How Nikon got its name

In case you didn't know:

Via Buzzfeed

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  • ohh… that makes sense now. It says Nippon Kogaku on the top of my Nikon SP

    • Why is it that Japan is called Japan if it is called Nippon in Japanese?

      • Constant

        Why is Deutschland Germany? Why is Nederland, Netherlands?
        Why is Spain Espania? Etc…

    • it is simply because nipon means 日本, origin of the sun … 

    • … but the real thing is: 工学 (kogaku) does not mean optical – it means technology

      • nipponjin

        kogaku not only means “工学”(technology) but “光学”(optics).

      • Sherlock

        Japanese has lots of homonym, just like most Far-east languages.

  • Cloke

    I believe it’s also a play on the Zeiss Ikon brand…

    • fred

      Yes. In fact the names are so close that Nikon couldn’t sell a “Nikon” camera in certain markets, and sold the “Nikkormat” instead.

      There was also a general trend of cameras with the sound “ca” in their name: Ikon, Nikon, Leica, Yashica, Bronica, Canon, Contax, etc. The “ca” is of course short for “camera.”

      Finally, the name “Nikkor” oddly derives from the full name Nippon Kogagu KK, where KK is the type of corporation.

      • BW

        The Nikkormat name was to distinguish the non-professional Nikon line from their professional “F” series cameras. It’s like the Dino 246, which was made by Ferrari, but does not have the Ferrari badge as at one time only 12 cylinder cars were true Ferraris. However, like everything else, someone with a brain figured out that if they would drop the pretentiousness and name all of their cameras “Nikon” (pronounced Nee-kon with a long “O” sound in Japan), they would sell more cameras.

    • Sherlock

      Nikon is just a short way to say Nippon Kogaku
      The full name should be 日本光学工業株式会社
      光学=Optical (Sound:Kogaku)
      工業=Industries (Sound:Kogyo)
      株式会社=Limited Company (Sound Kabushikigaisha)
      Short Form 日光 (Japan Optical,日=Ni, stands for Japan, kon=光,stands for Optical,then we got Nikon)

      There are many short forms of names like this in Japan and China, since both language shares broad similarities. It does not play anything, but just makes it easier to say in daily life.

  • Cesar

    Wow isn’t this a cool post!

    • jdsl

      Lol! 🙂 I think nothing else to post ^^

    • ungrateful

      Let’s see your blog, Cesar..

  • I didn’t know that!

  • Eric Calabros

    Kogaku? hard to pronounce… switching to Canon


    • dapya


    • Francesco


      • hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

    • nikonlover


    • Ahmad Ihsan

      hahahah good one!

    • SoftonDemand

      And is Cannon any better? Once upon a time they were known as “Kwanon”, named after the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy who has 1000 arms.

      • KitHB

        1000 arms?

        Was that an early attempt at image stabilisation with long lenses?

      • Taufiq

        Kwanon? hard to pronounce… switching to Sony

      • Woaow… I thought Kwanon was a Barbarian played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the early eighties…

    • Treku

      hahahaha canon wasnt so good neither 😛 especially that japaneese has much harder pronounciation than english

    • ricardo


  • brent

    Is this a rumor? lulz

    • henry

      A rumor?
      Like a rumored D800?
      Say it ain’t so!!!

  • Francesco

    Nice, but what about D800?!? 😉

  • PauL

    No. You’re wrong.

    Nikon was merged by 2 companies.

    1st is ‘Nippon Kogaku (Japanese Optical) you know,

    and 2nd is ‘IKON Camera’ that was in Germany.

    • fred

      No, you are wrong. Nippon Kogaku and IKON did not merge.

  • Paolo

    …not very sexy…

  • Why dont you Nippon it in the bunghole and give us the D800!

  • Then the name should be ‘NIKO’ (NIppon KOgaku)

    • Matt B

      It is – Nikkor (which makes it hyphonetically correct, if that’s actually a word)

  • Charles

    “The name Nikon, which dates from 1946, is a merging of Nippon Kōgaku ( “Japan Optical”) and an imitation of Zeiss’s brand Ikon. This would cause some early problems in Germany though as Zeiss complained that Nikon violated its trademarked camera, the “Ikon” and so from 1963 to 1968 Nikon F’s in particular were labeled as ‘Nikkor’ “

    So any important news about the D400/D800 or are we expecting to read this kind of boring news/post here for the rest of 2011 ? 😛

  • dan

    Rumours are pretty slow, eh?

  • Philip

    zzzZZZZzzz D800/D4?…. please please dont become another irrelevant site NR.. where are the good stuff?

  • Mimmo

    So… seems to be nearest a NIKON D800…

  • Adrian

    Tired of waiting on the D800? Join us on Facebook ->

  • I’m guessing it will be Nikkor D4/D800. :p

  • Nau

    educational … will probly forget about it in a week 🙂

  • Bigus Dickus

    Najpon Conegaku?!

  • Ole

    But remember that it is pronounced “Knee-cone”

    • Gareth

      no it’s not. but it’s not pronounced “nigh carn” either.

      the problem is the american pronunciation of “O”, which in america is pronounced like a sheep with no B as in (b)aa.

      there are no pirates in nikon and no ARRRRRRRRRRR.

