It’s a Nikon patents Friday (Nikon mirrorless, interchangeable lens camera)

I've been covering Nikon patents for a while. We have seen numerous times that patents for upcoming products are filed before the official release - check this old post: We should pay a very close attention to this patent (Nikon Micro AF-S 85mm f/3.5 DX VR). Of course not every patent will see the light of day.

So what do we have today? A reader sent me this information (I admit that I have hard time interpreting some of those patents):

I've been checking patents again and noticed a trend. All the lenses listed below have an image diameter of 17 mm. As far as I can find Nikon doesn't have any cameras with a sensor with a 17 mm diagonal. In fact I can't find any maker with this format. It's smaller than 4/3rd format (21.6 mm).  This format falls between Nikon's current P & S lineup (~7.7 diagonal) and APS-C (see Wikipedia).

So what's Nikon up to? All were filed in a 6 month period. There's 2 primes and at least 3 zooms. They could be designing for a 3rd party or are they for the rumored X1 competitor. This format would have a 35 mm equivalent factor of 2.5x. Check out patent 20090147376 - it's a pure telephoto zoom, not something for a P &S. I think that implies an interchangeable lens system:
  • Patent 20090257125 filed: April 9, 2009, pub. date: October 15, 2009, focus length: 14.26, f stop: 2.8, FOV (deg): 62, 35 mm equiv: 35
  • Patent 20090225444 filed: February 18, 2009, pub. date: September 10, 2009, focus length: 18.4 f stop: 1.4, FOV (deg): 50, 35 mm equiv: 45
  • Patent 20090147376 filed: November 25, 2008, pub. date: June 11, 2009, focus length: 30-107 f stop: 4-5.6, FOV (deg): 31.9-8.8, 35 mm equiv: 75 - 270
  • Patent 20090135498 filed: October 23, 2008, pub. date: May 28, 2009, focus length: 10.5 - 107 f stop: 3.3 - 6, FOV (deg): 81 - 9, 35 mm equiv: 26 - 270
  • Patent 20090116121 filed: October 22, 2008, pub. date: May 7, 2009, focus length: 10.5 - 108 f stop: 2.8 - 6, FOV (deg): 81 - 8.9, 35 mm equiv: 26 - 270
  • Patent 20090086334 filed: September 23, 2008, pub. date: April 2, 2009, focus length: 9 - 42.6 f stop: 2.8 - 5.6, FOV (deg): 89.8 - 22.3, 35 mm equiv: 22 - 105
  • Patent 20090086333 filed: September 23, 2008, pub. date: April 2, 2009, focus length: 10.5 - 107 f stop: 2.8 - 5.9, FOV (deg): 80.7 - 8.8, 35 mm equiv: 26 - 270

Thanks B!

And just another reminder from a previous discussion: patent 20090154915 (lens mount cover while the lens is removed) has this drawing of a mirrorless camera:


This entry was posted in Nikon 1, Nikon Lenses, Nikon Patents. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • grumps

    what none?

  • Vince

    This is interesting if they indeed picked a sensor smaller than m4/3. I wonder how the market would receive it, though it could mean very small cameras with interchangeable lenses which I personally would be interested in so that I can carry it anywhere I go w/o adding too much weight (hopefully).

    I wonder why there are 2 lenses with similar ranges and only 1/2 stop difference. Hmmm

    • WoutK89

      so they can make one of them, that they think will be most suitable to the public they are aiming at? 🙂 or something like that

    • Very interesting comment indeed.

      I think Nikon is aiming to the enormous potential market of consumers who want more than a simple pocket compact camera but less than a full-blown and cumbersome SLR. The new D3000 and D5000 are really small, but if these patents see the light we might find ourselves in front of really small SLRs.

