Report: Nikon Binoculars

Hello, everybody. I would like to show you another side of Nikon in this blog post. These days, people don’t use binoculars as much compared to the decades that passed. We had one in the family when I was young so we can bring it to concerts, trips and the theater. I remember that we would take our turns using it. I hope that you will enjoy this because it is a little different from what I usually publish but it’s very important becuase it shows another side of Nikon that many younger people these days don’t know about.

Introduction:

Nikon made binoculars longer than they were making cameras or lenses for consumers. I will go as far as to say that this wasn’t the focus of the company early on in its founding. I am sure that many people don’t know this side of Nikon and I’ll also admit that I’m not an expert in binoculars so please don’t take what I say as facts, they’re simply opinions that were made by somebody who grew up in an age where people carry them to events and I remember using binoculars to watch concerts and David Copperfield perform live. That brings me plenty of fond memories that I am sure that kids these days will never relate. I seldom see binoculars used these days apart from bird-watching and sports but they are still somewhat relevant these days but not as relevant as they used to be. Please read the whole article and let me take you down memory lane.

IMG_8944This is a special exhibit showcasing Nikon’s significance in the Japanese optical industry. Nikon’s history in making Asia’s (and the world’s) firsts cannot be denied and this should give visitors a good idea of just how important Nikon was in the beginning of the last 100 years, you can think of it as Asia’s Carl Zeiss.

IMG_8962This interactive display will greet you as you enter the exhibit. It shows the God of Nikon himself. He is a big inspiration to me and some of his ideas that made theire way to what he helped engineered influence my work. Whenever I design a system and I encountered a problem I would as myself, “what would Goto-sensei do?”. Unfortunately, I can’t share the contents of this display to you as it’s forbidden to record it.

IMG_9051Another interactive guide. This time it shows you the ins and outs of binoculars and how to use them. The Nikon Museum is a wonderful place for people to know more about how things work and is a camera nerd’s place to oggle at cameras and lenses all-day.

IMG_9053Here are some of Nikon’s binoculars. These are some of the earlier ones but you will see older ones in this exhibit, some are even older than many tech giants today.

IMG_9052Here are a few ones that were made in the recent past. These are stylish and they’re cool to look at despite being made around 30 years ago.

There’s also a few displays on Nikon’s giant binoculars at the exhibit. These aren’t within the reach of normal people and were made for military, scientific and other fields where size and price won’t matter so long as it gets the job done.

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Here’s one example. This thing is certainly not portable, that’s a binocular and a half! It’s easily one of the biggest specimen in the whole museum. It was made for astronomy and for “business” applications, I am guessing that it would be great for the mining industry.

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This 12cm waterproof model was made before the war and was mounted on the decks of submarines. Nikon has tremendous experience doing these things for the Japanese Navy, the coatings Nikon used on their post-war lenses are much tougher than the competition. This technique was developed from Nikon’s experience with the Imperial Japanese Navy.

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Another example of pre-war military equipment. This was considered “portable” and by that I think that it meant that this thing can be transported at the backs of several men so it can be deployed for observation by officers. The range of this thing is crazy and you’ll certainly have a big advantage over the enemy with this thing around. This was probably used for artillery spotting or observation, it was an extremely expensive thing to make so I bet that not many of these were made.

Did I get you excited in this section? Well, you better be because there are more things in the coming sections and they’re filled with pictures!

A Century of Binoculars:

This part of the exhibit is called “A Century of Binoculars”. This was held with the help of a local fashion school and I found it rather creative that they ever thought about this. It’s interesting to see fashion juxtaposed with Nikon’s binoculars and I didn’t expect this here to be honest. Please enjoy the beautiful creations of the students.

IMG_8942Here’s an interesting exhibit that was done in collaboration with a local fashion school. It seemed odd at first but it made a lot of sense after I read what this is all about.

img_8954.jpgThis is the literature describing this part of the exhibit. I will agree that binoculars used to be part of lady’s kit when travelling. You don’t see this much these days because there are many options available today but you can still see some older ladies clinging to their binoculars when they go for a hiking trip here in Japan.

