Cosina is the successor to Nikō (or "Nikoh"), a company set up as a manufacturer of lenses in 1959. In 1966, it started to manufacture 35 mm compact cameras and 8 mm cine cameras, in 1968 it started a glassworks, and a year later started the manufacture of 35 mm film SLR cameras. Nikō changed its name to Cosina in 1973. (The first part of the name is a reference to the Koshi area within Nakano, where the founder came from; while the 'Na' represents Nakano.)
The name Cosina has previously appeared on compact and SLR cameras for 135 film. The CS-2 and CS-3 SLRs were introduced in 1978, followed in 1980 by the CT-1, CT-7 (The world's first all—push-button SLR), CT-10 and CT-20, the CT-1G in 1982 and the CT-9 in 1986. Cosina SLR cameras used either the M42 (Praktica/Pentax) lens mount or the Pentax K (bayonet) lens mount. However Cosina is probably better known as a manufacturer of cameras and camera components for other brands. During the late 1970s, Cosina made a name for itself in 35 mm rangefinder cameras with a well-built, high quality fixed-lens camera using an aluminum body and a simple shutter-priority autoexposure system. This rangefinder camera was adopted as the basic chassis for several excellent camera models, including the Minolta 7sII, Revue 400se, Prinz 35ER, and Vivitar 35ES.
In 1982 Cosina began to manufacture lenses in a variety of SLR manufacturers' lens mounts. In 1991 it started to produce glass molded aspheric lenses, and in 1996 plastic molded aspherical lenses. It began producing digital cameras in 1997.
At about this time, plans were started to produce a new 35 mm rangefinder camera, complete with wide and ultrawide lenses for the Leica screw mount, and also a basic camera — similar to a rangefinder camera but without a rangefinder or viewfinder — for mounting these. Having obtained the rights to the name Voigtländer from Ringfoto in Germany, Cosina introduced a Voigtländer 15 mm f/4.5 and 25 mm f/4 lens (neither of them rangefinder-coupled) and the Voigtländer Bessa L body in 1999. It quickly followed with a wider range of cameras (starting with the Bessa R, with viewfinder and rangefinder; and the Bessa T, with rangefinder but no viewfinder); and a set of lenses including the Heliar 12 mm f/5.6 lens, which on its introduction was the widest rectilinear lens ever marketed for still photography.
On April 26, 2010 Cosina joined the micro 4/3 group 
Cosina's "Voigtländer" products are sometimes referred to as Cosina Voigtländer.
The Voigtländer cameras and lenses have been of great personal interest to Kobayashi Hirofumi 小林博文 (b. 1953), the President of Cosina since the death in 1988 of his father Kobayashi Bunjirō (小林文治郎), the founder. The name Cosina now appears (conspicuously) on lenses for various SLR mounts, and less conspicuously on a widening range of cameras and lenses with the Voigtländer brand. Cosina manufactured a Rollei-branded rangefinder camera, and is acknowledged to have manufactured (and to have helped design) an Epson digital rangefinder camera as well. Its manufacture of a new Zeiss Ikon, Leica bayonet mount, rangefinder camera and Zeiss lenses in Leica bayonet mount was announced in October 2004, and it is already (April 2006) producing these. All these cameras use film showing Cosina's unique position in the market filling the gap in demand for high quality film cameras and support a technology that is still evolving.
Cosina is also well known for manufacturing 35 mm SLR cameras to the specifications of other manufacturers and distributors, such as the Canon T60, the Yashica FX-3 (1979), FX-3 Super, and Super 2000, the Nikon FM-10 and FE-10, the Olympus OM-2000, Konica TC-X, and various Vivitar models. A Cosina design, the 1982 Cosina CX-2, was copied by the Russian optical firm LOMO as the popular Lomo LC-A.
Cosina manufactures manual focus SLR lenses for Carl Zeiss with Leica (ZM), Nikon (ZF), Pentax (ZK), Canon EOS (ZE), and M42 screw mounts (ZS).
Cosina products are distributed in Japan by Kenko.
- COSINA CO., Ltd. Joins the Micro Four Thirds System Standard Group.
- Zeiss M-Mount Lenses, Luminous Landscape, January 2007, retrieved 2012-10-21
- List of distributors of Cosina's products
- Cosina instruction manuals from www.orphancameras.com
- Canon EOS Technoclopedia: Cosina AF Lenses for Canon EF - a lens chart with technical data, comments and test references