Nikon F….which used to dominate whole professional market was also the first SLR for Nikon released in 1959.
During the 15 years of long model life, it had such a strong impact to change entire camera industry.
Although Nikon range finders were good, Canon was always more popular because of the common Leica mount system.
In late 50s, market was shifting rapidly from Range-finders to SLRs.
35mm SLR had been around since 1935 and 35mm Range finder Leica and Contax came out in 1932…there were only 3 years difference. Why SLR was not popular at that time?
Because it was big, heavy and hard to use….that was how Range finders were more popular until late 50s.
But with the technological renovation, SLR got more and more popular in late 50s.
The development of F started together with range finder SP and F arrived to market 2 years later.
They were sharing the shutter mechanism. Also F had an old fashioned rear-door without hinges….that is also taken over from SP.
There were 3 major inventions to make SLR practical at that time.
Before that, SLRs had wast level finder which was hard to focus and hard to use especially for portrait shot.
When we set the aperture, viewfinder get dark and it was hard to focus. Automatic aperture keep aperture open until shutter released.
3.Quick return mirror
SLR had black out of view after release and to return mirror, you had to advance film. Returning mirror automatically was quite handy thing.
Nikon F was the 2nd camera which had those 3 together.1st one was Zunow flex…which was made by lens company. But they struggle with the quality control and only small number was produced.
So, we can say Nikon F was the first mass-production camera with those 3 mechanism.
It changed professional market a lot.
Newspaper photographer’s main camera was Speed Graphic before. Photographers could shoot one at the time.
But with Nikon F, photographers started using with motor-drive. Shooting several and choose one later….that was the new style.
Telephoto lens were used a lot which was quite difficult with range finders.
Nikon F was known for its reliability, but mechanism was not that sophisticated and it was covered by high level quality control and highly skilled assembling ladies.
Leica and Zeiss tried to catch up to Nikon F…..but their cameras were too big, over-designed and over-priced…..althought they had good lens system, they could not compare with Japanese anymore and Zeiss Ikon closed down in 1972 and Leica went bankrupt in 1976.
Japanese cameras had been around for almost 100 years…..but Nikon F was the first camera which was not “Copy cat” and had world best quality.
Since then, Japanese are dominating whole camera industry and Germans are making small amount of camera with very expensive price until today.