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 (opens in new tab) 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 (opens in new tab) (via Nikon Rumors (opens in new tab)), 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 (opens in new tab) showcased at CP+ this year, we know that at least two will see release – including the Canon Ivy Rec (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) in 2019: child-friendly cameras for all ages
The best macro lenses (opens in new tab) in 2019
5 tips for choosing and using… macro lenses (opens in new tab)

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web 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 as diverse as 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, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). 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.