How Nikkor glass is made (video)


Nikon Imaging Japan published a new video on how Nikkor glass is made. The video was shot at an optical glass manufacturing plant with the Nikon D800 camera:

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  • Eric Calabos

    so somebody uses D800 for video

    • Mr Nobody

      I think only canon is in the Professional Video market

      • n11

        Besides Sony, Panasonic, RED, FUJI, and a plethora of others.
        If you’re referring to the DSLR “Pro” market, then yes I’ll admit they have better DSLR footage capability, but they are not the only one in the pro vid market.

      • Fred

        Think again. Nikon D4 outperforms Canon for the moment.

      • Steph

        Pro, broadcast quality video cams are way more expensive than DSLRs (think 20$+), and have a completely different feature set. DSLRs were disruptive because they came “close enough” for many scenarios at a much lower price point, but now their technology and sensors is migrating in prosumer video cameras.

        • Fred

          That’s true. RED Epic is about 30/40k and ARRI Alexa 60/70k. Canon’s C300 still comes with a pricetag of 15/16k$ Nikon D800 is being used to film Dexter. There must have been other reasons to use the D800, since I cannot imagine that the makers could not afford to hire or buy more expensive cameras.

    • Alexandre Dizeux

      you can do great video with D800

      • Nick

        Wow, what a waste of time. I will dream tonight about getting my 8:02 of my life.

      • Discontinued

        Great! You call your own stuff “great”! That’s just grant.

        Well, may be you are right. I couldn’t tell, because I left after 2 minutes of watching. Why? Because your “video” is rather a stilldeo. May be even a great stilldeo? I wouldn’t know. All I know is, that the many photographs in your stilldeo is not what you promised: great video.

      • MagicMaker

        Omg dude what a waste of time?

  • niXerKG

    Been waiting for Nikon to make one of these. I’ve seen the Canon one, the Leica one but finally Nikkor!

  • Mandrake

    I want to see the video for making their cameras! I want to know in which step of the process do they ad a little bag of dust that is released with each shutter click.

    • Orb Emmel

      Sorry mate, they do not add a little bag of dust, you should be ashamed to say that. What they add is an open can of lubricant 😉

      • Mandrake


  • mvz2

    why does the glass need to be so big when everyone is shooting white walls at f22 to look for dust and oil spots?

  • Gus

    I expected workers in hazmat suits working in a spotless lab. These look like they’re made in an old, abandoned factory in Baltimore. Can’t fault the result, though!

    • Wataru

      Those are actors. You can tell by the fact that they are not wearing safety glasses, as required for glassmakers in Japan.

    • ik

      Spotless lab to create rough glass? They only need to go those lengths when they get to assembly (cementing, mounting etc).

  • Poor workers are forced to work in the dark! Nikon can’t pay the electric bills!

  • andre

    no wonder, nikon glasses are so expensive – at this tremendous speed they must be!

  • saywhatuwill

    That was a cool video.

  • Nikon Shooter

    Notice how young are the workers in the video. It’s not a coincidence. Working in an environment contaminated with glass dust can make your lungs collapse within 10 years. We see some of them wearing some type of a surgical mask, which is not sealed against the face and does not prevent glass dust inhalation.

    Quite an oversight on Nikon’s part that they didn’t have them wear real respirators at least for the sake of the video. Now the workers with lung-damage can use this video as proof when they hopefully sue Nikon.

  • Todd

    Maybe someday they’ll take that glass and make a revised 80-400mm

  • WH Mitty

    Proof positive that Nikon lenses are hot.

  • paulpap

    After watching this, I have no greater understanding about how Nikkor glass is made than I did prior to watching it.

    • Mike

      Indeed. What did we see? Nothing they would want their competitors to see or know.

    • Mole

      All we know is that they need better lighting conditions at work!

    • Mansgame

      I felt sad for those sweatshop workers.

  • AlphaTed

    They only showed how the raw glass is made. Would be interesting to see the polishing techniques and the QA part.

    • Orb Emmel

      Well, they tried, but they realized that there was actually no QA to film…

      • Ronan


    • Yehat

      Even more funny is that what they showed is not even done by them – neither of the camera/lens makers do the glass themselves – these are external companies.

      • fjfjjj

        Wrong. Nikon makes their own glass from sand. Do some research before you speak nonsense.

