This Nikon I camera from 1948 is the earliest known surviving production Nikon in the world

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Update: the pictures shown by Westlicht for the first known Nikon I camera had a serial number 60924 and not 60922 as mentioned in their description. No sure what is going, but I was told that #60924 is not a complete original and has repair parts (it should have internally 3 exact same numbers and it has only two numbers and they are not the same). The above picture actually shows the first known Nikon I camera with serial number 60922.

nikon-i-from-1948-the-earliest-known-surviving-production-nikon-in-the-world
I usually cover the Westlicht camera auctions on LeicaRumors because they have a lot of interesting Leica gear, but this time they have a Nikon I rangefinder camera (No. 60924) from 1948 that is the earliest known surviving production Nikon in the world. The starting price is €90,000 (almost $100,000) and the selling estimate is for €160,000-180,000 (almost $200,000). Here is the description and a few more pictures:

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The earliest known surviving production Nikon in the world! Nikon started in March 1948 to assemble (with serial number 60922), the offered camera is one of two cameras made in April 1948 and the 3rd of all Nikon production cameras. It comes with the original early Nikkor-H 2/5cm no.70811 (with matching Nikon cap) and is still in fantastic original condition. As all very early cameras it has the "8" screw front plate and sharp corner edges on top plate. The camera has still the original shutter. The interior shows the single pair of guide rails, with removable take-up spool. The baseplate with large 'MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN' engraving. It comes with the original everready case. Published in: 'The Complete Nikon rangefinder System' by Robert R. Rotoloni (ps 51-59), 'Nikon 100 Anniversary' by Uli Koch (p 68) - from the collection of the famous Japanese collector Tad Sato.

Here are some more Nikon highlights from the upcoming Westlicht auction (you can browse the online catalog here):

reflex-nikkor-6-3100cm-lens

Reflex-Nikkor 6.3/100cm black, c. 1959, No. 100634

The rarest production Nikon RF lens for use with reflex housing (only approx. 10 lenses were produced, starting with serial number 100631, less are known to exist). The lens has two movable handles on the top of the corpus and an impressively large hood which can be space-saving set up vice versa in the case. The magnification to the standard focal length of 5cm is 20x factor. In top condition with clean optics, leather front cap and with matching grey metal case.

Starting price: EUR 16,000

stereo-nikkor-3-53-5cm-outfit

Stereo-NIKKOR 3.5/3.5cm outfit, 1956, No. 242057

Extremely rare complete outfit with Stereo-Nikkor 3.5/3.5cm no.242057, cap, prism no.679082 (small glass chip in right edge), special hood, original Stereo L38 filter, Nippon Kogaku Tokyo Stereo finder no.235267, special Nikon metal film spool, fitted leather case stamped 'NIKON STEREO EQUIPMENT NIKON KOGAKU TOKYO' - in excellent condition - the highlight of every Nikon collection

Starting price: EUR 20,000

nikon-f-nasa-camera

Nikon F NASA, c. 1963, No. 10

Extremely rare black anodized demonstration (DUMMY or display) camera with special motor drive, the body engraved 'P/N SEB33100772-  S/N 10, Photomic FTn finder engraved 'P/N SEB33100008-003 S/N 10', back door inside engraved 'P/N SEB33100772-  S/N 10' (not closing properly), with matching black anodized DUMMY Nikkor-S 1.2/55mm no.800014 engraved 'P/N SEB33100009-301 S/N 1014' - see a similar camera illustrated in Uli Koch 'Nikon F - The Camera' on p.109-116, this camera is shown in Uli Koch's new book "Nikon 100 Anniversary" page 304

Starting price: EUR 15,000

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  • Wilson

    These prices make the $2800 Nikon 70-200m FL sound more reasonable

    • MB

      Yea, but current 70-200 will probably discompose in a 10 years or so …

      • Wilson

        True, the complexity of modern lens technology makes that kind of longevity impossible though. I’m hoping the next FL release is the 200mm f2 FL so I can pick up a used vrii, that’s been my dream lens for years and there’s no chance I can afford the FL range

        • MB

          Good plan, that 200 F/2 is a fantastic lens … but it actually already contains Super ED glass that Nikon today calls FL …

          • Adam Fo

            Calcium Fluorite crystal isn’t glass.

            • MB

              Everybody knows that, but Fluorite is also used as a compound in some crown glasses, like ED glass for instance …
              Latest development in glass manufacturing also made it possible to produce a glass with optical characteristics very close to Fluorite but with better mechanical properties and at lower price (not much though) like Ohara S-FPL53 and S-FPL55, and that glass is called Super ED because it is not Fluorite, but for all practical purposes it can be considered equivalent …
              Introduction of glass made by Nikon Hikari, J-FKH2, that is also very close to that made by Ohara, strangely coincide with Nikon announcing new lenses with FL elements after so many years of criticism that Fluorite is not a good choice for lenses because of bad mechanical properties, so I think that Nikon is actually using Super ED glass and not a Fluorite crystal …

            • Adam Fo

              Nikon refer to one of elements in the new 70-200 FL being a HRI high refractive-index element which could be J-FKH2 as well as the ED and fluorite ones.
              Fluorite glass has been around many years in the Schott catalogue and used in binoculars like the Zeiss FL series since 2002.

