Kiron Lenses - History


The company was set up as a U.S. subsidiary of Kino Precision Industries Limited, Tokyo, Japan and registered as a trademark on Jan 25 1980, in order to market manually focused film camera optical lenses to the United States. Kino Precision was originally formed by a group of engineers formerly employed at Nikon, who had developed their own designs for 35mm (24x36mm)-film-format camera lenses. These lenses were offered in a variety of camera mounts to fit a number of different Japanese cameras, including Canon, Contax, Konica, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, and Pentax.

Originally, Kino Precision manufactured some of the now-famous Series 1 manual focus lenses under contract for Vivitar, a U.S. lens distributor of after-market film lenses for 35mm cameras. However, after the positive reception from consumers on Vivitar Series 1 lenses, the company believed the time was right to successfully market lenses to fit existing 35mm Japanese film cameras under their own brand, Kiron. Kiron soon became known as one of the very few after-market lens manufacturers that could supply products equal to or even exceeding the optical and mechanical quality of the original manufacturer. In particular, the Kiron 28mm/2.0, the 105mm/2.8 1:1 macro, the 28-210mm/4.0-5.6 and the 3.8-5.6 varifocal zoom, and the 28-85mm/2.8-3.8 varifocal macro zoom lenses were praised in contemporary reviews of the day for their superb optical resolution and clarity, as well as mechanical quality.

Although reasonably priced for the level of quality offered, Kiron manual focus lenses were never economy-level products, and were always made and assembled in Japan. As such, Kiron lenses produced during the 1980s were normally priced only slightly below lenses offered by the camera manufacturers themselves. Later, Vivitar itself would purchase some Kiron/Kino lens designs, (such as the Kiron 105mm f/2.8 macro lens, re-labeled as the Vivitar 100mm f/2.8 macro and the Vivitar 105mm/2.5 (1:1) macro lenses), and offered them for sale under the Vivitar brand.

The increasing cost of quality lens manufacture in Japan led to a loss of sales for Kiron, as the company could no longer offer its lenses at a cost less than that charged by the camera manufacturers, who had begun to offer economy-level lens designs as well as contracting lens assembly operations in lower-cost factories outside Japan. Additionally, the 35mm camera market was in flux by the late 1980s, and 35mm camera manufacturers were transitioning to autofocus lens designs. By 1988, the company decided to discontinue after-market 35mm camera lens production to concentrate on industrial and other markets.

In 1989 Kino Precision Industries merged with 'Melles Griot Japan' to form 'Kino-Melles Griot'.

In 1995 the firm has changed its name to 'Melles Griot Ltd', and subsequently became a member of CVI Melles Griot Group in 2007.

In June 2011 Illinois-based IDEX Corporation completed its $400 million acquisition of the laser and optical component maker CVI Melles Griot from its previous owner, the private equity firm Norwest Equity Partners.

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