Nikon D1 & Nikon D1H - Digital Still SLR cameras

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" ... Tokyo, Japan, February 15, 1999: Nikon today announced that in response to the professional photography market's requirements, Nikon has been developing a new professional class, high-quality Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera. Nikon has employed its longtime experience in designing professional cameras with newly developed digital imaging technology; the result will be a unique, new camera. The new camera will be smaller, lighter, will have higher performance for improved picture quality, and will have faster image signal processing and faster continuous picture taking. Other key features include compatibility with Nikon's Interchangeable lens Nikkor System and enhanced durability. Nikon is confident that this new digital SLR will offer a significant enhancement to the Nikon System, and the wide ranging needs of professional photographers. The price objective for this new digital camera will make it accessible to a full range of professional customers and it is sure to appeal to advanced photo enthusiasts, as well. The new camera is planned for sales beginning autumn 1999. ..." - Press Release -

Introduction: Nikon probably has already began their research on applied digital imaging back at the mid '80 as evidenced by a brief preview of a Nikon F801 modified Nikon SVC (still Video Camera) and a subsequent all new designed DV-1000C camera during the Photokina 1986 and 1988. Although the camera has never been distributed as a viable commercial product but it has remained as the first non-film-based photographic camera Nikon has produced.

Credit: Some great images shown here courtesy of Mr. Jon M. Stine <> of Jack's Camera Shop with their website at: <> Jack camera shop also operates a popular Ebay Store. Other business contacts: 300 E. Main Street Muncie, IN 47305 tel. 765-282-0204 fax. 765-284-6405. All images appeared herein are Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

During the time, company like Kodak has began marketing Disc camera aggressively as consumer products and it laid a good foundation for acceptance of digital imaging among consumers. And in 1990, the Photo CD format was also being announced which has an immediate impact on attracting interest of consumers into digital imaging as alternate ways to conventional film-based imaging. In 1991, the first commercial production Nikon Digital SLR camera,
Kodak Professional DCS-100 Digital Still SLR camera was introduced by Kodak which has a combination of a Nikon F3 body chassis with Kodak designed digital camera back and it marked a technological collaboration between the two Companies. In 1992/3, the original DCS-100 was replaced with the F801 chassis and was called "Kodak Professional DCS-200 Digital Still SLR camera. The camera was a vastly improved camera in terms of functionality and portability and in years that followed, it was replaced with the DCS-400 Series model again. But at the same time, there was a new found alliance between Nikon and another imaging giant, Fuji Film. Both companies have set up a development program in developing a Digital SLR which eventually lead to the introduction of the Fujix E-Series models.

It is also interesting to note that during the 1993's Newspaper Exposition ('NEXPO'), New Orleans Nikon showcased a "D1 model) which has a very strong appearance of the E-Series The camera, capable of delivering a so-so resolution of 560,000 pixels (1088 x 480), shutter speed range from1/8 to 1/2000 sec, and a rapid shooting rate of 1.7 eps (exposures per second) probably formed the basis for the joint venture project with Fuji Film Ltd. later to co-develop/produce the E-series models. The eventual product has imporved the image resolution from this prototype unit by almost a fold to 1.3 million pixels (1,280 X 1,000 arrays).

Source: "Nikon Hand Book" by Peter Braczko (Publisher: Fountain Press)

The final fruitful product between the technical collaboration was a Nikon E2/E2s (also sold as "Fujix 505/515" by Fuji Film & Photo Co. Ltd.). The E-series Digital SLRs comprised of E2/E2s(1993/4), E2N/E2Ns(1996/7) and the last among the series, the E3/E3s (1998/9). Amidst all the challenges and stiff competitions, Nikon realized the partnership with Kodak and Fuji may not be viable for continual progress of the Company and this has lead to the birth of its own label of a Digital Still SLR. So, during PMA Show, Las Vegas on 18 February 1999, the Nikon D1 was officially being introduced but one thing was certain, the timing of the announcement coincided with two major significant development during 1998 and 1999 where Kodak has introduced a Canon EF-mount DCS-520 Digital Still SLR camera (which also sold under Canon's label as "EOS 2000") and at the same time, the Nikon D1 was also introduced along with Kodak 6 million pixels DCS-620 model which uses the Nikon's flagship professional model, Nikon F5 body chassis to modify.

