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The Nikon Trilogy by Uli Koch


New York City, US
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Obregon Moderator Donor Ribbon. Awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Donor Ribbon awarded for his generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Charter Member
Wed 16-Jan-08 02:09 PM

Books can be time machines, drawing you into the past.

The Nikon Trilogy is a series of three books devoted to the Nikon F camera. It covers the period from 1959 to 1973, the years of manufacture of the camera that changed the way pictures were made, and that led in a straight line to the existence of Nikonians. Volume 1 deals with the Nikon F in great detail, describing each part of the camera body and the way that the camera evolved over the period of manufacture. The second volume deals with the lenses that were made during this same period for the Nikon F, and the third volume with the accessories that were available for the camera.

As I read through the first book, with its listing of the years that variations to the basic camera were introduced, with related serial numbers, I recalled that up on the top shelf of a closet, my original Nikon F, purchased in 1961, was packed away. I stopped reading and pulled down the box from the shelf. There it was, Serial Number 6420249, manufactured, according to the author, Uli Koch, in the summer of 1960. I read through the sections on the frame counter, and the shutter speed indicator and the film rewind, carefully checking each description against my shiny old chrome-plated friend. At last I understood the cryptic marking "EP" on the rewind knob that meant the camera had been produced for sale in the Post Exchange, where I had purchased the camera.

When I got to the section on lenses, not only did I find the production data on my 50mm, 28mm and 135mm lenses, but I also found the description of the 85-250mm zoom, the lens that my heart had ached for, but that I could never afford. And there was the 300mm lens that I had bought second hand when a stroke of good fortune in my career brought me a sum of money that I didn't have to carefully budget for the uses of my young family.

When I got to the section on the clip-on external selenium exposure meter that I bought for my camera, the one that had broken and never been replaced, I found how difficult it was to remember the layout of the parts from more than 40 years ago, so that I could not recall if it had been a Model 1 or a Model 3. The description of the FTN Photomic finder, that introduced through-the-lens metering, reminded me of the break-through that I had with a difficult boss. Somehow, we talked about our cameras and learned that we both owned F's. He told me how wonderful through-the-lens metering was; I bought the FTN and found new joy in photography; and I found a new friend with whom I could share that joy.

Undoubtedly, these books are aimed at serious collectors of a single model of a camera, and they will relish the small details that are contained in these books, including stories about how Nikon developed certain equipment for the Tokyo Olympics and of the battles of Nippon Kogako in Germany that forced the company to market its products in that country with the Nikkor label instead of the Nikon label. One may wonder if the author finds it so incredible that a company in the only country to have had not one but two atomic bombs dropped on it should call a metering system "Photomic",so that, he suggests, the derivation is from the combination of photo and automatic. One can laugh good naturedly at the sometimes-awkward translation of the text from its original German to English.

On the other hand, some can look upon these volumes as a chance to become reacquainted with a friend of more than forty years. When I finished reading the book, I pulled out the old carousels of my first Nikon years, and ran the projector, and wondered what had happened to so many of the people whose images I'd saved on film and in the recesses of my mind. As I read the books I vowed to find batteries for the FTN finder and take my Nikon F out one more time. At the same time, I knew that the day when I would have something to photograph and would forgo the chance of getting the kind of picture that my current cameras can capture so surely and easily would probably never come.

And yet, as I looked at the picture below, perhaps the first I ever shot with a camera labeled Nikon, I thought of those almost-lost years fondly and appreciated Koch's work.

Click on image to view larger version

Attachment#1 (jpg file)