More Nikon patents

More Nikon patent applications became public in the past few days. Here is what I found to be interesting :

"An illuminating unit having a plurality of light emitting elements with axes of illuminating light fluxes from the plurality of light emitting elements different from one another, which illuminates a subject with light emitted; and a light emission control unit that performs at least one of light emission/non-emission setting and light emission brightness level setting for each of the plurality of light emitting elements, so as to achieve a specific illumination pattern."


Anotherย flash related patent from Nikon describes a wireless connection and data synchronization between the camera and the flash unit (or other external devices). A third Nikon flash relatged patent even mentions a "the image-capturing system is a portable device equipped with a camera" with a reference figure of a cellphone. Check this site for more info on LED lighting:

"An image processing apparatus includes: a storage unit that records position information for a defective pixel; a setting unit that sets the defective pixel as an interpolation subject pixel, on the basis of the recorded position information."

Please note that most of those are just patent applications and may or may not lead to a final production model. Following Nikon patents does make sense - take a look at patent application 20080212957 "Camera with built-in projector and projector device" (they even had a drawing of the camera) and 20090086321 for the new 70-200mm. Those patents were filed just few months before the official release, unfortunately I do not know when they became public record. I have been following Nikon patents in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

A reader (thanks Brian!) compiled a list of Nikon patents for the past few years and matched them with the existing lens releases (table after the jump):

application# issued filed lens released
20070070517 3/29/2007 9/7/2006 24-70
f2.8 FX
20070070520 3/29/2007 9/7/2006 14-24
f2.8 FX
20070070521 3/29/2007 8/31/2006 18-135
f3.5-5.6 DX
20070223105 6/27/2007 3/14/2007 18-55
f3.5-5.6 DX
20070183042 8/9/2007 2/1/2007 55-200
f4-5.6 DX
20080019018 1/24/2008 7/18/2007 16-85
f3.5-5.6 DX
20090002841 1/1/2009 6/14/2008 18-55
f3.5-5.6 DX
20090015938 1/15/2009 7/11/2008 24mm
f1.4 FX
20090059393 3/5/2009 8/25/2008 50mm
f1.4 FX
20090086321 4/2/2009 9/17/2008 70-200
f2.8 FX
20090086340 4/2/2009 8/5/2008 35mm
f1.4 FX
20090153980 6/18/2009 11/25/2008 60mm
f2.8 macro FX
20090161227 6/25/2009 12/23/2008 18-105
f3.5-5.6 DX
20090185293 7/23/2009 12/30/2008 24mm
f1.4 FX
20090190220 7/30/2009 12/4/2008 85mm
f3.5 DX
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  • mantom

    The distance information is most interesting to me. I do 3D Animation for my day job and having distance information per pixel is very useful for reconstructing a scene to perform re-lighting. I hope this happens as a native feature for all the Nikon cameras.

  • Hugo

    Sounds like Nikon is making progress with their inevitably-up-coming radio-based (rather than pulsed-light-based) iTTL/CLS/AWL flash system! Can’t wait. I hate those annoying preflashes so much that I just use manual mode instead of wireless CLS.

    • Roger Moore

      Not by the looks of it. The control system described still uses modulated light pulses for communication, not radio.

      • Anonymous

        it is RF, it specifically mentions zigbee, bluetooth etc in section 0060 page 4

    • Anonymous

      I thought preflash was also used for light metering. I that case, anyway, you’d still have preflashes in a wireless setup. Or am I wrong here??

      • Anonymous

        yes, if you were using TTL, you would still get preflashes

        however you can use flash value lock and you would get the preflashes and not get them when taking the picture – useful for blinking eyes

        or you can shoot controlling the flashes power manually and you would not get preflashes- and the prospect of controlling all the flashes manually from your camera with a RF link is very exciting

  • heartyfisher

    Sigh .. so there is no 28mm F1.n on the way ??

    Looks like I will have to go visit the sigma store …

  • Mike

    DX 85 f3.5?! What would that be good for? I hope it’s just a joke and Nikon will introduce a DX 85 with f1.8 or at least f2.0…

    • Erik

      Reading the patent for the 85mm lens, it is a 85mm DX VR Macro lens. Looks like basically the DX equivalent of the 105 VR. It looks like it will be significantly physically smaller than the 105.


      • PHB

        That would be one heck of a lens for macro work. FX frame makes no sense for macro work, you are trying to get smaller and bigger pixels are no help.

        Same thing for the aperture, macro work is done with a tripod (at minimum) and usually with studio lighting. But even so, the effective aperture of this lens in a macro configuration could easily be better in practice than the effective aperture of a general purpose lens on a bellows.

