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Nippon Kogaku Japan rangefinder system accessories
Nikon S36 Motor Drive for Nikon S-Mount rangefinder cameras

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Over the years, I had always held a strong belief among all the camera manufacturers, Nikon simply made the most efficient automatic film advance devices for their SLR system. I remember those days which began with the 4fps
F36 Motor Drive for Nikon F (1959) where motor drive which supposedly as as optional accessory had been slowly transformed into full system to cater for many extensions of application such as remote, timer and high speed photography (an example is the 9 fps Nikon F High Speed); and during the Nikon F2 (1970) the device had been improved further and when combining with other accessories, it had opened up plenty of other photographic opportunities never been realized before in 35mm SLR photography; and it also has the most extensive motor drives offered for the camera with the initial model MD-1, an impressive 5 fps MD-2, a moderately price MD-3 and the special MD100 designed to work with the 14 fps Nikon F2H (high Speed). However, when Nikon F3 was unveiled in 1980, Nikon had only designed a single model, 6 fps MD4 for the F3 and it was the only* motor drive that supported the entire generation of their professional Nikon F3-series. But the mighty MD-4 was simply an engineering and electrical marvel in setting a standard in power efficiency management for electric motor drive where only a set of 8 x AA-size Alkaline cells, the MD4 can deliver 140 rolls of 36 exposures; while a comparing Canon New F1's professional AE Motor Drive FN can only delivers approx. 50 rolls with 12 AA-size Alkaline; truly an amazing feat huh ?

Nikon F w/F36 LINK NIkon F2 w/MD2 Link NikonF3 w/MD-4 Link
* another model, the Nikon MD-4H was introduced only late in 1996 to supplement the 13.5 fps Nikon F3 High Speed. Other devices: AW-1 Winder for Nikkormat/Nikomat series; evergreen MD11/MD12 for midrange Nikon SLRs (such as NIKON FM, FE, FE2, FM2, FM2n, FM2n/T and works even on the FA & Nikon FM3A); MD-15 for Nikon FA and MD-E power winder for Nikon EM/FG/FG2.From the Nikon F501 onwards, integrated motor for automatic film advance had replaced conventional add-on accessory.

So, it is always interesting to track back n time to understand the different development stages how Nikon started in making electric motor for automatic film advance for their cameras. It all began from the rangefinder era, where the S36 was first designed in the mid of the '50 to add as an optional accessory for the Nikon rangefinder system.

Basic information on Nippon Kogaku Japan S36 Electric Motor Drive.
Year Introduced: 1956; Discontinued: early '60

LEICA MOTOR 250GG bulk exposures back
Even as an optional accessory, Nikon S36 motor drive had directly created an important milestone in 35mm photography as it offered a new dimension to challenge conventional camera handling in 35mm photography. Today, virtually all modern SLRs have an integrated motor built-in for the ease of capturing images readily without performing manual film advance. The S36 can also be regarded as the first mass-produced electrically charged device designed for automatic film advancing for 35mm photograpy, as available models in the market equivalent in function appeared during the corresponding period were mostly based on mechanical spring-winding principle (such as the Leica-Motor (MOOLY).

<<<--- Probably the first motorized 35mm camera, a huge-sized LEICA 250 GG Motor, this particular set hold the record as the most expensive Leica 250 GG w/Motor ever auctioned successfully @ EURO 108,155/USD130,000 !
NIKON SP chrome w/ Nikkor-N.C 1:1 f=5cm
and S36 electric motor drive
With its inclusion, it also formed as one of the basis why the NIKON SP rangefinder system can be regarded as the best system camera available during that era. It was aimed to supplement the Nikon RF camera as part of a truly functional system accessory, together with other creative functions, as well as backed with a whole new series of exciting Nikkor lenses appearing during this period as its backbone; Nikon rangefinder system had finally firmly stamped its mark to claim as a serious system of choice for considering as a personal 35mm rangefinder system for many individual as well as professionals worldwide.

