A multinational corporation, the Japanese-based Nikon Cameras Company was found in July of 1917. Originally called “Nippon Kogaku Kogyo Kabushikigaisha,” Nikon was an optical company that came to be when three of the nation’s leading optical manufacturers came together. Over the next six decades, the company consistently grew, becoming one of the world’s leaders in optical lens manufacturing. The biggest period of growth for Nikon occurred during World War II, as the corporation supplied the Japanese military with items such as binoculars, lenses, periscopes, and bomb sights.
However, by the 1980s Nikon (still known as “Nippon Kogaku,” or “Japan Optical” at this point) become more well known for its new Nikon cameras and new Nikon cameras products than anything else. So in 1988 the company officially changed its name to The Nikon Corporation. “Nikon” was the name of Nippon Kogaku’s camera line.
This was the biggest shift in the history of the Nikon Corporation. The next major change occurred in the mid 2000s, when the company released one of its best Nikon cameras, the D70. The Nikon D70 camera, a digital camera (DSLR), completely changed the direction for new Nikon cameras.
Nikon, which was involved in the digital photography research projects for NASA in the early 1990s, was responsible for creating some of the world’s first digital cameras. With the release of the Nikon D70 and new Nikon cameras that provided a digital image, which were amongst the first affordable consumer-level DSLRs, the sales of professional film cameras plummeted.
This decline in sales, of course, was consistent across the market, as every film and camera company saw a decline in the sales of traditional film (not just the Nikon Corporation). Like the shift from records to tape cassettes to CDs and DVDs, the shift from traditional film to digital photography has become a seemingly permanenet one. In fact, at the start of 2006 the Nikon Corporation made the declaration that a high majority of their film camera models would be discontinued, as well as a plethora of their large format lenses. From that point on, new Nikon cameras and camera models have been predominantly digital.
As of 2010, the only new Nikon cameras that still used traditional film were the Cosina-produced FM10 and the Nikon F6. Speculation has already begun amongst photography enthusiasts that the Nikon F6 may be the final new Nikon camera to use 35 mm film.
While the Nikon Corporation succeeds financially with the best Nikon cameras to the tune of over 700 billion yen annually, they still find significant competition from companies such as Casio, Kodak, Sony, Pentax, and Canon USA cameras.