Thursday, May 27, 2021

The return of the Nikon S3

On today's offer we have a superb condition S3. It is in such fine condition that you’d wonder if it was ever even touched before, with the shutter protection also still in place. All of the surfaces and finishes are absolutely perfect. This is an entirely mechanical camera hand assembled in Japan and it looks like it's straight off the production line all the way back in 2000. 
K7650 - Nikon S3 Y2K 

Nikon S3 Year 2000 Millennium Model
Number of units produced: Approx. 8,000
35mm coupled rangefinder focal-plane shutter camera
Nikon S Mount
Mechanical rubberised silk cloth focal-plane shutter speed up to 1/1000
Nikkor-S 50 mm f/1.4, lens cap, and lens hood
Manual aperture adjustment from F1.4 to F16 

Comes as a full set with original box, papers, it also comes with the original leather case and box. 

Overall condition: 9.9/10; unused.  
The more you delve into the rich history of Nikon and discover all the incredible stories of manufacturing advancements, triumphs over competition, and how they were used countless times to capture history in the making, the more you gain a greater appreciation of not only the company, but what they have done to bring us to the point we are at today - A pocket sized, super complex image capturing device conveniently on our smartphones. Nikon was one of the main companies that paved the way to modern camera technology, but in the late 90’s, when film camera development almost entirely ceased, they had the crazy idea to remake a camera from their history books, the S3. If you haven’t already read the story of Nikon painstakingly remaking this S3 for the year 2000, I highly recommend checking it out here:

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Astron vs Samsung

Here is an important question: which one is a more accurate timekeeping device - an Astron watch or the latest and smartest mobile phone?

Before we rush with the answer: yesterday, a claim was made that Astron is accurate to a second in 100,000 years. This magic happens thanks to the help of GPS time signal acquisition and synchronisation.

If you assume that GPS equipped mobile phones keep time governed by the same principle, then in theory, both devices would keep equally accurate time.

Unfortunately, mobile phones are not just notoriously poor time keepers (locally generated time) but synchronisation comes from the cellular network, rather than directly from the GPS satellites.

Here is the key point: when an inherently poor time keeping device is disconnected from the network, then it will fail to synchronise (to be corrected) and consequently, it will display fairly inaccurate time.

Here are a few examples of rather poor timekeeping from my new Samsung; a snapshot taken on Sunday night. The time was 2.4 seconds 'behind'.
That is an incredible inaccuracy for what is nowadays perceived as an ultimate timekeeper. In the morning, the phone was off by -0.752 seconds because it was synchronised sometime during the night. 
And this morning, it was again 1.11 seconds off.
Surely enough, a couple of seconds here and there would not make much of a difference to our daily lives, but the point is obvious: even with network synchronisation, mobile phones are far from being perfect timekeepers; disconnected from network range for a prolonged period of time, they will become completely useless.

On the contrary, an Astron's internal clock is much less drifty to start with, and when synchronised via low latency GPS signal twice per day, the watch simply keeps superbly accurate time.
Before we go any further: I've made two mistakes yesterday. Apologies to the offended parties: 

First apology goes to SEIKO: "A GPS synchronized, solar powered chronograph, with alarm function, is still a few years ahead!" Only partially true: Seiko Calibre 8X82 is an Astron with all the bells and whistles, plus a chronograph. The alarm function is still a “work in progress”. I’ve been also informed that a very special Astron Chrono limited edition is already on it’s way – so stay tuned for that exciting news.

Second apology goes to my mother. Not only has she completed three years of formal watchmaking training, but she actually does have a certificate to prove her credentials. Issued in 1972. Well, I learn something new every day…

A once in a lifetime...

Once in a brand's life does a defining product come around, an iconic product that stands at the top of all the company's products without debate; think Rolex Submariner, Omega Speedmaster, Audi R8, Apple iPhone, or the Big-Mac. While all of the examples I gave are still being made today, Nikon's ‘most iconic product’ ceased production in 2001, despite being superseded by later models in 1988 and 1996. This camera is known as the Nikon F3. 

Straight off the bat when Nikon began to develop the F3 in the early 70’s, they brought two superpowers together to develop this camera, a daring partnership from opposite ends of the globe. The first, a little old research facility known for their technological and research achievements in space, known as NASA. The second, an Italian designer best known for designing possibly the most iconic car of all time - the DMC DeLorean, and the Seiko 7A28-7000 seen on Sigourney Weaver's wrist in ‘Alien’ - none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro. The result: A NASA developed, Italian designed, Japanese built machine, which is as gorgeous as it is a reliable powerhouse. 

