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Dive Photo Guide


Digital Nikonos Industry Design Challenge
By Jason Heller, June 25, 2009 @ 09:13 AM (EST)
by John Ares
Are all of the Nikonos systems out there really just paperweights? Are the superior optics of Nikonos lenses such as the 15mm or RS lenses really never going to see the light of day (or water) again? Is it really impossible to produce adapters that will allow owners of these fine pieces of equipment to utilize them in today's digital age?
Well, these are the burning questions that have crossed myNikonos V Underwater Camera mind lately, and many times over the last number of years..
There is a large contingency of underwater photographers who have nostalgically shelved our once trusted Nikonos lenses, which in the digital age have turned practically useless to all but the hardest core Nikonos loyalists. Before we totally write off these lenses as paperweights, DPG is challenging the industry, or any innovative do-it-yourselfer, to come up with a way of adapting these lenses to work with any existing digital camera.
While we recognize that there may be no commercial scale mNikonos RSarket for such adapters, the excrcise in innovative engineering or DIY modifications will be interesting to say the least. Surely there are underwater photographers out there who would be interested in purchasing an adapter that allows them to use their old Nikonos lenses. Hopefully this challenge will be enough fodder to motivate the brilliant engineering minds of some of the industry's best and brightest. Let's see what you got!
FACT 1: Adapters are out there for other products
It was recently announced that NOVOFLEX has created an adapter for the Panasonic LUMIX G1 Camera (and similar mount cousins) to be able to use LEICA M-Mount Bayonet lenses.  Price? Under $200.00 / €150.
Sigma has announced in 2008 a high end point and shoot digital camera, the Sigma DP1, equipped with 14 megapixel direct image sensor, the same as used in the Sigma SD14 digital SLR.
Aquatica announced earlier this year that they will be producing port ring adapters for Subal (new & old type ports), Sea&Sea, Seacam and even Light & Motion.
FACT 2: There is a lot of great Nikonos glass out there, and eBay is not the answer
Do a quick search on eBay or elsewhere and you'll find hundreds of listings for used Nikonos cameras and lenses. Ultimately there's not much use for these great film cameras in today's digital market.
POSSIBLE FACT 3 (or rumor): Kodak possibly made a limited run of digital Nikonos RS models for US military use. There is mixed information available about these cameras, and some feel these are a hoax. But the following images were recently sent to us. We have no idea who took these images (will provide photo credit if anyone can help us figure it out), and would love to speak to anyone who knows more about this unit. 
Here is the DPG Nikonos Challenge:

Produce an adapter or modify a camera to work with existing Nikons lenses, particularly the 15mm or Nikonos RS wide angle lenses, or build a digital back for existing Nikonos bodies.
Here are some nuances and ideas. Please feel free to add your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

  1. Nikonos RS LensThe Nikonos 15mm and wide angle RS lenses require the use of the external knob controls. These will have to either be accessible or controlled otherwise.

  2. Could the Nikonos lens be used with some type of adapter on a high end point & shoot? (essentially with a live LCD and manual focus)

  3. Could an adapter be made for a DSLR housing. Maybe a shallow flat port that locks into the camera body like a lens and allows for the Nikonos lens to be used externally. (It would look ridiculous, but maybe it would work?)

  4. Possibly need an electronic viewfinder or SLR mirNikonos Underwater 15mm lensror box.  Using EVF might be more like live view since lenses would be stopped down to f/8 to f/32 much of the time. LCD and your histogram would be the most valuable to check & chimp results.

