WE LOVE NIKON specialissue
David Douglas Duncan | Photojournalist,
from the United States (residing in France)

How one phone call
Nikon to
the world


Our deepest condolences on the passing of Mr. David Douglas Duncan on June 7, 2018

Our deepest condolences on the passing of
Mr. David Douglas Duncan on June 7, 2018

An encounter that changed
the history of
the Japanese
optical industry

In 1950, David Douglas Duncan created the opportunity that led to
the names of Nikon and NIKKOR lenses being recognized all over the world.
This interview movie recounts the story of that fateful encounter.

We are deeply saddened to learn that Mr. David Douglas Duncan has passed away on June 7, 2018.
We honor him for his immeasurable contribution to the genre of photojournalism, and offer our sincere prayers to a long-time friend and partner. He will remain in the hearts of his Nikon family forever.

This movie was recorded in 2012, when Mr. Duncan was 97 years old, as a part of Nikon’s 100th anniversary project.

The portrait that prompted a miraculous encounter

 In 1950, an encounter took place that immensely changed the fate of Nikon and NIKKOR lenses. At the beginning of June that year, David Douglas Duncan, who was a LIFE magazine photographer, Horace Bristol, a Fortune magazine photographer and Japanese photographer Jun Miki visited the Ohi Plant of Nikon Corporation (Nippon Kogaku K.K. at that time). What had prompted their visit was Mr. Duncan’s portrait taken by Jun Miki, who was then the only Japanese LIFE photographer with a NIKKOR P.C 8.5cm f/2 lens. Mr. Duncan was so surprised by its sharpness that he suggested visiting Nikon Corporation, arranging it with a single phone call that would ultimately have great consequences.
 At the plant, Nikon personnel showed them a lens performance comparison between the Leitz and ZEISS lenses, which were carried by Mr. Duncan and Mr. Bristol at that time, and NIKKOR lenses, by using a test projector. Directly after they saw the outstanding performance of NIKKOR lenses, they purchased them for Leica on the spot. Then, carrying the lenses with him, Mr. Duncan traveled to the battlefront of the Korean War on June 25th. His magnificent photographs created a major impact among American journalists, who were asking “Why is this image so sharp? Did he carry a large-format camera?” Then The New York Times reported Nikon’s excellence with the headline “Japanese camera”. This drew the world’s attention to Nikon and NIKKOR lenses, which provided a unique opportunity for the Japanese optical business to greatly expand its horizons.
 Mr. Duncan continued using Nikon cameras and NIKKOR lenses, took photographs all over the world, and created many memorable masterpieces. In 2016, Mr. Duncan celebrated his 100th year, as did Nikon in 2017. Their long relationship continues still.


Portrait taken by Jun Miki.


NIKKOR P.C 8.5cm f/2 lens used for the portrait shooting.

photo photo

The New York Times reported the excellent performance of Nikon cameras and NIKKOR lenses on December 10th, 1950.


Mr. Duncan covering the Vietnam War in 1968. He carries a Nikon F camera attached with a NIKKOR 200mm lens.

photo photo

“My relationship with Nikon is
far more than friendship.
Friendship can be casual.
This is not casual. This is forever.”
David Douglas Duncan

David Douglas Duncan

Born in 1916. A distinguished American photojournalist. He took photos during the Pacific War, Korean War and Vietnam War as a war photographer. His works have been published in The New York Times, LIFE magazine, and more. When visiting Japan in 1950, he was surprised and impressed by the resolution and beauty of NIKKOR lenses, which were demonstrated to him by Japanese photographer Jun Miki. He went on to introduce Nikon and NIKKOR lenses to the world and became a leading actor in the creation of the Nikon legend.

David Douglas Duncan