      I wonder if quality/ergonomics will suffer…

      • iamlucky13

        I think it’s interesting that the design appears even smaller than 4/3. I’ll be curious (if something materializes…this rumor now has multiple angles to it with possible lenses on top of the X1-equivalent speculation) to see if they:

        Retain F-mount compatibility (strong incentive to existing Nikon owners at the cost of a lot of unnecessary size)

        Use the 4/3 standard (more versatility, but opens up to more competition in the lens market)


        Design a new mount (more technical flexibility, but more development work and no compatible legacy systems).

    • Jon Paul

      Agreed, Vince and Kensai. Not to mention people who want a bulky SLR -and- a small camera like this. I would love to have one of these.

      BTW, Admin, I love these patent posts. You nailed the 85 VR macro and I have to admit I thought it was a little far-fetched when you posted it, especially after it wasn’t announced with the D300s. (and, about that new DX lens: sucks to your asthmar, DX haters 😉 )

      • The DX lens was a surprise – I knew it was coming, but I did not expect them to release it with the D3s. Nobody did. This is why my bet was on the AF-S 85mm f/1.4. Maybe Nikon did it on purpose to confuse NikonRumors 🙂
        The bottom line – patents do tell us a lot.

        • WoutK89

          Or they had to release the 85 micro cause you had discovered it 😉 So keep on writing about the 85/1.4VR Patent, and you will this baby pretty soon to be born to the public 😀

        • Zograf

          I have to admit you’ve been right here for what Ive been insisting for some time Nikon doesn’t publish the patents before the real product comes out.

          Probably the 85/3.5 micro is an exception as its design is identical to the 105/2.8 VR, so no secrets here. Publishing patent take some time, (1-2-3 tears?) so I tend to believe in case of 85/3.5 is simply bad timing.

          I still believe the recently published patents are not directly related to a particular product coming soon or not. They might be simply an IP Nikon want to keep just in case.

          • I am just afraid that with all that publicity, Nikon may change their patent filing process.

  • Segura

    Yawn. So not even big enough for 4/3’s . . . guess PQ won’t be that good. Why Nikon?

    • GlobalGuy

      To have the cheaper alternative, probably.

      Btw — does this mean that the NEW SYSTEM will have new PRIMES before us FX owners??????????????

      • PHB

        Given that the D3s is pushing past ISO 12800, reducing the sensor size makes a lot of sense.

        Not every Nikon camera needs to excel in the same way. The D3 series is optimized for low light performance, the D300 is optimized for light weight, the D5000 is optimized for cost.

        Making the sensor smaller means that you can have really, really long telephotos without huge cost.

        The main advantage to having a big sensor in the DSLR format is that the mirror limits how close the back of the lens can get to the sensor. That makes it difficult to make good wide angle lenses. That disadvantage is greater in DX format than FX.

        This camera has no mirror and so the lens can be as close as they like.

        I would not expect Nikon to invest very much in lens design for this camera, except maybe for the wide angle lenses. They can get far more mileage by simply shrinking their existing F-mount designs. Since the sensor is about a quarter the area of the FX format, the lenses can be half as long and weigh about a sixth to a tenth that of the equivalent FX lens.

        So a 600mm equivalent ultra-tele should cost about $1000 in that system, probably even less due to volume.

        It really is a much smarter choice than the one Leica made. And it probably hasn’t escaped their notice that they can use the same line of lenses on a range of pro-video cameras.

        • Astrophotographer

          I think you got it right. This would fit between P&S and DSLR with a P&S size and interchangeable lenses. The physical size of the zooms are listed at about 75 – 80 mm. Consider having a 26-270 zoom only 3 inches long!

          And with such a short back focus they could design for an AFS adapter. So that 18-200 becomes a 45-500 mm, etc.

          • PHB

            I don’t see why folk have to get all defensive about these things.

            If Nikon can produce a camera that provides ISO 3200 sensitivity that fits in a (large) pocket and takes interchangeable lenses then thats great. If it is better and cheaper than the D3 line, then even better.

            There are many parts of the world I have been that I would not want to carry a D300 around with me, a compact camera that I can keep in the travel bag fits the bill perfectly.

            The laws of optics mean that there is precisely zero advantage to making a camera bigger – with the sole exception that more light gathered means more charge at the sensor, means better signal to noise ratio.

