Although I had shot print advertising for Nikon back in the day, I quite literally rolled a little red wagon into Samy’s Camera in LA, filled with about thirty Nikon lenses and eight bodies, plus motors and accessories, as soon as I learned that Canon had integrated autofocus within its camera bodies, instead of using the very much slower mechanical auto-focus linkage within each separate lens barrel, as Nikon still did. The professionals’ motto back in the day was “F8 and be there!”. For obvious competitive reasons, particularly in sports and combat, he who focused fastest prevailed.

Nikon’s autofocus was slower because they tried to keep their lenses compatible with an early lens mount design. Back in the Ehrenrieich Photo Optical Co. days (exclusive Nikon North American importer with economic dominance over Nippon Kogaku), an admirable pledge was made to its pro photographer customer base: every camera body Nikon would manufacture in the future, with the advent of the F-series (on the heels of the S-Series of rangefinder bodies, modeled after the Contax and introduced during the Korean War), would be compatible with pre-existing lenses. In other words, every new camera body introduced from the F-series onward would accommodate all older lens, all the way back to (I think) 1959. The intent was so that pros wouldn’t have to invest in a whole new set of lenses with every improvement in the cameras themselves. Ehrenreich’s marketing model eschewed planned obsolescence; and they kept that promise for nearly three decades. Unfortunately, it almost completely undid Nikon’s competitive advantage.

I don’t remember exactly when (in the 80s) Nippon Kogaku bought out Joseph Ehrenreich’s contract (or whatever arrangement Ehrenreich had with Nikon); but Canon did disrupt Nikon’s hegemony over the professional market virtually overnight. It took Nikon nearly a decade to catch up technologically.


Steven, you might also have mentioned that the last photograph in your story of the Sad Sack-looking shooter wearing army fatigues is the late, great, Pulitzer Prize-winning Eddie Adams. (His nickname was Sad Sack, by the way.) Eddie made the famous (infamous?) picture of Saigon’s police chief summarily executing a Viet Cong collaborator in the middle of a city street, with a pistol shot to the head.

Eddie is packin’ a Leica M2 (maybe M3) over a Nikon S, both hanging around his neck, plus at least one Nikon F on his left shoulder; probably another (hidden) on his right. Likely, the rangefinders were for b+w, the SLRs for color. Yeah, we had to carry two of everything into the early aughts of the Digital Century. BTW, PHOTO CREDITS ARE IMPORTANT. Kindly strive to include them—and pay the photographer!

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ARTREPRENEUR, PHOTOGRAPHER, CLARINETIST, MOTORCYCLIST Fate follows the path of least resistance. Success follows the path of maximum persistence.

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