        What would be even better of course would be a non-G lens so it works with bellows and extension tubes. But I doubt that will happen.

        I am currently playing around with a bellows, a reversing ring and an old 50mm f/1.8 lens that came with my Nikon-FG I got for my 18th birthday. The depth of focus is hideously shallow, but the picture is sharp and CA-free. I can get 100x magnification which is pretty nifty. And the whole setup is far easier to work with than any microscope.

    • Astrophotographer

      By my reading, the patent is about a better VR based on this line:

      …(vibration proof group) that can move in a direction substantially vertical to the optical axis

      substantially is the key word.

  • What’s close focus/reproduction ration on he 85/3.5? What if it’s a DX macro? Not a bad idea since the existing macros that focus on the d40/d60/d3000/d50000 are a bit pricey for that segment.

    Cheap DX macro? Bring it…

    • Tabitha Green

      Does Nikon do ‘cheap’?

      • Adam

        I’m more interested into cheaper FX glasses (around Canon f/4 glasses price point) instead of cheaper DX glass, the DX market got enough lens to play with already (at least for a few years, Canon seem to be ignoring the APS-C market and ppl don’t really complain cuz they got the f/4 glasses and FF primes to lower their pain ๐Ÿ˜€ ) ๐Ÿ™

        • Anonymous

          You’re not alone on this one ๐Ÿ˜‰
          But I fear that we might need to wait a bit longer for new cheap FX glas, As it doesn’t seem as if there’s a moderately priced FX body waiting around the corner.Maybe when we see an update to the D3, we might see a 12mp FX in a D90 like body. Then my guess is that Nikon will take care about less than pro grade FX lenses.

          • PHB

            B&H currently sell the D700 for $2400 and the D300 for $1600. So there is a 50% markup for the FX sensor.

            The D300s is another $200 making the gap $600. I think we will see both bodies continuing to drop in price over time, particularly as concerns about a US depression are easing and the dollar strengthens.

            Bottom line is that it is quite possible that we will see a D700 selling at close to $2000 within a year.

            I can well imagine there being room for a D90 equivalent in FX frame selling for $1400. But that would really depend on Nikon being able to get the sensors in sufficient volume from Sony.

            That said, I do agree with Adam that a range of low cost FX glass would be necessary to launch a lower cost FX body. Otherwise you are putting a $2300 lens on a $1500 body.

            Where I am skeptical is that I don’t see how a FX 14-24 is necessarily going to be a much better performer than the 10-24 DX lens when both are made to sell at the same price point. And at the longer ranges the glass might well look much more attractive on DX sensor than FX.

            Bottom line is that I think that unless you already have the glass or you have $6000 to lay out on the magic three, it is really not the time to move to FX yet.

            That will come when there is an affordable 24MP FX sensor which means that you have the option of using it as a 12MP sensor in crop mode and still have plenty of pixels left over for making big prints. Looks to me like we are three years off that point.

        • Desinderlase

          If you want to go cheap, go with DX.

        • Adam

          yup, I agree with what PHB means, and Desinderiase, I want to move to FX eventually and as we all know, mostly it is about the lens.

          Here is the problem, if I want to invest in glasses I will only invest in FX glasses, problem is, its too expensive, I can invest on Canon f/4 glasses and have a few FF glasses before moving up to a 5D or something but not with Nikon, with Nikon, I either go third party first for FX glasses or get DX glass and sell all of em and still have losses. So to me, Canon f/4 FF strategy makes a whole lot of sense for many people like me whom are considering to upgrade to FF in the future (and for those who maybe now are not considering FF but who knows rite?), other then that I prefer Nikon all the way.

          That’s why now my aim will be to get the magic three but damn it will take me a few years to get those ๐Ÿ™ and only then I can upgrade to a FX body, total bull. Last time in Canon world, my strategy is to get a few f/4 glasses (usable focal length on a crop body) and move to FF and only then invest in f/2.8 glasses, now in Nikon world, it just get a lil bit more troublesome

          • PHB

            I am in much the same boat, but I think Nikon will have us covered

            The magic three for FX format is the 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200. That gives you an effective range of 14-200 in three lenses with no gap.

            The DX range has more options, but these come in fairly clear increments:

            Phase 1: Kit lens

            The starting point is a kit lens or lenses covering the 18-200 range with VR capability. Whether you have one lens or two does not really matter very much. The separate lenses might be sligtly better as far as optical performance goes but the super-zoom wins hands down on convenience.

