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But despite the quality and workmanship of these early Nikkor lenses and cameras, the company largely flew under the radar of most shooters.But the quality of Nippon Kogaku’s postwar cameras and optics did not go unnoticed for very long.
In one of the most unassuming yet important exchanges in photographic history, Miki asked Duncan if he could take his portrait with his Nikkor lens.
The Japanese government declared that the post war rebuild was complete, and that the nation would move to implement a policy of sustained economic growth.
This new, forward-thinking policy provided the inspiration that Nippon Kogaku needed to execute their plan to help Japan become an international economic power, as well as establish themselves as a world-renowned optical powerhouse.
“The first post-war Japanese camera to attract serious attention in America has created a sensation among magazine and press photographers following the report by Life photographers in Korea that a Japanese 35mm camera and its lenses had proved superior to the German cameras they had been using.” As could be expected, this claim was not taken lightly.
The shooting public were fiercely loyal to their German machines, and didn’t readily take to the new Japanese kids on the block.
Japanese goods were almost universally perceived to be clunky, poorly finished, and years behind their Western counterparts in quality and sophistication.
In response, the country implemented a series of government initiatives to boost overall productivity in order to restore value to their currency, produce sellable products, and rebuild their international image.
The Second World War left the country broken and defeated, with two of its cities wiped off the face of the Earth and the fabric of its society ripped to shreds.
As the nation tried to pick up the pieces, the world around it continued changing rapidly.
The government quickly tasked the company with designing and manufacturing truly high-quality cameras and lenses for the domestic market and, more importantly, for export.
The most notable of these early efforts was the Contax-inspired Nikon S-series rangefinders.
Japan needed a plan to heal and a path to a better future. Domestic industry was crawling, and what little value the Japanese yen had was completely drained in the immediate aftermath of the war.