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The 75th Anniversary of the Launch of the NIKKOR

The lens-indispensable to the camera. This year sees the 75th anniversary of NIKKOR, the world-class Japanese brand of lenses. We talked with two members of the marketing division about how the NIKKOR lens has miraculously kept pace with Nikon cameras, the secret of how these lenses have survived for so long, the celebratory events that are taking place, and their passion for the NIKKOR.

Hideyuki Miyoshi
Junior Executive Staff, Communication Strategy, Communication Department, Marketing Headquarters, Imaging Company
PROFILE:
After joining the company in 1991, he gained experience in sales promotion for IC steppers/scanners and surveying instruments in the Advertising Section. In 1993 he was given responsibility for cameras and helped put together catalogues for models that included the COOLPIX 775/3100/SQ, F80, F65, D100, D70, F6, D200 and D2XS. He is currently in charge of promotion for lenses and single lens reflex cameras. His hobby is shooting pictures of cats while on his travels. His favorite equipment is the D40, the AI Nikkor 45mm f/2.8P and the COOLPIX S500.
Keiko Mizuguchi
Junior Executive Staff, Communication Strategy, Communication Department, Marketing Headquarters, Imaging Company
PROFILE:
Joined the company in 1990. After initially working in the Intellectual Property Division, she became involved in lens design and was responsible for the design of interchangeable lenses. In October 2007 she was transferred to the marketing division. Her ambition is to achieve outstanding promotion work and make the most of her manufacturing experience acquired as a designer. She is in charge of all promotion for lenses.

The lens that has always led in its era-75 years of NIKKOR history and legend

This year the NIKKOR celebrates its 75th anniversary. What is the history behind it?

Hideyuki Miyoshi discusses the history of the NIKKOR.

Miyoshi:

"Nikon began designing lenses in the 1920s, not long after the company's founding in 1917. Around 20 different types of lens were manufactured under six different names, such as the Anytar and the Doppel-Anastigmat, for individual optical systems. Some of these lenses were individual lenses, such as the so-called Tessar and Triplet, and there are records that show that these were not standardized at all. When Nikon started producing lenses in earnest for use in photography, it decided to systematically group them into series. The brand named NIKKOR first saw the light in 1932, when its name was formed by adding the letter "R" (which was often used in lens names) to "Nikko," the English abbreviation for Nippon Kogaku Kogyo K.K (the name of the company at the time). In 1933 the company released its first photographic lens, an aerial photography lens which was named the Aero-Nikkor. Thus, it is 75 years since the NIKKOR was first manufactured as a product. Nikon has so far designed and manufactured over 400 different types of F-mount-compatible NIKKOR lens.

How did the NIKKOR brand become world famous?

Mizuguchi:

It is said that it was the publication in the magazine Life in the late 1940s and early 1950s of photographs shot by the photographer David Douglas Duncan using a NIKKOR lens attached to a Leica camera that first brought the NIKKOR worldwide recognition. The story goes that a Japanese photographer took the opportunity to show Duncan some photographs that he had taken using a NIKKOR lens, which had come out clearly despite the fact that they had been taken indoors in poor light. Duncan was so impressed that he went out and bought two NIKKOR lenses the very next day.

That was the moment that the NIKKOR legend was born, then. What other notable episodes have there been?

Keiko Mizuguchi relates how David Douglas Duncan made the NIKKOR world famous.

Miyoshi:

As is often related, Nikon cameras and NIKKOR lenses have been in outer space. They were first employed on Apollo 15 in 1971. Subsequently, a special F3 was constructed that was mounted on the Space Shuttle. In 2007 NASA placed an order for D2XS cameras and NIKKOR lenses. As well as being used to shoot images through a window from inside the craft, they are also used to shoot pictures outside in space at temperatures of -150°C and below. Also, since there are limits on the amount of cargo that can be taken into space, the spacecraft cannot carry spare camera equipment. Since an extremely high level of quality is required (namely, a zero failure rate under extremely harsh conditions), this clearly demonstrates that Nikon has won NASA’s confidence in its ability to continue meeting its requirements. To never miss a single chance, whatever the environment or the conditions—this, I believe, is the mission of Nikon cameras and NIKKOR lenses.

The solid manufacturing approach and meticulous attention to quality that underpins the history of NIKKOR

It seems that the NIKKOR brand of lenses is unique in terms of its long history and the level of credibility that it has established.

Miyoshi:

There are companies in Germany and elsewhere that have a longer history than Nikon. Here in Japan, however, there is probably no other company that has stuck to a single name for a lens for as long as Nikon has. As Nikon has been making lenses right from its establishment (since before it even built cameras), it is proud of its origins as an "optical company."

NIKKOR is older than the Nikon camera itself. That's not widely known, is it?

Mizuguchi:

That's right-the reason probably being that, since the impact of the Nikon camera has been so great, its lenses have come to be seen as mere ancillary devices. A recent survey yielded the disappointing result that the NIKKOR name is not well known. We'd like to take the opportunity of the NIKKOR 75th anniversary to raise the profile of the NIKKOR lens again. Nikon users probably already know about NIKKOR lenses; however, we'd like to make other people, such as users of mobile phones with built-in cameras and those who content themselves with compact cameras, aware of the NIKKOR name, and then appeal to them to take this opportunity to get a feel for just how awesome NIKKOR lenses really are.

What is it specifically that is so great about NIKKOR lenses?

Hideyuki Miyoshi and Keiko Mizuguchi discuss
the NIKKOR obsession with high performance
and high quality.

Mizuguchi:

Although the NIKKOR range runs the whole gamut from professional specification lenses to moderately priced lenses, there is never any compromise in terms of optical performance. We pursue the highest levels of performance in all our products and work tirelessly to achieve this goal. This approach towards our products has been exactly the same ever since the company was founded. Now, as we celebrate this 75th anniversary, we have borrowed from the library various company histories-the "40-Year History," "50 Years of Progress," and the "75-Year History of Nikon." These histories consistently describe this same commitment to quality and performance. The following sentence is particularly eye-catching : "As well as exhibiting high performance, the camera and lens must be user-friendly, and must be of dependable quality." This approach to our products remains, I think, unchanged.

Miyoshi:

We have absolute confidence in the quality and durability of our products, as well as in their optical performance. Nikon is extremely concerned about ensuring that the performance of lenses shipped from the factory and supplied to the customer is unvarying. Total inspection-that is, a detailed individual quality inspection of every single product-is carried out. This is labor and cost intensive; however, top priority is placed on delivering a better product.