Nikon cameras in the movies: top 10 appearances

Nikon cameras in the movies

Our friends over at N-Photo put together a wonderful top 10 list of Nikon cameras in the movies. Often appearing as uncredited extras, these Nikon cameras have been present at some of the greatest moments in movie history.

We thought it was a pretty good list and thought we would share some of them here. As the N-Photo team asked… have they missed any out? Take a look at their top ten and then let us know in the comments – or you can let N-Photo know directly.

1. Apocalypse Now (1979)

After The Godfather Part II, this looked like it would be director Francis Ford Coppola’s $30 million folly. Instead, it’s a masterpiece. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness transposed to the Cambodian jungle, with Martin Sheen as the traumatised Willard and Brando as the deranged Kurtz, it’s a post-colonial nightmare of 20th-century proportions.

The photographer: Quoting TS Eliot and wearing – count them – four Nikon Fs around his neck, Dennis Hopper’s unnamed photojournalist is Kurtz’s resident ‘mutt’. The Nikon F was the camera of choice for professional photographers in the 1960s and early ’70s, but it’s quite possible the insane Hopper isn’t carrying any film in his. The character is actually based on what might have happened in real-life to Sean Flynn (son of Errol), the daredevil actor and photographer who was kidnapped by Vietnamese communists in 1970, never to be seen again.

Nikon at the movies: Apocalypse Now

© U.A./Everett/Rex Features

Most famous for: Marlon Brando’s terrifying monologue: “Horror and moral terror are your friends…”

Worth watching? Don’t tell anyone you haven’t seen it – they’ll be jealous of the treat you have in store!

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2. The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

In 1965, the husband and children of housewife Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) leave their home in Madison County to go to the Illinois State Fair. While they’re away, a National Geographic photographer called Robert Kincaid (played by Clint Eastwood) arrives. He’s been commissioned to photograph the eponymous bridges in Madison, and changes everything.

The photographer: Eastwood wields a Nikon F with an S36 drive in the movie – intriguingly, though, the latter doesn’t stop him advancing the film manually on a few occasions. There’s a bit of early fumbling with a tripod that suggests he isn’t a man who’s made a career out of taking photos, but otherwise Eastwood’s technique is sound.

Nikon at the movies: The Bridges of Madison County

© Warner Br/Everett/Rex Features

Most famous for: This is one of the few movie adaptations to improve on the book it’s based on – in this case, Robert James Waller’s novel.

Worth watching? Yes! It’s one for the true romantics.

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3. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

This is generally thought of as the least good of Sam Raimi’s three Spider-Man films, but it’s also the most eccentrically ‘Raimi’ of the trilogy. It’s the story of Peter Parker vs hubris. Provoked by the alien Venom and inspired by victories over Sandman and New Goblin, our friendly arachnid turns to the dark side…

The photographer: A budding photographer on The Daily Bugle, Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) sports a Canon F-1n for most of the trilogy, but in Spider-Man 3 he comes up against arch-rival Eddie Brock, Jr. (Topher Grace), who fakes a snap of Spidey using a Nikon D50, only to be transformed by a malevolent alien parasite. Although digital, the D50 really does make the mechanical sound you hear in the movie. It’s the reflex mirror moving into place, not a blooper as some viewers think.

Nikon at the movies: Spider-Man 3

© Marvel/Sony Pictures/The Kobal Collection

Most famous for: Peter Parker’s inexplicable jazz club dance moves.

WORTH WATCHING? Only if you’re a disciple of Marvel Comics.

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4. The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Fashion photographer Laura Mars (Faye Dunaway) is suspiciously keen on capturing violent, erotic imagery… In fact, she’s so keen that the police think she’s got something to do with a series of murders. She hasn’t, of course, but she does have the uncanny ability to see through the eyes of the real killer.

The photographer: Mars favours a Nikon FM, one of the better SLRs of the 1970s, with an MD-11 motor drive. This is fairly accurate, although the FM was more often used as a backup camera for professional photographers. While shooting the film, Dunaway was dating showbiz photographer Terry O’Neill. Presumably, she owes her convincing way with a camera to her then-boyfriend’s influence.

Nikon at the movies: The Eyes of Laura Mars

© Columbia/The Kobal Collection

Most famous for: This was the first major studio outing for screenwriter John Carpenter, who went on to direct Halloween.

WORTH WATCHING?: For less-than-subtle mystery/horror, absolutely.

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5. City of God (2002)

The unsavoury underworld of Rio de Janeiro never looked so vibrant – or dangerous – as it does in this frenetic saga. The film follows a group of malcontents through decades of ultra-violence and war, as the streets are consumed by blood, bullets and testosterone.

The photographer: Rocket (Luis Otávio, and later Alexandre Rodrigues) pines for a life as a photographer but is dragged into Rio’s gang wars. Ironically, this gives him his big break, as he graduates from photographing druglords to a stint on a local paper. He wields a Kodak Instamatic and Retina Reflex III, but finishes up with Nikon’s first SLR, the Nikon F, and a dream job.

Nikon at the movies: City of God

© Globo Films/The Kobal Collection

Most famous for: Its astonishing amateur cast – most were from the Rio favelas, a few from the notorious Cidade de Deus itself.

WORTH WATCHING? Yes, although be prepared for a bloody action film first and a high-minded analysis of gang culture second.


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