            Phase 2: Extend the range.

            The next logical move is to extend the range with a 10-24 wide angle at the wide end and the as yet non-existent 80-400 AFS. Together with your existing lenses this gives you an effective range of 15-600mm which is pretty amazing

            Phase 3: Plug the middle

            At this point you have your bases covered with respect to range and you can do pretty much any type of photography with two medium weight lenses or if you are doing wildlife you can take a somewhat heavy but not prohibitively heavy super-telephoto zoom.

            OK so this is the point where at the moment Canon thinks that the answer is a lightweight pro zoom and Nikon seems to think the answer is either a full professional zoom (aka the Beast) or to buy the 35mm and 50mm AFS primes.

            I have already bought the 50mm f/1.4 and I would buy the 85mm f/1.4 if it was AFS. While the AF lens focuses perfectly fast enough on my D300, it is pretty clear that the AF motor will disappear from every camera long before the DX format disappears (if that ever happens).

            Phase 4: Upgrade

            At this point you can pretty much jump to FX format any time you like and most of your lenses still work fine. Your only casualties are at the wide and and only your 35mm is a complete write off. The 10-24 still works fine as a 14-24mm FX lens which not coincidentally gives you the same field of view at the wide end. OK so it is slower and has more distortion than the 14-24 but it is also lighter and a lot less fragile.

            Now what you seem to be arguing for is a lightweight 70-200. But that is already a pretty crowded segment. Nikon already makes the 80-200 which is a full pro lens, only lacking VR. And they also have the 70-300VR at $550.

            In the mid range, Nikon already has an FX 24-85 f/2.8-4 AF lens for $550, which is essentially the equivalent of the DX 18-55 kit lens. I think that what you really want is for an updated version of that lens rather than an f/4 version of the CA formula.

            So if I was a Nikon product manager, my priorities would be:

            1) AFS versions of the 80-400 and 24-85
            2) AFS Fast primes – 135f/2, 85f/1.4, 35f/1.4, 24f/1.4, optimized for bokeh on the long end and sharpness and lack of distortion on the wide end.
            3) Dedicated DX Macro lens (does not need to focus to infinity) offering 10x or better magnification.
            4) Light weight super-tele primes – 200mm/f2.8, 400/f.4

            That is 9 lenses so unless there is a speedup in production we are out to the end of 2010.

            On the other hand, taking the new f/2.8 design and shrinking it to an f/4 design might be possible without a huge investment in R&D. But the obvious person to give that assignment to would be the person who just finished the f/2.8 and so I can’t see one being likely for a while.

          • 4) Light weight super-tele primes โ€“ 200mm/f2.8, 400/f.4

            Oh yeah, baby, bring it on! With VR!

          • PHB

            Thats, interesting, how many people would want a lightweight 200mm f/2.8 versus how many would like a lightweight 70-200 f/4 zoom?

            Myself, i think that nikon has telephoto zooms more than covered. They have the pro 70-200 and the pro but non-VR 80-200 at half the price. And then on top of those they have the 70-300VR and non-VR, the 55-200 kit and the 18-200 super-zoom.

            That is five zooms, do we really, really need another zoom in between the 70-300 and 80-200?

            A prime on the other hand could be optimized for great bokeh and would require fewer lens groups. OK so the f/2 is a legendary lens, but even if you can afford it, it is very heavy.

      • Anonymous

        Of course. Most of the consumer DX lenses can be considered as cheap. Just look at the 35mm DX, here in Europe available for less than 200 Euro from day one on.

        • PHB

          Well the 35mm f/1.8 is dirt cheap for what it is. But there is plenty of pretty pricey DX glass. The 10-24 is $900 which is less than half the cost of the equivalent FX lens, but hardly ‘cheap’.

          I suspect that a dedicated DX macro is likely to be in the $600-$1200 range. Be nice to be wrong, but the fact is that DX does not automatically mean ‘cheap’. Except for telephotos that are really aimed at DX shooters, FX does mean expensive however.

          If they could get 50x magnification without the use of extension tubes, you could buy a D5000 plus macro lens for $1000-$1500 and have the most awesome digital microscope for far less than anythin offering comparable performance.

      • WoutK89

        Ever seen the 50mm 1.8, or the new released 35 1.8 DX? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Erik

      It is a DX VR Macro, according to the patent text.

  • Blago

    Am I the only one who’s seeing 35/1.4 and 24/1.4 patented last year and due to be released !

    • Anonymous

      No, looks good. However, no sign of a 85/1.4 or 135/2. But I guess that does not have to mean anything – there was no patent for the 105/2.8 Macro either (or it was before the period), nor for the new 18-200 or the 35/1.8.

