Well-known (and controversial) photographer and gear reviewer Ken Rockwell recently put together a fascinating video that is probably best described as a crash course in Nikon lens history. The video covers 100 years worth of Nikon lens history, from the companies original rangefinder glass all the way to the newest lenses for the full-frame mirrorless Z-mount.
To Rockwell’s credit, the video covers a lot of ground in 26 minutes: from the original rangefinder lenses, to Nikon’s first AI and AI-S lenses, to the very first Nikon autofocus lenses, on to the F-Mount lenses we’re familiar with today, and ending with the most recent NIKKOR Z lenses. And while there are some weird little asides throughout (see the note below), Rockwell shares some fascinating tidbits about all of these lenses, including when they were made, why they were made, and how the auto exposure, aperture control, and autofocus (where applicable) on each of them works.
In short: this is the most concise-yet-comprehensive breakdown of the entire history of Nikon optics that we’ve seen.
One side-note: for those of you weirded out by Rockwell’s repeated insistence that the “S” in Nikon’s lens names is subliminal advertising that stands for “Sexual Satisfaction” or “Seduction,” we’re gonna go ahead and say that’s wrong. The party line at Nikon is that the S in the new S-line of Z-Mount lenses stand for “Superior” optics. The S in AF-S stands for “Silent” because these lenses feature the Silent Wave Motor. Nobody knows what the S in AI-S stands for, but those lenses did allow for shutter priority (S on the dial) for the first time, so that’s our guess.
That weird call-out aside, the video offers a fascinating and detailed history lesson into the history of Nikon lenses, which coincides with the history of camera optics in general. If you’re at all interested in photo history or just want to beef up on your optics trivia, check out the full video up top.