Founded in 1917, Nikon was formed when three major Japanese optical manufacturers merged to form a fully-integrated optical company. The company spent 60 years manufacturing optical lenses and equipment used in cameras, binoculars, and microscopes. Their early manufacturing included optical lenses for the first cameras produced by Canon, their top competitor in today's market. The company grew greatly during World War II, expanding to 19 factories and 23,000 employees. This growth stemmed from Nikon position as the major supplier of optical equipment to the Japanese military, these items included: binoculars, lenses, bomb sights, and periscopes. Nikon lenses were popularized outside of Japan in part by David Douglas Duncan, an American photojournalist who fitted Nikon optics to his Leica rangefinder to document the Korean War.
Today, Nikon manufactures cameras, binoculars, microscopes, measurement instruments and steppers. Among the company's most popular products in their current line: Nikkor imaging lenses for F-mount cameras, the Nikon D-series of DSLR cameras, and their Coolpix line of digital compacts. Nikon is the world's second largest manufacturer of steppers, which are used in the photolithography steps of semiconductor fabrication. Nikon's key innovations include some of the world's first digital cameras to have sufficient image quality and a low enough price tag to reach the prosumer market, autofocus SLRs, and the first DSLR to record video.
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