  5. Can an affordable digital back be created for the Nikonos body?
Awards For The Winners Of The Challenge
For any manufacturer who develops a working prototype, we will provide 6 months of free advertising on DPG. If you are already an advertiser, we will extend your contract for 6 months.
For any individual who comes up with a working prototype, if you so desire, we will help you market the solution to the underwater photography community and the dive industry via advertising on DPG and our media partners worldwide. Otherwise we will sing your praises via a PR release to the industry.
Winners will also receive a very cool trophy, and the pride and glory of accomplishing what Nikon and the rest of the industry deemed as impossible or simply not worthwhile.
Rules & Fine Print
  1. There can be more than one winner of this challenge. Multiple winning products will be promoted together.
  2. A "working prototype" shall be defined as a solution that producies quality digital images of at least 8MP resolution.
  3. We will require one working model be provided to us for testing.
  4. We will accept entries through Dec. 31, 2009



Fantasea FG7X II
Ikelite Housing for Nikon D500
I-DiveSite Venom 35s
SeaLife DC2000
Roger Roth
Jun 25, 2009 3:21 PM
Roger Roth wrote:
I would also like to see an adapter for Canon lenses as I have 6-8 Canon lenses for the AE-1 Program and would like to use these lenses on the digital Canon Eos.
john ares
Jun 25, 2009 5:57 PM
john ares wrote:
They do exist. While I no experience with the following, it may serve your needs:
http://www.bobatkins.com/photography/eosfaq/manual_focus_EOS.html (You can Google Canon lens adapter for more entries if needed.) Since the lens must be stopped down, I would think you might only consider wides for UW use and attach a Nikonos Finder to the housing. Some focus testing would also be needed to see if you would be required to use diopter like a +2, +3 or +4 (close up lenses) inside the dome port.
peter Nicholas
Jun 26, 2009 4:30 AM
peter Nicholas wrote:
What about Digital body? Just look at the Nikonos RS it is screaming for someone to convert it!
Stan Bysshe
Jun 27, 2009 8:35 PM
Stan Bysshe wrote:
I agree. It would even greater to see a Nikonos VI
with a SB 106. In this day and age of weight restrictions for travel wouldn't it be amazing to have a easy carry on set up ? Would need a macro lens though, don't miss the framers !
peter Nicholas
Jun 30, 2009 12:45 AM
peter Nicholas wrote:
So someone is playing around with the Nikonos bodies, hoax or not it does prove that it can be done. How about we start getting an idea of who would be interested and start putting it to Nikon or Kodak or whoever maybe Sea and Sea, I believe it will happen its just a matter of when.
Andrej Belic
Jul 1, 2009 10:02 AM
Andrej Belic wrote:
Hi people,

here?s the link to the only manufacturer that has created an underwater camera with RS adapter:
It has elctrical operated focus (not af). Since the design is from the 90s it?s film only. But I guess if someone is willing to share development costs they might be able to integrate a ccd sensor and a monitor...
Eddy Raphael
Aug 8, 2009 6:56 PM
Eddy Raphael wrote:
There is a Nikonos V out there which has been modified for Jeremiah Sullivan in CA, the maker of Neptunic Shark Suits, and from my understanding it is fully digitized and does not vary in appearance from the original. He spent a bit of cash getting it done by a company there, and takes it around with him everywhere.. very cool- will see if I can get any shots of it.
Jason Heller
Aug 9, 2009 8:55 PM
Jason Heller wrote:
@eddy - thanks for the info. I just emailed Jeremiah!
Shana Lyons
Sep 9, 2009 11:42 AM
Shana Lyons wrote:
Hi everyone,

I just wanted to take a moment to let you guys know that my company, PiratePro, is in the process of finalizing a housing design that would allow you to use Nikonos lenses with a commercially available digital 12.3 megapixel digital camera. The Dive Photo Guide challenge caught our eye. We're a small company, but our lead engineer has a love of underwater photography, an engineering degree from MIT and a burning desire to get this problem solved.

We've been working on our prototype for about two months now. We're at the stage where we have complete CAD drawings and we're sourcing manufacturers. We hope to make our housings here in the USA.

We're currently seeking Nikonos owners and enthusiasts to give us feedback on what we've come up with so far. We'll be investing our own money into manufacturing and marketing these housings, so we want to get it right. If you have any interest in collaborating with us, please let me know. We'd love to hear what you think.

