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Nikon 18-55mm f/4-5.6 lens patent for a mirrorless APS-C camera

Nikon's 18-55mm f/4-5.6 lens patent 2012123118 appears to be for a mirrorless APS-C camera. The Nikon 1 system has a sensor smaller than APS-C. Maybe Nikon is working on a camera similar to the Pentax K-01? Patents do not guarantee new product introductions, but almost every new lens fr0m the past few years has been patented first.

Patent details:

  • Release date: June 28, 2012
  • Filing date: December 7, 2010
  • Zoom ratio: 2.88649
  • Focal length: 18.5 - 53.4mm
  • Aperture: 4.11 - 5.88
  • Half angle of view: 14.48 deg 39.18
  • Image height: 14.25mm
  • lens length: 70.49 - 96.38mm
  • Back focus: 27.12 - 47.83mm
  • Lens design: 12 elements in 9 groups, 2 aspherical surfaces, 1 ED element
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  • Lardinio

    Now that’s a bit more interesting.

    • karl

      not really – APS-C mirorless cameras take the same freaking huge lenses as APS-C DSLRs… might as well take my D7000 with me instead…
      Micro 4/3 is IMHO the largest sensor that makes sense for mirrorless cameras.

      • http://micahmedia.com Micah

        …tell that to Leica.

        • karl

          Nikon is not Leica.

          • Not Surprised

            Leica is not Leica. Its incredibly overpriced brand for completely average stuff — proven by the fact that they overlap bodies with Panasonic half the time.

            Nikon could easily do it if they changed policies.
            Looks like they might too.

            • karl

              Leica is a status symbol.
              How much are Louis Vuitton bags really worth ?

      • lol

        Tell that to millions of Sony nex owners.

        • karl

          actually I’m not sure if there are any “millions” of Sony nex owners – haven’t seen one myself, and the fact that Sony doesn’t bother making new lenses makes me think they’ve already acknowledged their mistake going with APS-C.

          • lol

            lol you’re in denial. the nex is a hit. sony has been more than pleased with its performance which is why they keep brining in new models. it is already destroying low end dslr sales and it is only going to get more popular. why do you think nikon is doing this? because they know the future is NEX and if they are not in with their own offering, they’ll be left in the dust. Even canon is going mirrorless with a G1X sized sensor bigger than m4/3.

            • lolly

              The future is not necessarily NEX but probably similar to NEX. Btw, m4/3 is doing quite well ;)

            • C

              Nex is a gimmick for person who don’t know about photography.

              The lens of Nex is so big that as a whole is not much smaller than D3200 kit.

              The image quality of Nex is so horribly bad especially the corner.

              A large lens (APS-C) but short distance from the lens to sensor, it makes the image quality very bad towards the edges.

              You will never see any pro using Nex.

              You will also never see any pro using Sony t-mirror to shoot sports.

              Sony’s camera is truly gadget

            • Mock Kenwell

              Your fanboi is showing. NEX is a fun camera for gadget connoisseurs and the style conscious. Lovely to look at. But it’s fundamental philosophy is flawed. They made it with the idea of a small form factor combined with DSLR quality. But all you really get is a front-heavy camera that has less physical depth than a DSLR, but as big or bigger lenses. That makes no strategic sense.

              And as usual, you can’t maximize the system without proprietary Sony lenses, which are expensive, and/or few and far between.

              I will say it again. Once you have to throw it in a bag or sling it over your shoulder with a strap, who cares if your camera is one pound or three? I’d like to see Nikon take their CMX sensor and make a really terrific 24-105 f1.8-3.5 lens that fits into my pocket. I am completely over midget removable lens cameras.

      • HansD

        What makes sense? Well it all depends on what you expect from a camera (what the masses expect from a camera):
        – lowest price
        – least bulky
        – best IQ (every shot is a greaat shot)
        – fast focus
        – live view
        – best video
        – simplicity.

