Monday, May 10, 2021

"They don't make them like they used to"


The S3 is a rangefinder camera that was introduced into the Nikon range for professionals in 1958 and was sold until 1964. It was made to compete with similar rangefinders offered by Leica such as the iconic M3. The 'S' line of rangefinder cameras from Nikon was the product line which led them to earn their reputation as the 'professionals' choice of camera brand.
When Nikon decided to celebrate the new millennium they wanted to pay respect to their rich heritage and also commemorate their achievements made to film photography, so they decided from the ground up, to reverse engineer and remake the original S3. Nikon went to great lengths to do this. All of the dies used to make the original cameras, as well as most of the original design drawings had been destroyed or lost over the many decades since the camera was first manufactured.
It was a great expense for Nikon to re-make this model and going into it, they had almost no idea how much it would truly cost in regards to both machining and man hours, as this camera had to be meticulously re-engineered and hand assembled. It took Nikon years to finish the production with many major setbacks throughout the manufacturing process.
Not only was the manufacturing extremely difficult, but for the production assembly they had the hard task of attempting to train a new batch of technicians to build these cameras, as nobody with experience working on these cameras was available. Not only that, but the original assembly guides could not immediately be understood and everything in the assembly process also had to be done manually. It was such a mammoth task assembling these cameras that according to Nikon's records, at the early stage of mass production, only one unit was reportedly finished per day. However, as the training and other various programs worked more and more efficiently, a total of about 8,000 units were produced in the end, by October 2001.
While this camera looks, functions, and feels the same as the original S3, it is a completely different camera; as not a single old part was reused or recycled for the S3 Y2K. It is a perfect copy even with some improvements made to its functionality.
In April 2000, Nikon finally began offering to the public the first sets of the newly minted Nikon S3 Y2K for purchase. The demand from collectors, enthusiasts and even people who knew almost nothing about cameras, but knew something cool when they saw it, was so high that they implemented a lottery system for people to be eligible to buy the camera. Even then, these cameras were made to order and even though they started taking orders in April they didn't start sending them out until October that year.
While the camera was only available to the Japanese market at the time, if you were lucky enough to get your hands on one it would have cost you 504,000 Yen which would be just over $9000 AUD in today's money, when adjusted for inflation. The most incredible thing about all of this, Nikon ended up selling these cameras at a loss. Even at that price, it was simply too hard, and too expensive to remake the S3.
You might ask: 'What makes these cameras special?' To put it bluntly, the Nikon S3 is one of the best professional mechanical film cameras ever made by Nikon, and the Nikon S3 Y2K is a crown jewel in their long history of achievements in the professional photography world. They we not aware of the great lengths they would have to go to, to recreate the camera. After reading the story in detail it's almost a certainty they will never attempt such a monumental project again.
The entire story of this camera is too long to fit into this newsletter but if you have a moment I highly suggest you read the in depth story of the Nikon S3 Y2K on Nikon’s website:
If you were to only buy one film camera for your collection, this is the one. Approximately 8000 sets were made available and they're becoming increasingly harder to find in Mint condition.
"It's better built even than today's LEICAs, with a bigger finder and much smoother shutter release." - Ken Rockwell / American photographer
C0001 - Nikon S3 Y2K
Nikon S3 Year 2000 Millennium Model
Number of units produced: Approx. 8,000
35 mm 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 which was optional.
Overall condition: 9.9/10; close to unused.

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