Report: Nikon Museum Special Collection pt2

Hello, everybody! I am going to walk you through this part of the exhibit where we find some surviving equipment from WW2 that was made by Nippon Kogaku that are special or interesting. Periscopes, gun sights and other “normal” things won’t excite some people so here are the more exotic ones. Nikon was called Nippon Kogaku until recently and just like Carl Zeiss they were pushed-into the war effort by their respective countries by their own will or not. There’s nothing much you can do when the state demands so much from you. It can mean the end for you if you said no so there isn’t much you can do I suppose. I find this part of the exhibit fascinating because I was a scale modeler and I admire WW2 weapons and machines because they’re obviously archaic but still modern-enough to be relatable. Whatever these are, these are just objects used during the war and should only be seen as such. I was in a photography facebook group once and somebody showed an old WW2 Leica and some people just went crazy over it. Discussing engineering shouldn’t be tainted with politics. With that said, I hope that you share my enthusiasm in this post.

IMG_1307 2This part of the exhibit has some of the biggest items in the whole floor. They’re heavy so I was really careful so I won’t knock one of them over and make me the Mr. Bean of the Nikon world.

Periscope Camera:

Unique situations require unique solutions. This contraption is probably used for enemy observation and documentation. This was probably carried by several soldiers and then assembled on-the-spot when the need arises. I don’t know if anything similar was made by the German army but I suppose that they also had their own system for this purpose. I wonder why this had to be in the form of a periscope. It’s probably to save space and for keeping the people operating it safe since they can hide behind sandbags. You can adjust it with a crank and a couple of locks. There’s also what looks to be a cord for the shutter. I hope that there’s more information about this thing and I don’t even know if this thing was even deployed or it was just used for a special assignment.

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Here’s all the information for this thing, printed on a small card. If you know more about this thing please feel free to share what you know about it.

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Click on the pictures to see some close-ups. It looks like this can be folded and stored in a case for transport. It also shows how and where the photosensitive plate can be attached to it.


This one was exclusively developed for naval purposes. It was used for artillery spotting on the open seas and it can give you the precise distance of a ship so you can adjust your ship’s batteries to aim at that distance and sink the enemy ship. This sounds tedious but this was how things were done. It’s the same routine for ground-based artillery units but they usually use smaller hand-held units.

This is how it works, you simply align the image in the viewfinder and read the distance from a scale. It’s just a giant version of what you have in your rangefinder camera or the ones that you attach to the tops of your cameras if it doesn’t come with one. The accuracy of its measurements is determined by how long the base is, a longer base will allow for a more accurate reading because you can make finer adjustments.

IMG_1376Here’s the poster showing how this thing works. It has a nice diagram outlining how the rangefinder works and the optical path to create an image on the viewfinder. It’s simpler than what many people think but it’s just huge.

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This is the basic schematic of the whole thing, there’s a view and reflector prism like in a smaller rangefinder camera but the main difference is the image is combined using a big prism at the center. This is what makes it different from the usual rangefinder that your camera has. It’s probably too expensive to make one like this for consumer cameras or it will make the whole camera much bigger since you need to house this thing on top of the camera body that’s why we only have the simpler version of this where we view-through the viewing/catch prism to the left (usually). Military rangefinders are much bigger so it’s important to view from the center because they’re just too big. Viewing from the center’s going to help you balance the rangefinder with both of your hands and that makes it a lot easier to balance.

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Here’s more pictures showing the details of the thing. Note that it has a special tripod so it can be safely mounted on the deck of a ship. While it’s in excellent condition I think it’s missing a couple of parts specially the one that covers the viewfinder area. Notice that it can be removed from its mount as evident from the hinged locks securing it. You can also notice that there’s a pipe at the center of the tripod, you can shout through this pipe and people below can hear you and aim the ship’s cannons to the coordinates that you said. If you are young and you haven’t watched the war movies that we grew-up watching you’ll never get what I mean if you don’t have a good imagination.

Drift Sight:

This section is for the Type 3 Drift Sight. It’s not in the museum so I don’t have photos for this section. This thing basically calculates the offset of a plane’s path when you factor-in wind direction and force. A plane won’t fly on a straight line to its destination because of the effects of wind blowing from the side so you offset the plane’s path to get an accurate prediction of its trajectory. I am not a pilot but I am just basing this from what I know, if you’re an aviator please share what you know with us.

IMG_1445Here’s a simple illustration showing how the thing works in principle. It’s not only used for aviation but also for maritime use since a ship’s course is also influenced by the wind.

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Click on the pictures to see bigger photos of this poster. I really wish that the real thing is in the museum but it’s not there at the moment. There aren’t any photos of it as well, the thing might not even exist outside of its blueprints. I will ask the curator when I find him there at the museum and see what’s up with this particular part of the exhibit.

We’re now done with part 2. This may not be interesting for some people but those who are into WW2 military history should find this interesting. As someone who grew-up in a country that saw the brunt of the Japanese Imperial Army’s brutality in the war, I find it fascinating to see what the then-enemy had and I marvelled at how advanced these were for their time. Growing up I can find authentic war equipment being sold at junk shops. I even had a real American ammunition tin that I used as a tool box. It was merely around 30-40 years after the war and it was still considered recent memory by people back then so hearing stories about the war was common as people who experienced it can still talk about it. We now live in a peaceful era and we should treasure it as much as we can. Ric.

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