Nikon prototypes macro photography camera: the Nikon Tanken Camera

Nikon prototypes macro photography camera: the Nikon Tanken Camera
(Image credit: BCN Retail)

Nikon has developed a brand new camera specifically designed for macro photography: the Nikon Tanken Camera, where "Tanken" translates as "Exploration" or "Expedition". 

The Nikon Tanken Camera was exhibited at Maker Faire Tokyo 2019 – "a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness". As such it's a camera that's intended for families and children, to encourage youngsters to get out with the unit and explore nature.

Buying a dedicated macro photography setup can be incredibly expensive, not to mention difficult to use, making it cost-prohibitive for children. Nikon's new camera looks to make it possible for kids to shoot insects cheaply and easily, particularly in Japan where bug-spotting is a popular summer pastime.

The Nikon Tanken Camera interface is pretty straightforward – and appears to include a video function

The Nikon Tanken Camera interface is pretty straightforward – and appears to include a video function (Image credit: BCN Retail)

The device features a distinctively long, anteater-style lens similar to the Laowa 24mm f/14 2x Macro Probe lens, and features four LEDs mounted at the end of the lens tube to illuminate subjects in dark crevices (it is unclear at this time if the lens is, or is intended to be, waterproof). 

Nikon's exhibition at the show featured a scaled-down section of a tree, with a hole containing insects inside. The lens could poke into the hole, enabling curious users to illuminate and photograph the creatures inside. 

The Nikon Tanken Camera is a project by Nikon's nascent Life Imaging Lab design team – an R&D team comprised of six people from across Nikon's creative departments, tasked with sharing and developing ideas outside the scope of their daily work. 

The 'anteater' lens enables the camera to peek into holes and crevices to photograph insects

The 'anteater' lens enables the camera to peek into holes and crevices to photograph insects (Image credit: BCN Retail)

“I haven't decided to commercialize it, but I tried to make a prototype of what this camera is like,” Life Imaging Lab's Teppei Okuyama told BCN Retail (via Nikon Rumors), of the original concept to create “a camera that makes fun of bugs fun”.

While a commercial release hasn't yet been decided upon, these kinds of concept cameras do sometimes make it to market. Of the eight Canon concept cameras showcased at CP+ this year, we know that at least two will see release – including the Canon Ivy Rec, which was crowdfunded in the US. 

The BCN Retail report mentions crowdfunding as a possible option for commercialization, so we're hopeful that we see more of the Nikon Tanken Camera in some shape or form. 

Read more: 

The best camera for kids in 2019: child-friendly cameras for all ages
The best macro lenses in 2019
5 tips for choosing and using… macro lenses

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients like Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photo and lighting tutorials, as well as industry news, rumors and analysis for publications like Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-Photo: The Nikon MagazineDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and talks at The Photography Show. He also serves as a judge for the Red Bull Illume Photo Contest. An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.