      • Incorrect. I’ve spoken to Japanese folks about this, including people that work in the camera industry there. It’s pronounced with a “e” sound for the “i” in Japan. Nee-kon.

        • sherlock

          This post should clear further more about how to pronounce Nikon.

          In Japanese and Chinese, sometimes, i is equivalent to the sound of “ee” in English,like “bee”, like Nee-pon for “Nippon” , which means Japan. Even in english, i is sometimes pronounced as the short form of “ee”,like “bit”.

        • Gareth

          um. i wasn’t talking about the “I”, i was talking about the “O”. I have talked to japanese people about this. I am married to one.

  • AM

    For the birds…

  • Ian Gilbert

    This must be what is called “a slow news day”. Stand by for a bulletin stating that the Sun always appears to rise in the East, although actually it’s an illusion caused by the Earth’s rotation on its axis.

  • Okay, Japanese Kogaku, now bring us D800.

  • The invisible man

    Nothing new, every Nikon fan already know that.
    But thank you to keep us busy until the 18th.

  • AnoNemo

    Didn’t it come from Nippon and Con ? Ni-Con but due to pronunciation issues they changed it Nikon. 😉

  • cruser2469

    My name is shortened from “Total Greatness”

  • Anon

    Wow. I’m surprised no one got this right. It’s more of a play-on-words than “shortened.” NIKON comes from NIPPON KOGAKU and IKON but it doesn’t involve any German brands merging in any way, or anything like that.

    Nippon Kogaku was formed in 1917 as a merge between two Japanese optical companies. In 1934, the name Nikkor was born to identify its lenses. They primarily manufactured glass elements for industrial use, mostly with the Japanese Army. Once that, erm, ended…they came out with a camera system that many of you know as the S-mount rangefinders. The first of which, was the NIKON 1. The NIKON was their first camera. From there, it was just updates…NIKON M, NIKON S, NIKON S2, NIKON S3, NIKON SP, NIKON S4…until we get to the NIKON F and we see a second line of cameras, as well as a NIKKOREX F! Which I don’t think was introduced until the early 60’s, I know the SP and F were manufactured at the same time but I believe that the SP had been stopped by the time Nippon Kogaku chose to focus their efforts on the F-mount line. The “Nippon Kogaku” logo disappeared from Nikon F cameras in the early 70’s…however, they kept the name NIPPON KOGAKU all the way until 1988 when they finally changed it to NIKON CORPORATION!

    There ya go. That’s the truth.

  • iamnomad

    Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha.

  • NyconNeoColonialist

    Nycon with Nick-or lenses. 🙂

    • Matthew Fleisher

      That should be Nye-core 😉

  • Which is a good reminder that most of us pronounce “Nikon” incorrectly – it’s not Neye-kon, it’s Nee-kon.

    • David

      Really? Everyone I know says Nee-kon (UK) is this a US thing?

      • hlshcd

        Yep, every time americans say Nykon, it drives me crazy like WTF, u dont even know where nikon comes from.

        • NyconNeoColonialist

          u is spelled YOU and you forgot the apostrophe in DON’T.


        • Bikinchris

          Posted November 10, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink
          Yep, every time americans say Nykon, it drives me crazy like WTF, u dont even know where nikon comes from.

          And every time you brits say “Obomber” instead of “O-bom-a” it drives me crazy. So we’re even.

          • NyconNeoColonialist


      • NyconNeoColonialist

        Yes it is. BFD.

        Why is everyone so bent out of shape about this. Nikon’s own pronuciation in their own advertisment is Nycon.

  • Nikon was a brand

    Nikon was a camera brand, not the company’s name until later. It’s like Matsushita had several brands/lines of products, Panasonic, National, Technics, Sanyo … and finally settled on Panasonic as the company name.

  • Sam

    So do Americans pronounce Nippon N-eye-pon?

    • Mock Kenwell

      No. There are two Ps in Nippon, which makes the O a short sound. In American English, typically, when faced with double consonants after a vowel, that vowel becomes short. Jesus Christ, what is so hard to understand? If Nikon thinks Americans are pronouncing it wrong, they should start saying it “correctly” in their own goddamn advertising. We’re just saying it as they say it here.

      If all you part-time, misinformed grammar/pronunciation enthusiasts are going to hijack another thread with this faux controversy, I’m switching to Canon.

      • Not Nikon

        Rage all you want, but you’re still wrong.

        It’s N-ee-kon, with the ee being a long “i”, but shorter than “ee”. Whatever your justification for your incorrecrt prononciations are, they’re wrong too. You can get the Pope on your side, or Obama, or aliens from Area 51.. You can get English grammar teachers, linguists, or professors. you’d still be wrong… What matters is how.. you know.. the people who invented the company (Japanese) say it, and they don’t say “N-eye-kon”

        I know that doesn’t sound as “cool” to you yanks, but there you go.

        • Wehehehe

          1 TRILLION LIKES!!!!!

        • NyconNeoColonialist

          Neither is wrong. Both are correct.

