A Century of Optical Innovation
Nikon celebrates its centennial. By AMANDA BALTAZAR
Photographers may know Nikon best for the cameras in their bags, but over
the past century, Nikon’s optical devices have been used for telescopes,
binoculars, eyeglasses and more. Nikon also supplies gear for NASA, from
one of the first fully digital SLRs—the Nikon NASA F4—in 1991, to the abundance of imaging gear employed on the International Space Station today.
This year marks the 100th year since two of Japan’s leading optical manufacturers set up the company Nippon Kogaku K.K. Known as Nikon since
1988, the company began with binoculars and photographic lens, though
by 1925 it had garnered recognition for a microscope, the JOICO, whose
765x magnification was groundbreaking.
The world welcomed the first Nikon camera, the Nikon Model 1, in 1948.
In 1957 the 35mm Nikon SP launched, which became a flagship of rangefinder cameras. Its most important feature was a built-in universal viewfinder that supported six interchangeable lenses. It also featured the first use
of a motor drive unit capable of three frames per second, a flash sync connection and Nikon’s first self-timer. The camera and its NIKKOR lens won
the grand prix at the 1958 World Expo. The following year, the iconic Nikon
F was released. The company’s first lens-interchangeable SLR camera, it established a strong presence as a high-end SLR camera and included unprecedented features such as an exposure meter fully coupled with its aperture.
In the 1980s, Nikon’s F3 SLR, a more streamlined design (and the first appearance of its distinctive red line), featured the first electronic shutter control and aperture priority auto-exposure control mechanism. Both of these
features impacted future cameras from Nikon and became so popular that
the company ceased production of its rangefinder lines.
After developing digital cameras for NASA in the early ‘90s, Nikon moved
into consumer digital cameras. The company released the COOLPIX 100
and 300, which could transfer data directly to computers, in 1997. But it
was the company’s release of the professional D1 SLR camera two years
later that set the DSLR category on fire and made the cameras accessible to
the general public. The world’s first built-from-the-ground-up DSLR camera,
it was easy to operate and cost a third of competing products.
Since then, Nikon has released a number of cameras, notably expanding
into video capabilities in 2008 with the Nikon D90 DSLR and Nikon 1 J1 advanced camera in 2011. The brand’s advanced and compact cameras have
continued the trend of adopting professional features in smaller bodies,
while DSLR workhorses—such as last year’s release of the D5 FX (full frame)
and D500 DX (cropped sensor) flagship cameras—showcase expanded sensitivity and lightning-fast autofocus. Nikon also delved into the 360-degree
and action camera market last year with it’s KeyMission line, continuing
their mission to push the boundaries of imaging technology.
But Nikon’s leadership in photography goes beyond gear, and their community outreach includes sponsorship of charitable events and photographer workshops, and partnerships with schools to provide gear to students.
Nikon is also known for its competitions, launching the Nikon Photo Contest
in 1969 and Small World, a microscopic photo and video contest, in 1974. In
2013 Nikon founded its Nikon Ambassadors program, which recognizes the
most influential leaders in modern photography. No stranger to the pages
of PDNedu, the 24 photographers of this collective represent some of today’s greatest photographic talent.
You can see more about Nikon’s 100-year history at nikon.com/100th.
Cheers from PDNedu to the next 100 years. EDU
THIS PAGE: Two-time gymnastics world champion Hollie Vise,
photographed by Nikon Ambassador Dave Black in 2012.
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