Oldest surviving Nikon fetches $406K at auction

A fabulous piece of photographic history just sold at auction for $406,000, more than twice the estimated haul. This Nikon One was the third production camera — as in the third actual camera it built — from the now-famous company, and it’s the oldest one known to still be around today.

Nikon began as a optics company, Nippon Kogaku K.K., in 1917, and made a few lenses and even worked on a Canon body in the 1930s. But 1948 was the first year it made its own cameras, starting with the One or I, of which less than a thousand were made. (A bit more history here.)

It’s an interchangeable-lens rangefinder, and the lens included is also an old one: the 11th Nikon ever made, a 50mm f/2 that collapses back into the body. It comes with a great old double-strap leather case that I would definitely like a replica of for my Olympus.

While it’s certainly an interesting piece of history, it probably won’t be doing much shooting: It used a non-standard film size that limited its appeal, something Nikon fixed in following models.

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Engraved on the bottom, rather prominently, is “MADE IN OCCUPIED JAPAN,” a rather chilling reminder of the times in which this camera was made.

The starting price for this historic camera was €90,000, and it was estimated to go as high as €180,000; it eventually sold for €384,000, (approximately the aforementioned $406,000), inclusive of the fees and premiums.

You can check out the other cameras, lenses and other odds and ends that were on the block at the WestLicht Photographica Auction here. DPReview points out a couple of excellent finds, including a Leica camera-rifle and a wonderful-looking M3 owned by Herbert List.