The Nikon Corporation (TYO: 7731) of Tokyo, Japan, specializes in the research and development of cameras, camera lenses, microscopes and a variety of other optics technologies and products. Recently, the company just announced a new flagship digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, the D810, which includes an image processor designed to reduce color artifacts and other image issues while offering some videography capabilities. The corporation is also rolling out the Nikon 1 J4, a compact camera developed for hobbyists which can make use of interchangeable lenses for capturing images in a variety of styles. Owners of Nikon’s digital cameras may benefit from the free Capture NX-D software released by Nikon for editing RAW-format images captured from DSLR, Nikon 1 and other cameras developed by the company. According to comments from Nikon’s newly appointed CEO Kazuo Ushida which have been reported by other publications, the company plans to increase its medical business investment by $2 billion, mainly through the acquisition of other businesses in those fields.
Nikon is not a corporation we profile often in the Companies We Follow series. However, with our recent focus on Canon and other optical and imaging technology manufacturers, we felt that now was a good time to add Nikon to our rotation, a global leader in digital cameras and similar consumer devices. Our recent search of patent applications and issued patents filed at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office showed us a very intriguing scope of innovative development in the world of digital image and video capture.
The patent applications published in recent weeks by the USPTO and assigned to Nikon include a couple of filings pertaining to camera accessories which we explored for today’s column. One of these accessories provides a continuous light for the better detection of light exposure conditions for a digital camera. Other patent applications are directed at improved configurations for interchangeable camera lenses and lens barrels. Another intriguing patent application discusses a method of displaying two-dimensional and three-dimensional images on the same screen without degrading the quality of either version.
Nikon has enjoyed a fairly steady stream of patents issued by the USPTO in recent weeks, including a trio which we’ve shared with our readers that discuss novel improvements to digital image capture and camera devices. One of these patents protects a digital camera with enhanced capabilities for performing image editing functions directly on the camera. Another patent we’re sharing today protects a mount for interchangeable lenses which makes older generations of lenses compatible with newly-designed lens mounts.
Nikon’s Patent Applications: Camera Accessories, Interchangeable Lenses and 3D/2D Image Display
Nikon’s research and development into a wide range of optical and imaging technologies makes it an innovative leader in these fields, especially where they relate to digital cameras. We noticed many inventions in this field that may be notable to consumers of Nikon’s digital imaging and camera products. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140184893, filed under the title Interchangeable Lens, would protect a technology developed to allow digital camera users to more easily switch the type of lens mounted to their cameras. The interchangeable lens described within includes an information transmission unit which can inform the camera about drive conditions specific to the lens which has been mounted. A novel improvement to superimposing text on digital images captured by Nikon cameras would be protected through U.S. Patent Application No. 20140198234, entitled Image Processing Apparatus, Program, Image Processing Method, and Imaging Apparatus. This patent application describes a method by which an image processing apparatus can render superimposed text, which can include information about the image capture date or people included in the image, in a color which makes the text readable when rendered against the background color. This would prevent text rendered across a blue sky from being printed in a shade of blue, for example.
We also noticed some unique inventions related to camera accessories which Nikon is hoping to add to its patent portfolio. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140193145, simply titled Camera Accessory, would protect a detachable accessory for a digital camera which would provide a side mount for the camera. The mount uses a bayonet construction with three claws and is designed to be much more durable and resistant to shock than previous models. We were also piqued by the novel camera accessory technology described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140198234, titled Image Processing Apparatus, Program, Image Processing Method, and Imaging Apparatus. The camera accessory disclosed includes a light emitting section capable of shining light continuously. The aim of this invention is to create an accessory that helps a user conveniently capture an image under the proper exposure conditions.
Another patent application which struck us as worth sharing with our readers involves a method of showing both stereoscopic, or 3D, and planar, or 2D, images on the same screen. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140168395, which is titled Three-Dimensional Image Display Device, would protect a three-dimensional image display device capable of displaying an image in both dimensional forms without degrading the quality of the two-dimensional image. This technology utilizes pixel clusters which corresponds to sets of two-dimensional image data to render both images on the same screen.
