Since the photography world recently became abuzz with rumors of a digital Nikonos in the works, it’s time for us to revisit the Nikon system that set the standard for underwater photography when it was introduced in 1963.
PetaPixel recently reported about the speculations raised in the Nikon Rumors that the Japanese camera company is currently working on a “serious underwater camera” that could possibly be a digital “Nikonos-like underwater camera that will be able to go 60-100 ft (20-30m) deep.” But, just what is this Nikonos system they’re talking about?
The Nikonos system was derived from the Calypso, a self-contained amphibious (suitable for both water and air environment) 35mm underwater camera from the 1960s. Conceived by French mariner Jacques Cousteau and designed by Belgian engineer Jean de Wouters, the Calypso was manufactured by Atoms in France and distributed by La Spirotechnique in Paris. It could operate down to 200 feet or 50 meters below sea level. In 1963, Nikon bought the design and took over the production, renaming the Calypso as the Nikonos. From there, it became a popular series of underwater cameras.
Among the most popular models that are still sought after to this day is the Nikonos V from the second generation viewfinder camera bearing Nikon’s design. Introduced in June 1984, the Nikonos V had through-the-lens (TTL) light meter, automatic aperture priority and manual exposure modes, rugged construction, simple controls, and, like the model before it, was waterproof to 160 ft (50 m). Nikon discontinued the Nikonos line in 2001, but the series remains popular for both amateur and professional underwater photographers.
- Type of camera: Electronically controlled 35mm amphibious focal plane shutter camera
- Construction: Body made of die-cast aluminum alloy and reinforced plastic; all joints sealed by O-ring gaskets to ensure absolute watertightness; camera able to withstand pressures up to 6kg/cm2 (85 lb/in2) at a depth of 50 m (160 ft)
- Usable film: Standard 35mm cartridge-type film
- Picture format: 24mm x 36mm (standard 35mm film format)
- Lens mount: Nikonos bayonet mount
- Lenses: W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5 standard; four additional lenses from super wide-angle to medium telephoto available
- Viewfinder: Inverted Galilean type Albada finder built into camera for use with standard 35mm lens; bright frame lines show approx. 85% field of view at infinity; 0.55x magnification; diopter 0.9; high eyepoint allows viewing with eye 40mm away from finder; parallax correction marks provided; accessory optical viewfinders or frame finders available for various lenses
- Viewfinder display: LED shutter speed indications; LED over- and underexposure warning arrows; thunderbolt-shaped ready-light
- Shutter: Electronically controlled vertical-travel metal focal-plane type
- Shutter speeds: A (Auto) – Electronically controlled stepless speeds from 1/30 to 1/1000 sec; M (Manual) – Quartz-controlled speeds from 1/30 to 1/1000 sec; M90 (Mechanical) – Mechanical speed of 1/9- sec; B (Bulb) – Mechanical setting for long exposures; R (Rewind) – Setting used when rewinding film
- Shutter release: Button at top of anatomical grip; initial pressure on button switches on meter, meter remains on for 16 sec after finger is removed; shutter release lock incorporated
- Exposure control: Two exposure control modes: A (Automatic aperture priority) and M (manual) modes provided; M90 (mechanical 1/90 sec) and B (Bulb) also provided
- Exposure metering: Through-the-lens (TTL) stopped-down metering via two silicon photo diodes (SPD) with center-weighted metering pattern; one SPD used for TTL flash exposure control with SB-103, SB-102, and others
- Metering range: EV 8 to EV 19 at ASA/ISO 100 with f/2.8 lens (from 1/30 sec at f/2.8 to 1/1000 sec at f/22)
- Film speed range: ASA/ISO 25 to 1600
- Accessory shoe: Provided; built into top of viewfinder
- Flash synchronization: X-sync only via flash socket in camera’s base; synchronizes at 1/90 sec or slower; with Nikonos Speedlights SB-103, SB-102 and SB-101, shutter speed automatically switches to 1/90 sec when shutter speed/mode selector dial is at “A” or at 1/125 or higher in manual mode; at 1/60 sec or slower on manual, shutter fires at speed set
- Flash ready-light: Thunderbolt-shaped LED in viewfinder lights when SB-103, SB-102, SB-101, and others have recycled; blinks to warn of insufficient light output; improper shutter speed/mode selector dial setting, and film speed setting beyond the usable range of ASA/ISO 25 to 400 for TTL flash operation
- Film advance lever: Wound in single stroke or series of strokes; 144 degree winding angle; hinged for compact storage; when shutter speed/mode selector dial is at “A,” shutter releases at approx. 1/1500 sec until frame counter reaches frame “1” for fast film loading
- Frame counter: Additive type; advances one frame with each complete stroke of film advance lever whether film is loaded or not; resets when camera back is opened
- Film rewind: Manual via film rewind crank after shutter speed/mode selector dial is set to “R” (Rewind); shutter release button is automatically locked
- Camera Back: Hinged type with camera back locking pin; opened and locked via camera back lock/release latch and camera back release button
- Pressure plate: Hinged type, attached to camera body; locking catch provided
- Tripod socket: Located at base plate of camera body; standard 1/4 inch (JIS)
- Batteries: One 3V lithium battery (CR 1/3 type), two 1.55V silver-oxide batteries (SR-44 type) or one 1.5V alkaline-manganese battery (LR-44 type)
- Battery check: Possible when shutter speed/mode selector dial is set at any setting except M90, B, or R, and frame counter is at or beyond “1”; viewfinder LED lights to indicate proper battery installation and sufficient battery power when shutter release button is depressed; if battery power is exhausted, shutter can be released at 1/1500 sec.
- Dimensions: Approx 146 mm (W) x 99 mm (H) x 58 mm (D) (without lens)
- Weight: Approx 700 g (without lens)