        • Yehat

          Nope, I did the check and still stand on my position. Nikon used to make the glass, but no more, beside maybe some specialty or experimental stuff.

          • fjfjjj

            Reference? Cause here’s a Nikon press release less than 3 months old: “NIKKOR is the brand name for Nikon’s photographic lenses, which are precision crafted to the most exacting standards in Nikon’s own glassworks.”

            • Yehat

              My reference is first hand. Can’t provide printed reference, but I know after seeing in a plant the packaged production.
              I admit that Nikon maybe produce some of its special ED or fluorite glass for high-end purposes still.
              However the language in a brochure is vague enough to conclude from this alone, too.

            • fjfjjj

              Some details would be nice. I don’t see why a major glassworks would shut down their operations or sell them — and if they did, there would be some news about this. Anyway, here Nikon seems to continue to make and sell glass and other optical materials:

            • fjfjjj

              The Hikari glassworks, a fully owned subsidiary of Nikon.

            • fjfjjj

              “Hikari is one of the world’s leading suppliers of optical glass. We offer over 180+ optical glass types available in ECO or non-ECO versions.”

  • MJr

    Nice intro, but seriously now where’s the actual movie ?

  • Tomas

    I want to see how they produces camera sensors lol. Good place to start Sony and Toshiba sites.

  • LexFu

    There is a Sigma video which is very cool too. Where’s Canon’s?

  • NMP

    I learned nothing watching this other than how not to shoot in low light conditions

  • dgd

    I guess most of you monkeys have never worked in manufacturing….. It’s a wonderful video. It’s about mixing sand with other rare elements, and creating very special kinds of glass. There are lots of examples of Quality Assurance in the video: examining the slabs for striations, polishing small windows to check for the correct refractive index, the annealing process, making the dies, on and on and on. A lens is a miracle. Sure I wish they had kept shooting and shown the polishing & assembly but that’s in a different place, where YES you get the “clean room” happening. Enjoy it for what it is: they take the stuff of the earth and create our optics for us. Thank you Nikon!

    • Steven Bodo

      “There are lots of examples of Quality Assurance in the video: examining the slabs for striations, polishing small windows to check for the correct refractive index, the annealing process, making the dies, on and on and on. ” all those are done by machines nowadays because machines are more accurate than the human eye.

      • Yehat

        Wrong. No machine is close to the quality assurance a human brain (with the attached eyes) can do. The machines are cheaper, tough. Human knowledge is (still) hard to translate to machine knowledge.

        • desmo

          old fashioned craftsmanship
          a nikon legacy

        • Yehat, saying “wrong” is just plain dumb. While I agree that some QA by humans can’t be replaced, machines can also do things that humans can’t. Some imperfections simply can’t be seen by the human eye but only measured by a machine. Also, humans can’t inspect 1000 lenses a minute like a machine. There is a place for both, don’t be so narrow minded.

          • Yehat

            Mike – “dumb”, “narrow minded”? In the light of what you wrote I even can’t take these personally, really.

            To help you improve on your common sense approach of *human* thinking, let me ask you:

            – machine inspects 1000 lenses in minutes for what? Or just for the sake of inspection? Apart that there is no such performance on the market – for lenses inspection – failing to qualify the nature of inspection doesn’t help.

            – you mistake two different qualities – “seen” and “measures” – how come? May be because machines can’t see or feel? Believe it or not – these abilities actually contribute to the measurements and assurance.

            – you miss the point about what machines can do – which is still limited to what humans program them to do, which in turn is quite limited, although improving. By the way – one of the holly grails in optics making – aspherical surfaces – is still predominantly done by hand (not automated), at least when tolerances are important.

            – then comes the conclusion – indeed, there is a place for machines, even more than what they have now. While we’re moving in that direction, you can spend better your time to learn and improve your abilities. You’ll be surprised how good humans can become if devoted.

            • Simply put, machines can do certain tasks with greater precision and speed than humans. Like I said, there is a place for both.

              Yes, humans program machines to do things, that is stating the obvious. Once programmed though, the machine does it much faster. When you are talking mass production, machines can look at parts and reject things so humans never even have to inspect them.

