The remarkable Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 Fisheye

Posted on by Bellamy

I mentioned that I got something special, this is it
As some of you may know I got something very special at the show. A lot of lenses and cameras come and go, but some of them are so special that you have to pause and take a moment to appreciate them. This is the story of how I got it.

Let me set the scene for you. As I have mentioned in the past, the camera fair is in Tokyo at the moment. For us in the trade it is a big deal as there will always be a handful of exceptional items there. I had heard through my contacts that there was going to be a 6mm Nikon f/2.8 available and I thought “I have to have that lens”.

Last year there was a 13mm Nikon available, and I missed it by a hairs breadth. So there was no way that I was going to miss this one. There are certain rules about the camera fair in that they cannot pre-sell or reserve any items, so you simply have to be there first. I knew the store that would be selling the lens, so the week before I went and had a chat with them and asked them what I should expect. They told me that I should get there as early as possible as there had been a huge amount of enquiries.
The challenge had been set…
I woke up on the day of the show at 2am, rode half the way to the show, parked up and then got a taxi to Shibuya. I arrived 3.40 in the morning, grabbed a coffee and headed to the area where people would have to wait, fully expecting that there would be a couple of people there. But…I was the first, by all of about 1 minute. As soon as I arrived the others started to, but I was first in line! Everyone there was very talkative until asked what they where there for, and then they clammed up. But it was obvious that they where all there for the 6mm. At 5.30am the organizer of the show turned up and had a chat with everyone. Fortunately I know him quite well and he was very surprised to see me at the front of the line. After a chat we all settled in for the 5+ hour wait.

At 9.45 we were corralled into an organized line to be ushered into the elevators. I was not alone when I say I was protective of my place, everyone was trying to defend their position or gain a better one. Some of the other buyers can be quite ruthless and you had to make sure that you didn’t give them the chance to push you out. When we got to the 8th floor we were put into position. One of the other buyers had pushed into my spot in the lift and was expecting to get the first place when we arrived. He was in for a shock though. When we got to the rope (there is a rope barrier) I was surrounded by familiar faces from all of the shop owners. They had heard that I was first in line and had been waiting since 4am. I was ushered to the front of the line and then around the rope. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, as last year it had literally been a 100 yard dash for the prize. I was expecting to have to run as all of the other buyers where behind me, chomping at the bit and waiting for the rope to drop. Instead the head of the ICS got on the PA system and just said to me “you are the first, you have earned it, please go ahead”. I was completely gobsmacked! I took an easy walk to the counter of the store whilst receiving a standing ovation from the owners of all of the stores. To say it was the proudest moment of my career would be an understatement.

I am not at liberty to say how much the lens cost, on the request of my customer (it was pre-bought), but lets just say it was a very large amount, quite easily the most expensive lens I have ever bought or seen. It is a remarkable piece of equipment, like nothing you have ever seen.

The lens camera as new, in the box with all of the documentation, it even smelled new.

So, what about the lens?
Introduced in 1970, this was the first lens that had a 220˚ field of vision, yet still maintained an impressive speed of f/2.8. It is not an exaggeration to say that this is the worlds most extreme wide angle lens. The glass element is simply enormous and dwarfs everything. This lens can actually see behind itself! The lenses were made by special order, so there are no exact figures as to how many were made.
This is an extreme lens in every sense, the size, the weight (5.2kgs) and the price. You would not want to drop this thing, trust me on this. Broken toes would be the least of your worries.

The lens is comprised of 12 elements in 9 groups, with internally interchangeable filters (Skylight, medium yellow, deep yellow, orange, and red).
In fact, tell you what, here are the details as written by Nikon:

This is the most stunning piece of photographic equipment I have ever had the pleasure of handling. I would say I am very lucky, but I worked bloody hard to get it (though there must have been a little bit of luck involved). I would love to tell you all that I managed to put a roll through it, but I didn’t. There was no way that I was going to take this lens outside and have something get stuck on the front element. This was put into its box and sent to the happy new owner.

I hope that you have enjoyed the story as much as I enjoyed getting the lens. This is why I do this, the excitement never wanes and I love every single moment of it. I am still on cloud nine and it will be a while before I get down. There have been many other highlights over the course of this show, but this was the big one.

33 Responses to The remarkable Nikkor 6mm f/2.8 Fisheye

Ken June 3, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Grays of Westminster in London UK acquired one of these babies a few months ago from ‘overseas’ and, if it is the same lens model i read about, was said to be worth £100,000! No wonder you are buzzing! I think you’ve pulled off quite a coup! This has got to add huge street cred to your aquisitional reputation.

Ande June 3, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Amazing story.

Don’t think I could have resisted making a couple exposures with it but understand why you didn’t.

Was there anything else as rare at the show or was it pretty clear cut that anyone who had shown up early had come for this?

Hope to make the show some day ( and have the money to spend at it!).

Nice one.

Jon June 3, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Bloody hell, what a lens and what a story. I really enjoyed reading this post. Congratulations on snagging a piece of photographic history!

Jasper June 3, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Oh wow, I read about this thing on a rumour blog a while ago. It looked massive on there but I didn’t quite appreciate the dimensions. I would love to see some results from it, but I really doubt anything will show up on flickriver! If it was mine, I’d be terrified to even take it out of the box!

Glad to see your hard work paid off and I hope your client is super pleased and gave you a hefty finders fee!

Fernando June 3, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Wonderful read and write-up on the lens. Very cool how the showrunners where cool enough to recognize the trouble you went through to get your (client’s) lens.

For anyone interested in seeing what this badboy can do, a gent on Flickr collected some pictures taken with it (unfortunately, he doesn’t specify the sources).

Grays of Westminster also took video with D800 with this lens. Skip to 2:00 to get to the good stuff.

Most of the subjects shot aren’t terribly exciting but they show the fishiness.

Mark O'Brien June 7, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Nice story! For those folks in the US — George Eastman House has one of these on display with a Nikon attached. You can’t see the camera looking straight at the lens.

Robert June 8, 2012 at 5:26 am

This is wonderful to read. There is this one, the one that just sold in the UK, and I have mine. I think we need to start up a 6mm Club or something. Congrats on having the manual and warranty card, you got me beat!

Dani Gorgon July 26, 2012 at 8:23 pm

The happy new customer must pay you 100K for your efforts at the camera fair. Would love to see the pictures from this lens that’s for sure covers the toes and ears.

SVRK Prabhakar February 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm

Hi, very glad to know you had opportunity to experience this lens. Can you clarify one thing, you wrote that this lens was sent to the customer, does it mean you represented this customer to buy it, so you woke up early in the morning and went to the booth to purchase for him? If you did, it certainly tells how passionate you are about photography. Thanks in advance.

Lee April 11, 2014 at 8:25 am

your “power” in the used-lens-world just went through the roof! :D

It is an amazing story, and really good that they know you are the first one and let you go in first! Black Friday in US is not as friendly as what you experience, when the door open, people just rush in, doesn’t really care who actually got there first!

Great story!


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