Image courtesy of Nikon Corp.
Nikon USA has added an interesting and candid introspective on the development of the Zoom-Nikkor 1200-1700mm f/5.6-8P IFED. The company describes how a 'competitor' (Canon) had introduced a 1200mm f/5.6 specifically for shooting pictures from the photographers' seats at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture in Japan and that the Zoom-Nikkor 1200-1700mm had been built in direct competition.
Interestingly, Nikon refer to the Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 optic has having a built-in (1.4x) teleconverter (operated by a lever), in effect offering a 1700mm f8 option (actually 1680mm f/8), but Nikon wanted to outdo Canon and offer a zoom covering the same range.
What's interesting? Well apart from the fact the Nikon zoom was a manual focus lens and the Canon was a AF lens, I don't recall the Canon having a built-in converter at all and I've seen one up close with a camera attached (though, admittedly, I didn't have the opportunity to actually take pictures with it).
Second, I've not heard that version of the events before. Indeed, I heard the lens was introduced for the 1992 Olympics (with the lens going on 'sale' in 1993 for approximately $78,500 - just think how many affiliate links you would of seen if the net and the rumor sites existed back then), but that doesn't appear to be the case, at all.
Ironically, several Canon-equipped picture agencies (including Reuters) bought the lens and adapted it for use with Canon cameras (it was a MF lens after all). But, Nikon may be having the last laugh now, as I had heard Reuters were using 'the beast', as they call it, with the Nikon D3X*. As one of only two-or-three AI-P lenses (as opposed to the earlier AI-S type), the 1200-1700mm was equipped with a CPU and corresponding electrical contacts for multimode operation (Tv, Av and Program exposure modes). Even now the D3X, D800 and D4 would work perfectly with it, albeit without AF of course.
*Amendment: 02 October, 2012. I've heard from a friend of mine at Reuters, and he says that while they did some in-house testing with the D3X and D4, they continue to use the Canon EOS-1D Mk IV, and now the EOS-1D X with Novoflex converters citing workflow reasons (they are a Canon-based agency after all).