Earliest known Nikon camera fetches over $400,000 in Austrian auction
A Nikon 1 camera sold at auction in Austria this month has become the most expensive Nikon ever, achieving a sale price of €384,000 (approx $406,000) – double the expected maximum estimate. The camera, which is said to be only the third Nikon body ever made, is the earliest known surviving Nikon camera having been made in occupied Japan in April 1948. It was matched with the 11th 5cm F2 Nikkor H lens ever made.
Originally this rangefinder camera was known simply as the Nikon, but in later years it took on the name Nikon 1 as additional cameras, such as the M and S, were produced. Only available in Japan at first, Nikon came to the attention of the rest of the world when Life photographer David Douglas Duncan came across Nikkor lenses while covering the Korean war and spread the word among other press photographers.
The Nikon 1 camera is similar in design to the German Contax but used a 24x32mm film frame. This ultimately meant that it wasn’t taken up beyond Japan, and America wouldn’t allow the company to export to US because the film frames didn’t fit Kodak slide mounts. As a consequence the Nikon M was introduced in late 1949, which created standard 24x36mm frames. Japan finally got its way though, as many of us now use Micro Four Thirds and 6×4.5cm sensors with the same 3:4 ratio as that original 24x32mm film frame.
The sale took place at the WestLicht Photographica auction along with a collection of 685 other lots of cameras, lenses, accessories and prints, including two Leitz New York Leica Gun rifles which sold for €168,000 each and a Leica M3 in black paint that belonged to Magnum photographer Herbert List – which reached €78,000.