her grasp of digital and film aspects of photography, which she has always lived with full passion along with her hankering for painting ) where she lavishly explains the turning point that this 24 x 36 mm dslr camera launched into market in 2017 has meant in the History of Photography and how its variety of features and capabilities together with its 45.7 megapixel sensor in synergy with the best Nikkor lenses turn this photographic tool (originally conceived to get large files for studio and landscape work) into a vety top level all-around performer, enhanced by its breakthrough backside illumination from behind the sensor resulting in brighter and better image pixels, its amazing high iso capabilities up to 25600 native ISO, its up to 9 fps, its second to none capabilities for exceedingly accurate and fast AF in extremely low light environments and its 4K Ultra-High Definition video recording in full frame. 

The Nikon D850 (which was the full frame dslr model mainly used by Zeiss to test the optical performance of the manual focusing 12 elements in 10 groups Zeiss Otus 55 mm f/1.4 Apo-Distagon T* , the best standard lens made in the world hitherto) is a landmark camera which has pioneered a new era of 24 x 36 mm format dslr professional cameras producing an extraordinary level of image quality in terms of resolving power and contrast (as well as delivering an exceptional dynamic range in RAW which is by far the best in the 24 x 36 mm scope, outperforming in this regard even the excellent Sony A7 III mirrorless full frame camera, though the Sony camera is better for video) approaching to the one rendered by 4 x 5 (10 x 12 cm ) analogue large format cameras with their negatives being digitized by professional drum scanners or Hasselblad Flextight X1 and Flextight X5 ones with state-of-the art Kodak CCD and Rodenstock lens, though with different image aesthetics, aspect ratio and bokehs, always understanding that analogue 8 x 10 (contact of 20 x 25 cm) large format cameras go on reigning supreme in terms of image quality, tonal range, subtlety of details and beauty of out of focus areas.

Anyway, the amazing versatility of the Nikon D850 to tackle very different photographic genres like landscape, wildlife, sports, studio photography, fashion, portraiture, product photography, weddings, aerial photography, photojournalism and astrophotography with very high marks is nowadays truly unmatched, with the added advantage of the immense quantity of lenses in a number of focal lengths and luminosities, both second hand and new ones, available for it and manufactured by Nikon and many other brands like Sigma, Tokina, Tamron, Zeiss, Samyang and others for the exceedingly versatile Nikon F mount, so the Nikon 850 can be coupled to lenses made from 1959 hitherto. 

On the other hand, the Nikon D850 is a much more balanced camera than the also excellent Sony A7III when coupled to any professional standard autofocus 24-70 mm f/2.8 or medium 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lenses, since its size is bigger, and when coupling professional zooms to the Sony A7III, it becomes front heavy because of the great difference in size and weight between zooms and camera body.

Becky Danese (Technical Editor), Jesse Wilson (Design and Art Direction), the contributing photographers Grahame Austin, Becky Danese, Michael Eleftheriades, Tony Hurst, Konstantin Kochkin and Simon Stafford) and the contributing editors Becky Danese, Gillian Greenwood and Gray Levett.

                                                                                                                            © jmse

Cover of the Nikon Owner magazine number 57 of 2017 informing among others about the insightful six pages article on Nikon Centennary written by Gillian Greenwood  (Senior Features Editor of this publication since its very inception in 2003 and an accomplished writer with stunning gift for detail and mastery of the English language. In addition, she has an impressive cultural background in the scopes of art and photography, having organized hundreds of events, seminars and workshops in Great Britain and other countries. She was likewise a co-owner of a contemporary art gallery in central London, has a degree in English and History and a post-graduate teaching certificate from Birmingham University.

b) The Nikon Owner magazine, created by Gillian Greenwood, Gray Levett and Uri Zakay in 2003. It is a publication for Nikon users and contains plenty of articles on different interesting photographic genres like wildlife, architecture, landscape, portraiture, astro photography, macro photography, street photography, reportage, concert / theatre, fashion, still life, underwater photography and others, as well as equipment reviews, photographic techniques, all kind of advice and the special section Technical Helpline, in which Simon Stafford (resident expert, Technical Editor of Nikon Owner magazine and one of the most important pundits on Nikon technical aspects in the world ) answers one by one the specific questions on Nikon gear asked by customers, as well as solving their doubts.