      • PHB

        You can only get a patent for something that is novel. Contrawise a lens that has more than one novel feature might justify more than one patent.

        So the lack of a patent application does not necessarily indicate a lack of design effort. But the fact of a patent application does mean that there is something being worked on. And the fact that there is a prototype in the labs does not mean that there is necessarily a plan to launch it as a product.

        Inside Nikon there is a team that does nothing but evaluate lens designs. They are the people who decide if a lens is awarded a gold band or not. The testing can take upwards of a year. Only half the designs tested are approved. That is what makes Nikon lenses so great.

        It seems highly unlikely that Nikon has no plans to fit AFS to the 85mm and 80-400mm lenses. So the lack of a patent suggests that the AFS versions they are working on are essentially the same optical formula with a redesign of the cams to incorporate the AFS module. That seems to be exactly what people are after on the 85mm f/1.4. Alternatively we might have seen the patent for the 80-400 but not recognized what it is.

    • Anonymous

      I’d simply love 24mm 1.4, but I fear, that i might sell close to 2000 dollar, which will make the sigma 24mm 1.8 even more attractive, especially as bokeh isn’t the primary goal here.
      Anyone using the 24mm? On FX? Corners? I’m not really a corner sharpness fetishist, but on wide angle I think it can be quite important.

  • Blago

    Honestly! Why everyone is demanding Nikon to release all their dream-lens at once just right now ? It’s silly.

    • WoutK89

      So they can start asking for new dream lenses, for instance updates of other already great lenses again? ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Adam

      cuz some people are tired of waiting for updated FX f/1.4 prime lenses?

    • Gustav

      What I’d like to know is why do photographers say “invest in good glass over bodies, as it will last forever” but here you see everyone wanting new and updated lenses every few months?

      • WoutK89

        Point exactly taken ๐Ÿ™‚

      • PHB

        That is because either they have already gone to FX format and are upset to discover that Nikon only produces $2000 lenses for their $2400-$8000 cameras or they want to hold open the option of going to FX and ‘futureproof’.

        Me, I will wait until the yen is softer before buying any pro-glass. And I will wait for a mid-priced 25MP body before considering going to FX, if at all.

        I don’t agree that glass lasts forever, computer aided design has rendered the f/2.8 prime range obsolete. My 10-24 zoom is sharper than my 20mm prime. And only the gold band glass currently on sale is going to perform well enough to justify a 55MP sensor.

  • Blago

    vicious circle that took years to perfect…

  • Shivas

    Why are there two 24 1.4 patents?

    Looks like that we’ll defintely be getting an FX body + primes this fall….this is such torture!!

    I wonder if the sb 700 will sell as an LED flash along side the 600 and 900?

    • Roger Moore

      My theory is that Nikon had two groups working on a 24/1.4 and they came up with different solutions to the design problem. It might be that they were targeting two possible price points, that one was depending on better available aspheric lenses (both appear to have 2 aspherics, but only one uses an aspheric for the front element), or just that they wanted two groups to be competing as a guarantee that they’d have a good design on schedule. In any case, I take it as a sign that they’re very serious about the 24/1.4.

      • Astrophotographer

        Good theory, except both patents are by HARADA, Hiroki.

        • Roger Moore

          Right you are. I should have noticed that.

  • Ennan

    The LED flash – contineous lighting for D-movie fans?

    • WoutK89

      Will that mean the D700(x or s) will have video too? If so you might be spot on!

      • Ennan

        The D700x/s will certainly have video. They need it to compete with the 5D mkII. It’s just one of those things people will expect from now on. It’ll probably have a mic input and autofocus like the D300s. Just hope it has better video quality.

        Even if it doesn’t I’ll probably pick one up for that tasty sensor… assuming it’s the same as the D3x…

  • B2

    What a great idea the LED flash. I bet they have a signature very much like a flash bulb and would be perfect for some many very cool lighting needs. Would not like them for on camera, but off camera (hand held) this would ROCK.

    b2 (;->

    • WoutK89

      And think about how much longer the batteries can be used, probably less chance of overheating too? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Erik

      The details of the LED flash patent make it look like the primary reason for using LEDs is to be able to have multiple light sources within the flash so that the flash can shape the light output more precisely and more diversely than can be done with an in-flash lens/reflector combo. The patent seems to indicate that it can create more even lighting by analyzing lens distance data, active focus points, and preflash data to give a boost to background light, and reduce foreground light to give an even pattern. I think this technology has the potential to really take intelligent on-camera flash to the next level.

