Designing the Nikon F camera (video)

Let's make it YouTube Easter weekend - another two part video on designing the Nikon F camera:

The second video explains where the red triangle on all Nikon cameras came from:

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  • Very cool video. I did learn quite a bit from that one.

  • broxibear

    Fascinating stuff, I never knew that’s where the red triangle originated from ?
    Some of those poster designs were stunning.

    • I did not know that either – interesting stuff!

  • yrsued

    Superb Video, as a Nikon F User, this is a meaningful video, thanks!!

  • Tony

    Wonder, are EVIL cameras doing the same thing now….

  • I daydream about owning a F3. Ebay here I come.

  • Yan

    I watched the Video and missed where the Triangle was from some how , Somebody can explain it to me hehe ?

  • Yan

    Oh Sorry there is a second video , forget about it then 😛

  • Phil

    Well, I guess that triangle has been quite bastardized in the D5100, no? 😀 Even the D7000 is a bit of a derailment. Oddly, the D3100 has one similar to the D3S.

  • Where is the triangle on the iconic F4 or the F5 then?

    • Mark H

      Um….. on the pentaprism since the original F. Only, it wasn’t red.

      • I guess I’m not seeing it.

        • photomic

          me neither.

          Even F3 doesn’t have the pentaprism triangle.
          But if I recall correctly, the thin red line on the grip was designer Giorgetto Giugiaro’s “signature” on F cameras

          The red line was still there on 1988 – F4 and later in 1996 – F5 the line “evolved” in a red grip pad that viewed from the front still vaguely resembled the “red line”.
          The first D1 had the same red grip.

          Only with the introduction of the D2 the red grip moved to the front and changed shape in a triangle…. So in my opinion the red triangle is more related to Giugiaro than the original F prism triangle…

    • Jabs

      The F3, F4 an F5 all had a red stripe on the left side facing the camera.

  • Impressive! I am proud to have NIKON camera!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Love this stuff..

  • Wow! Great video.

    Thanks! I’m an Engineering student and I’m doing an assignment about camera’s engineering and mechanisms. I’m using my Nikon FM as model for my CAD drawings and this video is truly inspirational. I’m going to use it at my work presentation.

    I love Nikon so much! Really, I used canon for about 3 years, but, when I held a Nikon for the first time I sold all my Canon gear and bought Nikon.

    Thanks, thanks, thanks!!!

  • Midpont

    The country was great, the Nikon products are prime examples, but I wonder how they become dishonorable inward looking very close minded… are they leaning toward communism? I heard now they are even trying to censor social media to oppress those who posts comments criticizing Japanese government.

    • Eric Pepin

      troll alert.

  • Mr Cayne

    I ask myself, wether the design really was that revolutionary. Basically it looks like an evolution of the original “Contax S”, built by Zeiss since 1949. It was later also known as “Pentacon F” (since 1956, made in GDR), which even has a similar name to Nikons first SLR.

  • nir.exe

    why does it called F?

    • camaman

      “Masahiko FUKETA?”
      Could it be that simple?
      I think there is a deeper reasoning behind it, sorry it wasnt mentioned in the video if that is treu. 🙁

      • Artur Kozłowski

        For me F always meant “Focus” or maybe “focal”, but that’s my associating…

      • Holy Nikon!

        F is from re-Flex. This excerpt is from Nikon’s site:

        In February of 1957, the order was issued for prototyping 3 sets, signaling the start of the development of Nikon F.
        At that time, the name of SLR cameras often included the letter R referring to Reflex (reflection), though the letter R sounds different phonetically in areas other than the English-speaking sphere; then, F was selected from Re-Flex for naming the Nikon F since the letter F is pronounced almost the same.

    • I believe F is Film. Like D is Digital.

    • nir.exe

      beside this assumptions, which are nice ideas for themselves
      does anybody really know?

  • Thnaks, great stuff.

  • Jabs

    Hey Administrator,
    Great videos and now we get to see some of the passionate designers which have made the Nikon F series so great and revolutionary. Imagine if we were still stuck in rangefinder land or if film cameras had not evolved to DSLR’s today. The Nikon F was indeed the most revolutionary and influential camera design plus it was the design that got us working long focal length lenses and fast cameras with accurate focusing plus viewing.

