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Company History – Nikon


Nikon Corporation, more popular as just Nikon, is a Japanese multinational maker of imaging and optical products. The company is headquartered in Tokyo and has always been closely associated with Canon, for producing some of the world’s best cameras. The company is known to manufacture products like cameras, lenses, ophthalmic lenses, microscopes, telescopes, binoculars, measurement instruments and steppers for semiconductor fabrication. For steppers, it is the world’s second largest maker. Nikon’s closest competitors in the field of camera and lens making are Canon, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, and Fujifilm. The company, at present, belongs to the Mitsubishi Group of companies.

Founding and early years

Nikon was founded in 1917, and was then called Japan Optical Industries Co., Ltd. it was formed by the merger of three leading optical manufacturers at that time. During its early years, Nikon was known to make lenses (even for Canon), microscopes, binoculars, periscopes and equipment for inspection. The company even offered a range of optical products for the Japanese military during the Second World War.

After the war though, Nikon started to make products for civilian customers and came up with its first camera in 1948. This was called the Nikon I. the company continued its production of lenses and they were largely earning to gain reputation during this time.


Over the 1950s and the 60s, Nikon’s rangefinder cameras, along with the Nikon SP were very popular. They were a direct competition to shooters from Zeiss and Leica. Nikon then switched production from the rangefinder models to its new series of Nikon F SLR line. This line was introduced in 1959 but remained very popular for the next 30 years. They were even used by the United States’ space program.

Nikon is known to have popularized many features in SLR photography. Some of these are the use of interchangeable lenses, viewfinders, electronic shutter control, motor drives, electronic strobe flashguns, etc. to name a few. However, with the introduction of several autofocus camera models from other manufacturers during the 1980s, Nikon’s manual focus cameras lost some sheen. It renamed to Nikon Corporation in 1988 but by then, many had shifted to Canon’s EOS cameras as they happened to be faster.

1990s to present

Nikon was among the first makers to introduce digital SLR cameras. This began with the Nikon NASA F4, which was used in NASA space shuttles. During the 1990s, the company had partnered with Kodak to produce DSLR cameras based on existing Nikon bodies. The Nikon D1 was released in 1999.

The Coolpix line of consumer digital cameras was released through the 2000s and they still continue to date.