        So it is a mix of requirements and OK a DX-mirrorless large zoom (again this is the main and only thing the masses want) won’t be a lot smaller/lighter than the current DX-zooms. But there is enough in the bag for a lot of people.

        And if you don’t like the idea: Nikon will be pleased to upgrade you to a cheap/small FX camera (with mirror).

        The next questions is: why wouldn’t we like a mirrorless FX body.

        • gorg

          “The next questions is: why wouldn’t we like a mirrorless FX body.”

          Simple to answer:

          -) No vibrations
          -) less dirt (no air movement and therefore no dirt smashing back to the sensor)
          -) more fps (because no mirror slap)
          -) faster AF possible (because no mirror slap and therefor no discontinuity and need for new focusing) but need to be developed
          -) No wear
          -) Easier alignment between mount and sensor
          -) no mis-alignment when travelling (big issue with DSLR when you travel very often)

          Why we don’t want a mirrorless FX:

          -) heating of the all-time-on sensor and therefore more noise – can this technically solved?
          -) need more energy for the EVF -> bigger battery

          • gorg

            @HansD: Sorry, I misunderstand your comment .. :p But I answerd your questions at the end, though. ;)

      • http://weweh.com CRB

        One word:primes….

        • HansD

          Yes, but who needs primes ?

          Initially DX-mirrorless will not be targetted at those who need prime’s …

      • http://www.intersiteimaging.com/ Brett Aubrey

        I believe APS-C cameras take the same freaking huge lenses because Nikon elected to the the F-Mount (and they had little choice, of course). A new APS-C camera designed with compactness as a prime feature ain’t a bad time to make the glass compact as well.

        I’m wondering if this is the direction for the rumoured professional Nikon 1 instead of trying to get professional quality out of a sensor considerably smaller than 4/3s…

    • Mock Kenwell

      Holy yawn Batman.F4-5.6? What an unimaginative lump of crap. Nikon only makes DSLRs for enthusiasts and professionals. Everything else is for the lowest common denominator. Can they really not make JUST ONE camera for us to take everywhere in lieu of our DSLR?

  • http://www.grassephoto.com Trent Grasse

    If it is a special mirrorless lens i assume it is designed to work a shorter distance from the focal plane. This is unlike the k-01 witch takes slr lenses and is stupid big. more like the sony nex system or atleast one would hope so

  • verysimplejason

    now, this will kill the sales of nikon 1. too bad for nikon 1 owners who have invested in the lenses.

    • Robert Falconer

      Not necessarily. If it’s APS-C, Nikon may position its mirrorless camera similarly to the Fujifilm X-Pro1…and go after that market. The 1 System is definitely amateur-oriented.

      • http://www.grassephoto.com Trent Grasse

        seems very unlikely if the first lens is a kit zoom

      • verysimplejason

        Nikon 1 lenses aren’t compatible with APS-C sized sensor. They’re too small to be used. That’s why I think depending on sales if Nikon releases an APS-C mirrorless, then Nikon 1 owners will have lenses that are unusable in the future.

        • Sahaja

          Why? – Nikon could maintain two mirrorless lines

  • francisco

    really interesting… the FL is the current usual and traditional Nikon FL of a kit lens, hmmm…

  • descartes

    Not really interesting; what would interest me would be the information on how may patents Nikon has filed for various lenses that were then never produced.

    • lol

      It is a lot shorter than the list of lenses actually released

  • Voice from the past

    Whatever happened to the rumored 16-85 renewal?

    • http://nikonrumors.com/ [NR] admin

      I think this lens is still coming, maybe with one of the new DX bodies at Photokina.

  • HansD

    … didn’t I told you: the future of DX is mirrorless. I will take a few years, but it is a must have for Nikon to survive.

    • Calibrator

      This really is a no-brainer, so no kudos to you, Hans.

  • Iris Chrome

    Probably left over design from the planning days for the Nikon 1 (look at the filing date).

    • lol

      or more likely, their REAL mirrorless system to take on the NEX.

