Oldest Known Surviving Nikon Camera Sold At Auction for Record Price
A Nikon camera recently sold at auction in Austria became the most expensive Nikon ever, reaching a sales price of €384,000 (approx. $406,000) which was double the expected maximum estimate.
A fabulous piece of photographic history, this camera is one of two cameras made in 1948 and the 3rd of all Nikon production cameras from the historic Japanese manufacturer.
Nikon started in 1948 to assemble cameras with the serial number 60922. This camera has the serial number 60924. And the baseplate has “MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN.”
It has the original Nikkor 5cm f/2 lens that collapses back into the body, and matching Nikon lens cap. This is the 11th lens made by Nikon and is still in fantastic original condition.
The interior has the single pair of guide rails, with removable take-up spool. And this camera has the original shutter. It was sold with the original and extremely rare double strap case.
Originally this rangefinder camera was known simply as the “Nikon” camera, but in later years this model took on the name Nikon I as additional cameras, such as the Nikon M, and the Nikon F, were produced.
The Nikon I was similar in design to the German Contax but used a non-standard film size that limited its export sales potential, something Nikon fixed in following models.
This record sale was also an early birthday present for Nikon, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017. Nikon began as an optics company, Nippon Kogaku K.K., in 1917, and made a few lenses and even worked on a Canon body in the 1930’s.
Released in March 1948, the domestic retail price for Nikon’ first camera was 57,690 Japanese Yen. Nikon produced 200 cameras and 50 of those were exported to Hong Kong in October. This was the first export of the Nikon I camera.
In 1949 the production of the Nikon I increased gradually, and 110 cameras were exported to the USA, Europe, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
As mentioned above, there was one big dilemma with the camera. The picture size of the “Nikon” format (24 x 32 mm) did not correspond to the automatic color slide cutting machines that were used in the USA. The automatic color slide cutting machines operated with the “Leica” format (24 x 36 mm), and if film from the “Nikon” format was processed, the pictures would be incorrectly cut.
To solve the dilemma, the camera’s frame size had to be changed immediately to a 24 x 36 mm size. The prototype of the new model was completed in July 1949, and it was decided that this new model would be sold as the Nikon M.
The Nikon I was discontinued in July 1949 after a total of 738 were produced. All the remaining Nikon I cameras in inventory were reconfigured to the Nikon M. In August 1949 the production was switched over to the Nikon M.
The Nikon M was released in October 1949. It was still irregular in picture size but changed to 36 frames, therefore removing the impediment for export to the USA.
In January 1950, its monthly production exceeded 100 units, and July production exceeded 200 units per month.
Only available in Japan at first, Nikon came to the attention of the rest of the world when David Douglas Duncan, American photojournalist who is best known for his dramatic combat photographs. Duncan discovered Nikkor lenses while covering the Korean War and spread the word among other press photographers.
Duncan took most of his Korean War photographs with Nikkor lenses. Numerous impressionable combat photographs were published in “LIFE” magazine and won the “U.S. Camera Awards” of 1950 for those works.
Aside from his combat photographs, Duncan is also known for his photographs of the famous artist Pablo Picasso. Duncan became a close friend of Picasso and was the only person allowed to photograph many of Picasso’s private paintings. Duncan published seven books of photographs of Picasso in all.
The Nikon F was announced to the press in March 1959. Nikon F earned a solid reputation for single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, and the sales volume exceeded 200,000 in November 1965, just 6 years after the release. The 200,000th Nikon F was presented to the Duncan in honor of his support, and his help in making the Nikon and NIKKOR brand names known all over the world.
SOURCE: Westlicht-Auction, Digital Photograph Review, Nikon, TechCrunch