Oct. 29, 2019Lenses

Creating design that expresses "new-dimensional optical performance" The new form polished with tradition and innovation

A camera body and lens realized on the basis of a large-diameter mount

The vital factor of the Z mount system is its large-diameter mount. Realizing new-dimensional optical performance that opens a new era of imaging is the basic concept of this mount. The design development of the Z system started from a question of how to embody this concept.
The story we had in mind as the answer to this question was that the camera body and lens were born from a lens mount which is the core of the system. Both the body and lens were developed to be concentrated upon the central core of the system, so that the new-dimensional optical performance could be expressed by emphasizing the mount. To effectively achieve this, a sense of unity among the lens, mount and body was essential. From the very beginning of development, the development department and design teams responsible for the body and lens have investigated together how to successfully achieve a sense of unity as a total system. Thus, the design identity of the Z mount system was finalized by unifying color and texture around the mount, which is a bridge section for both elements.

The close cooperation of both design teams with the development department produced various synergetic effects including the employment of a control ring*.

Nikon's basic policy of giving top priority to user operability that has been inherited from NIKKOR F lenses is also deeply reflected in NIKKOR Z lenses. Our full knowledge of operability that has long been inherited seamlessly can be found in various lens features. These include inscribed letters for specifications that ensure easy recognition and legibility over a long period, and a lens information panel that enables clear and easy viewing for photographers.
However, we did not think that was enough. To describe the new-dimensional optical performance of NIKKOR Z lenses, we integrated precision perception with operability. During their development, superior operability as well as precision perception have been meticulously investigated so that both could be achieved.

One of the issues intensively researched was the shape of the knurling*. With conventional NIKKOR F lenses, knurling has been highly evaluated for ensuring a firm grip. However, in this case a new shape was pursued from the very beginning in order to integrate the new value of precision perception with operability.

At the stage of investigation, many diversified ideas including several unique concepts were put on the table. Based on these, mockups were created and strictly evaluated by not only the design team but also every other department within Nikon. Specifically regarding operability, there are many people who stick to their own principles. By investigating both their passionate opinions and uncompromising standards from the design aspect, superior operability and precision perception were pursued over a long period of time. Discovered through extensive trial and error, what was finally analyzed as optimum was trapezoid knurling, that has provided outstanding operability with NIKKOR F lenses, now aligned with a much shorter pitch width. Thus, a refined design with additional value has been realized while effectively inheriting previous conventional advantages.

More refined design with minimal decoration

It is natural that product designers place top priority on operability. However, we also think that it is our important role to create a design that would inspire anyone to want to own the product. With conventional NIKKOR F lenses, decoration has played such a role. However, in designing the NIKKOR Z lenses, we have eliminated any decoration that might cause annoying distraction in order to allow photographers to concentrate on shooting, which resulted in a modern, extremely neat form.
Also, for the S-Line* lenses, in order to emphasize the metallic texture, a refined silver-colored line is featured on the lens barrel, expressing our strong confidence in the quality. Nikon's unbroken persistence is also represented by this line. Actually, the line cannot be seen by the photographer during shooting to prevent its brightness from distracting the user.
We consider that Nikon's identity importantly lies not only in such persistency but also in operational feel when its product is held in the hands. So this identity can be actually realized without emphasizing the exterior design too much.

For some S-Line lenses, high-quality materials with a metallic texture are used for various sections to further enhance precision perception. Lenses including some currently available models were once produced very elaborately by being machined from a metal ingot. The use of metal recalls high precision and high quality with its ruggedness, sense of dignity and stability, and precise processing. Utilizing metal parts that inherit such history effectively expresses precision perception of the NIKKOR Z lenses while providing fine contrast in texture.

Noct embodies the Z mount system in its purest form

Nikon once developed an extremely bright lens known as the Noct. Inheriting the name of Noct, the NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct was developed to embody the overwhelming optical performance of the Z mount system. To create this lens that boasts an astonishingly fast aperture of f/0.95, Nikon has concentrated its fullest range of optical technologies. In fact, the large diameter of the Z mount system was determined to achieve this brightness. The design team decided to realize performance that only the Z mount system can provide, and consistently pursued an ideal lens. It can be said that the Noct has become a symbolic lens in the system.

When the initial mockup of the Noct was shown by the design section, voices of astonishment arose. The reason was not only that a mockup with a much larger volume than expected appeared, but that it also delivered extraordinary power despite the fact that it was still at a mockup stage. Every staff member was instantly convinced by its volume and power. Every vital factor was densely concentrated in this lens, and the designers' consistent passion to pursue the ultimate optical performance was felt with its overwhelming presence. The design assignment of how to maximize its presence without sacrificing power was well on its way to success.

What expresses the perception of the highest-class quality of NIKKOR Z lenses was the keyword "craftmanship". This is derived from a manufacturing method in which the Noct is actually crafted carefully and elaborately by machining from a metal ingot. Also, extremely high precision to achieve a certain level of strength and roundness is required to maximize the performance of this lens. To fulfill this necessity, each lens was finished with the precise machining work. In this way, the optical performance of the Noct, guaranteed through its manufacturing method, is also expressed in design.
In addition, the cursive letters of the word "Noct" are inscribed on the lens barrel to emphasize the craftmanship. As well as this, all indications are inscribed to deliver a sense of elaborateness as if each lens is handmade.
When a new mockup closer to the final product with a faithfully reproduced texture that had passed thorough investigation in 3D design was completed, staff were astonished yet again. This was because the new-version Noct provided power several times higher than the initial mockup.

NIKKOR Z lenses have just begun

Mr. Baba: The development of the new Z mount is the most epochmaking event for Nikon in the previous 60 years. I had the excellent experience of being engaged in a project that will probably never be repeatable in my future life. However, the most important point is how we can further enhance the Z mount system including the camera body. I hope you can expect even more future development.

Mr. Nikaido: I am proceeding the project considering how to add characteristics in design to a variety of unique lenses to be introduced in the future. NIKKOR Z lenses have just started. I hope they will evolve more and more.

Mr. Imamizu: I was involved in a project I was really proud of. In the Noct design team, all staff could pursue an ideal lens while maintaining a higher level of motivation. I hope you can fully feel the potential power of NIKKOR Z lenses from the symbolic Noct.

Product designers (from left): Mr. Yutaka Nikaido, Mr. Kenji Baba and Mr. Makoto Imamizu