  • Jabs

    Years ago, I read some comments from photographers who were shooting the Korean War or Conflict and they were explaining why they thought the Nikon F was so great compared to what their employees had issued them. They compared the images, the speed of image acquisition and the flexibility of the camera to the then standard rangefinders from Leica and Contax. The Nikon was not only faster but stronger, better optics (as far as what you see through the lens) versus parallax errors in all rangefinders. People forgot that the Nikon F also had removable heads and changeable focusing screens plus I have looked through several Nikon F’s and they caused me to buy an F3. The Nikon F was a system compromised of lenses, removable heads (some with metering) and focusing screens, motor drives plus various accessories and the fabulous Nikkor lenses at that time.
    The whole system brought about a revolution in photography unmatched by anything since and that is the real significance of the Nikon F – the system that it ushered in. Nikon’s at least in their F series have all been known to have superior contrast and color rendition within the view of their pentaprism while framing your photo and thus easier to focus than any other brand. Nice to see where this revolution started and the thinking then behind it. Great design plus execution – a rare commodity!

    • Sam

      Probably not the Korean conflict. That ended in 1953, the Nikon F was sold to the public in 1959.

      You are probably thinking of the Vietnam conflict, that started in 1955 and ended in 1975.

  • Jabs

    Sorry for so many comments, but I thought that I would share this with you today:

    • I am always amazed by this website – they have so much information! How did they gather this together into one place?

  • Thanks for posting. It makes me want to grab the F2 and go shoot a roll of film.

  • SDiggity

    Great post NRAdmin…thanks for the education!

  • robo

    I’m still using the Graflex. much better..

  • Igor

    Here’s one more interesting article about Nikon design and red trianlge (actually, it was red line at first)

  • Igor
  • Sahaja

    Hmm… Let’s not forget Miranda and Pentax were Japanese camera companies that made SLRs with a pentaprism before Nikon. The Nikon F looked fairly similar to the Pentax and it had an interchangeable viewfinder like the Miranda.

    Once you put the metered photomic finder on the F – it no longer had a pyramid shape on top – and looked nowhere near as nice.

  • Sahaja

    Too bad Nikon can’t now seem to produce a full frame DSLR the size of the Nikon F (or even better the size of an FM2) – they need to get some of that Zen simplicity back into their camera designs.

    • Artur Kozłowski

      my thinking exactly. Why all those curves? The cameras look now like big black blobs… For me the F3 and the Canon New F1 were the coolest looking cameras EVER.

    • Eric Pepin

      Completely agree, I would love a camera with just a shutter dial, aperture, iso, white balane, and if its auto focus (not a requirement) have a basic small menu for those functions. NOTHING ELSE !

  • ZoetMB

    Great video, but it implies that the body design of the Nikon F was designed from the ground up with specific intent based upon the new ideas of the designer.

    The reality is that if you remove the pentaprism and look at the camera from above, it is almost exactly the same as the S3 rangefinder. The main difference, aside from the pentaprism covering where the hot shoe was on the S3, is that rather than having a flat front as the S3 did, the center front protrudes to leave room for the mirror. A comparative photo is on page 19 of “The New Nikon Compendium”, published in 2004 by Lark.

    The shutter cock, counter, shutter release and lock and rewind are in identical positions and have almost identical design on both cameras. Only the base of the rewind crank is different. The F is also a bit wider than the S3.

    That’s not to take anything away from the Nikon engineers and designers. It was quite an achievement to engineer the mirror and pentaprism in a modular body with extremely high performance coupled with many new extremely high quality lens designs. But the external design of the body wasn’t all that different than what Nikon had previously developed.

    Also, in the film, many of the design concepts that supposedly influenced the designer came about after the introduction of the Nikon F (in 1959), not before.

  • Phil

    Yeah, that whole triangle thing seems like a tall tale, but I still marvel at the original F system. The 70s particularly were Nikon’s golden era. All the great optics were created then, to benefit the “system”. Nikon seemed unstoppable then.

    While they still do some pretty neat things, Nikon is a pale shadow of itself today. It’s a real heartbreaker for me, because I grew up in that era and used as much of that great gear as I could. Today the Nikon “system” is dead. Some of it is simple economics, but most of it is shareholders.

  • Ray Chua

    It will be fantastic for a full frame camera (D3s) that includes a half-frame facility that has the same resolution like the former- a boon for bird photographers too.

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