Nikon is no stranger to teasers, having released bits and pieces of information about many of its products ahead of their full reveals. The company’s latest peek reveals a lens sporting a brand-new name: “Plena.” However, does not reveal key details about the lens.
Alongside the name, Nikon has also shown off the lens’ font. While font selection may not usually shed much light on a yet-to-be-announced product, it is likely instructive in this case. Nikon has used the same cursive font with its Nikkor Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct lens, the company’s super-fast $8,000 prime lens that offers an industry-leading aperture and some of the most gorgeous bokeh ever.
The teaser video shows the new optic, although never with quite enough clarity to deduce important aspects of the lens. There is no indication of the lens’ focal length or aperture. However, it appears to lack a zoom ring, so the smart money is on the Plena being a prime. Given that the person in the video is mesmerized by soft bokeh, a fast aperture is also a safe bet.
Will the Plena go the way of the Noct and include only manual focus? That remains unclear.
Nikon has also shared a bit of text beneath its cursive “Plena” logo: “Image and imagination overflowing with creativity.”
The final bit of information that Nikon reveals in the teaser video is a date and time, September 27 at midnight (ET), signaling when Nikon will fully reveal the Nikkor Plena lens.
What is ‘Plena’?
What does “Plena” mean? While the text in Nikon’s teaser is presented like it is a definition of the word, it is not. What “plena” means in reality is not anywhere near as straightforward a question as one might hope. For starters, the word is not in the American English dictionary, although it is a word in some British English dictionaries.
Even so, there are a couple of ideas worth exploring that may reveal Nikon’s motivation for selecting the “Plena” name.
One possible impetus of the name is that plena is a genre of music and dance that originated in Puerto Rico. If someone searches “plena” on Google, most results will connect in some way to plena music.
According to Smithsonian, “Plena developed from bomba music around the beginning of the 20th century in southern Puerto Rico. Plena lyrics are narrative. They convey a story about events, address topical themes, often comment on political protest movements, and offer satirical commentaries.” For what it is worth, bomba and plena are both percussion-driven musical traditions, and like plena, bomba also often features narrative elements.
The Classic Journal from the University of Georgia notes that plena music has been called “el periodico cantado,” which translates to “the sung newspaper,” due to the musical genre’s story-driven spirit.
Stories are critical to still and motion photography, so this could be at least part of the inspiration behind Nikon’s new lens.
Plena also has ancient philosophical and metaphysical roots that closely connect to the teaser video. “Image and imagination overflowing with creativity,” says Nikon
Plena, the plural of plenum, refers to space filled with matter in some schools of ancient philosophy and, to this day, still refers to the general condition or quality of being full. The concept of fullness is related to Nikon’s reference to something overflowing. After all, fullness is a necessary precondition for something to overflow.
A fourth meaning of plena, or plenum, that is fascinating is that it can refer to an enclosure containing gas held at a higher pressure than its surrounding environment. While that is interesting as it relates to photographic equipment — a pressurized lens tickles the imagination — other meanings are worthy of more attention.
Derived from Latin, plenum, a space filled by matter, could also reasonably relate to an optical design. The Noct, for example, is filled to the gills with glass.
This interpretation of “plena” is not very artistic in and of itself. While old theories on metaphysics and contemporary ideas about how matter occupies space are undoubtedly intriguing, Nikon co-opting a term with roots in Aristotelian philosophy and marketing a product around the idea that all space, whether on a small scale or the cosmos at large, contain no voids would be surprising. However, tying the idea of fullness to the idea of something overflowing with creative energy and an excess of imagination, is much more artistic and inspiring.
Time will tell if the “Plena” takes on a life of its own in the way that “Noct” has for Nikon. “There is nothing quite like the Noct lens,” writes Nikon Ambassador Joe McNally. Will photographers or filmmakers down the road say the same thing about Nikon Plena? Nikon surely hopes so.
In the meantime, Nikon has created a situation ripe for speculation by revealing very little about whatever it has up its sleeve. There is always a risk when a company leaves so much to the imagination — imagination can easily outpace engineering.
Then again, Nikon has been creating incredible products for over a century. Taken another way, this short teaser with practically no substance — if Aristotle’s worldview even allows such a thing to exist — may signal extreme confidence on Nikon’s part. The company must believe whatever it reveals will live up to unrestrained expectations and fuel artistic expression in a wholly novel way. A company does not break out a brand-new model name without a good reason.
Photographers will not have to wait long to find out precisely the reason for Nikon’s boldness. The Nikon Plena will be fully revealed on September 27 at 12 AM ET.