The set below shows a series of dummies dressed in period attire with their binoculars. I found it interesting and very creative that they even thought of this. Please enjoy the set, I am sure that you will find this worth reading.

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Please click on the thumbnails to see the bigger version. I like the work that was put into these dresses, the attention to detail is amazing and you can definitely feel the passion of the students just by seeing what they’ve done.

Did you like this sections? If you didn’t click on the images and read their descriptions or inspect the dresses and binoculars then I advise you to do that so you will understand it better. A few women still bring binoculars to the theater when watching a play so maybe we will see today’s evening gowns in an exhibit in the future.

Main Exhibit:

We are now at the main part of the exhibit, this is where the important things are and it’s where any binocular fan would want to be! We have lots of binoculars in this area and it is possible that they wanted to exhibit more but they just lacked the space. You can spend about an hour here just by reading the notes and inspecting each item in this area.

IMG_8966This is the main part of the exhibit. These tables show a majority of what Nikon made in the past 100 years. There are more things to show but they just won’t fit. If you are a nerd for binoculars then I am sure that you will spend plenty of time looking at these.

IMG_8965This is an interesting chart showing the important milestones in Nikon’s history when it comes to the manufacturing of binoculars. The first one was made in 1911 right after the Fujii factory was established. Sure, it’s 2 years after-the-fact but that’s a short time if you consider when this was achieved. Nikon’s binocular-making credentials are amazing and it’s hard to find another company with this much experience apart from the big German names like Carl Zeiss. Carl Zeiss itself was founded in 1846, it has a good 50 or so years of experience when Fujii was founded. Apart from Nikon, I also like Zeiss but only for their work with the Zeiss Ikon name such as the Contax series of rangefinder cameras.

Trivia: The Fujii Lens Factory is the forerunner of what is to become Nippon Kogaku. The company was formed in 1911 with the help of German engineers.

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Here’s some pictures of the display. Please click to see the larger version and read their short description. There’s so much information here that’s not available elsewhere and I guess that’s due to fewer people who are in to binoculars compared with photography. I am just speculating here since I really don’t know much about the binocular community so I hope that people who know more will help fill-in some information here.

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Here’s the rest of the display. It will take plenty of space if every item here has a printed note accompanying them so I suppose they just included the notes for the important ones in this part of the exhibit. I like the look of the classic ones a lot and they reminded me of the ones that I used to see in my youth. I have a vague memory of our shop selling some binoculars but I am not sure because we’re primarily a jewelry and watch shop.

Do you think Nikon has made a significant contribution to the binocular industry? Seeing all these should make it clear to you that Nikon is one of the leaders in this industry. I am confident that Nikon will still stay relevant in the coming decades. Nikon is primarily an optics company unlike some of Nikon’s competitors who have diversified so we are sure that Nikon will put all of its efforts into optics alone and not into printers, calculators and even cosmetics like what the other brands do.

The Nikon Mikron:

The Nikon Mikron is one of Nikon’s most enduring designs because it’s a classic and it will never get out of fashion. The prism housing is iconic and it has undergone a few changes in its very long production run. As far as I can tell, there are 2 main types of binoculars. I know that there’s the long barrel type and the more compact one with prisms. The Nikon Mikron falls into the latter. You can call this an evergreen design and it still looks good to this day. It’s compact and light so your neck won’t hurt after wearing it all-day.

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Please click on the pictures to read the notes and know more about the differences in the models how it has evolved over the years. The design is very elegant and will look great regardless of what you wear.

I love the Nikon Mikron’s design a lot. It looks unique with the angular prism housing so people will surely notice when you have one around your neck. Notice that there’s also a variant where you only buy just one side of the Nikon Mikron. This makes for a compact package that you can fit inside your shirt pocket. I would like to own a Nikon Mikron but they don’t come cheap and a good one will cost around $300 and up last time I checked.