nikonD1jackcamD.JPG Credit: Images courtesy of Mr. Jon M. Stine <> from Jack's Camera Shop with website URLat: <> Jack camera shop also operates a popular Ebay Store. Other business contacts: 300 E. Main Street

The debut of the Nikon D-1 could have made many previous owners of earlier digital SLRs from Kodak & Co. felt like a fool. This has also practically changed the entire landscape of all the previous alliance in technological research and development from other manufacturers. Many comparing models were steaming out from respective conventional payers in the 35mm SLR producers, which of course include traditional film-based imaging products manufacturers such as Kodak, Agfa and Fuji as well. For the first time, the debut of the Nikon D1 also provides a new possibility as this highly portable professional grade digital SLR camera has a more realistic and sensible price datum accessible to general users other than aiming exclusively at news agencies, individual professionals or financially sound serious amateur photographers.

<<<--- leofoo® The digital D1 was introduced few months ahead of the excellent film-based F100 but both camera shares many similarities.
Quick Comparison: Kodak's DCS-420; Nikon E3: 1.3 million pixels (1,280 X 1,000 array CCD); Canon D30 (2000) 3.25 megapixel CMOS image sensor, with a maximum resolution of 2160 x 1440 pixels and with Focal length multiplier factor 1.6. The CCD equipped Fuji's FinePix S1 Pro (2000). Imaging sensor: 3.4-megapixel (6.13 million pixels (3,040 ´ 2,016 pixels) - enhanced mode; Focal length multiplier factor 1.5X.

Nikon D1.jpg Nikon D1H .jpg
Credit: Images downloaded from Nikon website, Japan. The Nikon site has improved with its content providing, esp. with the images supplied.
As digital SLR cameras have two criteria of users: one that opts to satisfy users with priority on resolution and another for handling. You can say it was a bottleneck on technologies that has restricted the cameras to design in such a way that it can offer the best of both worlds. Similarly as with many other Kodak-labels Nikon digital still SLRs, the Nikon D1 series were also available in two models. However, the dual models (0ne is resolution-priority while another is speed-priority) was replicated with a time gap of few years. The basic Nikon D1 was considered as the first generation while a Nikon D1H was introduced along with the much improved 2nd generation 6 million pixels Nikon D1x in 2001. Instead of categorized the D1H as supplementary model for the D1X, the D1H looked more like an upgrade of the original Nikon D1. The D1H has the same image resolution of 2.74 million pixels as the original Nikon D1 but offers updated consecutive shooting (up to 40 shots at 5fps) as well as faster image processing and data transfer both to CF media and direct to computer (transfer speed by IEEE1394 was now enhanced). As the D1H was introduced much later and it carries quite a few minor image enhancement features as found in the D1X (read more at the bottom mentioned where it relates). However, at the time of introduction, the D1H, with continuous shooting up to five (5) frames per second, making it the fastest and most action-oriented pro digital SLR available during that period and probably that has influenced the decision to launch it as a separet model. The user interface of D1H has a D1X type of design which includes a revised menu system & shifted controls functions. Further, the D1H finally incorporates a selectable colour profiles (sRGB / Adobe RGB) which lacks with the original Nikon D1.

As the D1H was designed more specifically for fast-action workflow-based tool, it did made it a favorable D-SLR for press photographers and professionals for whom speed is absolutely essential, while also offering enhanced performance and new colour space options. Both models look, feel and in their appearance are of the same, except the D1H has a model designation indicated near the PC terminal As the D1H was introduced years the original Nikon D1, you can say it was a actually a followed -up model of the D1 instead of a second feeder to the 6 mega-pixels Nikon D1X, even if BOTH the D1X and D1H were being introduced simultaneously 2 years later in 2001.


