Nikon's products include cameras, camera lenses, binoculars, microscopes, ophthalmic lenses, measurement instruments, rifle scopes, spotting scopes, and the steppers used in the photolithography steps of semiconductor fabrication, of which it is the world's second largest manufacturer. The company is the eighth-largest chip equipment maker as reported in 2017. The companies held by Nikon form the Nikon Group. Among its products are Nikkor imaging lenses (for F-mount cameras, large format photography, photographic enlargers, and other applications), the Nikon F-series of 35 mm film SLR cameras, the Nikon D-series of digital SLR cameras, the Coolpix series of compact digital cameras, and the Nikonos series of underwater film cameras. Nikon's main competitors in camera and lens manufacturing include Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Panasonic, Pentax, and Olympus.
Founded on July 25, 1917 as Nippon Kgaku Kgy Kabushikigaisha ( "Japan Optical Industries Co., Ltd."), the company was renamed to Nikon Corporation, after its cameras, in 1988. Nikon is a member of the Mitsubishi group of companies (keiretsu).
Nikon Corporation was established on 25 July 1917 when three leading optical manufacturers merged to form a comprehensive, fully integrated optical company known as Nippon Kgaku Tky K.K. Over the next sixty years, this growing company became a manufacturer of optical lenses (including those for the first Canon cameras) and equipment used in cameras, binoculars, microscopes and inspection equipment. During World War II the company operated thirty factories with 2,000 employees, manufacturing binoculars, lenses, bomb sights, and periscopes for the Japanese military.
After the war Nippon Kgaku reverted to producing its civilian product range in a single factory. In 1948, the first Nikon-branded camera was released, the Nikon I. Nikon lenses were popularised by the American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan. Duncan was working in Tokyo when the Korean War began. Duncan had met a young Japanese photographer, Jun Miki, who introduced Duncan to Nikon lenses. From July 1950 to January 1951, Duncan covered the Korean War. Fitting Nikon optics (especially the NIKKOR-P.C 1:2 f=8,5 cm) to his Leica rangefinder cameras produced high contrast negatives with very sharp resolution at the centre field.
Founded in 1917 as Nippon Kgaku Kgy Kabushikigaisha ( "Japan Optical Industries Corporation"), the company was renamed Nikon Corporation, after its cameras, in 1988. The name Nikon, which dates from 1946, sounds like a merging of Nippon Kgaku (: "Japan Optical") and Zeiss's brand Ikon. This would cause some early problems in Germany as Zeiss complained that Nikon violated its trademarked camera. From 1963 to 1968 the Nikon F in particular was therefore labeled 'Nikkor'.
The Nikkor brand was introduced in 1932, a westernised rendering of an earlier version Nikk (), an abbreviation of the company's original full name (Nikk coincidentally means "sunlight" and is the name of a Japanese town.). Nikkor is the Nikon brand name for its lenses.
Another early brand used on microscopes was Joico, an abbreviation of "Japan Optical Industries Co". Expeed is the brand Nikon uses for its image processors since 2007.