If you head over to the Nikon stand at The Photography Show (opens in new tab) (B600) you’ll find all of the latest gorgeous gear and perhaps even the lowdown on the recently announced Z 17-28mm f/2.8 (opens in new tab). But once you’ve salivated over the best Nikon cameras (opens in new tab) and taken in a couple of pro-photographer talks, make sure you check out some of the coolest and wackiest Nikon cameras in the Big N’s history.
These curious gems include a Nikon destined for outer space, a gold-plated FA and the world's first underwater SLR. Each camera is safely encased in a perspex display case, shielded from prying hands, but still allowing for a full 360-degree view. Here are a few of our favourites...
Nikon and NASA
NASA’s various space missions are responsible for some of the most famous photographs in human history and Nikon’s relationship with the US government space agency goes back to 1971 (opens in new tab), when the Nikon Photomic FTN accompanied the Apollo 15 crew. This modified Nikon F was the first in a long line of specialist space cameras including the modified Nikon F3 ‘Big Camera’ on display at The Photography Show 2022. The rather beefy SLR from 1981 might look like a lot to handle but it was actually used for its relative portability in comparison to NASA’s larger 70mm-format cameras.
Nikonos RS – underwater SLR
The Nikonos RS was arguably a camera ahead of its time. It was released in 1992, making it the first dedicated underwater SLR camera in the world. Its toy-like aesthetic might not look particularly slick, but its large protruding controls were designed to be handled underwater. That’s right, the Nikonos RS could operate down to 100m without an underwater housing.
Four lenses were developed for the camera’s unique R-UW mount and their dedicated underwater design means they’re still coveted by underwater photographers to this day – so much so that it’s even possible to get them converted.
See our article on the best fisheye lenses (opens in new tab)
Nikon take grand prix gold
If you had a spare 500,000 yen back in 1984 (nearly $3,500/£3050 in today’s money) you could have walked away with this rather splendid-looking Nikon Gold FA. The 24K-gold-plated SLR – complete with gold 50mm f/1.4 – was made to celebrate the camera winning the prestigious Camera Grand Prix. Only 2000 units were made, so tracking one down might be a little like panning for gold!
Nikon cameras have come a long way since the F3 and FA. Here are the best Nikon cameras (opens in new tab) you can get right now, and if you've already got a Nikon camera, why not look up the best Nikon lenses (opens in new tab)?