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History Of Nikkor Lenses

Where do Nikkor lenses originate and how did they evolve?

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Nikkor lenses are a force to be reckoned with in the current photography market. Having recently reached the dizzy heights of total production of 100 million Nikkor lenses, they continue to be at the top of their game. But where did it all come from - where do these outstanding lenses originate? To find out, we need to delve deep into the 1930s Japan....

Aero Nikkor lenses

Precision Lenses For The Sky

We first see reference to NIKKOR in 1932, when it appears as a trademark of a line of photography lenses. A combination of 'NIKKO', which was the abbreviation of 'Nippon Kogaku' with an 'R' on the end for good measure, the first lens of merit to feature the NIKKOR brand was the 'Aero-NIKKOR'.

This lens was supplied to the  military and was used for aerial map making. The lens needed to be extremely accurate and sharp to be able to create detailed  images of maps and to be able to ensure that the accuracy was consistent, these lenses were hand-crafted. 

3 Aero-NIKKOR lenses were produced - an 18cm f/4.5 in 1933, the 7.5cm f/3.5 in 1937 and the 10cm f/5.6 in 1939.  

From this venture onwards, NIKKOR continues to build consumer and industrial use of its lenses becoming and iconic brand.


NIKKOR Before Nikon

Not a lot of people realise that NIKKOR actually precedes Nikon - it wasn't until 1946 that the first Nikon branded camera was released - featuring a 35mm NIKKOR lens of course. 
In 1950 both became well known around the world thanks to an article in the New York Times stating that Nikon and NIKKOR kit was superior to the German cameras of the time when used in the Korean war by cameramen from LIFE magazine. 
Soon after this, a solid consumer base was founded and by 1952 a NIKKOR Club was founded.
Nikon SP

An Unstoppable Team

Together, great advances in camera technology are made by the Nikon / NIKKOR brands. The Nikon F, the first professional single lens reflex camera takes the world by storm and the more advanced F2 is released in 1971. Then, NIKKOR comes out with the world's first single autofocus lens - the 80mm f/4.5

This opens the gate for Nikon to create some of the world's leading cameras featuring 'Automatic maximum Aperture Indexing' - an update to the Nikon F mount which meant that the maximum aperture of the lens would automatically be conveyed to the body of the camera. 

The Nikon F3 camera which is released in 1980 goes on to be the basis of a single lens reflex camera supplied to NASA for space shuttles.  


The Future Is Digital

Where a lot of manufacturers stumbled at the digital frontier, NIKKOR took it in their stride and continue to be innovators in the field of photography. In 2013 they developed the E-type lens - featuring an auto aperture control with an electromagnetic diaphragm that is not connected mechanically to the body. 


Now, with production of 100 million lenses under their belt and the 100th anniversary of NIKKOR lenses coming up in 2017, we'll have to wait and see what technological advances they have up their sleeve to release next... 

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