  • jeff-c

    Bogen Imaging has a line of LED based panel products: Litepanels.

    They look very much like the Nikon patent drawing.

  • alex

    Leds are good for photography as long as they are very good quality leds, with a CRI 87-90. The current led lights are dirt cheap white leds with a cri of 7, they’re only sold at high price.

    What it’s interesting it’s the wireless flash patent ’cause that’s already what’s happening since 2003 and the CLS system. What’s with the patent right now? Unless they’re talking about a wireless radio system, not a wireless IR system like current CLS.

    • alex

      i meant CRI of 70, not 7

  • Astrophotographer

    Note the 60mm macro, 20090153980, is a new design and not the existing 60mm. Compare the images. And the patent mentions VR.

    • PHB

      Why does one need VR on a macro lens?

      • WoutK89

        and why on a 60mm macro? 200mm I can see why, longer focal length, equals more shake in normal focus conditions.

    • I added the release date of 01/08 because I thought it is for the last model.

  • Alex

    I don’t get it. Where is Brian pulling these numbers from? Some of them make sense, but most of them look like they were pulled from his arse. Maybe I’m missing something. For instance, on patent 20090190220, I don’t see any mention of “85mm” or “3.5” (for aperture). Am I not looking close enough, or were these numbers made up? Or is Brian a lens engineer? Another example.. patent 20090153980 doesn’t seem to match up with the 60mm AF-S macro lens. Obviously it is a macro, but it clearly says in the patent that it should incorporate VR, and the 60mm AF-S macro lens, now released, does not have VR.

    • Alex

      Oh, I just figured it out, actually. The [All parameters] and [specifications] sections.

  • Gra

    How seriously bright can led lighting be? For flash/speed light? Ok…I’ve seen led for headlight use in cars and industrial lighting…but led’s bright enough to make BETTER flash lighting? I’d like to see that…Can led respond as quick or quicker thant traditional flash?

    …as someone’s put it up there…lighting for Dmovie…fantastic, altho I’m not a Dmovie fan….I just bought D3X…

    Re: D700x/s I’ve spoken to several parties in Australia, not the least Nikon Aust., because I want that res in a more mobile body for back up to D3X, and they’ve repeatedly told me, there is no plan to put 24mp FX sensor in D700 or any similar body…’any time soon’

    Noone’s told me why…but seems in concrete.

    • Then maybe it will be a D700s – just like the D300s. Nikon must/should release another ff body this year. D700s makes more sense to me than D700x.

      • Anonymous

        I’m really curious about what will be next, in terms of FX body. I think one big question might be what Sony will do. If it’s true and they put three bodies out there with 36mm sensors, then Nikon and Canon might react. I know a couple people that are waiting for something affordable with a bigger sensor, and quite a couple might be willing to switch to sony.

  • Ronan

    Since when does DX mean cheap?

    Please don’t confuse cheap consumer glass like the 18-200 than a 17-55mm 2.8, which is DX but no where near cheap. D300 and D300s are in the +$1600, again far from cheap.

    Theirs two kind of Nikon pro, DX and FX shooter. I shoot DX, my colleague shoots FX. At the end of the day, the only difference is he has higher ISO capability. Our pictures both sell for just as much, and our clients (or many pro’s) cannot tell the difference.

    And if sharpness and MP is your thing, we simply take out our H1D.

  • Zograf

    Once again, you cannot judge for future products out of US published Nikon patents!! They are either for already products available on the market or, specialized one… The time Nikon’s US patent is out, Nikon has already the product on the market….

  • James

    Sooo I’m trying to avoid reading the whole patent but is the chance of an SB-“700” coming out soon good? I’ve been considering the SB-600 for a while and always check up here to see if it’s going to be renewed soon.

    • WoutK89

      hehe, only time will tell ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Alex

    Just wanted to say… Philips has already developed an LED camera flash. It’s called the Luxeon.

    Just pointing that out for the people who think it wouldn’t work well. Looks like it works great.

    • James

      “LUXEON Flash is already providing light output for 5+Megapixel cameras enabling them to take great images. After all it’s all about people having fun using their cameras and phones. “

  • Anonymous

    why is everyone bitching about cheap F/4 lenses? aren’t you guys aware of slow apertures, which makes the lenses pretty much useless in low light shooting where you have to stop down to F/5.6 due to chromatic aberration? F/4 lineup is good for daylight shooting, methinks.

    or shop on and buy old MF nikkors for 1/4 the price for new AF-S nikkors.

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