Nikon M Rangefinder Camera – A Very Early Example
In 1948 Nikon’s very first camera, the Nikon Model One, was destined for only a brief production run. Its 24 x 32mm format proved unpopular with the GHQ of the Occupation Forces under General MacArthur, who would not allow the camera to be exported to the USA because the 24 x 32mm format was not compatible with Kodachrome slide mounts. It was replaced by the Nikon M (the M standing for mutatio – Latin for change or alteration). The M used a 24 x 34mm format, but it was still smaller than the 36 x 24mm employed by Leica. In addition Nikon added the letter ‘M’ before the serial number which is the only time they ever identified one of their rangefinder cameras. According to factory records, the first Nikon M was camera M609760 assembled in August 1949.
The camera is marked “Made in Occupied Japan” on the base, a sign of the times following the 1945 Armistice and the US occupation of Japan which lasted from the summer of 1945 through Spring 1952. The number of this very rare example is M609769, which is possibly the 10th production camera! It is complete with a 5cm f/2 Nikkor-HC collapsible lens.
Photography by Tony Hurst