            • Yehat

              Damn, this is how much I like to state “obvious” things… touch interfaces, GUI, etc… OK, enjoy the tune – once sex robots arrive you may not want to have machines do it that much faster, though 🙂

    • NRA Advocate

      Maybe they should have hired you to explain it for us.

    • under posed

      here are some links to other lens manufacturing videos that are a little more informative.

  • Ganymebe

    I am stunned. This is how I imagined they would make lenses back in 1970 or 1980. In today’s world of clean rooms, robotics, extremely accurate sensors, lasers, … this seems archaic. I went through a Corning plant two decades ago and it was light years ahead of this. I understand the value of craftsmanship, but a lens seems like something more favorable for a very scientific, repeatable, automated process.

    • Yehat

      The video is about making the glass(es) that are further to become optical elements of the lenses. There is no need for clean room glass making and beside that, the optical glass types (yes there are different types) are very different than the glass Corning makes.

      What is missing in the picture here is that neither Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc do make the glass for their lenses. The process presented in the video happens in external companies – Ohara, Schott, etc.

      • fjfjjj

        Wrong. Nikon is one of the few lens companies that makes their own glass from scratch.

        • Yehat

          Sorry, the wrong is on your side. Nikon “used” to manufacture its own glass. And that they may have some specialty production still doesn’t count for what you state.

          • A. Lurker

            Citation please.

            • fjfjjj

              “NIKKOR is the brand name for Nikon’s photographic lenses, which are precision crafted to the most exacting standards in Nikon’s own glassworks.” (From an October 2012 press release about the Nikon 1.)

          • fjfjjj

            Citation please.

      • Yaho

        no citation here but i use to work in one of the companies who supply glass for Nikon

    • desmo

      corning doesn’t make high quality optics
      they make cheap cookware

  • Steven Bodo

    I think they wanted to out do the lens making video that Canon do years ago but they failed. Canon’s video was actually quite educational, this one was a big nothing.

  • Tracht

    Yes, no detailed instructions on how to construct a 800 mm f2.8 lens!

  • where is robots?

    • Yehat

      dreaming of electric sheep.

  • Stanley

    No grinding and polishing?
    Probably not the whole process shown.

  • Spy Black

    As far as I know this is not a third-party company. Nikon has been making it’s own glass since their beginning, IIRC. So this plant may have been around since back in the day, which is why it looks so ancient. And yes, this is the first phase of optical glass manufacturing.

  • RaskinBobbins

    I had no idea Nikkor lenses were made in a sweat shop. Now I know.

  • special movie optical glass. so I guess the lenses we buy for stills photography/dslr isnt special enough? they make the special lenses for video only? thank nikon

  • RTan

    Maybe someday they’ll add more lights

  • Robert

    Well, I feel smarter now. 😉

  • Robert

    Well, I feel smarter now. 😉

  • This is just a video marketing of nothing… there is nothing to see.

  • Hendog

    I loved the shot at 2.01

  • BT

    So this is how Nikon made their lens 40 years ago. The quality in converting from black and white to color is amazing. 😉

  • Muhammad Khedr

    Check this vidoe from Nikon too.. nice 🙂

  • Dr. Gonzo

    I personally love to see things built by hand. I love owning things built by real craftsmen and seeing the work and ingenuity that went into it. I love building things myself. For those of you referring to “sweatshop workers’ and concerned about how dirty it is, you should go use your hands for something other than a mouse and keyboard. Try building something physically real. Sure, machines can do some things, but only after a human makes the machine.

  • canon has a more in depth video about a 500mm F4L

  • nbk79

    so thats why there is so much dust on the nikon sensors lately… 😉

  • Artist/composer of background music?

  • After watching
    this video I felt happier to be a nikkor owner, because now I know I have
    katanas in form of a camera lens, made it by the best Japanese craftsmen’s.

  • Remyz

    How Canon glass is made and design! A bit old though and a bit different tech from nikon, but I learnt quite alot about CA! 😉

  • Remyz

    How Canon glass is made and design! A bit old though and a bit different tech from nikon, but I learnt quite alot about CA! 😉

  • One_Old_Man

    This article and the accompanying video is useless file of junk. I have hard cover books (printed in Japan in English, in the late 1950s) with colored photos and description of how lens are made. The books were published by Canon, Minolta, and Nikon respectively. It covers raw materials. equipment, process, assembly, Q/A, packaging and of course the finish products (lenses) catalog.

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