An online guide to collectable cameras and related stuff
This Nikon I is the fourth number after the pre-production cameras.
Having decided to market a camera, Nippon Kogaku considered building a 6x6 twin lens reflex, and a
35mm rangefinder camera. On April 15, 1946 the decision was made to abandon the TLR, and build a
test run of twenty 35mm cameras. The design was finalised in September, although they did not reach
the market until 1948.
The camera had an image size of 24x32, which the designers felt was a better image than the standard 24x36. It allowed a couple of extra frames per roll, important at that time due to the high cost of film, and it was closer in proportion to an 8x10 print. However, the GHQ, who were in charge of allowing products to be exported to the US, felt that it would cause conflict with Kodaks Kodachrome slide mounts. They refused to allow export to the US.
As the American market was by far the most lucrative, Nippon Kogaku redesigned the film gate and wind gearing to accomodate a 24x34 image. This was deemed acceptable, and the Nikon M was born.
The camera was discountinued in August of 1949. Production was either 758 or 759 cameras,the factory records are unclear on this, with the first twenty cameras factory prototypes. Many cameras were scraped, and converted to Nikon M bodies, making the Nikon I a rare and coveted camera
A note about serail numbers. Nikon uses a prefix on their serial numbers. The date is reflected in many early serial numbers. In some instances it would be date of production of a batch of lenses. In this case it was date of design completion, (194)6, 09(th month, September), or 609. The first camera produced would be 6091.
A later Nikon I with a 50/2 Nikkor
With it's worn box.
Note the "Made In Occupied Japan" engraved on the bottom. As this is a later example, the engraving is smaller.
No raised frame on the back.
The back lacks the arms that appear on the Nikon M cameras, but then disappear on the Nikon S.
The finish inside is crude. Earlier examples have a removable take-up spool.
The box is so much more rare than the camera!