            Also, the bigger the lens, the more expensive it is to make.

          • Mikael

            18-200 becomes a 45-500. The 400 2.8 becomes a 1000 2.8! And the 600 becomes a 1500 f/4.

          • specs

            “Also, the bigger the lens, the more expensive it is to make.”

            Cheaper lenses? The Pana 20mm/1.7 on m43 does not hold a candle to a 50mm/1.8 at more than 3 times the price…

            There are 2 options which exponentially increase costs.
            1) make it big
            2) make it small

            Smaller lenses are only cheaper if you demand no quality. A smaller sensor needs a faster lens to achieve the same performance as a DSLR lens. The tolerances needed for a similar quality picture also increase the price.

            With the current m43 you see the limitations of small camera’s and small lenses. You need a more steady hand, there is no limited DOF and there is no high-ISO (someone mentioned 12800ISO? On m43 they struggle with 1600ISO).

            Nikon would raise the bar and uses even smaller sensors? I doubt I would buy a smaller compact than an m43.

        • Smaller lenses are indeed cheaper, because it’s easier to design lenses with good coverage and they use less glass.

          Unfortunately, you can’t just shrink the elements and have the same lens with a smaller image circle. You can shrink some elements sometimes width wise, but that’s about it. The physics of light don’t work like the model in your head. It’s a bit more complex that that.

          • JimB.

            “The Pana 20mm/1.7 on m43 does not hold a candle to a 50mm/1.8 at more than 3 times the price…”

            A poor comparison of a brand new, hard-to-find lens selling at list price, compared to a wunderplastik lens out for years and years. Prices for the Panasonic will go down. Besides, with a cheap adapter, anyone’s 50/1.8 will go on that camera too.

            As for the 20/1.7 itself, dpreview called it “the first must-have lens for four-thirds,” so there goes the last leg of that argument.

          • soap

            Let me counter, Jim B.

            1 – The 50 1.8 has ALWAYS been cheap. Leg one of your argument gone.
            2 – We have no knowledge of a F-mount to adapter. Acting as if you know than for a fact makes Leg two of your argument gone.
            3 – A pretty pig is still a pig. Leg three gone.


          • PHB

            The reason you can’t shrink lenses easily in the F-mount format is that you are still constrained by the need to avoid the mirror structure designed for a 35mm film camera.

            If you are designing a new mount from scratch you can scale the system by any amount you choose and it will still function the same – until you start hitting quantum effects.

            Making lenses smaller is generally easier than making them big. It is easier to get the bubbles of air out of the glass, it is easier to polish them.

            Comparing a Panasonic lens to a Nikon one proves nothing. The biggest factor in driving cost is volume.

            The 50mm f/1.8 is cheap because the development costs are amortized over millions of lenses made over the years.

            OK so the new format lenses may be plastic bodies, but so what? If you have a big lens you need a lot of strength to support the weight of the glass. If you have a small lens you don’t have so much weight and you can use plastic.

            ISO performance is not everything. I am much more often wishing I had more low ISO stops than high ISO.

          • soap

            PHB – ND filters making the scene too dark to focus?

  • rhlpetrus

    Most interesting are the frist two, fast primes, second would be 45mm f/1.4 equivalent, vey nice “normal” lens for supposed format.

    I wonder why not just APS-C. Maybe Nikon really wants to compete for the smal compact market, a mini EVIL.

    But sensor would be a bit small for 17mm diagonal, not good for IQ IMO.

    • mike

      I am sick of forum denizens and their bad math:
      18/1.4 on a 2.5x crop is a 45/3.5 equivalent. Comparing to the DX format, it is a 30/2.2 equivalent. This is not that difficult a concept, people.

      • Astrophotographer

        Unfortunately your math is wrong. f1.4 is the same exposure (e.g. shutter speed) no matter what the format or focal length.

        To put is another way. this lens has a ~13 mm aperture, An equivalent 35mm would be a 32mm aperture for a 45mm lens.