        • RamesesThe2nd

          alright, here is how the company says it:

          • Guest

            Actually Nikon Inc say it wrong to, it is NI-KON, as said bymy Japanese colleagues. And it’s correct how nikon got it’s name, from Nippon Kogaku.

    • Sherlock

      Nypon, sounds like Bra or something very funny,lol

  • This was on a forum in DP Review on April 1 a year or two ago:

    Nikon used the Kiritsu concept to get started as it wasn’t (and probably in legal terms like a lot of companies) is actually a collection of organizations.

    In 1903, Damare Konoyarou, and optics grinder (everything was ground back then, not cast) from Ketsunoana emigrated to Tokyo and set up the factory that was soon to become the core of the company we know and love to-day. Obviously, the Russo-Japanese war kind of disrupted things, but from small acorns to mighty oaks grow.
    Over the years, the firm began making optics for a variety of purposes from industry to medicine, and during Second World War, developed several optical sights including the famous Panopticon helmet, where soldiers could use a reflecting series of mirrors and prisms built into their helmets to give them 360 degrees of view to prevent the enemy from sneaking up on them. Unfortunately this six-foot high, 172-lb device had operational issues and was never deployed successfully.

    Post-War, the company focused more on optics but retained its R&D focus by developing the first autodeveloping-like systems in the 1950s that proved an inspiration to the Polaroid system. The Knee-Can project saw film from SLRs of that era fed from the camera in a lengthy strip from a bulk loader into a collection of development tanks strapped to the lower legs. Mechanical power to operate the system was collected in a fly-wheel as the photographer walked.
    A major issue with the Knee-Can system was that the fly-wheel acted as a gyroscope.
    This contributed to a horrific incident on April 28, 1952 when the American occupation ended and home-rule resumed in Japan.

    Introduction of the Knee-Can system
    Kenta ‘Kin Tama’ Nogomo (Kin Tama literally means Golden Balls, a nick-name that refers to a war injury), was running to get into position at the ceremony, when the fly-wheel began to spin so fast that he was unable to move except along a horizontal plane.

    Given that the photographers were being requested to move into a specific spot so that the dignitaries could could continue with the ceremony, Nogomo found himself struggling like a man under water. Military Police on hand thought the man was either being unco-operative or having a fit and as the spinning apparatus and piped watercan system chugged away. They began for push him along but the hundreds of pounds of torque began to overcome Nogomo. He was flung about the room as in a spastic whirligig that many of the attendees thought was an interpretive dance showcasing the fusion of Japanese industrial resurgence and traditional values.

    This event was captured on film and ballet students still use some of the footwork in entrance auditions for the prestigious Baka Yaroo Academy.

  • Robert Falconer

    True aficionados and Nikon history buffs have known this for years. 😉

  • nahanni•whisky™

    the explanation suggested above may be anywhere from benign to bizarre. nippon kogaku, when contracted from left to right, might yield nikku, or nippoku, but dropping one letter from the second word into the first would seem rather arbitrary. it’s been speculated that the arrangement of letters may have had some “other” purpose.

    one competing explanation, is that in 1959, the year nippon kogaku changed it’s name to Nikon — the Zeiss Ikon brand dominated the prestige camera category. the conjecture was Nikon, was nippon’s ikon. this clever contraction would immediately help the company piggyback atop the ikon’s fame.

    which explanation, if any, is the authentic answer — no one knows for sure as it can’t be independently verified. however zeiss, at the time, was pretty upset about this development.

    • It’s both, NIppon Kogaku ikON and also the reason why it’s pronounced NIK-ON, not Ni-KON as it’s prounounced in the US, as it’s meant to rhyme with Nippon. A report a couple of years ago in the BJP, stated that the chief executives of Nikon went to an awards ceremony at the UK HQ, where the hired host/MC for the event kept pronouncing the name as NI-KON. The executives from Japan were absolutely fuming everytime he did it.

    • SP

      yes, that’s what i heard and read too: Nikon is No Ikon, in competition
      with the famous and ultra-costly Zeiss Ikon cameras of the 1950s, great
      cameras in their own rights btw …

      reportedly, Nikon even advertised its first cameras using a line that went like, “Ikon quality cameras at half the price!”

      even read somewhere (in a 1960s photography magazine if i recall it
      right) that the above mentioned advertising campaign by Nikon outraged
      Zeiss in Germany and their reps in New York contacted the US photo
      magazines to object the ad …

      the name Nikon is probably an
      amalgam of both items perhaps anyway: the Nippon thing as well as the No
      Ikon story … in fact, by doing this, they could always get away any
      accusations that they were mocking Zeiss …

      curiously, Nikon has
      once sued a company producing toy cameras under the name Ikon in 1989,
      because Nikon believed that company is abusing its own name! 🙂

  • DonD

    Slow day, eh?

    • This is an old post – see the date.

      • Matthew Fleisher

        Slow enough to repost an old story.

        • Oh, I see – I just came on my own post after doing a related search online.

  • ham

    so why is my Nikkor made in CHINA!!

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