Photographica Pages

An online guide to collectable cameras and related stuff

Nikon S Display Model (Dummy)

A Nikon S dummy, with 50/1.4 Nikkor

One of the rarest cameras Nippon Kogaku ever produced wasn't really even a camera. Small numbers of dealer display dummies were produced for use in large camera stores. They were designed to be left in the window. The reason for them was twofold. First, they were a lot less expensive than an operating camera, so the store wouldn't have to worry about having valuable inventory sitting where it wouldn't be sold. Secondly, if the window was broken and the dummy stolen, it was less of a loss (and hopefully the fact that the thieves ended up stealing something worthless would act as a future deterrent). 

The down side to the dummy was that it did cost something, and when the model was discontinued, the dummy was all but worthless. Most were either thrown away, or stripped external parts to repair real cameras. It is common to find dummies missing parts. Let me rephrase that. When you do find a dummy, which is rare, it's often missing parts.

Nikon was not the only company to make dummies. We've had Leica, Voigtlander and Rollei dummies. Others exist.

When Bob Rotoloni wrote his book on Nikon rangefinder, he had only seen one S dummy, and five S2 dummies. The number of the one he had seen was 6108988. The one I was in possession of was 6109487.

The first thing you notice when you pick it up is that it feels light. The focus ring spins freely without moving the lens. The rewind knob rotates freely (not a surprise). The shutter speed dial may be missing something from the assembly as it seems to have a slightly lower profile than a normal dial, and the slow speeds rotate easily through the range. The wind knob will turn a limited amount in each direction. The finder has no optics inside, and with the back off, light is visible through the finder from inside.

Inside the S dummy is much less complete than the S2 dummy, as it lacks the back of the shutter crate. The example I am inspecting appears to have had four of five screws removed in the plate that acts as the bottom of the shutter crate, and is necessary in the dummy as it's what the back/bottom latch to. The remainder of the holes show no disturbance of the paint. The back lacks a pressure plate, and the area where the serial number would be is milled out before painting.

The rails in the accessory shoe lack a chrome finish. The bottom of the camera is engraved DISPLAY MODEL. Most dummies are marked in one way or another. Leica dummies usually have an "a" engraved after the serial number (or no number at all). Rolleiflex dummies usually have odd serial numbers. Minox dummies have a large hole drilled in the bottom. And a Voigtlander Viteesa dummy was marked "DUMMY" in three languages on the bottom.

Many dummies have lenses with only the front element, often with the back of the element painted black, or capped with a piece of black metal. This dummy has what appears to be an much earlier production lens. The lens looks like it was a production 50/1.4 Nikkor, with a serial number of 50051635. The lens has a working diaphragm, but is missing the real lens cell. As this was from the first batch of 50/1.4 Nikkors, it's my guess that the lens was one that failed the quality control tests. The back cell would be removed so that it could not be used. Nikon would not want to tempt dealers to sell as a working lens one that was bought for considerably less than the cost of a good one, nor the chance that the "bad" lens would sully Nikon's reputation for quality optics.

As you can see from these photos, the camera shows a number of dents, wear and the shutter release button is missing (it would probably have to have been glued on). This wouldn't be from normal handling, but rather from being cast into drawers and piles of junked cameras.

Inside, showing the minimum amount of parts used.

The bottom of the camera with engraving. This exact style of engraving is found on the two examples I have seen or have seen photos of.

With the lens removed.

The back of the lens, missing the rear element.

The back, without serial number or pressure plate.