        • El Aura

          But in terms of DOF and low-light performance, a 18/1.4 lens on 2.5x crop sensor gives you what 45 mm f/3.5 on FX gives you (same amount of light but concentrated on a smaller sensor area)

  • getanalogue

    Nikon does not want to jeopardize their own APS-C DSLR range. Selling a lot of lenses – that’s the point. Interesting point would be whether F-Mount or not.

    • Astrophotographer

      These lenses don’t have the back focus needed for F-mount. But I could see an adapter for the camera to allow use of F-mount lenses.

  • Sean

    But whatever you do, don’t mention the in-body IS patent!

  • Philiplipetz

    There was another rumor about RAW videocam – high end. This could easily be it.

  • Philiplipetz

    Another advantage of a smaller sensor for a dedicated videocam is less problems downscaling image to video resolution. RED is suppposed to introduce a 2/3″ chip pro cam with models that can reach about $10k.

    • pulu

      i think you have it exactly… these lenses are for a video system. 17mm is almost exactly 2/3 inch. maybe nikon is cracking that market. also the 26-270 equivalent sure looks like a video lens.

      were the rumors about nikon making the red lenses ever completely debunked?

      • Astrophotographer

        In fact, the 2/3 format has a diagonal of 11 mm. Check out the Wikipedia link above.

        How did they get the inch formats though, 4/3 = 21 mm and 2/3 = 11 mm???

        • wmh

          see this

          2/3 of 17mm is about 11mm., etc.

          • Worminator

            Ah-ha, so with 17mm, Nikon looks to be targeting 1″ sensor size.

            Things are starting to come together: making a mirrorless APS-C camera never made any sense to me, since it would never be much smaller than a reflex design. Drop down to 1″ (about 1/4 the size of APS-C, but 4 times bigger than a typical high end compact camera, i.e. bang in the middle) and the camera and lenses get a lot smaller, even smaller than m4.3, you can still have a adapter to F-mount, and, in short, things get really interesting.

            Gentlemen, I think we have a lock.

            Expect something from Nikon about the midsize between the LX3 and GF1, with a suite of itty bitty interchangeable lenses. Video of course. DOF and noise being about half way between a high end compact and dSLR.

        • The term 4/3rds has nothing to do with size (even though the size is standardized). It’s just a reference to the aspect ratio, which is squarer than 35mm and APSc sized formats.

  • pulu

    can you tell whether the image would have a 4:3 or 3:2 ratio?

  • How do you find this stuff ???? Good work.


    • Astrophotographer

      I’ll confess to being the one to alert admin on this. I’ve been checking the patent applications to see what Nikon was up to. By looking for the image height spec you can determine was format it’s for. About 21 mm is FX and 14 mm is DX (image height is half the diameter). I’ve been ignoring anything else until the 2 primes appeared. That’s when I discovered they don’t match any current sensor format that I can find.

      Give credit to admin for linking them to the camera patent. Combined they show Nikon is actively developing this new format.

      • I am sure that they are other patents related to that topic that we are not aware of – Nikon has 5-10 patent applications every week, somebody already mentioned the in-body image stabilization patent which I remember seeing before.

  • When you are looking a patent trends please note that the US filing date in the published patent is close to one year after the patent application was filed in Japan.

    • David

      Yes in order to claim foreign priority for a U.S. patent application, the application must be filed within one year of the foreign filing date; otherwise the applicant forfeits the right to file in the U.S. (or, more precisely, the foreign application, once published (18 months from the original filing date) becomes anticipatory prior art to the U.S. application. So for every published U.S. application you see that claims priority to a Japanese application, the invention was most likely conceived about 20 momnths ago (give about 2 months for the application to be prepared and filed in Japan).

  • Astrophotographer

    These could be for video. Kodak has one HD chip with a 16.3 mm diagonal. KAI-2093. But it’s a rare size. And if so why is Nikon designing for video?

    • Worminator

      Remember that HD video looks set become a standard feature in ALL cameras, so in that sense Nikon is designing for video… but not primarily so.