Today, even after more than half a century later, the Nikon S36 Electric Motor has remained as one of the most desirable collector item for camera enthusiasts worldwide. Other than sentimental reasons, I guess other than awaiting its appreciation in value as form of investment, probably most collectors also appreciate the creative thought behind in its creation, engineering excellence as well as registering history how it had changed the course in camera making industry.

<<<--- a NIKON SP chrome w/Nikkor-N.C 1:1 f=5cm and S36 electric motor drive.
In relating to development of the S36 in Nikon, one of the best info source was compiled by Robert Rotoloni in his book, Nikon Rangefinder camera (Hover Collector's Book, UK) where the author had itemized a version history (seven stages) in the differences appeared during the period. Regardless in the details, Nikon S36 was officially announced after the SP, I think most of us must understand the S36 electric motor was first of its kind in its attempt, naturally there bound to be modifications and/or improvement made during its initial stages, even after its launch. This is usual, as it happened with the initial MD-11 for the compact Nikon as well as the first model, MD1 for the Nikon F2, but eventually both next update of MD12 and MD2 motor drives had proved to be extremely reliable. In particularly, the 1979's MD12 is an evergreen model, survives itself all the way be used to supplement the hybrid mechanical/electronic Nikon FM3A in 2001 !

NIKON S2E with S36 motor drive in full complete set as appeared in an auction conduced by Update:- According to Peter Braczko's Nikon Handbook, it had stated a Nikon S2E which was shown at IPEX, Chicago back in 1957 and quoted it as a pre-SP with a S36 motor drive attached for display. He also mentioned a S2E w/S/N 619401x but recently via Leica Shop's Westlicht Photographica Auction, another complete set of NIKON S2E with an even earlier S/N 6194009 surfaces. Here the auction description quoted it " ..The NIKON S2-E was the first Nikon with electric motor drive and also the most early 35mm postwar camera with electric motor drive (already before Leica MP-2). Only 4-5 cameras (out of 10-15 produced) are known to exist...".

<<<--- take good notice of the picture at left, as it may show many details of a yesteryear 's original equipment, accessories and even in their respective packing design/method. This particular set has an action start price of EURO 90,000-00 and a hammer price of EURO 180,000-00 !
nomenclusure for NIKON S36 electric motor drive for rangefinder Nikon cameras Nikon probably has first designed their system with initial idea of a modular form, with accessories such as film back can be detached at the bottom to load/unload film but also able to accept other accessories introduced at later stages. So, in order for the S36 to be used on a SP, S3, S3M and even the S4, you would require to detach the camera film back as the electric motor has a film back on its own to replace the standard film back in conventional way in changing a film cartridge. Note: Nikon also produced cartridge on their own,
A well used, NIKON SP in black with NikonS36 electric motor drive
To operate the S36 with a capable Nikon rangefinder (SP and later models), turn A-R ring on the camera's top plate to "A" and advance film, trip the shutter until the exposure counter at "0", just like conventional way in operating a camera. Always set the camera ready before connecting the power cord to the battery. The rear section of the motor drive is the control center, where you find the film counter which indicates the remaining exposures available in the film cartridge; the Selector wheel with an arrow indicated the direction is for, if a preset number of exposure is desired by the user, you can set the counter on the electric motor by first, depressing while rotating the wheel at the same time with the direction of the arrow indicated. In this manner, the motor drive will stop automatically at the counter when reaches "0". For instance, if the entire roll of film is to be fired in one burst, set the counter at 36, if only 10 frames are to be fired in one go, just set the counter at 10 etc. Take note:, if the counter happens to set by mistake at 36 exposures, but the film actually loaded makes 20 exposures, take caution not to keep depressing the shutter button after 20 exposures have been made. It auto shuts for further film advance based on user's set exposures. Otherwise, the film end or its perforations may be torn and rewinding will become difficult. The S36 doesn't has a power rewind feature, you ought to make manual film rewinding.

