Report: Nikon Museum (Cine-Nikkor)

Hello, everybody! There’s currently an exhibit going on at the Nikon Museum about Cine-Nikkors! I am currently doing my best to give you all the information I have about this obscure part of Nikon’s history so I was very happy when the Father of Kit-lenses messaged me about this exhibit. I was so happy at that moment but I was also sad because there’s lots of Nikon historians who couldn’t come to the exhibit due to the pandemic. I dedicate this article to all of you who are unable to look at these with your own eyes and breath the same moldy air that these relics are exposed to.

The exhibit is rather small, befitting the tiny nature of many Cine-Nikkors. Despite being merely 2 tables the specimens shown here are very important.

This is what will greet you once you enter the exhibit. I wasn’t aware that Cine-Nikkors played such an important role in the company’s development, both financially and technically. I think they deserve more appreciation and research. I am doing what I could to help bring awareness to these treasures but finding information about them is difficult.

It looks like the history of Cine-Nikkors go back to the 1930s. It looks like the Imperial Japanese Navy’s needs became a bigger priority than consumer products so things were set-aside to give way to the war effort. This is probably the holy grail of Cine-Nikkors. I’m amazed by this finding because I wasn’t expecting the Cine-Nikkor name to be this old.

That’s it for the introduction, are you excited to read my commentaries and view my photos? I was considering making this a multi-part article but I thought that would spread things too thinly so everything was consolidated into a single article. Let’s go!

TV-Nikkor:

Nikon made several equipment for use by broadcasters, many under the name TV-Nikkor. This section shows some of the rarer items, I don’t know how many people are interested in these so I hope that this will generate some interest in this subject.

Wow, just take a look at all the beautiful specimens! I am not even aware that there are special caps for the TV-Nikkors.

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Here’s a closer look at some of the items on-display. Who would’ve thought that TV-Nikkors had such a rich history? It is amazing how little was left and how difficult it is to gather information about these, even Nikon engineers don’t have much information about these. This is why documenting everything is so important.

This is the Nikon S-100, the only video-camera made by Nikon. Sales was a flop at that time so it’s safe to assume that there aren’t many of these around and even if you’ve managed to find one the all-important Nikon V-100 may not be included, it’s the module that connects to this in order to record what it took. Despite that it’s an important part of the whole process leading to Nikon creating her own digital cameras because the foundations were laid at this point.

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I suppose that this lens was intended to be the lens for the Nikon S-100. It’s sure looks interesting, I hope I could adapt it so we can finally see what sort of photos it takes.

I’m sure that there more things to show but these are the only specimens available at the museum. The TV-Nikkors are low-volume items so it just makes sense that there aren’t many information around about them.

Cine-Nikkor:

This section deals with Cine-Nikkors, the ones that we all know about and see most of the time. I have covered many of them in this site so some of the lenses here will look familiar to you but many of the lenses shown here are unknown to the general public or very-little information about them exists and kept-secret by a few people which I dislike. This part is the main section of this article so it’s naturally the biggest part with the most photos and information.

This is the American-version of the Cine-Nikkor 13mm f/1.9 with the only difference being the front ring. These are the most common ones you’ll see for sale in America. It’s a lovely little lens and is personally my favorite of the lot.

Now, this is special! I suppose the specs were a bit too-high for Nikon to mass-produce this. You will have to remember that Japan was at a bad shape during the postwar years and that probably explained why this was never sold.

While this indeed special its specs were no-better compared to the Cine-Nikkor 13mm f/1.9 which were popular then. I personally don’t see the point of producing this lens apart from economics.

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This is the first time that I’ve heard of this lens. The design of the barrel coincided with the other Nikkors of that time, it has a sexy all-black main barrel with a nice silver tip.

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I’ve always wanted to own one of these, I hope I’ll be able to get one so I could show you how it performs. From what little information and photos I’ve seen from it this lens appears to perform decently wide-open.

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This part of the display shows the origins of the C-mount Cine-Nikkors that I’ve been writing more about recently. This is an eye-opener for me because I never knew when these were made and for how long, at least I now know when the series began. It is safe to assume that there are 2 main eras for C-mount Cine-Nikkors, ones that came before this line and the ones that came after. This is where these Cine-Nikkors began to look more modern.