Shana Lyons


Jason Heller
Sep 9, 2009 12:48 PM
Jason Heller wrote:
Hey Shana - that is great to hear! Would love to hear more. Can you email me (jason@)
peter Nicholas
Sep 9, 2009 11:27 PM
peter Nicholas wrote:
This is great news .Will the housing be for the various DSLR cameras? and would it be only able to use Nikonos lens or have port options for standard lens.
Shana Lyons
Sep 10, 2009 3:15 PM
Shana Lyons wrote:
Hi Peten1,

Initially, our product line is going to be comprised of 1 housing that holds the new Olympus EP-1 and a series of adapters to allow you to use the different Nikonos lenses with the housing. We're also probably supporting the Sea &Sea 15mm fisheye that was a popular choice for Nikonos users but we need to do some testing there.

We chose the EP-1 because it gets us around a huge issue with using Nikonos lenses with a lot of the DSLR's out there today- focal length. The challenge arises from the scale-focus design of the Nikonos cameras. This unusual camera design placed part of the rear flange of the lens mount around 28mm in front of the film plane, which is a very small distance when you think that Canon and Nikon SLR lenses are over 40mm from the focal plane. Nobody has made an adapter to put a Nikonos lens on a D700, for example, because the Nikonos lens would have to sit 18.5mm BEHIND the mounting flange of the D700 and the D700 already has a mirror occupying that space.

The first digital cameras to leave enough room for a Nikonos adapter were the Micro Four Thirds (or MFT) cameras from Panasonic and Olympus. Of the MFT cameras that have been introduced, the Olympus E-P1 is unique because it has an image stabilization system built into the camera. So, PiratePro is building a housing that will allow photographers to combine the image stabilization of the E-P1 with the optics of Nikonos lenses. We hope this will allow users to take incredibly sharp digital underwater images.

We're still working out a lot of the final issues. We're also evaluating the new Leicas released yesterday-- they might offer interesting high end options. But, for right now, it's going to be a housing for the EP-1.

We've posted some photos of the CAD drawings for the housing on facebook.com/pirateprohousings .

How does that sit with you? I'm really interested in hearing how potential users like the choices we're making.


Shana Lyons
peter Nicholas
Sep 11, 2009 1:03 AM
peter Nicholas wrote:
Hi Shana
This could be a great idea. I have just had a quick look at the Olympus EP1 and it seems to be a great little camera. I would anticipate that with the nikonos lens you will have to shoot in manual mode because the lens are manual and using live view would give the through the lens ability.
This would be a digital Nikonos using the Olympus as the guts of it.
Good luck with it all.
Peter Nicholas
David Lewinnek
Sep 11, 2009 2:37 PM
David Lewinnek wrote:
Hi Peten1,
Thanks for the good wishes. I just wanted to respond to one thing you said about manual mode. Although you always need to manually focus and manually select the aperture, you can choose to let the camera select the shutter speed by using "Aperture Priority" mode. The third mode that could be useful is "Movie" mode.

David Lewinnek
peter Nicholas
Sep 11, 2009 11:46 PM
peter Nicholas wrote:
Hi David
Cant wait to hear the results of the first tests.
If this idea works I can imagine that not only would you get the entry level market but for the serious guys out there it would make a great backup system, and lets not forget all those of us who have been left wallowing in the film age and have untill now have novel paper weights. Just a thought how do you think it will work with the macro tubes?
Peter Nicholas
David Lewinnek
Sep 12, 2009 9:17 PM
David Lewinnek wrote:
We should have the results of the first tests sometime in October. We'll publicize links to them as soon as we have something to report.

As for the macro tubes, we will have the same lens mount geometry as a Nikonos, so the tubes should all fit. Of course, with the live view of the EP1, the "goal post" framers should no longer be necessary. I'm really excited to see what kind of performance we achieve in macro photography. I have high hopes because I've read of some studies where a Nikonos lens outperformed a standard Nikon macro lens behind a flat port (82 lines per mm with the Nikonos compared to 65 lines per mm with the Micro-Nikkor).
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