Giorgetto Giugiaro:

Many Nikon fans will recognize this name because Giorgetto Giugiaro has had a hand in designing some of Nikon’s cameras such as the Nikon F3, Nikon EM, Nikon F4 and so on. It is also worth noting that Italdesign (his company) has been involved with Nikon up to the present in one way or another and the last I can confirm is their work on the Nikon D4. If I am not mistaken, Nikon is the first company that employed a reknowned designer from Europe or overseas to design their products. His name will forever be associated with his work with Nikon.

IMG_9007Giugiaro has a long history of designing for Nikon. I consider him to be one of the biggest names in industrial design back in the days and his work is still relevant today. I like the Daihatsu Charade G100 and the Daihatsu Feroza a lot and they’re Giugiaro designs.

IMG_9014The Nikon F3 is probably Giugiaro’s most iconic work for Nikon. He was responsible for putting the red swatch in Nikon’s cameras as well as putting the name of the cameras at the front of the camera body. I love the Nikon F3 a lot and I consider it to be the best one when it comes to handling. He was also responsible for putting the small grip in front of the Nikon F3 and will also carry-over to all subsequent Nikon professional cameras. He is a big influence to this day in camera design and a lot of his design decisions are still seen in today’s cameras even up to the Nikon Z.

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See how sexy these binoculars look? They were given the Giugiaro treatment! They look so distinctively ’80s in a cool way. It’s hard to imagine how things are today if we did not have Giugiaro working for Nikon back then.

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Here’s the real thing! Notice how sleek they look? They look futuristic in a way and I can imagine seeing them being used as props for a Star Wars movie. I would not mind being seen with this dangling around my neck.

These look good don’t they? He made a significant contribution to how cameras today, it’s hard to imagine how our cameras and even binoculars would look like if he hadn’t work on these. Nikon’s famous for its ergonomics and he had a big hand in this. This is also the reason why I think Nikon’s products has a certain sex appeal to them if you can say that. I know a Nikon when I hold one because everything feels right in my hands.

Good Design Awards:

This is the last section and it’s all about the Good Design Awards. Most of you living out of Japan aren’t even aware of this and many locals haven’t even heard of this. This has been going on for decades since the 1950s and many Nikon products won this award and this is the driving force to push original design here in Japan. If the JCII was created to make sure that Japanese products don’t fall under a certain quality line then Good Design is for making sure that the designs are world-class.

IMG_9029The Good Design Awards is a prestigious award-giving body here in Japan and Nikon has been consistently winning it in certain categories lately. This is what many designers in Japan hope to win and it’s a big deal if something won an award. I suspect that this is just a way to promote creativity and for companies to begin making their own designs rather than merely copying successful overseas ones. Japan was known to make knock-offs but the Japanese companies soon grew past that stage. Korea and Taiwan were both doing it at some point but like Japan, they also got out of it after a 1-2 decades. China is currently the one that has to come out of this stage but it seems that they’re going to be stuck for a while judging from what I see coming out of that country.

IMG_9028This is how the certificate looks. I know it may not look like much but it’s an honor to get one of these. Countries who are into manufacturing goods for export should have similar awards in order to promote creativity.

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Here are some of Nikon’s winning designs. Please click on the thumbnail to see the bigger pictures. I am sure people who are into binoculars will enjoy these.

IMG_9050This is how the award looks like these days. If you remember the logo from websites and marketing materials but don’t know what that is then this should make things clear. You see this all the time when Nikon or other manufacturers win something and announce it on their website. This particular one is for the Nikon Prostaff 7S.

That’s it for this article. I hope that you enjoyed this little blog post and I hope that people will know more about Nikon’s work in the field of binoculars. I’ll admit that I don’t know much about binoculars so if you see any errors or would like to add something, please do us all a favor and leave a comment and I’ll make sure that what you posted will be added to this article. Thank you very much and see you guys again next time. Ric.

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