This is what I considered the f/1.8 trinity for 8mm Cine-Nikkors. The Cine-Nikkor 6.5mm f/1.8 was never sold so we only have the Cine-Nikkor 6.5mm f/1.9 instead. However, both the Cine-Nikkor 13mm f/1.8 and the Cine-Nikkor 38mm f/1.8 were sold but not like the ones you’ll see in the next set.

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Here’s a closer look at the lenses that I mentioned in the previous panel. They don’t look the ones that were sold under the same name. The barrels look different but I am not sure if the optics are similar to the ones that were sold. Only the Cine-Nikkor 6.5mm f/1.8 leaves us a big question because its barrel looks different from the Cine-Nikkor 6.5mm f/1.9. It doesn’t have a focusing ring from what I can see, Nikon could’ve gave it one because similar lenses from other brands have it.

I wonder why these were never sold despite the market was saturated with high-speed D-mount lenses. I am sure that these would’ve sold very well specially that they carry the Nikkor brand.

This concludes our section on Cine-Nikkors, at least for the prime lenses. These are the most-accessible ones for us but the the next section shows more exotic ones, zooms.

Cine-Zoom-Nikkor:

There aren’t many interchangeable Cine-Zoom-Nikkors available to us and I don’t know of any that were made for the smaller 8mm format. These were considered “exotic” and were mostly sold in low-volume. I wasn’t aware that there are so many available or were considered to be sold so this part of the whole exhibit excited me. I probably spent the most time here ogling at the precious specimens at the table. What’s most interesting to me are the attachments, they’re for previewing the field-of-view you could get at the given focal-length. I suppose they’re rarer than the lenses themselves as I don’t see them for sale.

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I wasn’t expecting the Cine-Zoom-Nikkors to be developed this early but here’s the proof. One could only imagine the performances of these lenses because zooms weren’t as good back then as they are today. However, the convenience they provide justifies everything and you could pull your focus easily which enables you to take creative movies.

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I wonder how many of these were made, since these were supposedly made for research purposes I assume that only a handful of these exists or maybe just a single one. Most of that research probably went to how to construct the barrel around the optics and how to manipulate the groups in order to get the desired effect.

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This probably didn’t made it into production due to cost. I assume that creating one of these would cost a lot and the research involved in it would have been enormous. It’s also important to consider the accompanying technology used for testing and manufacturing each lens, the jigs, special tools and methodologies should also be taken into account.

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This is the first interchangeable D-mount Cine-Zoom-Nikkor that I’m aware of. The maximum-aperture is quite fast for a zoom of its kind as evidenced by the large front. One can only marvel at the engineering and quality of this lens, it’s just a prototype but the finish looks beautiful.

The next couple of lenses are special and here’s a preview of what to expect.

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What a beautiful lens and it’s massive! I don’t know if the narrow throat will be able to support the thing’s weight. The zoom-barrel is rather broad but I don’t see any rubber-grip for focusing, could this be a push-pull design? I doubt it, I couldn’t see how that’s possible judging from this photo.

Here’s a similar lens but this time the aperture-ring looks different, is that a part of the viewing-attachment? I have no way of knowing because I wasn’t able to play around with this thing.

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This is even bigger than the one shown in the previous set. Its massive focal-range is impressive, enabling you to use it for any occasion, from wide to super-tele ranges. Unlike the previous one at least this one has a knurled focusing-ring.

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This one has a nicer focusing-ring with the hill-and-dale design instead of the smooth and knurled ones we saw earlier with the other lenses. The throat looks so narrow, I’m scared just thinking about how the mount could support it.

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I rarely see of these for sale, it’s also the smallest of the quartet so its size may have been the main reason why it was sold. The others are just too-big or heavy to be of any practical use and were probably only meant for research. It’s not the most impressive of them all in terms of focal-range and speed but it’s still a rather interesting lens.

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This one looks more modern compared to the ones we saw previously. The zoom-barrel is all-metal with a pattern I’ve never seen from any Cine-Zoom-Nikkor. The front is also massive. I’m beginning to see a pattern here, it looks like the larger a zoom gets the less likely it will go into production and for good reason, too.