Why would NASA want to involve themselves in developing a silly consumer camera? Well because it was the official camera of the space shuttle missions and the camera that marked the start of Nikon's official development partnership with NASA, still in place to this day. Interestingly, the main photo used commonly to depict an ‘Astronaut’; a photo of Bruce McCandless doing the first untethered spacewalk, shows the Nikon F3 mounted to the MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit) protected by a thermal blanket. 
The camera was famous not only for its extra-terrestrial endeavours but also its photojournalism. Famous Vietnam war photographer Eddie Adams was an avid fan of the F3 and had the clever advertising catchphrase ‘going to war with any other camera would be taking a risk’. A powerful statement that lives up to the F3’s reputation of reliability and robustness. 

Nikon is extremely proud of the F3; so proud in fact that it is the only camera model to feature its own wall in the Nikon Museum in Tokyo, Japan. Check it out here in this 'JapanCameraHunter' video below:
It’s not hard to see why Nikon would be proud of this camera, historic achievements aside; this camera is a machine to be reckoned with. The chassis is machined from a solid block of steel with everything else built and assembled meticulously on top of this sturdy structure. Picking it up, you’re instantly greeted with something that is extremely rare in today's world, the feeling of metal, not plastic. This thing is so solid it could be used as a weapon in the wrong hands.
Despite that, the best thing about this camera isn’t its solid build, iconic history, or even technical features. The best thing is the fact it looks exactly like if an Italian automobile designer made a camera - it is stunning. The almost entirely black design has one bold display of colour, the thin red line running along the length of the grip; a design feature introduced with this camera that is still used by Nikon in their modern digital cameras.
If you’re a serious Nikon collector or enthusiast - then the F3 is a must-have in your collection. 

On offer today is an unused Nikon F3 Limited, a model only released for the Japanese market in October 1993. It is the smallest batch of ‘regular’ F3’s made by Nikon, with production estimated at 2000 sets. It comes with a unique serial number with an ‘L’ in front of it as well as the word ‘Limited’ engraved next to the F3 symbol on the front of the camera. This set comes as a full set and is the closest to brand new condition you will find, with the shutter protection still intact. 
K7652 - Nikon F3 Limited   

Nikon F3 Body with unique serial number and ‘Limited’ engraving
35mm SLR 
Nikon F mount
Mechanical shutter - up to 1/2000
Estimated 1 of only 2000 made
Released in 1993

Comes as a full set with original box, papers and strap. 

Overall condition: 9.9/10 - unused

To the stars - and beyond!

 "Good news mum - we are now selling Seiko Astron!"

My mother lives on the other side of the globe, in a time zone far, far away. For fifty or so years she was playing an active role, helping dad run the workshop. "You should tell your subscribers that I too am a certified watchmaker!” she said. But to be perfectly honest, I have no recollection of her attendance to a trade course - or certification for that matter. Yet she has spent many hours behind the workbench. Naturally, she is very familiar with Seiko - both quartz and mechanical, but she had never heard of Astron.

"What is an Astron? Do you have a photo?"
She wasn't impressed. “These watches look so different to the watches you already sell. Very different!"
"Don't worry mum, Astron is cool".
"Cool maybe, but who is going to buy such a strange looking watch?" she insisted.
"Anyone who has a minute to hear the Astron story, and the sophistication to understand it".
"Then tell me the story and I'll share it with dad", she said.

The Astron story

The story goes back to the 1950s; to the days when the East and West were busy building the Iron Curtain. For the sake of national pride, and for the sake of military dominance, the Americans and the Russians were working hard to put rockets and satellites into the sky, and cosmonauts into the cosmos. Meanwhile, in the Far East, the Japanese were recovering from the lost war, working hard to rebuild from the ashes.  All three - as well as a handful of other European countries - were on a quest for the perfect time keeping device, small enough to be strapped on the wrist. Of course, the Swiss were already miles ahead, dominating the world with their mechanical wrist watches. But mechanical watches are peculiar: they only fall in one of two categories: average quality, poor time keeper or superb quality, but still poor timekeeper. For a simple reason: there is only so much 'accurate timekeeping juice' a watchmaker can squeeze out of a humble, old fashioned mechanical oscillator.

To take a wristwatch to next level of accuracy would require a completely different type of heart: one ticking at a much higher frequency. The frequency of a quartz crystal. Clearly, everyone in the race knew that basic principle; but one watchmaker made it over the finish line first.
Seiko's first quartz clock was completed in 1958. Superbly accurate, but of the size of a fridge. Yet by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Seiko's official quartz timekeeper was of the size of a typewriter.  Pouring time and resources into the project, on December 24, 1969 Seiko won the race: on that day, 100 gold wrist watches powered by a tiny battery, controlled by a miniature quartz oscillator, were released to the market.  At the end of 1969 no other wrist watch in the world, available for sale, was as accurate as Seiko Quartz. The watch was able to keep an amazingly accurate time of less than 5 seconds per month, or thirty times better than even the best Swiss mechanical wristwatch. Despite the price tag of Yen 450,000 - the amount of money one would pay for a mid-range family car - one hundred watches were sold in a week.
Seiko named its first quartz watch: Astron. A star. And the star was born.