  • Pavev

    Mirroless is the future of all cameras, there should be zero doubt with anyone at this point. Also my personal guess is that nikon 1-system is dead already. Phones will conquer the current pont-and shoot compacts, and compacts will move to use bigger sensors and more pro-like features. And when that transition really happens, ther is very little room for Nikon-1.
    For example, look at Sony rx100, that was just reacently announced: similar sensor-size than nikon-1 and many features that are lacking from most of the compact cameras. And look at how popular it is at tha Amazon rankings at this very moment: the most popular product of ALL cameras.

    • HansD

      Finally someone who also sees a bright future for Nikon (and Canon obviously) DX mirror bodies.

      The Nikon-1 system to me is “just” a gadget thing, not competing with any mainstream camera series, and certainly not with cheap cameraphones or cheap p&s compacts. Specs will further improve over time, a pro version (TH’s Z1) might appear.

      • Ken Elliott

        I see the Nikon 1 system as the test bed for Nikon’s long term plans. Current contrast-based focus systems did not provide the performance required for sports, so Nikon developed a Phase-detect system. I expect it was easier to develop it on a small chip, and if it failed would not be seen as such (given that the competition in that class of camera is also slow.

        Lessons from that would move to the next stage of development – entry level and mid-level DX.

        There is enough money in pro DSLRs to cover the cost and complexity of a optical/reflex system. Consumer cameras are much more cost-sensitive and that’s the huge advantage of mirrorless designs. I’m expecting a mirrorless DX body with an F-mount with phase-detect AF just below US$1000. DX primes are pretty small already.

      • francisco

        CX is a gadget thing. it is for those who want something better than a P&S, but not a full DSLR while having the capability to interchange lenses, something of a compromise…

        any nikon mirrorless APS-C camera i believe is one step to a possible future of nikon cameras

    • http://molnarcs.500px.com Csaba Molnar

      I think Nikon is well aware of the change you describe, and the CX format sensor is in perfect position to take over the point and shoot market (except ultra-zoom “bridge” cameras perhaps – you can’t replicate a 24x zoom range with small, mirrorless, interchangeable lens designs). I think this is a good strategy, and imho Nikon is ahead of the competition in this respect. And remember, the Nikon 1 is a great success out there. I mean we tend to lambast its capabilities because we are used to and love our big sensor systems, but fact is, it was a hit:
      http://www.techradar.com/news/photography-video-capture/cameras/nikon-j1-becomes-best-selling-csc-1052308

      The CX sensor is here to stay, for a very good reason. And if Nikon was smart, it would move it’s p & s sensor R & D towards providing phone accessories, or even working with mobile vendors. I recall Thom Hogan suggesting something like this on his website.

  • AtlDave

    Is the back focus so short this cannot be a F mount lens?

    Maybe Nikon decided f3.5 is just not slow enough for their standard kit lens.

  • Gab

    The slower the lens, the cheaper it is to make sharp lenses that can perform on a 24mpx+ dx sensor. (current lenses cannot)

  • Joe kaka

    Where does it say on this patent that it is for a mirrorless camera?

    • Mistral75

      The minimum backfocus (distance between rear element and sensor) of this lens is 27.12mm when the F mount flange to sensor distance is 46.5mm.

      With such a short backfocus there is no room for the mirror anymore.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/sooperkuh/ ausserirdischegesund

        But this is the *minimal* backfocus distance. Nikon does not have to build it that way. They could just as easily construct it for F mount.

        This could just as well be a refresh for the aging 18-55 kit lens.

        • Astrophotographer

          No they can’t. The minimum BF for F-mount is ~38mm. That’s the distance needed for the mirror to clear when it flips up.

          • Sahaja4

            Since F mount was designed for FX, isn’t that the distance an FX (full frame) mirror needs to clear? A DX (APS-C) mirror probably needs much less.

          • ausserirdischegesund

            But it says above:

            Back focus: 27.12 – 47.83mm

            38mm fits smack dab in the middle of that range. If they want to make it F mount, they can. And if they want to make it mirrorless, they also can.