Still, most of the R&D innovation we’ve explored today are closely related to Nikon’s digital camera products which are sold all over the globe. A method for allowing Nikon customers to correct a problem encountered with some of the company’s products is described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140168793, entitled Lens Barrel, Image-Capturing Device, and Method for Controlling Lens Barrel. The lens barrel disclosed within this patent application includes a number of guide bars directed by actuators which are designed to correct the tilt of an optical lens within a barrel. Issues in lens tilting can occur during assembly or shipping of a lens barrel product.
Improvements to extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) systems using fly’s eye mirrors are another imaging innovation discussed in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140176931, which is titled Intermittent Temperature Control of Movable Optical Elements. This optical system includes a temperature control mechanism designed to control the temperature of an optical element by moving it away from a thermal contact in an EUV system. This is designed to provide better cooling specifically for a fly’s eye mirror, an optical element composed of many intricate and tiny components.
Issued Nikon Patents of Note: More Accessories and Improved Functionality for Digital Cameras
Nikon was not one of the top 50 U.S. patent grant earners during 2013, according to information published by IFI Claims which we’ve referenced before here in our Companies We Follow series. However, they are a regular applicant at the USPTO, and in recent weeks the corporation has earned a couple dozen of issued patents. We always like to profile innovation in fields which may interest our readers, and professional and hobbyist photographers alike may want to know about recently developed Nikon products.
Many patents which have been recently issued to Nikon are directed towards improved manufacturing designs for digital cameras which provide a range of service and functionality beyond that which previous Nikon models made available. An electronic camera which includes technology for preventing against overexposure of light on image subjects and backgrounds is protected through U.S. Patent No. 8773578, which is titled Electronic Camera With Self-Adjusting Flash and Image-Capture Sensitivity. This patent discloses an electronic camera with a brightness detection unit, a reflected light detection unit and multiple calculation units designed to adjust flash settings to reduce overexposures. U.S. Patent No. 8754952, titled simply Digital Camera, protects a digital camera for capturing photographs which provides easier image processing controls directly from the camera. For example, when taking a flash photo, this system enables a user to apply white balance or red eye correction in a much easier fashion once a photo has been taken. A few novel improvements are realized by the construction of the camera discussed within U.S. Patent No. 8746995, issued under the title Camera. This patent protects a camera technology that takes advantage of a method for switching between normal photography and live view modes which reduces power consumption, minimizes the ability of dust to accrue in moving parts and improves ease of operability for users.
Accessories and adapters for interchangeable camera components are featured in a few other patents recently issued to Nikon by the USPTO. The ability to use interchangeable lenses, like the ones described above in Nikon’s ‘893 patent application, on an even wider array of digital cameras may be supported by the technology protected in U.S. Patent No. 8757904, which is titled Adapter, Camera System, and Adapter Control Program. The adapter protected by this patent would enable a camera owner to utilize existing interchangeable lenses on newly manufactured camera mounts, which may not be designed to be compatible with older generations of these lenses.
A method for controlling the power consumed by digital camera accessories is explained within U.S. Patent No. 8773579, entitled Accessory Controlled by Camera and Camera that Controls Accessory. This patent protects an accessory for a camera that includes an information holding section which contains data on the accessory’s power needs, and a power terminal for receiving power at a level required by the information holding section. This method is designed for the easy and convenient use of flash units as a camera accessory.
We wanted to wrap up today’s profile of Nikon’s recently issued patents with an exploration of an interesting technology developed by the Japanese corporation in image recognition and other photo analysis innovations. U.S. Patent No. 8749637, titled Image Recognition Device, Focus Adjustment Device, Image-Capturing Device, and Image Recognition Method, protects an image tracking device with a decision making unit which can determine whether a stored reference image is similar to a partial image being tracked by the device. This system improves on previous image tracking technologies which could produce inaccurate readings if a change in the lighting of a subject image may render a different color on the subject than the reference image stored by the tracker.