Author Topic: The "S" heritage  (Read 15187 times)

Bjørn Rørslett

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The "S" heritage
« on: June 18, 2015, 19:21:41 »
Not that many of us these days use the ancient Nikon rangefinders, with their very peculiar "S" bayonet mounts. Yet the Nikon "S" is the camera that literally made Nikon into what they are today.

Being "discovered" by David D. Duncan and other LIFE photographers on their travels to cover the Korean war, Nikon became the insider's tip in the early 1950s. A widely cited article in NY Times (Dec 1950) put the foundation for that fame, but no amount of writing would have helped if the cameras didn't match up to the best performers of those long gone days. It certainly did and not the least the lens designation "Nikkor" became a synonym of excellence. Funny about the name though, "Nikkor" was evidently choosen so as not to be mistaken for [Zeiss] Ikon, a big label at that time.

I purchased my first Nikon rangefinder in London UK more than 40 years ago. It was a black beauty and I haggled the price down to around $ 150 or so (in today's currency). It came without lenses, so I spent the next years tracking down lenses for it and finally managed to get a fair optical arsenal for it. I have used the camera quite extensively but it still operates with the same silky-smooth feeling after all these years.

Recently I was made aware that my camera was one out of a handful cameras made on order for Associated Press(AP) in UK and had great historical (and economical) value. The appraisal quoted 5-digit numbers ... However, I have no thought of selling the camera, no matter how high the bid becomes. Just adds to the enchantment of owning this beautiful old-timer.

This is how the camera looks like, with the classic Nikkor-S 5 cm f/1.4 lens attached,



Here is a front view, showing the S-mount which is dual and has an internal and an external section. The internal part is for the 50 mm normal lenses which lacked their own focusing mechanism and had to be focused with the thumbwheel located on the top of the bodywork. A make-shift Nikon F to S adapter has been attached to the external S mount.



A pre-AI 50 mm f/2 Nikkor merges nicely with the camera outline, but most Nikkors could be attached. As there is no linkage between the lens and camera controls, focusing has to be done by consulting the distance scale on the lens. Thus, shorter focal lengths will work the best.

I quickly found the rapid-wind lever to be chafing on my hand, so replaced it with a spare lever from an old Nikon F2. Despite the model and age differences the parts exchanged seamlessly.



Later, I purchased several other of the rangefinder Nikons, so now have the following selection:
- Nikon S (1951)
- Nikon S2 (1954)
- Nikon SP (1957)
- Nikon S3 Black AP (1958)
- Nikon S3 "2000 Commemoration" (2000 jubilee model)

In addition, I have the Bessa R2S (2003) which accepts the "S" mount lenses, has built-in TTL metering, and dare I say a much better viewfinder than any of the older Nikons. Unfortunately the Bessa now also is history, being discontinued after just a short production run. There still are stocks of it, but they won't last forever.

I purchased the Voigtländer 15 mm f/4.5 Heliar, 21 mm f/4 Scopar, and the 50 mm f/1.5 Nokton, with my Bessa R2S. All of these mount on my Nikon rangefinders as well.

From the Nikkor line I have the 2.1 cm f/4, 35 mm f/1.8, 35 mm f/2.5, 35 mm f/3.5, 50 mm f/2, a number of 5 cm/50 mm f/1.4 lenses dating back to early 1951, plus the special version called 50 mm f/1.4 Olympic which is multicoated and has improved optics. I also own the famous 8.5 cm f/2 and 10.5 cm f/2.5 Nikkors, plus the 135 mm f/3.5 and the 25 cm (250 mm) f/4 telephoto Nikkor. To complete the picture, I have made adapters so I can use the various UV lenses on my rangefinders.


Frank Fremerey

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2015, 19:27:52 »
I like to see a digital version of that. Small. Beautiful. 24x36. Old and new optics. Mirrorless.
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Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2015, 20:06:34 »
That makes two of us ...

BEZ

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2015, 20:22:17 »
Make that three  .....I suffer with the fujifilm quirks for now.

Cheers
Bez
Bez

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2015, 20:33:52 »
I pretty much know the story but good to see all of it is put together and in one place. :)

I have fondled a few S', seen the innards of a few but never bought one (including the Millenium set that was on sale in a neighborhood shop for a long while).