  • lol

    Ok so canon will use the g1x sensor which is tiny compared to Nikon’s Apsc mirrorless system :D. I sense pwnage. Nikon clearly baited canon with the small cx sensor, and now it is time to unveil their real apsc mirrorless system.

    • Donald T

      ehh , G1X sensor is BIGGER than Nikon 1…..

  • finally_got_D800

    Now the sub $2000 D600 makes even more sense. The APS-C line might well be replaced by mirrorless. leaving FX as the only serious cameras.

    The Nikon 1 technology can produce a kick-ass APS-C mirrorless camera. NOW that’s what Nikon should have produced in Day 1. They might as well call it Nikon 2.

  • Geoff_K

    I like the sound of the mirror slap. ;- )

  • matt

    How long will I have to wait for a weathersealed full frame mirorrless camera with no moire,oled viewfinder, clean hdmi and 1080/50P ? :( canon dissapoints me all the time.. so nikon if you can do it… do it

    • Sahaja

      I expect APS-C and m4/3 will be the “standard” sensor sizes for serious mirrorless camera systems. It may be quite a long while before anyone else besides Leica produces a “full frame” mirrorless camera system.

  • Sahaja

    In the drawing there is quite a lot of distance between the rear element and the focal plane. A lot more than on a NEX or XPro. If this is for a mirrorless Nikon APS-C camera you are not going to be able to adapt rangefinder lenses to that camera – though should be plenty of room for an F-mount adapter.

  • gorg

    This is the right way. The future is mirrorless. First CX, the next step is DX and in some years FX. Now there is imho absolutely no advantage of a mirror in DX – we can discuss FX. But this are just minor technical questions which are abandoned in few years.

    First old-fashioned photografers will moan, then they will jump on the bandwagon, and in some years nobody want this needless mirror anymore.

    Come on Nikon, just do it. But do not repeat your mistakes of the Nikon 1. We want an alternative to a Nikon DSLR not a P&S.

    • http://molnarcs.500px.com molnarcs

      Ithink the current DX line-up has still a lot of advantages over mirrorless. I’m not saying this advantage will be there 5 years later, in fact I do agree that mirrorless is the future of DX. But right now, and in the next few years, I’d still buy the d7000 over any current mirrorless models for a variety of reasons. No current mirrorless has the same combination of sensor performance, ergonomics and more importantly, lens availability, and this won’t change in the next few years. In 5 years? I hope so, but can’t see it happening sooner.

      EVF still needs improvements, even though it’s getting better each year. Lenses? Obviously not there yet (old F-mount lenses don’t make sense for a mirrorless camera, the weight of these makes the camera really unbalanced and a chore to use). And actually lenses are the toughest cookies to crack. There is no lens with quite the same performance as the holy trinity Nikkors for any mirrorless systems. Even the new Nikkor F4 lenses are though to beat. And all of these need a DX mirrorless version, that I just don’t see coming from Nikon (or others in fact), not in the coming 4-5 years.

      • gorg

        “EVF still needs improvements”
        If you compare them with D7000 maybe yes. If you compare with 3100/3200 no. The optical viewfinder is too small on the entry-level DSLRs. Compared to up-to-date EVF it is just a question of taste – in 1-2 Years absolutely no discussion anymore in 5 years they beat the D7000 “one-handed”.

        Lenses: I don not agree with you. The size and weight difference between DX DSLR and DX EVIL lenses will not be very significant – see Sony NEX lenses (eg Sony NEX 18-55 195gr – Nikon DX 18-55 205gr). But of course with DX DSLR lenses you will need to stretch the flange focal distance with an adapter. This will also mean, that AF lenses (old style) may not work, because Nikon may not be so kind to mount the needed screw I presume.
        So with a simple adapter (which cansupport a tripod mount?) you can mount ALL Nikon F lenses as on DSLR (including the old AI ones) but may not have AF on the old screw-type (because camera body and adapter may not support it).

        So lenses would be no problem because old F lenses still make sense on a mirrorless (with the appropriate sensor size) and can be fully supported with a simple adapter.

