The Nikon Z fc, a mirrorless camera, employs a design inspired by classic Nikon cameras of the past. It was created out of a wish for users to feel and experience the joy of not just shooting but also holding a camera in their hands, and the result is a camera that aligns closely with users' lifestyles.
For people who share their personal moments
"I want to take beautiful pictures."
"I want to record everyday moments easily."
"I want to put my feelings into each image I take."
There are so many kinds of enjoyment embedded in that one simple word, "photography".
At the same time, in recent years, there are more and more people who live their own lives and enjoy their natural lifestyle while sharing it with the world. And that may be the reason why many people are searching for their own ways of expression.
What kind of camera, including not only technology but also design, could embody the lifestyles and feelings of such people? From this starting point, the development of the Nikon Z fc began.
Reflect yourself through photography
What we focused on was the design of Nikon's conventional film cameras. Back in the day, people used to take each picture more carefully by taking time to adjust aperture, shutter speed, and focus position manually. We believe that the style and form of these cameras had an inevitable effect on how people thought and felt when holding a camera, and helped them find their own ways of expression. Neither classic nor retro, this is Nikon's heritage and one of the brand's core assets. We aimed to produce an unrivaled camera of a sort that only Nikon can achieve, as a brand that has been manufacturing cameras for the more than 70 years since the first release of the Nikon Model I.
Mr. Abe, a product designer, decided to thoroughly study the iconic cameras of the past before commencing with the design process.
"What I found by studying those iconic cameras again is that every aspect of their structure and specifications is there for a very good reason and nothing is wasteful. I was excited as I understood why I was still attracted by those details even now. I thought that sharing this exciting feeling with all the people who will hold the camera would allow them to recognize new possibilities for expression."
As for Mr. Suzuki, who was in charge of the Z fc's product design, while he studied the ideas behind Nikon's past iconic cameras, he also considered the purpose of releasing this camera design to the world now, in preparation for mass production. Simple and logical. While we inherit this essence, he wanted to add extra appeal that advances beyond the original models.
"When we say we focused on the iconic cameras of the past, it is not simply about tracing the outer shapes of those cameras again. Bringing it back to a camera that fits today's world is what's important. If we're to do this, we can't make something that's incomplete. We took on this challenge with pride as the Nikon brand."
What was a design that could fuse the heritage look and the high performance of the latest cameras? We aimed to achieve this by carefully reproducing not just the outer layers of the camera but also its details and the atmosphere that it carries.
A total balance of both sophistication and warmth
For the Z fc to employ the latest performance that responds to current needs, we based our ideas on the Z series mirrorless cameras, which all feature high optical performance. Our goal was to bring the shape of those mirrorless cameras together with the atmosphere of heritage models.
Cameras such as the FM2, which we used as a model, have a hunchback outline with a large pentaprism and front area of the mount. However, the Z series mirrorless cameras are distinctive for their sophisticated style with a smaller head part and no pentaprism. Of course, the overall silhouette becomes different if the inner structure differs.
"By looking at the overall silhouette, we reduced, added, and adjusted each part millimeter by millimeter. As we were making a new mirrorless camera with a design based on film cameras with a totally different build, the whole process took time and effort, but we managed to realize a form characterized by sophistication and warmth that is original to the Z fc."
Both Mr. Abe and Mr. Suzuki also focused on imbuing the Z fc with the atmosphere of Nikon's conventional film cameras by paying close attention to the details of the finished design.
"With the film cameras of the past, their bodies were made by stamping metal, so the corners were crushed. I purposely adopted this detail that was originally born out of inconvenience. The quality of coating was also an important element for emphasizing the overall appearance. Through adjustments of the size, colors and gloss of the silver grain over and over again, we aimed to reproduce the camera's atmosphere, despite the different manufacturing method."
A machine that's a joy
to hold and use
A camera is a machine for recording images. With this in mind, how should we make it so users can experience the joy of holding and operating the machine, and not just obtaining the final output? To answer this question, we again looked to the example of Nikon's conventional film cameras. With their dials positioned on top of the camera and small window displaying the aperture, Mr. Suzuki thought that he could give a special meaning in the process of adjusting the light volume.
"You can see what the camera is doing now by just looking at the top of a camera instead of checking it on the LCD monitor. This enables users to directly focus on the subjects and scenes that are happening in front of them. The texture when their fingers touch the dials and the feel of the click when they rotate them — these are all important elements that enhance the joy of operating a machine. The pleasure that the users feel at their fingertips is one of the things I was most committed to in the Z fc."
The feel and the texture of a camera when you hold it in your hands is also strongly connected to your sense of fulfillment when shooting. The importance of this can be seen in the care the team took when selecting the leather-like grain on the body surface to pursue the perfect texture.
"The depth and length were what was needed to bring out the heritage design's atmosphere. While the camera surface maintains a gloss finish, we chose matte texture for the indented parts, which helped to emphasize the three-dimensional effect. We were able to find what we think might be the perfect balance in the end by adjusting the thickness with a precision of less than 0.05 mm."