Selector dial, frame counter and mode selection lever at the back of the NIKON S36 electric motor drive
1) Singe Exposure: For S36 late models, first set the S/L//C ring at the rear section by pushing it inward and turn to "S" (which universally simply means "Single Frame", L=Locked; C/K means Continuous or Consecutive exposures Mode). The S/C ring may just has C/L or K/L, depends on version and stages introduced (also refer to S2E/S36 photo above). Any shutter speeds, EXCEPT for T (Time exposure) and B (Bulb) can be used. Take note here that at slower shutter speed selected, such as 1/2 or 1 sec exposure one single exposure mode, the user has to keep depressing the shutter release button until it has completed an exposure because the motor may go to next frame as soon as you release the finger. This is something just like what we do with flow sync flash in modern cameras. The camera shutter release button as well as the power pack and/or relay box is usable.

2) Continuous Mode: A highest speed in film advance rate is approx. 3 fps. It enables any number of exposures of sequence photos to be taken and automatically stops at preset exposures. The same is apply to how to operate the S36, user must ensure an exposure is made until the next frame but since this is continuous so less chances in making such mistake. It is advisable if the remaining exposures in the film is completed, detach the power cord from the camera first. The S36 doesn't has the firing rate selector wheel as found on the F36 Motor Drive for Nikon F. It is not possible to make double or multiple exposures in C mode, a lovely creative feature like the one as found on the MD12/MD4 offers.

Presumably the S36 was for SP but if the owner wishes to use it with other camera model, Nikon advised changes should be done with an authorized Nikon technician or any service centre where a nominal fee is applicable. The same go for the F36 for NIKON F, where Nikon stated the F36 was factory fitted for particular F or other F-Photomic body and may not function when it is used with other model.
NikonS36 in chrome finish
The S35 was supplied either in chrome or black finish to match individual desire for their choices as the Nikon SP has both.
The S36 doesn't has a built-in battery compartment and would require an external battery pack. Robert Rotoloni had suggested prior to the more popular brown leather cased battery holder version, it may has an earlier version. The leather cased batter holder is quite cumbersome to carry around with as it is shown in proportion with the picture below with the S36. Somehow, it restricts mobility of the photographer but or the next design, "Vest Pocket Battery Case, as Nikon called it) is more portable, it is flat and connects the device onto camera via a metre-long power cord. You can treat S36's external power pack as an off-camera remote control device because the battery holder has a release and yes, you can trip the shutter from the power pack one metre away from the camera too. Power source changed along with either in design along with the battery holder version where initial model uses 6 x 1.5 volts type-C penlight size cells such as old type Eveready 815, Mallory Zinc penlight cells or modern equivalent. The cells drop in and stag on one another which contributed to the oblong design while the next version, a sardine gray colored, vinyl texture holds the batteries flat side by side and enables a more compact size in its design.

Nikon S36 with powerpack and connecting power ord
Nikon had even designed a power voltage meter to provide visual check on the power voltage as the electric motor would not function normally or decrease in operating speed when current drops under 8.5 volts (if other third party power supply is used, Nikon had suggested electromotive force be: DC. 9 volts and stable electric current : 0.4 amperes) . A relay box was also offered at late '59 which can be used among the S36, F36 and/or the 250 electric motor drives. Note: F36 uses 12v, below 10v will cause deterioration of function or does not operate at all.

left & bottom: early brown leather battery case and highly portable Sardine /gray vinyl texture battery pack, the supplied power cord has dedicated connecting pins at each end, while the gray version may be replaceable with some specific commercial connecting cord but MUST be 3-core type . Voltage meter is for checking power output of new cells or check status of old cells in the power pack. Battery checker for Nikon power pack for rangefinder/ SLR system
Brown leather battery holder /power pack with shutter release for Nikon rangefinder system S36 electric Motor Drive
portable flat vinxl texture power pack / battery holder for  Nikon rangefinder system S36 electric Motor Drive