        • http://molnarcs.500px.com molnarcs

          Yeah, I agree that EVFs are quickly approaching (surpassing?) entry level DSLRs, but the best EVFs are still quite expensive, which defeats one purpose of mirrorless: cost savings. It will happen eventually, maybe in 1-2 years even, but surpassing d7k viewfinder – I stand by my 5 year estimate, especially when it comes to costs.

          The NEX system already gets some criticism for its big lenses, and F-mount lenses are bigger, though in the case of the 18-55mm, not by much. But add in the requirement of professional photographers for fast lenses (for DX format, think 17-55 F2.8) and you have an odd beast with questionable ergonomics, unless you increase the size of the body as well for better balance. But then, you already have a relatively tiny camera in the d3100/3200. Not much difference there in terms of weight. Neither a NEX nor the d3100 is pocketable.

          Both can be thrown into a small, ordinary handbag or backpack, and I know that many photographers would cringe at the idea, but that’s how they handled – the people I know who own small entry-level DSLRs don’t carry a dedicated camera bag. And these entry level DSLRs outsell mirrorless by a large margin. That’s why, unlike many here, I see the CX sensor and it’s small lenses a sensible compromise. But sensor perfomance is not there for professional grade work for most cases (though it’s good enough for some types of pro work already).

          So I don’t see a mirrorless revolution coming as soon as you hope, especially when it comes to higher end DX lineup, and I don’t see much sense for entry level DSLRs either because the size reduction is negligible from a practical point of view, and cost savings are not there yet either. A mirrorless APS-C Nikon with an F-mount would make sense if they could launch something that 1) matches the performance of their entry level models (d3200/d5100) 2) comes in around 10-20% cheaper than those models. Not going to happen for a few years. And for more professional DX models – we do need the weight for comfort and balance. Mirrorless has other advantages apart from size and weight of course, so I’m looking forward to a d7000 equivalent mirrorless DX in the future, but I don’t expect them to be much smaller, though I would hope Nikon replaces the large mirror box with other goodies. Built-in GPS for one and built-in wifi capabilities, at about the same price as their current top-of-the line DX offerings, tough weather-sealed body with just the right balance, buttons and controls. That would be great. And it will not happen any time soon, unfortunately.

          • Sahaja

            @molnarcs

            The F mount makes no sense for an APS-C mirrorless camera.

            Why use a mount that was designed for a larger format and to accommodate a full frame SLR mirror?

            Much more sensible for them use a new mount that will accommodate an adapter for F-mount lenses that will enable full functionality.

            – C

            • http://molnarcs.500px.com molnarcs

              Exactly my point I try to prove to grog. I think Nikon will have to redesign.

          • gorg

            EVF: We agree, that it is just a matter of time – maybe 1-2 years, maybe 5 years, that EVF ist surpassing all optical viewfinders in DX. I personally believe there are only small steps to go – especially in costs as you mentioned.
            @Sahaja4: Same with FX – just a few years more development. Today I agree with you but did not mention this.

            Size&weight: If you want a bigger sensor, you have to go for bigger glass. The distance between sensor and optics is not really important for the size of the lens.
            2.8 or faster lenses (except “normal” focal length primes) are not pocketable if you want DX or FX. That is a fact due to optical laws. If you want a 17-55 zoom with f2.8 straight and want it pocketable too -that’s simply not possible. But with mirrorless a pocketable DX/FXcamera is possible – if you use normal primes, but you can mount real lenses ;) too. Mirrorless DX/FX can be much more versatile than DSLR – if the camera manufacturer wants that. Nikon proved with NIkon 1 they do NOT want to make small and light cameras: Nikon 1 has half the sensor size of m4/3 but quite the same camera and lens size. (This is my main critic point of Nikon 1 together with the fact that Nikon 1 is today not fully compatible to the Nikon DSLR system.)

