Mak­ing a name

How did the world’s favourite black-and-yel­low brand start life?

NPhoto - - Feature -

Nikon hasn’t al­ways been Nikon. In fact, Nikon Cor­po­ra­tion as we know it is has only been around for about the past 30 years. When two of Ja­pan’s lead­ing op­ti­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers – the Op­ti­cal In­stru­ments Depart­ment of Tokyo Keiki Seisakusho and Re­flect­ing Mir­ror Depart­ment of Iwaki Glass Man­u­fac­tur­ing – merged on 25 July, 1917, with in­vest­ment sup­port from the Pres­i­dent of Mit­subishi, Koy­ata Iwasaki, the com­pany was known as Nip­pon Ko­gaku, K.K. (or ‘Ja­panese Op­ti­cal Co.’).


The Nikon brand name was es­tab­lished in 1946 – not as the name for the com­pany, but for a cam­era. Nip­pon Ko­gaku K.K. ex­ecs were look­ing for a ti­tle for a new com­pact 35mm cam­era that they were plan­ning to de­velop. It is said that, in a bid to cap­ture the cam­era’s com­pact­ness while build­ing

The Nikon brand name was es­tab­lished in 1946 – not for the com­pany, but for a cam­era

on the ‘Nikko’ ab­bre­vi­a­tion of Nip­pon Ko­gaku, they con­sid­ered the ti­tle ‘Niko­rette’, which sounds per­ilously close to nico­tine gum to us.

Con­cerned that Niko­rette was too weak for a prod­uct for which it had ma­jor am­bi­tions, the com­pany in­stead de­cided to re­tain the ‘Nikko’ base but add an ad­di­tional ‘N’ to give, as Nikon puts it, ‘a more mas­cu­line im­pres­sion in the Ja­panese lan­guage’. The first cam­era to carry the Nikon name – the Nikon Model I – was launched in 1948, and is com­mem­o­rated by a lim­ited edi­tion crys­tal ver­sion (above), which is avail­able as part of Nikon’s 100th An­niver­sary col­lec­tion.


Fast for­ward to 1988, and on 1 April Nip­pon Ko­gaku re­branded as the Nikon Cor­po­ra­tion. Prod­ucts bear­ing the Nikon name across var­i­ous mar­kets had built up a rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity and the com­pany wanted to take ad­van­tage of this as it con­tin­ued to de­velop as an in­ter­na­tional brand. The Nikon logo was re­designed to re­flect the new brand­ing.

Nikon 100th An­niver­sary Edi­tion Crys­tal Cre­ation Nikon cam­era model

The 100th An­niver­sary Pin Col­lec­tion (far left) in­cludes the orig­i­nal Nip­pon Ko­gaku logo. You can also buy Nikon 100th An­niver­sary Pre­mium Cam­era Straps (left), as well as 100th An­niver­sary Edi­tions of the D5, D500, Nikkor 70-200E and model Nikon F

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