Nikon School

The Nikon F-mount story

By : Nikon School Blog   |  22 Jan, 2018  |  119

The story of Nikon took a decisive and historic turn with the development of its legendary F-mount. The F mount started a journey that saw legendary Nikon cameras and lenses being born. The F-mount story is not only important to the Nikon Corporation, but also part of the evolution of imaging technology. Here’s a quick look at how Nikon’s F mount became the legend it is today.

Before Nikon developed their first SLR camera, the rangefinders Nikon SP and S3 were very popular. While working with standard and wide-angle lenses, they performed perfectly for most purposes. The only drawback was while working with telephoto lenses with focal lengths of 135mm or more, as an additional reflex box had to be added for viewing. At this time, SLR cameras with their integrated reflex boxes, began to show clear advantages over rangefinders while using telephoto lenses.

Technicians at Nikon soon realised the future potential of SLR cameras and a decision to develop SLR cameras was made around 1955. Due to the success of the SP and S3, same body mechanisms were decided to be adopted, except for the viewfinder and other key SLR parts.

The design philosophy behind the development of the F mount was to make the cameras quick response and easy to use and comparable to the rangefinders, while integrating the penta-prism, mirror box and other SLR components.

It was also decided to offer a complete SLR system including a wide variety of lenses and other accessories. The interchangeable lenses and accessories were to be made available as the new SLR would go on sale.

Finally, in February 1957, order was issued to make prototypes. This was the start of the development of Nikon F and the F mount. The alphabet ‘F’ was favored over ‘R’, referring to ‘reflex’ (reflection) which was common in those days, as pronunciation of F is more-or less same in various countries but not so in case of R.

The legendary F-mount was a bayonet mount made with stainless steel. It was expected to provide high degree of durability and corrosion resistance, and also to bear the weight of telephoto lenses. To ensure compatibility for future lenses with larger apertures, the inner diameter of the mount was selected at 44mm, 10mm larger than the prevailing mount of the Nikon S series. The lens mounting knob and lens securing spring were installed on the body, and not on the lens as was the case in many competitors’ products at the time.

The F mount, in the form of the Nikon F and compatible lenses was received with tremendous enthusiasm all over the world. Sales figures and numbers of people thronging to see the Nikon F system wherever it was exhibited clearly proved that a legendary system had arrived, and at the heart of it, was the F-mount.

The Nikon F-mount became a breakthrough developed by Nikon and has been in use, unchanged, for nearly six decades, into the 21st century. Today’s Nikon D-SLRs are built around the same mount as the Nikon F was in 1959, incorporating all the necessary modifications such as autofocus compatibility and digitalization. Quoting from the press release on the the 50th anniversary of the F-mount, “Apart from Nikon, no other maker has been able to sustain its original lens mount for such an extraordinary period.” Currently, about 400 NIKKOR lenses are compatible with the F mount system, strengthening Nikon’s long term commitment to photographers all over the world.

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