D1X / D1H.jpg

Basically, the followed up of D1H actually shared some features with the newer Nikon D1X, but Nikon smartly repackaged, flipped and sold it as a separate Nikon camera model but as the trick has worked very well and photographers who may at times require quick burst of shooting could find the D1H more appealing. Naturally, the D1H does had a few improvements (cosmetically and internally). Some of which were rendered as new features or as expansion of its capabilities. For an example, its larger buffer size, selectable colour space mode, an added custom function (35), less noise at higher ISO's, improved transfer speed of firewire, 130,000 pixels rear LCD and officially supporting the IBM's 1 GB Microdrive and other minor improvements. However, neither all of them can conclude as significant enough to term it as a new Digi-SLR Nikon.
Credit: Marketing brochures for the original Nikon D1 and the subsequent Nikon D1X/D1H.

It partly explains why I categorized the D1H more to D1 rather than D1X as there seemed to be too many similarities between the original Nikon D1 & the D1H, the specification section at the bottom of this page carries specs of both models instead of annex the Nikon D1H to the Nikon D1x. Frankly, I thought the newer D2H spec should be used for as the basic spec for the original Nikon D1H. Whatever it is, among the many good things found in the various single digit Nikon D-Series models, it was their immensely high built quality of the camera that truly deserves a mention - something that can blown the comparable (later) pixels-equivalent Nikon own's Nikon D100 or the Fuji Film's FinePix Pro Series models away (& at the same time, blast the Kodak's Nikon F5 modified DCS-600 & 700 Series models in terms of price, dimension and weight).. The single digit D-Series was probable Nikon's digital version of the equivalent of film-based Nikon F100 with a fixed power console built-in where it looks like a miniaturized version of a Nikon F5 design. Personally, I would think if there was an option, leave the power pack unit separately where users have option to decide its configuration on dimension or improved portability. Well, as the market was not dominated by Nikon, the Company do have many consideration and probably that was the decision Nikon think was the best combination in its core design.


Credit: Images above were contributed by Mr. Desmond Liew C Wai of YL Camera, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Desmond is specialized in used photographic equipment trades and he is quite active in MIR's Free trade Zone (FTZ) section.

Nikon D1 .jpg (18k) Loading...
On the other hand, obviously, during second half time of 1999, you need not have to wait for 6 months after debut of the original Nikon D1 to see how the rest of the camera manufacturers react to Nikon's surprising move by introducing the D1 so quickly, where previously Nikon seemingly was quite contented to let others like Kodak to take a ride on their products and the relationship relationship with Fuji film with the development of E-series SLRs). It took a year and a half for others such as Fuji and Canon countered Nikon's surprise move by announcing availability of their respective 6 million + pixels SLR model. Coincidental ? I wasn't sure that time. As the photo community was still absorbing the impact of Canon 3rd generation professional class film-based Canon EOS-1V, it did divert a little attention to see whether how Kodak reacts to Canon's EOS-1v and will the Company be using the new Canon body to introduce another high end Digicam to replace the long serviced DCS 560.

Note: Although many digital camera observers questioned definition on Fuji's claims on their hexagonal super CCD's 6 megapixels resolutions. Anyway, as far as user is concerned, this is a newly set reference mark. Another curious thing is - that model is based on an entry level Nikon F60 and has a price range of similarity with Nikon flagship D-1 featured here.

