Report: Ultra-Micro-Nikkors Exhibit

Hello, everybody! I just renewed my working visa here in Japan and along the way home I decided to give the Nikon Museum a visit. I have been making articles on the museum in this blog and you can find older articles here in this link. The museum has new exhibits from time-to-time and I visit here as much as I can to cover them for you. It’s kind of far from where I live now so I cannot go there often but I just try my best. The exhibit today is related to the very important field of precision manufacturing, one of Nikon’s biggest source of revenue and when we talk about precision manufacturing by Nikon we only think about the Ultra-Micro-Nikkors because we are photography nuts! Enjoy the rest of this short article and I will update this on my next trip to the immigration office so please come back when I update this with new pictures.

IMG_8338This is the centerpiece of this exhibit, the 500kg monster lens used for lithography. You’ll never find this anytime soon in the auction sites so don’t even bother.

IMG_8339Here is a closer look at the poster. Like what I always say, Nikon’s core business is making industrial optics and consumer cameras and lenses only form part of its revenue. This is called the “Nikon Imaging” division which everybody is more familiar with. The division that deals with industrial optics is called “Nikon Precision”. They’re a big name in optics and many of the world’s precision manufacturing companies deal with them. Business is not as good lately due to (Mainland) China’s slowdown along with competition from new rivals from Europe. This has also Affected Canon’s industrial division somewhat and this led to Nikon’s money problems in recent years. There was a case filed in court against the other company due to patent infringement but I don’t know what will come of it.


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Here are more pictures of this half-ton monster. It uses a laser to illuminate its subject so it may be the reason why the housing got this big.

IMG_8367This table shows consumer products that were made in the past decades of rapid growth in Japanese manufacturing and economy. These products will never be made without the help of the Ultra-Micro-Nikkors. It’s safe to say that Nikon is a very important company in the revival of the Japanese economy following the war, this is the reason why Nikon has a very special place in the hearts of many older Japanese people.

IMG_8346And here are the stars of the show. These lenses are world-class optics in their own class when they came out in 1961. These lenses help lead the way to the information age that we are in right now. Without these, we will still be stuck in a world where the transistor is still considered high-tech. We owe the things that we take for granted to these lenses.


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Here are more pictures of these very special lenses. While some of them will surface at the auction sites occasionally, they’re considered quite rare and expensive. These can be adapted for normal photographic use as you can see from the Nikon mirrorless camera at the first picture but the results aren’t going to be interesting until you focus very close where its very high resolving power is going to be better demonstrated. The lenses on the 5th picture (top ledge) are unique. I was told that they are considered to be prototypes so you will never find another sample of them elsewhere. The differences are slight such as the minor differences in focal length but they are considered to be of the same series.


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This is one of the first Ultra-Micro-Nikkors ever made. It’s historical significance is huge, its resolving power is amazing and it helped open the way to precision manufacturing. It was made by request from the scientific elites of Japan.

IMG_8353One of my first jobs after college that was related to photography and the arts is working at the printing press. Nikkors have a huge name when it comes to enlarger lenses and the lenses used for other types of reproduction such as movie reproduction in this case.

IMG_8354Here are some of the Printing-Nikkors at the exhibit. These are very special lenses for use in the movie reproduction industry. These are heavy and I can attest to that.

IMG_6466Here is me with a Printing-Nikkor at home. It’s made of heavy metal and was made to last unlike most of the lenses that are made today. You can crack somebody’s skull with this. I was very impressed with its build. It was here for some fungus cleaning but opening this proved to be very difficult as Nikon designed the lens to be a sealed unit.

IMG_8355What’s this? It’s an Ultra-Micro-Nikkor magnifying a “Micro Dot”. The brown document’s reduced by 250x and its contents now fit a tiny dot. This dot was enlarged 250x with this lens and the result was printed out in the document to the right. This demo setup shows just how high the resolving power of the Ultra-Micro-Nikkors are.

IMG_8356As you can see, this demo was originally made in 1964 and it’s currently being recreated in this table using modern tools like a video camera with LED lights.


This setup was used by Prof. Koana Jun. He was a leading optical physicist when he was alive. The lens here is special, the Ultra-Micro-Nikkor 29.5mm f/1.2. He used this lens for his experiments as it is the best prototype he has and it soon entered production.


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Here are more pictures of other Ultra-Micro-Nikkors of decades past. These are really big lenses and these are only practical in the field of science and manufacturing. Lighting a small subject is going to be very challenging at this magnification.

IMG_8363As time went on, the Ultra-Micro-Nikkors’ task evolved from purely darkroom-related to the current field of precision manufacturing like lithography where Nikon is a leader.

IMG_8364The following sets of pictures will show just how far we have come from since the early years of lithography. In this picture alone, we can see just how precise things have came to be in the field of lithography. We can now make things that are much smaller than the things that we normally perceive to be really small, such as a virus. Imagine what we can do in 30 years from now, maybe we can create nano-germs using Ultra-Micro-Nikkors!

IMG_8365Here is an illustration showing the various sizes of small things in nanometers, from the width of the human hair to the pollen that I am allergic to and down to the flu virus and to the latest computer chip that we have right now. Imagine that, we can now make small wires 10x smaller than a flu virus! Smaller wires mean that CPUs can be made with more connections in a smaller space and the wires will require less energy. This means that we need less energy to run a chip and it will also emit less heat. Isn’t this amazing?

IMG_8366Here’s a visual chart of where we are at right now. As of 2017, we can create small things that are as small as 7nm using lithography. Who knows what we can achieve 5 years into the future? Whatever it is, the Ultra-Micro-Nikkors will still be at the forefront of it.

That’s all for today’s report on the Nikon Museum. I hope that you enjoyed this short but informative article. It’s a nice break from the usual camera and lens repair articles that you always come here for. It also gives me some more time to spend sleeping and also to recuperate from the hay fever season that is going to end soon. I have lost weight and the stress it caused me and my family is enormous so thank goodness for that. See you guys in the next article, I will publish another short article this weekend so please come back again to my blog to see what I have for you. Ric.


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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Nima
    Apr 07, 2018 @ 19:09:44

    Hi Richard, quick question for you: do you know if it’s possible to couple a 58mm noct nikkor Ais to a leica m system with rangefinder focussing enabled?




  2. Nima
    Apr 21, 2018 @ 17:34:55

    Thank you, Richard.


  3. Trackback: Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 2) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  4. Trackback: Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 3) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review

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