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
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.