How does it matter to us ? Oh yes..... the benefits are of plenty. Obviously Kodak has been capitalizing on their early attempt by exploring various models into digital imaging; but most of their Digicam were ridiculously priced previously. Now with a newbie like the D-1 in the market, and if Kodak kept maintaining the pricing, they will definitely be lag behind in a short period of time (Unless they have a killer to offer in a new and improved model with real value-added features to remain competitive). Such stiff competitions usually translate into a price war and prices will soon reduce and usually features and performance will leapfrog from current models to upgrades. Even if everyone of them stays sensible to combine and take advantage of the consumer by offering new cameras with prices 10-20% lower than the Nikon's D-1, we should still have a more realistically pricing to allow even the general public to own such a product. I don't expect it to fall to Nikon F5 or EOS-1v's price range, but frankly I do not see any reasons why should everyone holding back the horses and hide under the shades of Kodak and wait for Kodak to produce a solution to maintain their supremacy in this areas. After all, Kodak had the absolute advantage of starting it off so much earlier than anyone else.

nikonD1jackcamAmdm.JPG Personally, I am not very impressed with Kodak's strategies on gaming with both Nikon and Canon by converting their top selling SLR models into a Kodak's brand name and sell them at such high premium, instead I think they should also try to find a solutions by creating a raw product of their own. There was no doubt Kodak has everything in terms of technology to create a new market by introducing Digital Back for popular Film Based SLR bodies that have been introduced thus far, I was thinking, this is an unexplored market and Kodak may well be a kingpin if they started this. However, as patching other's need was not within Kodak's corporate culture, so, I don't think this will ever be materialized and has to wait for someone who is more enterprising to begin this.

Credit: Images courtesy of Mr. Jon M. Stine <> from Jack's Camera Shop with website URLat: <> Jack camera shop also operates a popular Ebay Store. Other business contacts: 300 E. Main Street

As I said, this is a new playing field and unlike traditional market for silver halide film based products, any relatively new players could end up with a force to be reckon with. As storage medium and method of compression are substituting films, in order to be remain competitive, manufacturer can either go along with its own proprietary products or creating a new standard for storage as industrial standard for all to follow. Neither Kodak nor Fuji did that and there are signs that third party players may have a chance to see their products being use as reference. You won't insist on getting a Kodak, Fuji film or Afga labeled Compact Flash card for your digital SLR camera, right ?

The D-1 possesses many similarity with the impressive film-based Nikon F100. It has a metal construction and the chassis is not the kind of "high grade plastic" used in many of today's modern SLR bodies ! As I said, finally after all these years, Nikon should had known where their strength is and if they cut corners in D-1, it can even be more damaging than anything... So, beneath the exterior coating and protective leatherette covering is a rugged magnesium (Mg) body that provides rigidity and strength to the D1 which also contributes to its lightness, compact size but a rugged body structure. This eminently portable, solid Nikon construction featuring a high resistance to penetration by moisture, water drops - one of the great enemies to electronic circuits, enables the D1 to function in a variety of situations and under the most adverse conditions which matches standards set for quality, speed and convenience in as its film-type Nikon SLRs.

Tough could be the external body structure, but it was the resolution that matters to most potential buyers. However, the Nikon D1 was not entirely a resolution-related digicam, in fact, at the time of introduction, its 2.74 million pixels resolution was still far short in performance to Kodak's top of the line 6 megapixels Digital Film Back SLR models. As it
15.6 x 23.7mm CCD image sensor is smaller than of a standard 24 x 36mm picture frame of a 35mm camera, the magnification ratio ("field of view", to be exact) of focal length is approx. 1.5X. The good thing about the camera is, if you are a Nikon user and has been using a modern Nikon AF SLR before, the digital D1 should be very easy to handle as User Interface is about the same except that the field of view of the lense in use is different and the camera does not use film anymore. Naturally, be a modern photographer, one would need are minimum experience in handling a computer as well as the camera requires setup and communication between the hardware/software manipulation.
Lastly, the bottom line is still the entry price as compared to many Kodak modified Nikon models as obviously, Nikon also took a ride on Kodak's original pricing policy and although the D1 was "cheap" in comparison to Kodak models, but I think they have been priced unfairly to consumers as well. However, as one of the major attraction of the Nikon D1 is, it is an extremely high quality in its construction (it takes a subsequent D100, D70 or even the Fuji S1 Pro to appreciate its unmatched built-quality), many specific users (such as newsmen, web artists etc..) still find it attractive enough despite it doesn't offer desired output in resolution as some users may have less demanding expectations but loves the flexibility, inter changeability of lense system and TTL view of a conventional SLR (in some ways, option in Nikon NEF files can compensate this partially). Anyway, below are the main highlights and selling point of the Nikon D1:

