A Nikon 1 camera sold at auction in Austria this month has become the most expensive Nikon ever, achieving a sale price of €384,000 (approx $406,000) – double the expected maximum estimate. The camera, which is said to be only the third Nikon body ever made, is the earliest known surviving Nikon camera having been made in occupied Japan in April 1948. It was matched with the 11th 5cm F2 Nikkor H lens ever made.
Originally this rangefinder camera was known simply as the Nikon, but in later years it took on the name Nikon 1 as additional cameras, such as the M and S, were produced. Only available in Japan at first, Nikon came to the attention of the rest of the world when Life photographer David Douglas Duncan came across Nikkor lenses while covering the Korean war and spread the word among other press photographers.
The Nikon 1 camera is similar in design to the German Contax but used a 24x32mm film frame. This ultimately meant that it wasn’t taken up beyond Japan, and America wouldn’t allow the company to export to US because the film frames didn’t fit Kodak slide mounts. As a consequence the Nikon M was introduced in late 1949, which created standard 24x36mm frames. Japan finally got its way though, as many of us now use Micro Four Thirds and 6×4.5cm sensors with the same 3:4 ratio as that original 24x32mm film frame.
The sale took place at the WestLicht Photographica auction along with a collection of 685 other lots of cameras, lenses, accessories and prints, including two Leitz New York Leica Gun rifles which sold for €168,000 each and a Leica M3 in black paint that belonged to Magnum photographer Herbert List – which reached €78,000.
The earliest known surviving production Nikon in the world! Nikon started in March 1948 to assemble cameras (with serial number 60922). The offered camera is one of two cameras made in April 1948 and the 3rd of all Nikon production cameras. It comes with the original early Nikkor-H 2/5cm no.70811 (this is the 11th lens made, with matching Nikon cap) and is still in fantastic original condition. As all very early cameras it has the “8” screw front plate and sharp corner edges on top plate. The camera has still the original shutter. The interior shows the single pair of guide rails, with removable take-up spool. The baseplate with large ‘MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN’ engraving. It comes with the original and extremely rare double strap everready case. Published in: ‘The Complete Nikon rangefinder System’ by Robert R. Rotoloni (ps 51-59), ‘Nikon 100 Anniversary’ by Uli Koch (p 68) – provenience: collection of the famous Japanese collector Tad Sato.
World records at WestLicht Anniversary Auctions
Post sale report
384,000 Euro for the earliest Nikon camera
A Nikon One climbed from 90,000 to 384,000 Euro, the highest price ever paid for a camera from the long-standing Japanese manufacturer at an auction. The world record was achieved at the 30th Camera Auction in WestLicht’s 15th year. The record lot is the earliest known surviving example of a Nikon camera in the world, manufactured in April 1948 as the third ever serially produced camera by Nikon. This was also an early birthday present for Nikon company, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2017.