Used in conjunction with a Standard Battery Pack, permits a Nikon camera equipped with either S36, F36 or F250 motor drive to be operated through a conventional 2-conductor cord, terminating in any circuit closing device: manual switch, intervalometer, radio control receiver, or others. Meaning, it connects between motor drive unit and the battery pack, and can be used conveniently for long distance remote control, in the case of later Nikon accessories with the SLR period, it can be used together with a timer, intervalometer, wireless operation as well as simultaneously trigger firing of several Nikon cameras at the same time, However, in the case of S36, available options were restricted, as many wireless accessories were not readily available during that time.

Nikon Relay box for Nikon rangefinder system S36 electric Motor Drive
The left hand side of the box has four a) power-supply terminal to the motor ( "M"), b) power-input terminal from the battery pack ("B"), c/d) DC input terminals "+" and "-". The two terminals, R1 and R2, can connected by a cords. The S/C switch and a shutter tripping button is also provided that can override the one on the back of the S36/F36/F250. The R1/ R2 are for setting up multiple cameras firing at the same time. This Relay Box is also with the Nikon F.

Nikon grey color power pack for Nikon S36 electric motor drive unit
Nikon rangefinder system S36 electric Motor Drive for rangefinder system with accessories

The brown leather cased 1.5v x 6 type C batteries holder for Nikon rangefinder system S36 electric Motor Drivecompare the rare grey version above and the more popular brown battery holder here.

One way or another, some people may feel the cord-connecting S36 restrict mobility of photographer, and cordless model was only made available in the F36 for Nikon F at later stage. But there was third party option such as this jpi POWERCON model 36SP power pack designed by Jacobson Photographic Instrument, vine street, Hollywood, California which eliminates such inconvenience.

jpi Powercon Integral Power Pack for Nikon S36

An NIKON SP in black with jpi POWERCON cordless power pack for Nikon S36 rangefinder camera
Naturally regardless integrated or not, it adds weight to the camera like the external power pack does and the only difference is whether the combined weight is integrated on single unit (camera/integral power pack) or distributed via external pack that is all. I am not sure if there were any other makers who produced integral power pack like the jpi Powercon console for the Nikon.
jpi Powrcon cordless power pack designed for Nikon rangefinder system S36 electric Motor Drive

Nikon SP w/S36 electric Motor Drive in chrome
Basic Specification for Nikon (Nippon Kogaku K.K.) S36 Electric Motor Drive:-

Type: Battery powered motor drive unit with integral film back for Single and multiple sequence exposures w/power connector jack (front and film back open/close lever, ASA dial and tripod socket at the base. Available in chrome or black finishing
Operation: Activated via shutter release button on camera, power pack or relay box. Auto stop at end of film set on counter; Selector lever for Single exposure, consecutive exposures and lock mechanism ; user's preset exposures provided with frames counter; not advisable on T and B setting.
Operating Voltage: 9v
Power Source: 1) Via external power pack 6 x 1.5v Type C; 2) compact portable pack
Dimension/Weight: S36 Motor Drive only: no info; Power Pack: no info

<<<--- Shown here in the Japanese edition NIKON S-Magazine with S36 motor drive in chrome without the unused cover at the bottom right section

Nikon S250 and S72 Electric Motor Drive Units

The NIKON S250 Electric Motor Drive shares many similarities such as in its appearance, dimension, features with the F250 Bulk Film Back designed for the NIKON F introduced a few years later in 1959. The obvious missing part is the shooting speed selector dial at the rear section as found in the F36. Bulk film requires other accessories such as Bulk Film Loader and others. Possibly due to its limited applications which may associate with professional use in news, sports, scientific research etc. , hence, possibly not many of these were being made. Further, rangefinder photography is not as convenient as in single lens reflex's advantage offers in direct viewing through the lens even with change of lenses, such as one would imagine it can be quite tedious using reflex housing for long tele-lenses. Anyway, perhaps the limited production of this special accessory had made the S250 such a scarce item to locate today for collectors.

