Type: 24×36mm Rangefinder camera
Shutter speed range: 1 to 1/1000 sec., B and T Shutter: titanium or cloth focal plane type (titanium shutter on this later model)
Flash synchronization: Cable and direct contact, electronic flash synchronizes at 1/60 sec.
Motor drive coupling: For S-36 and S-250 motor drives
First production date: 19th September 1957 (last manufactured in June, 1965)
Weight: 720 g
The Nikon SP (S for series, P for professional) was an introduction by Nippon Kogaku (Nikon) of a technically advanced camera. With its titanium focal plane shutter, single finder accommodating 6 focal lengths, and motor drive coupling, the SP was assured a place among the world’s best 35mm cameras. Its features include an extra-long finder window, genuine wide-angle 28mm and 35mm finder, switchable frame lines for 35, 50, 85, 105, and 135mm, easy to grip knurled shutter speed dial (for slow speeds as well) which can be meshed with dial of a clip-on light meter, indicator window for selection of flash synchronization, self-timer, new film frame counter with film type indicator, and film type reminder dial.
Nikon produced 22,348 SP cameras with serial numbers from 6200001
The Nikon SP emerged at the end of the 35 mm Rangefinder Era as arguably the most advanced rangefinder of its time. It competed directly with the other great rangefinder systems: the Leica M3, the Zeiss Contax IIA, and the Canon 7sZ.
The SP Achieved Many Firsts:
1) The Nikon SP was the first 35mm Rangefinder with SIX built in frame lines. The combined RF/VF window had projected parallax frames for the 50/85/105/135. To the left of the main window was the wide angle window, showing non parallax corrected views of the 28mm and 35mm. This was in 1957! It took Leica 23 YEARS to equal this feat with the M4P in 1980. The SP has a unique look due to its very large RF/VF window. It stretches across half the camera’s face. SP’s are instantly recognizable.
Many don’t realize that the SP’s viewfinder is in some ways superior to that of the M3. The 35mm and 28mm frames are largely useless in the M2/4/5/6 for glasses wearers. In contrast, the SP’s 35mm and 28mm frames are easily seen wearing glasses.
The photographer selects the 50mm, 85mm, 105mm or 135mm frame line by rotating the frame line dial which rotating around the rewind crank. Each frame line is colour coded (unlike Leica), and each succeeding frame line coexists with larger frame lines, creating kind of a tunnel effect which can quickly be followed. For example, if you are using the 50mm frame, only the 50mm frame will be visible. Switch to the 85mm, and it appears in addition to the 50mm and so on. The selected frame is thus always the smallest frame line visible.
2) The Nikon SP was the first Japanese camera to have a single, non-rotating shutter speed dial.
3) The Nikon SP had the first reliable professional quality motor drive. This was a really big achievement at the time, and one of the milestones of 35mm Photography.
4) The Nikon SP had the first and we understand the only bright line illuminator (AA battery powered) which illuminated projected frame lines in low light.
5) The Nikon SP was the first 35mm camera with Titanium shutter curtains(over the last half of its production). Though untried at the time, Titanium curtains proved themselves incredibly tough and durable.
6) During its production, SP boasted the longest lens range of any 35mm Rangefinder System, from 21mm f/4 to a 1000mm f/6.3!
7) Nikon was the first (and for many years the only) rangefinder system to offer a macro lens in the 50mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor. Other interesting and now rare lenses included the 21mm f/4, the 25mm f/4, the 50mm f/1.1, the 85mm f/1.5, the 85mm f/2 black, the 105mm f/2.5, the 105mm f/4, the 180mm f/2. 250mm f/4, 350mm f/4.5, 500mm f/5 and 1000mm f/6.3 5 for use with the reflex housing.
The earlier Nikon RF lenses were all chrome. They match up with the earlier Nikon I/M/S/S2 models. Towards the end of the S2 production, Nikon started switching to lighter weight black lenses. Some lenses were made in both chrome and black, a few were made in black only.