      These lenses look to be for a mirrorless camera based on a 1″ sensor size. (half way between APS-C and a high end compact) It makes a lot of sense as a camera, and as a way for Nikon to beat the GF1 and u4.3 at it’s own game so to speak. The camera will of course be able to take HD video, but I see no reason to think these are specifically for a video camera.

      The idea is so timely that it’s hard to believe that Nikon is just blowing smoke here.

  • It is a 4MP HI-ISO (D3-like) compact camera.

    • WoutK89

      D3-like HI-ISO I hope you mean? Otherwise, what is the compactness about a D3? 😉

    • Anon

      That is a dream! But nobody except me would buy this camera.

  • John

    Do want if it comes out great smaller solution and better image than P&S…

  • Mar

    What a bad rumor………and im still waiting update fx lenses…

  • Crabby

    I suggested a small non-mirror Nikon DSLR on Nikonians a few months ago and you’d think I suggested soaking new Nikon products in swine flu virus! As these electronic finders improve, they will become far more acceptable. See Epson’s new venture.

    • Anon

      Right, I’m sure Nikon turns to Crabby for new camera developments.

      • WoutK89

        Espicially given the R&D was already started a few more months (years) before 😛

    • Worminator

      Non-mirror dSLR is one thing, a compact interchangeable lens camera with a sensor midway between APS-C and 1/1.8″ is another thing completely.

      Never mind that the R in dSLR means “mirror”.

      It’s about whether the expectation is for an optical viewfinder. For a compact, we’ve accepted that using the rear LCD (or a add on finder of some sort) is acceptable. For a SLR, a full-featured optical viewfinder is still (quite rightly I might add) considered a necessity.

  • Bob H

    What I’d like to see is Nikon make a version of the Red One. A mirror-less large sensor camera with EVF for existing F mount lenses. Give it the processing power to shoot 1080p. And while it’s shooting video capture a 12MP still every second or so.

    Digital stills and video are going to converge one day. It would be nice if Nikon beat Canon to the punch on this.

    • f/2.8

      The one to beat will be Sony.

  • ek

    …Thus the user can photograph the object using this camera CAM. The camera CAM in FIG. 1 may be one which has a removable imaging lens 1, or one that is integrated with the imaging lens 1. The camera CAM may be a single-lens reflex camera, or a compact camera which does not have a quick return mirror.


  • Dweeb

    I wish they’d patent a 300 ƒ4 IS lense with a decent tripod collar.

    • Plug

      Absolutely!!! If Nikon bring out FX bodies then they must back up with FX lenses if they are not to anger the customers who have purchased these bodies at great expense. I bought my D700 on the assumtion that I would be able to buy top quality lenses to match. I am beginning to think that Nikon regards my ilk as rich, stupid bananaheads. I resent that.

  • [Ô]

    17mm image circle relates to a 1″ chip, one of the standard chip sizes used in video.

    a 1″ CCD is NOT 1″ long (or diagional or anything else) it has the same coverage as and used the same lenses as a 1″ tube used to…

    the 1″ CCD has a 16mm diagional (Nikon always leaves a little clearance for good measure)

  • Brunopic

    Well done Admin. You have convinced me that Nikon has the breaktrough video camera.

    • pulu

      why do you think this will be a breakthrough cam? the whole reason people are interested in dslrs for video right now is that they want extreme dof control. but a camera with a 2.5x sensor won’t have that at all… the 45/1.4 equivalent lens will look more like 45/3.3 on an fx sensor. that’s not enough dof control for the current crowd… the 5d2 will still have the whole market.

  • Simon

    I know it is a rumour site but why does Nikon rumours behaves like a fanboy sites and latches onto every wild guesses like gospels? Remember Nikon Road Map?
    We all know about Canon eye control AF and they can implement such feature if and when but at least rumour sites dont keep harping about it like it is something about to happen. Canon also researching on backlit sensor that doubles the sensitivity but again Canon owners and rumour sites dont make a points about it “impending” release”. Take D700x, how many updates and news about this upcomming release and dubious features in the last 12 months on here? My advice is just back off a bit from guesses and trivia and report only things that are credible and relevent.