I do have and use (current and on a Leica MM) a W-Nikkor-C 2.5 cm f4 (A Zeiss Topogon clone) and a Nikkor P.C. 10.5cm f/2.5 (Zeiss Sonnar clone)- both in Leica thread mounts.

I covet the W Nikkor C 3.5cm f/1.8 lens.  This lens' design is unique, original (inspired a Konica 35/2 and later many many more) and far ahead of its times.  The LTM lens is difficult to find and is quite expensive.

It would be nice if Nikon come up with a compact mirror less (full frame and no tiny sensor) camera.  There were rumors but nothing showed up.
Vivek Iyer

Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2015, 21:01:07 »
The W-Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 is an amazing design and years ahead of its time. Currently used by me on the 1 Nikons, but it also see occasional service on the Panasonics.

I was fortunate enough to pick up a clean sample at a very decent price.

Gary

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2015, 22:15:42 »
What I appreciate about Nikon film cameras, is that for three to four decades, Nikon captured every major news event that occurred in the free world. That is a lot of history.
"Everywhere you look there are photographs, it is the call of photographers to see and capture them."- Gary Ayala
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Bjørn Rørslett

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #7 on: June 18, 2015, 22:21:54 »
Perhaps even in the "non-free" world as well?

Consider this is a truly international forum and concepts of political groupings might differ amongst our members. So better to avoid such labels.

Erik Lund

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #8 on: June 18, 2015, 22:23:16 »
Nice write up, I too have a Nikkor P.C. 10.5cm f/2.5 LTM that I use on my Leica M9 and now I can finally enjoy it in full, it took some re-lube cleaning and adjustment of the range finder to get it up to speed.

I was also waiting for a new S or Sp with sensor for some years but gave up and added Leica M range and have not regretted it :)
Erik Lund

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #9 on: June 18, 2015, 22:35:15 »
Perhaps even in the "non-free" world as well?

Consider this is a truly international forum and concepts of political groupings might differ amongst our members. So better to avoid such labels.

I think everything was clubbed together.  Numerous Front page iconic pictures published in the west were made in suppressed/conflict zone areas.  This includes Spain from the Franco era if I am not mistaken.
Vivek Iyer

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #10 on: June 18, 2015, 22:38:46 »
Nice write up, I too have a Nikkor P.C. 10.5cm f/2.5 LTM that I use on my Leica M9 and now I can finally enjoy it in full, it took some re-lube cleaning and adjustment of the range finder to get it up to speed.

I was also waiting for a new S or Sp with sensor for some years but gave up and added Leica M range and have not regretted it :)

That is surprisingly a heavy beast!  I bought mine from a real Leica user. Mint sample!
Vivek Iyer

Erik Lund

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2015, 18:58:58 »
Indeed it is almost too heavy for a rangefinder lens but the sharpness and fantastic Bokeh is worth it.

Mine had a little stiff focusing, after all the lens is 50 years old and also the focusing helicoil is very long.
Mine is no longer Mint, it has been in and out of the camera a lot already :)
Erik Lund

Mike Wallace

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2016, 08:28:40 »
Cool post!  A great read!  I hope to be able to start building my collection of vintage film cams soon.  How I would love  to add a fine example such as this.  Just a few zero's out of my budget for the moment.  Thanks Bjorn! 
Mike Wallace

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2016, 09:48:57 »
Not that many of us these days use the ancient Nikon rangefinders, with their very peculiar "S" bayonet mounts. Yet the Nikon "S" is the camera that literally made Nikon into what they are today.

Now that you mention rangefinders. I don't have a Nikon S or any rangefinder camera. I might have something long forgotten which belonged to a family member. The camera is tucked away somewhere.

However, in my vintage lens collection, with which you are partly familiar, I was gifted by Justin a Nikon 50/1.1 for services rendered and which is now sitting with the other 50mm namely a couple of Zunow and a couple of Angenieux P.......etc. They are locked away in the other house heavily insured.

Shame, as they dormant unused but much loved.

Maybe a vist to the good Doctor one day so he can advise whether to change mounts or streamline for one particular rangefinder mount as they are in different obsolete mounts.

Erik Lund

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Re: The "S" heritage
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2016, 10:21:47 »
The 50mm 1.1 need a very slight modification to the rear housing, then it fits a standard Nikon S to Leica M focus adapter...
Erik Lund