Nikon Corporation has a base of operations in Tokyo, Japan, and they specialize in creating and manufacturing high quality cameras and a variety of imaging and optics devices and products. While they operate independently, they are a part of the Mitsubishi Group.
The company, founded in 1917, is nearly a hundred years old and it has been creating quality products since their inception. The original name of the company was Nippon Kogaku Kogyo Kabushikigaisha, which meant Japan Optical Industries Co., Ltd. They actually kept this name for decades, not officially changing it until 1988. They named it after one of their popular cameras.
The company that would become Nikon started when three of the top optical companies in the country merged in an effort to create a single entity. They used their combined knowledge and reach to manufacture and sell high quality lenses for a variety of different uses. Naturally, they provided lenses for cameras. They also provided lenses for binoculars, microscopes, and a variety of other types of equipment.
The company actually grew fast during WWII, increasing their number of factories to 19. They had to keep up with the demand for more binoculars, periscopes, and bombsights needed for the war. After the war, they returned to making products for civilians. They continued to make quality lenses, which eventually caught the attention of a photojournalist named David Duncan. He was in Japan when the Korean War started and he discovered that the quality of the lenses make by Nikon were superior to others he was using. His use of the lenses helped to popularize them in the west.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the company created a variety of quality cameras and rangefinder cameras that were able to compete with some of the other top options on the market at that time, including Zeiss. They developed a reputation as making some of the best quality SLR manual cameras in the world, and they took advantage of modular cameras that made it possible to switch out lenses, motor drives, viewfinders, and more.
By the time the 1980s rolled around, the manual cameras were not as popular as they once were. Autofocus cameras came into popularity during that time. Even though they developed an autofocus camera of their own, they were not quite as popular as the other options.
They never strayed from their desire to provide high quality optics and cameras though, and even though they were facing heavier competition from the likes of companies such as Minolta and Canon, they continued to persevere and to innovate. They were behind some of the first digital camera models for consumers, as well as some of the first digital SLRs, or DSLR cameras on the market. Their Nikon D1 from 1999 was actually one of the first digital cameras that were able to offer a high enough quality of photo that it was able to start luring professional photographers away from using film.
They began creating quality DSLRs suitable for professionals as well as hobbyists during the 2000s, and they continued to work on many of the smaller, compact digital cameras that proved to be very popular before smartphones started to include comparable quality cameras. Still, a certain segment wants to have a separate, small camera that fits in the pocket. Companies such as Nikon are able to provide this through their smaller options.
Nikon embraced digital, and they slowed down on the creation of their film cameras. However, they have not abandoned film entirely, and they are the only large manufacturer still creating film SLRs. The only professional model still available is the Nikon F6.
In addition to their cameras, Nikon still makes a number of other items in the field of optics. They still make binoculars, microscopes, ophthalmic lenses, loupes, LCD displays, and measurement instruments.
The company is still growing strong, and they have one of the best known and most respected names and brands in the business today. The reputation of the company, along with their quality, generally put them ahead of most of the competition. The only real competitors they have on the market today are Canon, Pentax, and Olympus.