Brilliantly and generously, Seiko almost immediately released Astron's patented documents to the world, a move that helped bring the advantages of quartz timekeeping within the reach of all participants in the timekeeping race. Despite this, for the next forty years Seiko continued to dominate analogue and digital horology. The story of Astron was once again in focus for the entire world, when in 2012, Seiko released the new Astron - the world’s first Solar GPS watch accurate to 1 second in 100,000 years.

One second in one hundred thousand years

While the Russians were the first to put a man into the cosmos, and the Americans the first to land man on the moon, humankind now benefited immensely from another great space achievement. In 1973, the US Government created and employed a network of satellites equipped with atomic clocks. Primarily built as a military navigation aid, Global Position Network was also partially open to scientific and civilian users. GPS - the super accurate time source delivered from tiny "stars" enabled us, mere mortals, the luxury of ultimate accuracy.

And once again, it was Seiko's Astron project which turned a scientific possibility into a practical, wearable analogue watch. 

The challenges were numerous. Capturing a weak GPS signal from a satellite orbiting 20,000km in space required a sophisticated receiving and decoding system. The main physical challenge: the receiving antenna itself- which had to be so small so as to fit inside a wrist watch case. The computing power of the built in microprocessor should not be underestimated either: for a watch to decode the time and determine the wearer's location would require the acquisition of signals from not just one, but four orbiting GPS satellites. Astron can receive and decode up to ten satellite’s signals simultaneously. The next challenge: translation of a digital time signal into an analogue format: Astron displays the time by position of hands, driven by miniature electromechanical motors. The response time of the moving hands and the accuracy of the stepper motors are miracles of Seiko's mechanical engineering.

The complete package

A star powered by - a star! Solar powered watches have been around since the early 1970s and Seiko was one of the first watch manufacturers to harness the power of light. Free energy, in abundance, coming from a star, due to last another 5 billion years. However, our ability to convert light into electricity efficiently is still a story in the making. It is exciting to dream of the possibilities that lay ahead of us. Astron is a smart, perpetual calendar timepiece, but Seiko will not stop there! A GPS synchronized, solar powered chronograph, with alarm function, is still a few years ahead!

Join the club!

A club of smart, sophisticated Astron owners. To paraphrase Seiko: "We imagine an Astron owner as a man in jeans and white T-shirt jumping on the plane with nothing but a laptop, ready to cross multiple time zones". I imagine the Astron owner watching a live game, surrounded by crowd of 40,000 people, smiling; knowing that he is probably the only one wearing the most accurate watch of them all.

Bumping into another Astron owner is an experience reserved for members of a very elite club.

The choices are almost endless! Astron comes in variety of case styles, bracelets, dial colours and finishes. Whatever the look, Astron is full of life; a vibrant, high-tech timepiece for watch enthusiasts who simply want more. 

Personally, the only thing more exciting than an Astron: watching two Astron being synchronized to GPS time; each at its own speed, each trying hard to receive those weak signals from different satellites; then watching the hands being turned around without any external command or help; then ticking to beat, to the exact second, displaying the EXACT time, effortlessly. Advanced horology, at its best.

"Is there such a thing as lady's Astron?" - She asked.

"Well, funny you've asked - yes, there is!"

(To be continued....)

The year of the Dragon, when only the best will do.


Yesterday we received a surprising amount of interest in the Nikon FM2 that we listed. If you haven’t already checked out the story of the ‘Afghan Girl’ and the photographer and camera behind it, you can check it out here:

It’s not hard to see why it stirred up so much interest. Cameras, unlike many other mechanical instruments, lose almost all their value after years of abuse; especially with how precise and ‘clean’ optics have to be for the user to get the best result. So coming across an almost ‘brand new’ condition vintage camera, particularly when it is a special edition, and there is a cool story behind the camera - is a rarity. With a resurgence of interest in film and film cameras, these sets are becoming increasingly harder to find. 

Well just for you, we happen to have another FM2 in stock and this one is just as cool as the last. 

Released in 2000 as a special edition to celebrate the millennium (something a few camera companies did at the time) this FM2 ‘Year of the dragon’ comes as a special set with a 50mm f1.4 Nikkor lens. The camera body and lens come with matching serial numbers ‘1405/2000’ to display that they are a matching set of a limited batch of only 2000 cameras. It comes with a black and gold dragon insignia on the front of the camera and is well presented in its gold and red box. This is a very cool set especially considering its almost untouched condition, perfect for a collector or a ‘particular’ photographer, only looking for the best. 

