1959 One Minute Story The secret story behind the Nikon F

The one and only industrial design by Yusaku Kamekura

Autumn of 1956... The development of Nikon's first SLR camera, the Nikon F, has begun.

The body design was to be jointly created employing a graphic designer and Yusaku Kamekura was selected. As an expert of graphic design, he created Nikon's logos.

The development of the Nikon F was kept a closely guarded secret even within Nikon. In a tiny room of the Nikon factory, Mr. Kamekura and Masahiko Fuketa (later vice president of Nippon Kogaku K.K.), the leader of the Design Section, were working hard in conditions of strict secrecy.

Kamekura: I don't feel comfortable about my design being assessed.

Fuketa: Don't worry. I didn't tell any executives about it.

A sketch drawn by Mr. Kamekura, at an early stage of the Nikon F's development.

Kamekura: The design direction is decided. To make a clear distinction from conventional cameras, I want to use a straight line design.

Mr. Fuketa brought a prototype model to the hidden room and showed it to Mr. Kamekura.

Fuketa: How about this?

Kamekura: Can you do something about this part?

Fuketa: Impossible. There are internal functions there.

Kamekura: SLR cameras feature pentaprisms. Let's utilize them.

Since manufacturing the pentaprism cover was so difficult, there were a succession of failures and when they tried to utilize Kamekura's design, holes appeared in it.

Mr. Fuketa was at a loss.
The pentaprism cover of the Nikon F

Fuketa: Couldn't you cut the top off of the triangular part?

Kamekura: Definitely not. It wouldn't look good.

After repeating several trial manufactures...

...in June 1959, the Nikon F which was later hailed as a 'masterpiece' and admired by so many people, was marketed.

Because of its pyramid-shaped viewfinder design, there was some negative feedback as it reminded Japanese people of the triangular headband worn by ghosts in their folklore, but it was very highly evaluated in the U.S.A.

How nice !

Nikon F

The one and only industrial design that world-renowned graphic designer Kamekura worked on was this immensely popular Nikon F camera.

The design that transformed a photographer's feelings

It is often remarked that the functions and ambience of the Nikon F camera design, especially the sharp body form based on straight lines topped by the pyramid-shaped viewfinder, influenced the photographer's feelings. The Nikon F camera was designed pursuing a straight line exterior even though the mainstream of camera design favored somewhat rounded shapes at that time. This directly appears on the triangular pentaprism cover, with its sharp-pointed form that other cameras do not have and that became the representative key element of the Nikon F camera. Magazine advertisements created for the U.S. market even used close-ups of the pentaprism cover. The Nikon F, with its beautiful shape including F mark engravings, surged in popularity, then became the first Nikon product to be presented with a Good Design Award by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in Japan.

Poster emphasizing the camera's silhouette
From left to right; Nikon F leaflet, manual, and brochure

The relationship between Yusaku Kamekura and Nikon

Yusaku Kamekura was first introduced to Nippon Kogaku by photographer Ken Domon in 1944. His first record of working with the company was an entry in the 1953 Nikkor Club Almanac. He went on to design various types of media for Nikon, including posters, brochures, manuals, product packages, calendars and neon signs, many of which were disseminated worldwide.
He also designed Nikon's logos.
Based on the logo that first appeared in 1956, the design was improved by Kamekura in 1968 and then officially adopted. When the company was renamed in 1988, he again updated the logo. The changes are almost imperceptible at a glance, but the tilt of the letters was slightly altered. The brand symbol used since 2003 is based on the logotype brand symbol created in 1988, with additional design elements representing light.
He also worked with many other companies and created various works including logo designs for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and the Good Design Award, a poster for EXPO'70, product design and company brand symbols. His impressive body of work for Nikon spanning most of his life can be considered the pinnacle achievement of his career.

Successive brand symbols that Kamekura designed.
Yusaku Kamekura (1915-1997)