Report: Uemura Naomi and Nikon

Hello, everybody! Nikon has been sysnonymous with toughness and adventure. Plenty of adventurers have trusted Nikon and brought their cameras to their adventures because they know that a Nikon will survive the journey and tell their tales in pictures. Today, I’ll introduce to you one such adventurer. He lived a short life but left a lasting legacy.


Growing up, I sometimes see features on this man named Uemura Naomi. He’s likened to Jacques-Yves Cousteau of Calypso but he’s a mountaineer. His name is widely-know and people still study his techniques that he pioneered on his dangerous journeys. He almost always go on extended and dangerous journeys alone and he is known for achieving lots of feats alone and setting some of the records that still hold to this day. Let me introduce to you this amazing man and his connection to Nikon in this article!

IMG_9374Uemura Naomi is went missing in his last expedition and was last contacted in 1984/2/13, he was never found. He left a legacy amongst adventurers and is considered a hero in his hometown (Hyogo, Japan) where memorials were built to remember him. His influence can be felt to this day as adventurers study his books and work for reference. He left us in the prime of his life at only 43 years of age. Very much like Bruce Lee and others who left us early, he became a legend and people still make books and stories about him.

IMG_9376Here are some of the highlights of his life.

  • Born in 1941 in Hyogo.
  • He went to highschool in 1956.
  • Went to Meiji University in 1960 and graduated in 1964.
  • He scaled Europe’s highest peak (Mont Blanc) and Kilimanjaro, both alone in 1966.
  • Conquered Aconcagua (South America’s highest peak) and canoed the Amazon all by himself in 1968.
  • In 1970, he climbed Everest. He also walked the whole of Japan alone. At this time, he had conquered the “5 Great Mountains” of the world.
  • Finished the Grandes Jorasses in 1971.
  • He traveled 3000km via dog sled in Greenland in 1973.
  • He married Nozaki Kimiko in 1974.
  • He traveled 12,000km in the North Pole alone with a dog sled in 1976, a record that he will keep to this day.
  • In 1978, he traveled from the Arctic to Greenland by dog sled alone.
  • He conquered Aconcagua another time (winter) and led the Japanese expedition to Everest in 1980.
  • Dog sled 3,000km through Antartica and climbed Vinson Massif, Antartica’s highest peak in 1982.
  • He joined the Minnesota Outward Bound School in 1983.
  • Went missing in McKinley in 1984 on his second expedition alone.

I don’t know how accurate the bullet-points made by Nikon are but that sums up his life in one page. I am sure that he did much more than what was mentioned. I consider him to be the last great adventurer of the last century. He had an exhibition dedicated to him at the Nikon Museum but I didn’t cover it unfortunately.


Nikon had a monopoly in professional cameras back in the day with their tough F line of cameras. NASA used Nikons for their reliability and war photographers swore by Nikons and their toughness. It was only natural that Uemura should take only the best with him.

IMG_9375Nikon had collaborated with Uemura for his photographic needs. His journeys took him to extreme environments with temperatures reaching -50c and the rough rides in the dog sleds he used will surely turn lesser cameras into junk in no time at all. Nikon used all of these experiences to further improve their understanding of building tough cameras. All of Nikon’s professional cameras are products of field testing, from the battlefields of the Korean War, Vietnam and the harshness of Space. The cameras Uemura took to the field were heavily-modified by Nikon. These cameras were off-the-shelf cameras with special modifications requested by Uemura. He knew what he wanted and here are some of his cameras.

IMG_9377This is the the F2T Uemura Special! It may not look like much from the outside but this is a hevily-modified Nikon F2T. The New-Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 may be stock but I suspect that the grease is different to help it withstand harsh temperatures and humidity. Film turns brittle due to the extreme temperatures and the dry cold air can cause static electricity to ruin your roll with streaks. These were just some of the considerations that Nikon had to take into account when designing the ultimate explorer’s cameras.

IMG_9379This is a handsome camera. I wish I owned one but I doubt that Nikon will ever make it again. Here are some of the modifications made to the Nikon F2T Uemura Special.

  • The frame counter’s numbers are in red when after frame 31.
  • The top, prism cover, apron, bottom and other parts were made from titanium.
  • Environmental seals were added where needed.
  • The straps were modified.
  • The pressure plate has anti-static coating applied.
  • An additional roller was added to the film advance mechanism.
  • The film spool was modified.

This is probably one of the ultimate items in a collector’s inventory but I doubt that this camera will be sold. Its significance is such that this will become a treasure of some kind not only for Nikon but for the general Japanese public as well.

IMG_9378But wait, there’s more! This is the Nikon F3T Uemura Special! This camera was modified with more additions than the Nikon F2T Uemura Special. There is also a Nikon MD-4 with it to complete the package. Some of the modifications are:

  • Multiple-exposure lever is removed.
  • The frame counter was modified so it shows red numbers instead of blue after 30.
  • The shutter button has a rubber seal.
  • The top, prism cover, apron, bottom and other covers were made from titanium.
  • Enhanced environmental seals.
  • Modified straps.
  • There’s no lock for the film back.
  • An accessory shoe was added to the Nikon MD-4.
  • Additional film rollers were added.
  • Anti-static coating was added to the pressure plate.
  • A modified film advance mechanism and spool.

Some of the modifications may seem familiar to you because some of them ended up on the Nikon F3P in 1983! Now, I am just assuming that this camera pre-dated the Nikon F3P but that’s not a far-fetched idea. I love the Nikon F3 very much and I consider it to be the best manual Nikon in almost every way. I said almost because the electronics were prone to breaking down when wet and it needed batteries to function although it has a manual 1/90s as a backup. The Nikon MD-4 weighs a lot so I don’t know why it wasn’t made using titanium for its shell. I am sure that there are more small details in this camera that were not mentioned in the picture, I will tell you if ever I meet mr. Goto again and if he has the time to talk about this remarkable camera.

I am sure that the lubricants in these cameras were special just like what was used in the NASA cameras made by Nikon. Some parts of our planet’s environment is as dangerous as outer space and it just makes sense that Nikon applied what they learned from building the cameras for NASA to these cameras.

I hope that you enjoyed this short article. If you enjoyed this, please share this with your friends at social media. Let the world know of Uemura Naomi’s extraordinary life. He is a unique individual who challenged his personal limits at the cost of his life. I sometimes think that living a short meaningful life is better than living a long but uneventful one. It is obvious that we cannot take anything along with us when we leave this world and all we leave is our legacy. This is one of the reasons why I spend so much time writing these articles because these will out-live me and I am sure that my blog will entertain people in the future when most of the people reading this blog is gone. I contemplate and meditate on impermanence each moment of my life and repairing Nikons is just part of it. See you guys next article, I will be showing you a repair article this month. Ric.

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Maintaining this blog requires money to operate. If you think that this site has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the upkeep of this site, you can simple make a small donation to my account ( Money is not my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

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Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country and other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous it is at all possible. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.

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