Included in this set is a personal little message to the owner from Michio Kariya, president of Nikon at the time:

“Dear Valued Customer:

Thank you very much for choosing Nikon. Stepping into the Year 2000, it is Nikon’s greatest pleasure to introduce the FM2 Millennium Limited Edition to commemorate this significant year. It has been specially designed for you and only 2000 units will be produced worldwide. The special design has a mark of the Dragon. The Year 2000 symbolized by the Dragon, according to the lunar calendar, represents fortune and good luck. Nikon would sincerely extend these good wishes to you for your patronage and look forward for your continued support into the new millennium.”
K7689 - Nikon FM2 ‘Year of the Dragon’ 1 of 2000   

Nikon FM2 body with unique black and gold dragon insignia 
35mm SLR 
Nikon F mount
Mechanical shutter - up to 1/4000
1 of only 2000 made
Sold in 2000

Comes with original box and papers.

Overall condition: 9.8/10 - collectors condition

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Capturing the haunting photo of the 'Afghan Girl'

Since the birth of cameras in the late 1800’s there have been only few photographs taken that are universally recognisable; whether they were capturing a historic moment, or a famous person. But there is one which is neither of the two. Published in June 1985 on the cover of the National Geographic magazine, which would eventually become the most recognised photo in the history of the magazine, ‘The Afghan Girl’ put a face to the millions of refugees displaced from their homes because of the growing conflict between the Soviets and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. The image was praised widely as the ‘Modern Mona Lisa’, still has influence to this day, and is considered one of the most famous photographs ever taken.

Steve McCurry, the photographer behind this photo was a photojournalist who became famous for documenting the Soviet-Afghan war. In 1979 at the age of 29, McCurry met with two Mujahideen fighters in Northern Pakistan who secretly took him across the border to document the developing civil war in the region. The photos he took would launch his career as a documentary photographer. He remained in the region for several years after, continuing to document the war as well as the Indian railways, and the 1983 monsoon in India. He had grown a reputation as ‘the’ photographer to go to, to capture the war. In 1984 when National Geographic wanted to feature the ever growing refugee problem growing along the Afghan-Pakistan border, they tasked McCurry to capture it.

McCurry, over a 4 month period, travelled to the 30 or so refugee camps that had been set up along the border in the North West region of Pakistan. The camps had been there for years, since the conflict first began in 1979. Despite this, the people living in the camps still had little provisions or protection from the elements. Temporary classrooms had been set up for the children in the camps and this is where McCurry would take his iconic photo.

While walking around the Nasir Bagh refugee camp he had heard the sound of children coming from one of the tents. He discovered one of the tents being used as a temporary girls school, filled with a class of students. He asked the teacher for permission to observe and take photos, that’s when he noticed a shy girl sitting off in a corner of the tent - “I spotted this young girl, whose name I learned years later was Sharbat Gula. She had an intense, haunted look, a really penetrating gaze - and yet she was only about twelve years old. She was very shy, and I thought if I photographed other children first she would be more likely to agree because at some point she wouldn’t want to be left out.” McCurry took photos in the meantime while waiting for the perfect moment to shoot the girl. “There must have been about fifteen girls there. They were all very young, and they were doing what school children do all over the world - running around, making noise, and stirring up a lot of dust. But in that brief moment when I photographed Gula, I didn’t hear the noise or see the other kids. It was very powerful.” It was an instant connection to this girl, a connection that would be shared worldwide when the photo was shared, “I guess she was as curious about me as I was about her, because she had never been photographed and had probably never seen a camera. After a few moments she got up and walked away, but for an instant everything was right - the light, the background, and the expression in her eyes.”

Check out this ‘Mini-Doc’ by National Geographic about Steve McCurry and the ‘Afghan Girl’:
Steve McCurry suffered many different environments during his time as a photojournalist in the years during his documenting of the Afghan-Soviet conflict, around his neck from the early 80’s was the Nikon FM2, a camera that could be operated entirely mechanically, which only had electronic input of light meter assistance. He took his camera into floodwaters, active war zones, and arid environments, before finally using it to take the iconic photo. He credited the camera for its ‘handle anything’ nature because of its rugged durability. The FM2 would not only become famous for its mechanical achievements such as its super-fast 1/4000s shutter speed but also for taking one of the most iconic and widely recognised photos in history.

On today's offer is a limited edition 1 of only 100 examples ever made - Nikon FM2. It was made especially for a men's magazine in Japan called ‘Lapita’, which could only be ordered through the magazine, in Japan. It is one of only a few FM2 limited editions, and one of the smallest batches of a limited edition camera ever made by Nikon.
K7655 - Nikon FM2n ‘Lapita’ 1 of only 100   

Nikon FM2n body with - unique to this model - brown leather trim
35mm SLR 
Nikon F mount
Mechanical shutter - up to 1/4000
1 of only 100 made
Sold in 2000.

Plastic shutter protection still in place

Comes with original box and papers.

Overall condition: 9.9/10 - close to unused.