Inside the Nikon 1 factory in China

We take a first-hand look at how the Nikon 1 interchangeable lens camera is made in Nikon's Chinese factory.


Lexy Savvides

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Welcome to Wuxi

Did you know that almost every part of the Nikon 1 camera is pieced together by hand?

We were invited to take a behind-the-scenes look at how Nikon produces its cameras in China. In an era of machine-produced devices, it's fascinating to see that some things are still produced by hand.

The Nikon 1 is the company's name for its range of interchangeable lens cameras. There are two models, the J1 and V1, each catering to a slightly different user. Find out more about the range in our hands-on gallery.

Alexandra Savvides travelled to China as a guest of Nikon.

The Nikon factory is located in the New District of Wuxi, a city 130km west of Shanghai. Surrounded by other consumer electronics companies, like Panasonic and Sony, the Nikon factory sits on a vast area of land that's just over 97,000 square metres.

Apart from producing the Nikon 1 range and lenses, the factory also assembles some of the compact Coolpix cameras. The other five Nikon factories in Asia produce different products: Japan concentrates on high-end digital SLRs and lenses, while Thailand produces some Coolpix and entry-level SLRs.

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Top secret

Each day, just under 8300 employees travel to and from the factory on 130 dedicated Nikon buses. Approximately 80 per cent of the workforce is female, with an average age of 25 years old. Everyone works an eight-hour shift, with an hour for lunch and intermittent 15-minute breaks throughout the day or night. Due to the strict security measures at the factory, no recording devices are allowed in to document proceedings. The following images have been provided by Nikon.

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Made in China

That inconspicuous tag that adorns many consumer technology goods certainly takes on a different meaning when observing the construction first-hand. Rows of workers all dressed in regulation grey uniform, cap and mask line up side by side to piece together every component of the Nikon 1 cameras. Special shoes worn by everyone, including visitors to the factory, ensure that dust and foreign objects entering the space are kept to an absolute minimum.

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It's all in the hands

There's one incredibly precise worker who performs the amazing process of hand painting the Nikon logo onto the front panel of cameras such as the P300. It's a lot harder than it looks, with the ink needing to be fed out at just the right rate to ensure a clean and accurate finish. Next time you look at one of these cameras, take a moment to appreciate just how much craftsmanship goes into making one.

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Piece by piece

It's like watching a bespoke process take place, as each worker takes responsibility for a particular component of the production. There's an area dedicated to painting the moulded plastic components in the colours of the cameras, in white, red, pink and silver. In another, one worker places screws into the hotshoe mount of the V1.

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In focus

The Wuxi factory has a plethora of rooms dedicated to parts and assembly processes. Here, a worker assembles a 10-30mm lens, which has already been painted white to match the body colour of the Nikon V1 and J1. There are seven separate steps that go into producing a lens ready for the Coolpix range.

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Under construction

Nikon is producing three times as many J1 units as the more expensive V1, indicated by the number of workspaces dedicated to the smaller model.

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Bits and pieces

The J1 contains 182 separate parts, not including the lens, while the V1 has 195, which gives some indication of why there are so many workers dedicated to each step of the construction.

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Rules and regulations

Apart from not allowing recording devices into the factory, workers also pass security checks as they enter and exit the building each day. Rows of regulation mugs labelled with individual red stickers sit nearby a wall of lockers, providing another visual indication of just how many employees the Wuxi factory houses.

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Inspection time

Rigorous quality control processes ensure that every camera is tested to exacting standards.

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The level of precision required for each element of the camera is incredible. Typically, an employee will repeat their particular process in the chain many times a day. That the product produced at the end of the shift is as precise as that done at the beginning when workers are at their freshest is a testament to the skill of these employees.

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