The Nikon S was produced in 1951 by the Japanese optical maker Nippon Kogaku KK. It was actually the third version of the “Nikon”. Production lasted until 1955. Estimated production was 36,700 units.
In 1946, Nippon Kogaku KK set out to build a rangefinder. They drew on the designs of both Contax and Leica. The resulting Nikon looks like a close relative of the Contax body but incorporates the legendary cloth shutter of the Leica. A fantastic mix of the best of both designs. The first iteration was the Nikon I in 1948 that used the “Minolta 35” 24X32mm format. It was only sold in Japan and not allowed to be exported to the US market. In 1949 the Nikon M was introduced with a close, but not there yet 24X34mm format. Still no export market.
Finally in 1951 the Nikon S arrived. In addition to being standard (Kodak standard that is) format, it added flash sync contacts. It was the first Nikon to make it to the US market. The lens mount is the Nikon S-mount that is close to the Contax mount but there seem to be slight differences that may cause focus issues especially on longer length lens.
The Nikon S is a “slow down and breath” camera. No high speed shooting here. The film advance is a knob that also resets the shutter. Or you can use the shutter speed dial to reset the Shutter without advancing the film. The frame counter advances automatically but has to be manually reset to zero when you load a new roll of film. No light meter so bring your own or read the light. No self-timer so not suitable for selfies.
What a joy of a camera. Solid, well crafted. Fun to shoot. No auto anything to distract you. The Nikon S feel as heavy as the Leica screw mounts or the Contax (maybe heavier) and just as well built. Styling is fantastic, early range finder and fantastic.
This is not the camera to throw in a bag and have for quick shots. Too heavy and too slow. It is a great camera for a walk and slow, zen shooting experience. It is also a great option if you want to test the waters on old range finders or specifically Nikon range finders, as it seems to be on the lower end of the price range. Much more affordable than the better appointed Nikon SP. But be warned, you will like it and will want to buy more. So, don’t blame me when you end up with a case full.
Film: Ilford HP5 400
Lens: Nikon-S.C 5cm f1.4