The details of dials and displays were all realized by extracting the essence from iconic cameras of the past, including the FM2. The unique charm of the Z fc was shaped by adding new points of appeal that are different to conventional models.
Lenses that bring joy to focusing
"I don't think it's necessary to always have a sharp focus when you take a photo. No two of us see things exactly alike, and even if it's slightly out of focus, I believe that can sometimes become part of the photography's identity"
So says Mr. Kuwayama who was in charge of the design for the NIKKOR Z 28mm f/2.8 SE, one of the Z fc's kit lenses. With strong focus on the overall look when paired with the camera body, this lens was created by examining the original NIKKOR blueprints from the time of the FM2. The most eye-catching part of it is the control ring.
"Although the Z fc features high autofocusing performance that is original to the Z series cameras, you can take the time to rotate the focus ring and adjust the focus yourself once in a while. We wanted more people to experience this kind of joy within photography. We didn't simply duplicate the design from back in the day, but rather hoped it would be a camera that helps to expand people's own ways of photography."
Each step of photography provides people an opportunity to reflect on themselves and their ways of expression. This could be a unique part of the Z fc's charm, and it helped guide how we took the sense of time and lifestyle that you experience when holding this machine called a camera, and shaped it into something special.
Like a natural
part of our lifestyle
How should we deliver this camera to people? As with the product itself, we also prepared a consistent concept for its communication. Communication designer Ms. Shimokawa was in charge of leading this aspect of the design.
"I wanted those people who share their original lifestyles to actually take time and experience the process of photography. To do so, we didn't just wait for them to come to the camera but needed a communication approach to reach those people and give them a feeling of familiarity."
So, what kind of people and lifestyle are we approaching with the Z fc? Are we looking at something stylish and richly realized or more down-to-earth? Of course, there could be some truth in all of these, but thinking in those terms was still a little vague and intangible.
"We tried to clarify what kind of lifestyles this camera should blend into through continuous discussion with not just the designers but also people in other departments including engineers and marketers. In the end, we all agreed on the natural lifestyle: those people who know the importance of being who you are and leaving others to enjoy their own natural lifestyle. To blend into these people's lifestyle like something that had always been there became an important guide for us in terms of communication."
You will see our thorough commitment not just in our product catalogs, but also peripheral items such as packaging and leaflets. As you open the package, which is made with high-quality texture craft paper, a playful leaflet will appear, and beyond that the camera itself waits to be picked up. Our aim was for the Z fc to be the users' lifestyle partner rather than a piece of precision mechanics: something that excites them from the moment it arrives at their home and blends right away into the texture of their life.
"Another way we have tried to do that is with the Premium Exterior, a service that allows users to change the leather-toned material on the body and make the camera more their own. Underlying this idea is our fundamental wish for the Z fc to be used for as long as possible.", talks Mr. Suzuki.
"Changing the exterior color can bring a sense of freshness to the joy you take in shooting, making it something precious you can value for years to come. We wanted to make it a camera that matches this style. Because users will need to let go of their camera when we take it to change the body exterior, we believe that even that small parting will only heighten the joy when it comes back. Through experiences like these, we want users to feel a bond with this camera, as their cherished partner, for as long as possible."
Everyone enjoys photography in a different way. That's why we want to meet each one of them face to face and respond to their requests with the power of design. Nikon's challenge will continue.
A design that moves people and becomes
part of their lives
Suzuki: "Manufacturing and craftsmanship are like giving someone a gift. This is something I realized once again. We don't know what, when and how to give a present to someone we've never met before. That's why using our imagination to think about how we can make our customers happy and to actually realize it, instead of just ending up with a proposal, is the key. From this experience, I want to continue manufacturing things that respond to the users' feelings and thoughts."
Abe: "When designing the Z fc, I spent many hours unraveling Nikon's history by listening to the employees who have been working for Nikon for many years and reading books about Nikon. From them, what I learned was Nikon's evergreen style of manufacturing. While we respect the spirit of our forerunners, I think it was our desire to make a product with a charm that exceeds that of the original models that pushed us to the finish line."
Kuwayama: "When the prototype of this camera was completed, many people from various departments gathered to take a look and give their own passionate opinions on this camera. By watching them, I realized the power of a product once again. Having the actual product in front of us has this amazing effect to move people. Although we are living in a time that is more situation-oriented than entity-oriented, I believe the new value is created through a synergy of both product and experience. We will continue to believe in the possibilities of design and utilize its power fully for Nikon's manufacturing."
Shimokawa: "Through this project, I was able to experience the power of teamwork and the joy of team building. As a fundamental premise of what we do is that we wish for our customers to be pleased with our products, the desire to accomplish this project for the sake of our team members gave me so much vitality. I hope this passion of ours will reach to the heart of each user who holds the Z fc in their hands."