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This one looks sleeker compared to the earlier version. If you look at the mount you will see just how thin the part with the thread is. The weight of this alone will wear the mount in-no-time specially if you consider how professionals abuse their equipment in the field.

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This is huge for such a small format but I guess that’s what it needs to achieve an astonish f/1.4 maximum-aperture. It’s unusual in the sense that this one doesn’t look like it was originally attached to a camera. The whole lower part of the barrel normally sits deep-within the body of the Nikon R10 Super. Some of the protruding parts near the base hint that it was supposed to be inside a camera and there are teeth at the aperture ring which implies that it could be operated with a motor but that still doesn’t explain why it looks so different from the one mounted on a Nikon R10 Super.

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This one looks just as unusual as the one above in the sense that it doesn’t look like the one mounted to the cameras they were supposed to be made for. Unlike the former this one does look like it was originally mounted to a camera. I can see lugs at the base. I think somewhere along the design phase of both the Nikon R8 Super and Nikon R10 Super a decision was made to make the zoom and aperture motorized so they have to be encased within a shell.

I enjoyed this section the most because I personally love Cine-Nikkors, this is my current focus. I do not know if I’ll ever be able to own some of the more exotic ones shown here but who knows? If you are into shooting unusual setups this section should appear to you as well.

I suppose this is the most expensive part of the while exhibit, the whole lot costs thousands of dollars at the least. The specimens shown here are priceless and should be kept-safe for posterity.

8mm Cameras:

Nikon made several movie cameras to sell Cine-Nikkors, some are under the Nikkorex brand while some were sold as part of a kit by other manufacturers who have no capability of manufacturing their own lenses. I don’t know if some of the Nikkorex-brand ones were made by Nikon or were commissioned to other companies just like the Nikkorex F from Mamiya or the Nikon FM10 which is actually made by Cosina. There are a few people who actually collect and still use these, for fun and shooting indie movies, this section should appeal to them the most.

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I guess the Cine-Nikkor 13mm f/1.9 was originally intended for the American market because the earliest example for the Japanese domestic that I know of could only be traced-back to 1953 which I’ve dated from an old flyer that I saw in a website. If my guess is correct then this means that the Revere version should be the earliest version of this lens.

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I doubt the date shown here because I’ve seen information dating this kit from a few years earlier. It also doesn’t make any sense for Nikon to wait for 5 years before releasing this lens for the domestic market unless there’s an agreement.

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After reading the caption I think it means “focus-free” which simply implies that it has a fixed-focus very much like the Cine-Nikkor 6.5mm f/1.9. I am actually contemplating on taking the lens out and adapting it for use with my Pentax Q.

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The through-the-lens finder is probably more important than the fact that you could use a zoom-adapter for it. In my experience with these attachments the image quality usually suffers a bit, some would even make your images look so bad that it’s better not to use them at all.

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I think I have one of these in my spares, the range is quite practical so I guess it was popular back then. These are not expensive and you could easily get one from a junkshop.

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This will give you a slightly longer reach compared to the previous one above but it won’t go as wide. For many people this is a nice trade specially for documenting events.

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I consider this to be the best that Nikon made in the 1960s, the lens alone is a significant improvement over the older models.

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This is Nikon’s last 8mm movie camera and it’s the most advanced one sporting many features that were never seen on any Nikon 8mm camera since. I’m actually surprised because I’ve always thought that this debuted around the 1980s, it has a sleek design which makes it look more like something from the early 1980s.

Conclusion:

That’s it for this article, I hope that you’ve enjoyed this as much as I did. If you could not make it to the exhibit because of the pandemic then this should help ease your frustration a bit. If you are knowledgeable about the subject please do share whatever you know with us, do not be part of an “elite” group whose only interest is to selfishly keep information to themselves, if these old men die the information goes along with them, benefitting no one.

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This is my treasure. It’s my own Cine-Zoom-Nikkor 17-70mm f/2.2, it’s one of my most-treasured lenses. After going to the museum it looks like there are more lenses that are more interesting than this one. It gives me the motivation and will to keep on looking for these amazing relics from an era that we’ll never get to experience ever again.

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