    • WoutK89

      If you dont like it, dont read, simple as that

      I for one, like the way things work around here and dont expect Admin will just change this cause it is the opinion of few

      • JimB.

        Yeah, fanboys rule. Speculate like hell! Ignore past mistakes!

    • f/2.8

      You come here to Nikon Rumors but expect Nikon press release?

  • morphez

    hmm interesting patents….btw, how’s the current status of AF-S 16-35/4 ? will it still being introduced this year or early next year…I was ready to buy D700 but so far no option from Nikon for wide angle zoom other than 14-24/2.8 which is too big to travel and too expensive. 17-35/2.8 and 18-35/3.5 no longer listed in my country and I am not comfortable buy used lens…

  • Anonymous

    Video camera makes the most sense. But, here’s a wild idea:

    Sensor size is 1/4 of full-frame sensor. Nikon effectively creates 4 1/4 size D3x sensors. Each sensor has a little more than 6 megapixels. Based on dxomark, on a pixel v. pixel basis, the 1/4 D3x sensor will perform essentially the same as the D40 6 megapixel sensor, but with a little more DR.

    So you will get D40-level quality in a sub-APS-C sensor in a tiny, mirrorless camera.

    The only problem with this idea is how to price it. How much would you pay for a compact camera with D40-level quality? If it had a hotshoe, I would be interested at a reasonable price.

    • soap

      A compact with D40+ quality? That would be the cat’s meow.
      Me? I’d pay for that, assuming the UI is better than is typical for Nikon compacts.
      The general megapixel-loving public? Likely a harder sell. ::

      • WoutK89

        I guess you can win over P&S consumers with (response) speed and (picture/build) quality compared to what a P&S does 🙂 So if Nikon can make that work, who needs a P&S anymore? People that need a Projector built in? 😛

        • john

          itll still be more $$$ than a P&S and not everyone will want to invest in lenses…….

    • Worminator

      Given current trends, it will be 12MP CMOS with video. It will cost something about the same as a D3000 kit, and be considered something of a niche product on release. The lenses will be relatively expensive.

  • Alex

    What about my D700x ?
    Actually I think 15-18MP will be better than 24MP, it will keep the high ISO quality.
    Anyway, I bought the D700, I’ll just have to forget about the 16×20 enlargments :o(
    Thank again for the tips about the D3s, I’m still surprise that Nikon put a video on a professional DSLR.

  • Davey

    What are the advantages of having a mirrorless camera? Does it make taking a picture more quiet?

    • [Ô]

      yes it can.
      mirrorless also allows the lens mount to be closer to the sensor, which frees up lens design to be smaller ( and easier cheaper sharper wide angles).

      both these give a potentially smaller camera.

  • regular

    My guess is that some time ago Nikon R&D had designed a small mirrorless system, that was never introduced because of the arrival of micro 4/3 systems. Nikon figured out they did too small, too late.

    The project was canceled, but the key inventions are patented anyway. But, hey, that’s just a guess 🙂

    • Worminator

      Check back in 6 months and we’ll see.

      m4.3 is a success, Nikon et al. will have to provide an answer or give up major market share as people choose the GF1 etc. instead of either a compact or a dSLR.

      I also don’t think Nikon came up with this idea before m4.3 became known to them. Call it a hunch. And no way is this cancelled. 😉

  • Thomas

    Yeah, thats great. I think it will be a 10 x 15 mm Chip in this Camera (may be SX format? Or PX format?). Sounds logical to me. A nice electronic view finder and than some lenses like a 10-35mm (25 x 87,5mm on FF) and a 35-200mm (87,5 x 500mm on FF). With Nikons knowlegde it won’t be a problem to get better ISO results than with 4/3 from the known manufacturers. I’ll start feeding my piggybank 🙂 T

  • Back to top