Its staff is made up by Gray Levett (Editor),

                                                                                                                             © jmse

First photograph and beginning of the in-depth text of the extraordinary 10 pages article titled " A Fresh Perspective ", published in the number 57 of Nikon Owner magazine in which Simon Stafford (Technical Editor and one of the most knowledgeable experts in the world on Nikon gear) elaborates on the manual focusing 17 elements in 13 groups (two aspherical ones and three ED glass) Nikkor PC-E 19 mm f/4E ED presented in October 2016, a superb lens with which the Japanese photographic firm rose above itself with respect to the previous Nikkor PC-E 24 mm f/3.5D, Nikkor PC-E 45 mm f/2.8D and the PC-E 85 mm f/2.8D, improving their already excellent image quality with a very wide angle focal length of 19 mm, and accomplishing a true optical tour de force, since as explained by Simon Stafford (which puts the lens to its paces making nine excellent pictures) these highly specialized type of lenses must be of a very high grade, because they must project a much larger image circle than conventional lenses to encompass the movement of the lens elements off the central axis, particularly when using a shift movement. This is clearly a breed apart Nikkor lens including three different coatings (Nano Crystal, Fluorine and Super Integrated) which approaches the resolving power and sharpness attained by the virtually unbeatable manual focusing 12 elements in 10 groups Leica Elmarit-R 19 mm f/2.8 Version 2 lens 1990-2009 (designed by Walter Mandler, who managed to significantly reduce its weight and dimensions, with a new optical formula lacking the huge front element of the version 1 from 1975 and simultaneously improving its optical performance), in addition to delivering a pleasant bokeh that will often enhance the aesthetic quality of an image.

Simon Stafford (Technical Editor), Gillian Greenwood (Senior Features Editor), Becky Danese (Sub-Editor), Richard Young (Photographer-at-large ), Robert Falconer (International Correspondent), Jesse Wilson (Designer and Art Director), the contributing editors Heather Angel, Becky Danese, Gillian Greenwood, Gray Levett, Andrew Main Wilson and Simon Stafford and the contributing photographers

                                                                                                                            © jmse

Pages 27 and 28 of the article by Heather Angel in Nikon Owner magazine number 57 of 2017 about the Brooks River area in Alaska´s Katmal National Park, with a great picture of a mother brown bear with its two cubs and an out of focus background taken with a Nikon F4 camera coupled to an 11 elements in 8 groups Nikkor 300 mm f/2.8G IF-ED lens and Kodak Ektachrome E100G colour film. Heather Angel has been one of the greatest wildlife and nature photography in the world, with an uncommon gift for finding the best trajectories and qualities of light to foster her images made with 35 mm professional cameras and lenses, particularly long teleobjectives between 300 and 500 mm. She also boasts a tremendous technical mastery, to such an extent that she is a recognized international authority in macro photography, having achieved some amazing milestones in this sphere, as happened in 1986 when Victor Hasselblad AB decided to publish a monograph of its Hasselblad Forum magazine exclusively devoted to Heather Angel´s pictures and containing nothing less than 28 pages, including cover and backcover, with images made by the acclaimed English photographer with a Hasselblad 500 C / M camera and Carl Zeiss Planar 80 mm f/2.8 and Carl Zeiss Sonnar 150 mm f/4 of plants, aquarium tropical fish, cherry trees with Proxar 1.0 close-up lens, butterflies faces and wings with extension tubes and bellows, insects on flowers, fallen leaves, water lilies, garden stones modelled by grazing light, cacti in Galapagos Islands shot against the light, amphibians, red cabbages, sea anemones, the translucid structure of partially decomposed leaves, etc. In addition, she has made three photobooks on Panda bears hitherto and " Pollination Power ", her last book, published by Chicago University Press, has gained international recognition because of its astounding pictures (including some truly impressive ones of hummingbirds) lavish text and the latest photographic techniques she used with Nikon gear, documenting how plants attract pollinators.

Heather Angel, Becky Danese, Ray Fisher, Tony Hurst, Constantin Kochkin and Georgianna Lane.

