Nikon Review

Mitsubishi! > Companies > Nikon

"Most people, even in Japan, are unaware of our connection with the Mitsubishi community of companies." [Teruo Shimamura, President and CEO, Nikon, in a Mitsubishi interview]

"Our managers and executives are keenly aware of Nikon's connection to Mitsubishi. Most employees, however are not aware of the relationship and don't need to be." [Jack Abrams, CEO, Nikon USA]

SUMMARY: Nikon, a Kinyokai member of the Mitsubishi group, was established in 1917. Its current product offerings are imaging products consisting mainly of digital cameras - e.g. D70, Coolpix 5700, Coolpix 8700, Coolpix 4300, D100, precision equipments and instruments. Its sales has fallen from 484 nillion Japanese yen (about 4 billion US dollars at 120 yen/1 US dollar rate) in fiscal year 2001 by over 3% to 467 billion yen in fiscal year ending march, 2003. Precision equipment sales took the biggest hit, falling sharply from 230 billion yen in 2001 to just 131 billion yen in 2003, a steep 43% decline. In percentage of total Nikon sales, it went down from 38 percent to just 28%.

Company's Future: Overview

Digital Cameras

Nikon's digital cameras like the D70 and its Coolpix series have done quite well and their sales almost make up for the cameramaker's dismal performance in precision equipment sector. Thanks to the technical lead it had from its association with the Japanese navy in developing optical products, and borrowing of German designs and technology, it remains one of the market leaders in the camera segment. Its products are well received in general, albeit many problems remain (click the left links to read some of them). [Most 'professional' reviewers seem jung-ho on products like Nikon D70 SLR, but looking at all the affiliate ads seling that camera on the same pages, one has to wonder.] On the other hand, Stephen Williams, while reviewing D70 for, on a web page devoid of any Nikon camera ads, was more reserved in his praise. According to his subjective opinion, a non-SLR camera with similar price and specs he tried - Sony DSC-F828, is better than D70 in lens quality and matches up to Nikon in power efficiency and lack of shutter lag. In future more competitors are bound to emerge and it remains to be seen whether Nikon can maintain its current leadership or become like the rest of Mitsubishi group companies.

Semiconductor, Precision Equipment ...

In precision equipment sales, as mentioned earlier, it has been losing sales. Business cycle could have caused it but will have to wait and see to determine the effects better. In semiconductor industry wafer production machinery, it is running neck-to-neck with ASLM (in 2003) and it will be interesting to watch this sector too.


Digital camera sales are becoming more and more important to the company and this leads to lack of diversity in its product offerings. Future digital cameras might give more advantage to competitors like Sony because of its strengths in consumer electronics in terms of production and marketing.

Patents Infringements, Disputes and Lawsuits

Nikon 'borrows' German Zeiss lens and Leica shutter designs
Nikon didn't produce civilian cameras before the end of world war 2. After the war, patents laws were lax and Nikon and Canon didn't lose much time in borrowing without permission German designs and patents to become major players in civilian photography instruments.

ASML Sues Nikon for Patent Infringement related to lithography wafer production
Suit by ASML is expected to continue in Japan and the USA. Nikon too sued ASML and a report indicated that it could be a strategic lawsuit to prevent ASML from getting semiconductor wafer equipment order from Intel. Intel Semiconductors has stake in Nikon.

Nikon's Controversial History

Imperial Japanese Navy and Nikon's Move into Consumer Cameras
An academic article explores Nikon's humble origin in 1917 to being the leading optical supplier to the Japanese Navy as well as being its research and develpment wing to its move into consumer cameras during 1930s.

Environment, consumer and other Issues

Nikon, Kyocera, Zeiss, Canon compared for social responsibility and environmental issues
Kyocera and Zeiss seem to have social and environmental concerns near the top of their priorities. On the other hand Mitsubishi group companies has had many activists' group targeting them for environmental destruction and doing business with human rights abusers in Burma. Is Nikon different?

Nikon USA gets F3 and FA technical manuals removed from fan site, citing copyrights violations
A hobbyist's site in Malaysia, helping people with reviews of vintage Nikon cameras like the FA and F3, is forced to bring down its manuals.