Nikon patents for this week – Nikon EVIL camera again

In this post I will use the patent interpretations from a NR reader who has a much better "patents reading abilities" than me:

We have another 32 mm f/1.2 lens (for the 17 mm format sensor) which will make a 80 mm equivalent (patent# 20090273851):


The same above patent refers to "employable as an interchangeable lens system".

Patent 20090273841 is for diffractive optics, similar to Canon's Diffractive Optics lens technology. Interestingly 20090273851 also refers to potential diffractive optics.

One thing that may be of interest is the Oct. 15th patent 20090256952 -  this sounds mundane, focus detection but it's about phase detection auto focus in the image itself, I don't think anyone has this. The kicker is this is one of 2 dozen patents on this technology going back to early 2007 and all of them reference use in an EVIL camera:


Look at Fig. 1 in 20090256952 (above) and compare in to this description:

[0077]The liquid crystal display element 216 functions as an electronic viewfinder (EVF). A live image (through image) provided by the image sensor 212, brought up on display at the liquid crystal display element 216 by the liquid crystal display element drive circuit 215, can be observed by the photographer via the eyepiece lens 217. The memory card 219 is an image storage medium in which an image captured by the image sensor 212 is stored.

[0078]A subject image is formed on the light receiving surface of the image sensor 212 with a light flux having passed through the exchangeable lens 202. The subject image undergoes photoelectric conversion at the image sensor 212 and subsequently, image signals and focus detection signals are transmitted to the body drive control device 214.

Almost all the related patent use the same figure.

The bottom line: Nikon has been after an EVIL camera since 2006 and they're looking for autofocus performance in this system.

Because of the increased interest in this topic, I have started two new categories: Nikon EVIL and Nikon Patents.

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  • Astrophotographer

    I think “auto focus in the image itself” should have read “auto focus in the imager itself”. aka image sensor

  • NikoDoby

    Maybe this wasn’t so ridiculous after all? 🙂

    • Niko, I think you are correct. This is why I still insist to post every rumor, even if it doesn’t make sense. As time goes by, things will start making sense. What was crazy about this post were the specs.

  • Jon Paul

    If Nikon can really get phase detected AF embedded in the imaging sensor, this camera will be one for the ages.

  • PTG

    Thank you for the patent section. It will become my favorite one.

  • martin

    I just like the sound of Nikon EVIL… >=)

  • Davo

    I agree re: the patent section. It provides interesting discussion regardless of whether it leads to a product. Thanks NR!
    With regards to the hypothetical 32mm f1.2 lens for a 17mm format sensor, am I correct in saying the effective FX equivalent is 80mm AND f/3 equivalent dof?
    Obviously in terms of exposure, f1.2 is still f1.2 but at FX equivalent f/3 dof’s not bad for a sensor format that can potentially have big dimension savings compared to m43.
    I was initially put off by the 2.5x crop 17mm sensor format thinking it’s too small but if all the nikon EVIL lenses are small and very fast like f1.2, then it makes for a compelling system if not too pricey. I can see a price premium for nikon but I for one may be willing to pay for it if build is good. Not sure about the crowd who want to use their legacy lens via adapter though, cos here the 2.5 crop would still make too big a difference IMO.

    • mike

      Yes, 32/1.2 on 2.5x crop is 80/3 on FX (or 53/2 on DX). Not bad at all. The 18/1.4 is not too shabby either. Now let’s see if they also have a 9mm coming …

  • Alex

    That’s alot of elements in that lens, no wonder it’s so expensive.

  • Carlos

    Isnt there a problem with the sensor size regarding noise? m4/3 is already noisy at iso800>….

    • Stephen

      I don’t think that is a problem with the size so much as the method. My guess is Nikon will be getting a better sensor and a lot of those problems will be resolved.

  • Son of FE

    Maybe Nikon had another reason for releasing the DX lenses this year. If they release an EVIL camera soon , it would release into a decent pile of DX lenses while they fill in with a smaller, lighter collection. Just a thought.

  • Astrophotographer

    For the lens, the patent shows exceptional aberration correction. On paper it’s one sharp lens.

    So if Nikon is pursuing an EVIL camera how soon would they announce? PMA?

    • Stephen

      If they are just now filing patents, it is usually about a year before production. My guess is that they won’t announce until they are at least ready to start putting them down the assembly line.

      Now, a lot of timing varies from one industry to another. I’ve never worked in this industry, but it’s probably like a lot of other technical industries. So my guess is they have some working prototype at this point and are looking at manufacturing right now.

      • sometimes the time between the patent filing and the lens release are shorter – see the table in this post:

        In the case of the 50mm f/1.4 was just few days.

      • Astrophotographer

        This application at least was filed by Nikon last Feb, so it’s nine months now. Seems the patent office is slooow at publishing them.

  • Forgive me if I seem a bit daft. This ‘mirrorless’ camera would have interchangeable lenses. Therefore, are they the same size threading as a standard SLR would be? Would we be able to make a nice 125 tele out of our 50 1.8?

    • I certainly hope that they will keep the F-mount. I am not sure the filed patents provide any info about the lens thread. I don’t think Nikon will introduce a new “Micro” mount. If they do, they will also come up with an adapter.

      • mike

        A mirrorless camera system (especially one with a 2.5x crop factor) needs to have its own mount or it losses its raison d’etre. The whole point is to reduce the flange back distance; if they kept the 46mm flange back distance, lenses would be even more complicated to design than for DX (even short telephotos would need to be strongly retrofocal), and the camera would be huge when compared with MFT. Who wants that?

        But as you say, there will be an F-mount adapter. Just don’t go expecting AF-D lenses to autofocus.

    • Astrophotographer

      All these lenses have a short back focus. They can’t work with the Nikon F-mount. But it is reasonable for an adapter to use F-mount lenses on a new micro-mount camera.

      I’ll speculate that Nikon would patent a new mount, so we may see one. Unless Nikon reads NR and stops submitting patent applications just to spite us… 😉

  • Anonymous

    Those aren’t patents, they’re patent applications.

  • cem

    tired of those patents. we want to have fast primes! Hey nikon, dont you listed to the consumers? I am about to switch to Canon which I hate. But I have to, because of these 1.2, 1.4 primes.

  • El Aura

    Phase detection requires that the sensor can look at light coming from one particular angle only. This is done by having (second) aperture in front of the AF sensors. The imaging sensor cannot tell from which angle light is coming from.

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