                                                                                                                  © jmse

Big enlargement of the cover of Nikon Owner magazine number V of 2002 inside Grays of Westminster shop with the picture of one of the most defining instants in the history of Nikon as a photographic firm: Frank Sinatra as a photographer working for Life magazine and holding a Nikon F Photomic FN camera with a single coated 7 elements in 5 groups Nikkor-S Auto 50 mm f/1.4, HS-1 metal shade and F36 motordrive very near the ring while covering the Muhammad Ali vs Joe Frazier " Fight of The Century " for the WBC and WBA Heavyweight World Championship on March 8th, 1971 at the Madison Square Garden of New York. 

 
                                                                                                         © jmse

Big enlargement of the cover of Nikon Owner magazine number 3 of 2001 inside Grays of Westminster shop with the picture of another defining moment in the history of the Japanese photographic firm during a scene of the 1995 famous movie The Bridges of Madison County. Clint Eastwood (in the role of Robert Kincaid, a National Geographic photographer who has just arrived at a farm in Iowa´s Madison County) is about to photograph one of the beautiful bridges in the area with his black Nikon F with chrome eyelevel prism finder attached to a Nikkor-S Auto 50 mm f/1.4 lens and a MD36 motordrive, it all being strongly based on a tripod, while Meryl Streep (in the role of Francesca Johnson, an Italian war bride who lives with her husband and two children in that farm) waits for him.

The Nikon F (1959-1973) has probably been the most important photographic camera ever made along with the Ur-Leica (1914), the Canon T-90 (1986) and the Olympus E-1 (2003, first dslr camera entirely designed from the ground up for digital photography, and conceptually very significant and breakthrough in spite of featuring only 5 megapixels).

Its huge success (one million units sold during the fifteen years in which it was produced) stemmed from its exceedingly innovative host of virtues for the time: built like a tank, a viewfinder with a hundred percent coverage of the image field, many interchangeable focusing screens, dual coupled metering, depth of field preview, mirror lock-up and a very comprehensive range of top quality lenses available for it, so it became the frequent choice of many professional photographers and photojournalists all over the world, who could corroborate its rugged construction, flawless working, utter reliability and durability in the hardest operating conditions, since it was a real workhorse camera.

The quality and in-depth content of this lavishly illustrated magazine is such that since its very inception it attained a remarkable success and there are presently many thousands of subscribers in the five continents, all of them being regularly updated on all Nikon sides.

And if it were not enough, Grays of Westminster has also published two milestone books hitherto :

                                                                                                                            © jmse

- Grays of Westminster Exclusively Nikon: The Legend and The Legacy, written by Gillian Greenwood, with foreword by Kazuo Ushida (President of the Nikon Corporation Japan) and texts by Heather Angel, Nigel Atherton, Michael Bond, Garry Coward-Williams, Michael Doven, Michael Eleftheriades, John Krish, Daniel Lezano, Neil Lucas, Mike Maloney, Sir Simon Marsden, Joe McNally, Tristan Oliver, Moose Peterson, Simon Stafford, David Suchet, Chris Weston, Andrew Main Wilson and Richard Young.

This is a masterpiece lavishly illustrated hardback book oozing top quality in every conceivable regard: 20 x 28 cm format, 208 pages, very thick and durable covers, top-notch paper with very solid grammage, state-of-the-art reproduction of both the black and white and colour images, extensive information about the different stages, business philosophy and working ethics fulfilled by Grays of Westminster throughout its more than thirty years of existence, thirty-six dazzling pictures of historical Nikon cameras and lenses made by Tony Hurst, a number of fascinating data on the formation and evolution of Nikon from a purely optical firm to a photographic one, etc. 


The production cost of this book was huge, so its price can be bluntly deemed as merely symbolic.


                                                                                                                                     © jmse

- The Legendary Photography of Tony Hurst, a limited edition of 500 hardcover copies created to celebrate the 100 years of Nikon, and including a hundred images made by the master British photographer, a real craftsman and magician of lighting, both in studio and outdoors, who has enhanced the beauty of many Nikon items of Grays of Westminster with his hallmark glittering images emboding the concept of painting with light.

Text and Indicated Photos : José Manuel Serrano Esparza