            • MB

              Fluorite and it glass equivalents have the lowest refractive index of all optical materials and J-FKH2 at 1.4560 is no exception, but they have highest Abbe number over 90. They are, as well as other so called crown glasses with low refractive index but high Abbe number, used in combination with “normal” refractive index flint glasses to reduce optical aberrations caused by refraction, as for example in a classic achromatic doublet.
              To be called HRI glass need to have much higher refractive index, for example the highest one I know has Ohara S-LAH79 has refractive index over 2, but I presume Nikon is using Hikari J-LASF08 that has RI around 1.88 but much better other optical properties.
              Actually HRI glass is not that expensive and is used in reading glasses as well as in Nikon cheapest 55-xxx tele zooms because it allows higher refraction with smaller curves and therefore much thinner lens elements … good candidate for HRI would be front element in new 70-200 but Nikon does not tell so we will never know …

            • Adam Fo

              Nikon Japan talk about fluorite crystal here

              http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nikon-image.com%2Fproducts%2Flens%2Fabout%2Ftechnology.html

              Do you know the weight difference percentage wise between ED glass and fluorite ?
              If I know that I can confirm if it is fluorite glass or crystal being used.

            • MB

              Nikon talks about fluorite crystal in English too, and here is what they have been telling us for years:
              http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/lens/glossary.htm#ed
              As for weight … ED, Super ED glass and Fluorite have similar specific gravity at around 3.3-3.6 that is actually much higher than specific gravity of regular borosilicate crown glass (2.5), but because they have much better optical characteristics the lens element can be much thinner therefore reducing overall weight. What I didn’t know is that Nikon uses HRI glass with RI of over 2 (you can find that info on the linked page) and that means that Nikon is either using Ohara glass or some Hikari glass that is not yet being offered publicly. Actually the heaviest glass is HRI that has specific gravity around 5, but because it can replace couple of regular elements it does not increase overall weight and allows for more compact lenses …
              And finally I am really sorry if I made you fill bored you with all this, this is just stuff I am very interested in …

      • Piotr Kosewski

        You must be talking about Sony E-mount lenses, because even in the “plastic” era properly made gear can last decades.

        10 years? After 10 years even the cheapest lenses like Nikon 18-55 work pretty well. Same for Canon, Pentax, Olympus – basically the companies that know how to make stuff that last and… actually make it to last (not true for all manufacturers today).

        • MB

          I was not being so serious … actually I was referring to Ken Rockwells fault interpretation RoHS 10 mark …

        • Carleton Foxx

          It depends on what you mean by “lasting.” I ‘ve had my 24-70 for almost 10 years and it’s needed the zoom mechanism and the focusing motor worked on twice and I think I had the barrel replaced under warranty. But Leica primes need collimation and even $50,000 cinema zooms need adjustment so no, plastic doesn’t mean anything better or worse than metal. It’s just more modern.

      • TwoStrayCats

        Bummer. That means nearly all my lenses are decomposed. I’m using dead lenses and I didn’t even know it.

    • Chris

      Last week, I actually saw a CLA’d Nikon S for $300 from one of those reputable repairmen…. I probably should get it and auction it off on eBay or something.

  • Spy Black

    It’s always nice to look at these beautiful handmade jewels of technology like this Nikon I. The Nikon Fs, contrary to comments made by some, were also handmade. Fantastic, impeccable examples of refined industrial art.

    • Chris

      There is a sense of beauty in these metal bodies.

    • Carleton Foxx

      A friend of mine still shoots professionally with an F that was a hand-me-down from his father.

  • Politics_Nerd

    Anybody know how much these cost when new?

    • Licheus

      An outfit with Nikkor 50/2 retailed for 57,690 yen in 1948. Average Japanese workers then earn around 100,000 yen per year so few could afford it except the Americans.

      • John Albino

        Most Americans probably couldn’t *easily* afford one, either… the price in US Dollars would have been about $296 in 1948, a fairly significant sum.

        Today, that $296 after inflation is about $2,965. One way of looking at it is that Nikon’s top prosumer cameras have remained relatively constant price-wise over the past almost-70 years…

  • Wow, great to see this Nikon I. Thanks, Peter.

  • Christopher Boughton-Fox

    What a beautiful looking camera, thanks for posting these images! Chris Fox

  • John Albino

    Uli Koch’s books are priced at collector levels on the used book market. You can pick up a First Edition set of the “Nikon Trilogy” (“Nikon F: The Camera, The Lenses, The Accessories”) for “only” $475 or so, or as much as $1,455, on the used book market…. For a Cheap Date, Amazon has a cotton crew-neck T-Shirt with a Nikon Photomic T (chrome) on the front with “Tradition” in ’60s-style letters underneath for $17.99-$20.99 depending on size (show your true Fanboi-ness… 🙂 )

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