NIKON S3 Olympic 1964

(c) Frank Mechelhoff                       New November 2022                     This page in German Language

Nikon
          S3 Olympic

1940 the Olympic Games should took place in TOKYO. For well-known unpleasent reasons, this didn't happen.
Tokyo re-bid for 1960, lost against Rome (which had lost 4x previously), and won the new bid for 1964. The Tokyo Games, the first in Asia, thus fell into the middle of the decade of the strongest Japanese economic growth, in which the camera industry played no insignificant role.

In 1964, sales of Rangefinder Cameras had already fallen sharply in favor of the SLR, and NIKON had actually already stopped producing them (CANON only in 1968) - in favor of their SLR top model Nikon F.  In the same year, PENTAX introduced the first SLR with TTL exposure metering. Why NIKON launched one last series of the S3 isn't entirely clear. Perhaps sales to Olympic tourists were also in mind, although NIKON was by far the most expensive Japanese camera. Today NIKON declares it a "press model", and a lot speakts for it, because even then it was generally agreed that rangefinder cameras are the most suitable for 50mm and wide-angle, the typical focal lengths of press photographers, whilst SLRs are best suited for close-up and telephoto shots. And of course, sports coverage doesn't need telephoto lenses only.

Nikon S3 Olympic

2,000 were built, all in black, and only available in combination with the new 50/1.4 lens. Serial numbers started with 632xxxx.

This new 50/1.4 lens was designed, as the last new-issue in the S series, to replace the dated 50/1.4 "Sonnar" type, which was no longer competitive at larger apertures but was at least very compact, which has been around since 1950 and sold optically unchanged. Arch-rival CANON had passed 1959 with a modern 6-element lens. The design of the new one was optically similar to the SLR lens (7-lens planar type) presented in 1962, but not identical to what one might have assumed. Ultimately, however, optic designers have fewer restrictions to observe with a 50mm rangefinder lens because one does not need to consider mirrors clearance, so designs are less restricted. NIKON managed to keep the small filter diameter (43mm), albeit at the cost of high light fall-off with larger apertures. Inevitably with a Gaussian, the lens got bigger, i.e. taller, and not quite as light as previous version (178 instead of 143 grams).
Experts say the best Nikon 50/1.4 lens ever made.
Notable History and Design (The Thousand and One Nights, #77, by Haruo Sato)


Nikon S3 Olympic

Everyone considers the SP to be the pinnacle of the NIKON S series, and of course it was the most sophisticated and expensive one. But the S3 is by no means inferior. It really depends on what you mainly use them for. If you only use the 35, 50mm and 105mm focal lengths and hardly ever take close-ups (for which the parallax-corrected viewfinder of the SP would be more suitable), the S3 is probably the best choice made by Nikon.

Incidentally, the S3 Olympic also received the focal plane shutter with titanium foils from the NIKON F.

After all, the S3 "Olympic" (it was not an official NIKON nickname at the time of sale) achieved such a phenomenal reputation among enthusiasts and collectors that NIKON decided 35 years later to reissue the camera in a special edition, and with four times as much large numbers . But in contrast to the "original" Olympic, however, without titanium but traditional silk fabric curtains.

Nikon S3 Olympic
Picture: Original "Olympic" model with single-coated Nikkor-S 50/1.4 next to chrome "Millenium" remake, whose lens is multi-coated.

NIKON S3 "Millenium" Edition

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