NIKON S250 Motor Drive w/Bulk Film Back auctioned by Christie
Believe it or not, prior to the excellent pictures shown below, here is a rare glimpse of a NIKON S250 Motor Drive w/Bulk Film Back auctioned back in 2003 by Christie Auction House ( and this was the only photo you find from the Internet on the S250 ! ....
Comparing the NIKON F250 bulk film back with S250

Early NIKON rangefinder version of 250 bulk film back, the Nikon S250
Gorgeous ..isn't it ? perhaps, these few pictures of the NIKON S250 recently auctioned by weslicht auction can be regarded as the most detailed that you can find on the Internet today. Take note of the early K.L mode control selection dial found at the S250 rear control panel. The "K" here means continuous and was replaced with a more relative, universal alphabet, "C" later. Funny ..
Control panel on the Nikon S250
Nikon S-250 Electric Motor Drive, .1959" .... One of two known prototype S-250 motor drives for Nikon RF, the motor appeared for its first time at Christies auction in November 2003 and was bought by the famous Japanese collector Tad Sato, it is in excellent and fully original condition. A fully description with photographs is found in Robert Rotoloni 'The Complete Nikon Rangefinder System' page 436-440

Indicative pricing (2011) : - EUR 15.000 (Start price) / EUR 28.800 (Hammer price incl. premium)..." -
Westlicht Photographica Auction
NIKON rangefinder version of 250 bulk film back S250  various views

Nikon S-72 Electric Motor Drive Unit
NIKON S72 Motor Drive for NIKON S3M

If you think the S250 was rare and less applicable for day to day photography, in the eyes of many Nikon collectors may think the half frame-specific NIKON S72 built specially for the Nikon S3M could be even more appealing. Although the S3M was available in black but S72 could have been only being manufactured in chrome trim version only. It is not cheap in today's collector's market, if you can find one, where a reasonably good condition S72 could easily fetch similar price like the equally scarce S250. Power source options are similar to S36.
Side views and rear view of the half frame Nikon S72 motor drive
Control panel of the Nikon S72 electrc motor drive unit for rangefinder half frame Nikon S3M
Due to the nature of half frame, the S72 motor drive was specifically to be used for NIKON S3M only. Because it has less traveling space in horizontal travel shutter curtain, hence, it can deliver higher shooting rate than a conventional 24 x 36 Nikon S36. According to some reading references, up to 4.5 fps is possible in this combination. Another difference is the frame/exposure counter, which provides 72 frames instead of 36 (36 x 2 =72). Unless there are other things that I am not aware of, the rest of other major control features should be identical with the full frame S36.

Nikon S3M half frame illustration
I am not a hero and wouldn't like to pretend I am one as I AM JUST AN INFO COMPILER ON THINGS THAT INTEREST ME AS WELL AS FOR ALL TO SHARE COMMON RESOURCES, So, if any of you have some good content and/or Manual on the NIKON S36/S72/350 (with proper reference and permission to use), you can send to my web buddy, Rick and I will post them here with credit given. Further, if there are any mistakes made in this site , you may also help to rectify them so as to ensure accuracy of info being relayed to public CONTACT my long time web buddy:

I do have an Instruction Manual for the NIKON S3M in MIR site, but unfortunately, only in Japanese. I also had bought a digitized copy each of the Instruction Manual of F36/F250 from Jean-Louis Beek for me to confirm some info with the S36/S250 here; so unless you are absolutely broke you can ask me for a copy, or else you should spare USD5-00 for his good effort in scanning the manual, hehe ...
Bright line frame inside Nikon S3M
The corresponding bright line frame inside the finder with 35mm, 50mm and 105mm changes accordingly with the S3M.

Nikon S3M in chrome and black

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