Nikon S3 2000 Commemorative Model

Tomei Collection

The original Nikon S3 rangefinder appeared on the market in May of 1958 and is generally considered to be one of the finest focal plane shutter, rangefinder cameras ever produced. The S series design would prove to be the foundation for the Nikon F SLR cameras that were soon to change both professional and amateur photography for decades to come.


The S series received its name from the Japanese word "sasayaku", or whisper shutter. The S3 was one of the last S cameras to be produced and the first Rf camera in the world to incorporate 35mm frame lines in the viewfinder.


In an unusual move, Nikon began plans to produce a commemorative S3 in 1994 at the Mito Nikon factory. It took 4 years to bring the project to fruition and Nikon began accepting orders in March through June, 2000, for the S3 2000 Commemoration Model. A production run of 8000 cameras was planned, each equipped with a new Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4 lens with aluminum cap and hood, and new leather case.  They were placed on sale in October 2000 for $4000.00. 


The camera shown here was found in the back of a display case in the computer department of a large discount store just outside of Rome, Italy, in 2005.  Purchasing it caused a lot of quizzical looks from the sales person.  It seems that they could not understand why I was interested in an old fashioned manual camera when there were so many new autofocus, metered, fully automatic cameras packed in the display.  Few of these S3 Commemorative cameras, however, will ever be loaded with film and I think this one is no different.  I suppose that tells you a lot about the difference between collectors and photographers.


The people at Nikon responsible for the Commemorative model were certainly sticklers for detail.  A printed notice was included with the instruction manual that advised the new owner that the aperture index of the f/1.4 lens does not return precisely to the top position when the lens is set at infinity.  This is because the they "adopted a design where the ring on which the aperture index is engraved is screwed into the lens barrel and the index does not stop at the same position".  They go on to advise that they do not offer modification to align the aperture index to the infinity focal length.  I didn't even notice this little design detail.

The camera is also shown with a Nikkor-P 85mm f/2.0 chrome lens and Varifocal viewfinder, both produced about 1958 and truly in mint condition.




The accessory shoe is intended to mount a dedicated flash, viewfinder, or meter, and is not a "hot shoe".  The life-size viewfinder provides bright line frames that correspond to 35mm, 50mm, and 105mm lenses with "subsidiary corner marks" to correct for paralax when subjects are closer than 2 meters.  No accessories or additional lenses were produced for this model, although it does accept original Nikon rangefinder lenses.