Nikonos RS Postmortem: The Rise and Fall of the Only Underwater Single Lens Reflex Camera Equipped with Water Contact Optics

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Nikonos RS Postmortem: The Rise and Fall of the Only Underwater Single Lens Reflex Camera Equipped with Water Contact Optics

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Title: Nikonos RS Postmortem: The Rise and Fall of the Only Underwater Single Lens Reflex Camera Equipped with Water Contact Optics
Author: Kline Jr, TC
Abstract: Nikon Corporation's (Japan) Nikonos RS was the first production underwater single lens reflex camera. It was introduced at the 1992 DEMA show with three dedicated water contact lenses: a close-focusing 28mm wide angle, a 20 to 35mm wide angle to normal focal length zoom, and a 50mm macro lens that focuses to life size. In 1994, these lenses were supplemented with a 13mm full-frame fisheye lens. In 1996, production of the RS camera was discontinued. Cameras and lenses reconditioned by Nikon are presently available on the market as are limited quantities of new lenses. Three factors led to such a short life for the product: (1) system limitations (range of available optics and functionality, e.g., autofocus speed); (2) system failures (leakage due to user error); and (3) economics (too specialized a market for minimal acceptable production rate). The major system limitations have been partially overcome by recent product introductions by independent manufacturers. Two-factor teleconverters (available through Rainbowed Sea Tours, Inc. and Helix Camera and Video) introduced for the RS increase the effective focal length of the 50mm lens to 100mm, enabling a twice life-size reproduction at the same minimal focusing distance. A rectilinear wide-angle lens of 18mm focal length capable of an underwater angle of view of 100° was shown at the 1998 DEMA (to be available through Rainbowed Sea Tours, Inc.). The Swiss-made Subeye Reflex (Subspace Technology) underwater camera capable of using RS lenses may become available. The Subalert (Pacific Camera, Inc.) leak detector, useful assurance against O-ring sealing failure, is available for installation on an RS camera body. These developments coupled with the superlative aspects of the RS system, the viewfinder and water-contact optics, suggest continued utilitarian value of the system by scientific underwater photographers, particularly as an equivalent replacement seems doubtful.
Description: American Academy of Underwater Sciences (http://www.aaus.org/)
URI: http://archive.rubicon-foundation.org/9717
Date: 1998

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