Credit: Images courtesy of Mr. Jon M. Stine <> from Jack's Camera Shop with website URL at: <> Jack camera shop also operates a popular Ebay Store. Other business contacts: 300 E. Main Street

•   2.74-megapixel, 23.7 x 15.6mm-size CCD (2,012 x 1,324 effective pixels) incorporating Low-Pass Filter for high-definition images
•   3D Digital Matrix Image Control (3D Color Matrix Metering, TTL White Balance and Tone Compensation) with 1,005-pixel CCD for superior overall picture quality; Nikon D1H has a revised designed 3D Digital Matrix Image Control (3D Color Matrix Metering, TTL White Balance and Tone Compensation)
•   Improved high-speed and quality image processing by newly developed system LSI containing original Nikon algorithm; Nikon D1H's Picture noise is minimized even in high-sensitivity range and 2 color modes selectable for different workflow environments (optimized for sRGB color space and Adobe RGB color space
•   Three exposure metering systems; 1) 3D Color Matrix Metering with 1,005-pixel CCD, 2) Center-Weighted, 3) Spot
•   3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash for D1 controlled by five-segment TTL Multi Sensor available with new Speedlight SB-28DX

•   At the time of its introduction, it has world's shortest shutter release time lag at approx. 0.05X sec. and a quick startup
•   Shooting speed of 4.5 frames per second, the fastest in the world, for up to 21 consecutive shots** ; The Nikon D1H: Continuous shooting mode: approx. 5 frames per second* for up to 40** consecutive shots *** World’s largest in continuous shooting for full-frame images among lens-interchangeable SLR digital cameras, as of February 2001
•   Amazing top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec. and flash sync speed up to 1/500 sec.
•   High-speed AF system including Dynamic AF operation (same performance as F5 and F100)
•   ISO-equivalent 200, 400, 880 and 1,600

Operational convenience
•   Lightweight, tough magnesium body; Nikon D1H has 100% area-accurate playback coverage on LCD color monitor
•   31 Custom Settings, two separate assortments of selected settings can be memorized and recalled; Nikon D1H: Custom Setting menu is displayed on LCD color monitor (in four languages: English, French, German, Japanese)
•   Four exposure modes [P], [S], [A] and (M) available; Nikon D1H: One-touch playback for rapid review and instant return to Shooting Mode and One-touch zoom (Enlarged playback) and thumbnail playback (in either 9 or 4 segments) and Lossless-compression mode for RAW files to increase CF card capacity and image transfer speed without sacrificing image quality
•   Optional Interchangeable Ni-MH Battery Pack EN-4 and optional dedicated Quick Charger MH-16 (also compatible with MH-15 for F100 and EH-3 for E3)
•   Compatible* with more than 80 F-mount AF and manual focus Nikkor lenses (picture angle with D1 is equivalent to approx. 1.5x focal length in 35mm [135] format)
•   Compact Flash™ Card (Type l/II) and IEEE1394 (400Mbps) interface * Performance may vary.
•   Nikon D1H: GPS position information saved within image data file if connected to GPS unit**** via RS-232C interface
The Nikon D1 (1999) processes digital signals using a 2.74-megapixel, 23.7 (H) x 15.6 (V) mm RGB CCD image sensor. The size of each pixel ( 11.8Um) is large enough to capture a great deal of light, providing superior image sensing capability. By reducing the effects of shot noise, the D1's wide dynamic range and high S/N ratio provide sharper, significantly less grainy images than are attainable when using high-speed film. The adoption of an RGB filter provides high resolution and well-balanced color reproduction. Note: the D1H (02.2001) improved on a few aspect, in particular with the noise level at higher ISOs.