            Balance: I don’t see the need for a bigger body for balance. In fact, the body is irrelevant, body weight&size in order to improve balance is imho a fairy tale which a lot of people (want to) believe. You can’t improve balance with a body when lens weights are between 200gr. and 5kg. Balance can be a job of the lens (if you use big teles) but mainly is a job of the photographer. (People who complain that eg. the 28-300 FX lens ist not balanced with a D700 on a tripod because the body is too light need a photographic training not a bigger camera.)

            Ergonomics: You may be right when you say you need a bigger body for bigger hands.. ok. But I would not like to choose between S, M and L bodies. ;-)
            Maybe you want a bigger body to mount buttons for dedicated functions. But this can be solved with more intelligent function eg. the banks Canon has on its DSLRs. (Thats my main point of criticism of the D800: You need to go to the menu to choose between functions the D700 has dedicated buttons for). 100 dedicated buttons which cover the body are a possibility – but imho a bad one: I would like to have memory places in which I can store the fully adjustment for eg. portrait, landscape, action … every single adjustment of the camera. (The idiotic Nikon menu banks are just stupid but not useable.)

            Mount: This is imho one of the points why Nikon will think a very long time about mirrorless DX/FX. Use the F mount which can take lenses made 30 years ago (Think of that again: Where do you have such a continuity?) but has a lot of space wasted for a non-existant mirror or make a new mount which can take the glory of the F mount to the next decades.

            As you mentioned, the advantages of a mirrorless DX and FX are not size&weight, though these bodies today are bigger and heavier than needed – because people want them that way. If manufacturers remove the mirror, they gain place for other goodies people do not need but are a marketing issue – maybe we get a hot water boiler in our cameras some day. ;-)

            The advantage of having no mirror and no mechanics in the camera which causes vibration, wear, dirt, are obvious. I don’t agree that costs of the EVF are such a big problem because the mechanics and much more important the alignment costs and errors of this sensible construct mount-mirror-phase detectors-sensor are very big.

            I do see the need for smaller bodies like the (imaginary) digital F3. I hope people will turn away from the “bigger-is-better” hype with 2000 gimmicks noboy really need and manufacturers again can produce bodies which are usable outdoors. Galen Rowell would not want to carry a D3/D4 in the mountains, I think. But he would like to use a mirrorless digital F3, with 20mm and 200mm f4 lightweight AF-S primes. ;-) I hope we will get at least one lightweigt mirrorless DX and FX as soon as a possible.

            I agree this will not happen very soon, unfortunately.

        • Sahaja4

          @gorg

          As you say “If you compare them with D7000 maybe yes. If you compare with 3100/3200 no.” to which you should have added “If you compare them with a D800/D4 OVF certainly”

  • MB

    I really do not understand what’s all the fuss about this and what gave people the idea that this lens has anything to do with mirrorless camera …
    It is pretty complicated design for a f/4-5.6 lens but not too different in dimensions from the current 18-55 DX lens.

  • TWH

    I have D3S, D7000 and recently X-Pro1. Fuji has definitely shown you can get great IQ from APS-C mirrorless and design the lens mount such that you can minimize the size of the lens. And get corner to corner sharpness as evidenced by their 35 mm f/1.4.

    Nikon needs new mount if they really want to compete in the market. My Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 G with adapter on the X-Pro1 is huge in size compared to Fuji prime (3″ long vs 2″ long) and not as good in quality. Yes, Fuji is still working on getting a decent AF-C implementation, but AF-S works just fine, EVF works fine, optional OVF pretty good with current prime lens line up. The XP1 IQ, high ISO performance and auto WB is a match or better than D7k with a prime. If their firmware updates keep improving the AF, Nikon has a long road to catch up.

    I hope this patent is a sign that Nikon is really going to start innovating!

    • Jerry

      TWC, What about the manual focus capabilities of your X-pro 1?

    • HansD

      Maybe Nikon and Fuji should team together again by sharing a common DX mirrorless mount and a mirrorless lense line up.

  • NoFunBen

    No VR? that is odd, all the kit lenses have it.

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