Sample Image taken with a Nikon D1:


Regardless of user's reservation on earlier Nikon effort with Fuji in the E2 and E3, a local digital SLR master who is so fortunate happened to be the Photo Editor of a very successful English daily had many opportunities dealing with virtually all top of the range digital cameras acknowledges Nikon's strength on digital imaging is lying at their faithful color rendition. It was given special attention as the exclusively Nikon F5's 3D color matrix technologies is being used in the D1 as well. Using a 1,005-pixel RGB exposure/color metering sensor, which Nikon termed it as 3D Digital Matrix Image Control monitor three interrelated imaging process - a 3D Color Matrix Metering, TTL White Balance and Tone Compensation.

One interesting fact is, theNikon D1 incorporates the 3D Color Matrix Metering function as found on the top-of-the-line Nikon F5*. (update: The 3rd generation CMOS based 12.5 mega pixels Nikon D2x has an improved version of this Nikon exclusive feature). This decision was probably used to enhance the appeal of the Nikon D1 as frankly speaking, as compared to various Kodak DCS models, the Nikon D1 was still considered lagged behind in terms of resolution war. However, this surprise inclusion was delightful enough as this unique feature is assigned to calculate optimum exposure value by comparing brightness and color data, along with subject-to-camera distance, to a memory database of more than 35,000 actual shots. This value is then finely adjusted by TTL White Balance, which will in turn automatically provide proper white balance by extracting white light from the light coming through the lens to deliver an accurate coloration. Then, Tone Compensation selects the optimal tone curve to enable the reproduction of natural tones according to the scene brightness and contrast.


Okay. We will do a quick conclusion here, the Nikon D1 was Nikon first attempt to enter into the Digital Photography in a serious manner. The Nikon/Fuji E-Series can be considered as a failure (even then, neither business wise I think the partnership will last long as the community was not commanded by the two companies without external competitions), so, it was inevitable to see this happened. In a way, you can say the partnership has been "altered" rather than "ended" to suit market needs for self survival. The D1 was not the best you can get during those days, but against the might of Kodak Digital Imaging products, the camera offered a far more logical entry for users in terms of economics as the marketing strategies as the various range of Kodak products were something like killing the golden goose to get a few eggs.

Credit: VILAIVAN KONGSOMPONG, Thailand as volunteered model for this indoor shot.

Personally, I applaud the courage of Nikon's effort as it was a logical path to go development of SLR digital imaging on their own. From a consumers point of view, despite all the good features the camera offered, the Nikon D1 & the later Nikon D1H were not an entirely practical products during those days because any "visionary" users would be able to visualize you have to prepare to write-off 60-70% of your investment within a few years.

Again, when this happens as with the current status of seeing an used Nikon D1 sells at such attractive "competitive" prices as of now, it has turned out to be quite an attractive SLR digital SLR for many photographers who are willing to sacrifice resolution over quality aspect as the Nikon D100 introduced later lacks the built quality of the Nikon single digit D-models. Anyway, I don't think I should add salt to the wounds to those previous owners of this camera(s). Well. as long as they know what they are buying and can find ways to make good use of it to recover the investment of an original D1 or the D1H, what the heck.... just pay ! (well, if you are a working staff, you should ask the Company you worked for to pay for it, rather on absorbing the cost in your personal capacity ..hehe..) !

Useful Downloads: PDF Instruction Manual (6.9MB) for Nikon Capture 2.0 | PDF Instruction Manual (12.2MB) for Nikon Capture 3.0
PDF Instruction Manual (11.9MB) for Nikon Capture 4.0 | PDF Instruction Manual (6.0MB) for Nikon Capture 4.1

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