At the end of 2009, Nikon managed to secure a nice little order from NASA for a bunch of D3S digital cameras and seven of its AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lenses. These were destined to be whisked off into space for photographic documentation.
Nikon quite rightly made a bit of a song and dance about this order. After all, if you want to show off how well your cameras cope with low light and how durable they are, what better client to have than NASA?
Now, humble Earthlings are being given the chance to have a look at some of the rather spectacular images taken by astronauts on the International Space Station. To date, NASA has captured more than 700,000 images with its own Nikon equipment, showing off the D3S’ noise suppression features and how well it’s able to cope with the low-light conditions of space.
Generous ISO sensitivity is no doubt a bonus when you’re in orbit. As well as supporting standard ISO sensitivity settings of 200 to 12800, the D3S can also be set as high as Hi 3 (ISO 102400 equivalent) or as low as Lo 1 (ISO 100 equivalent).
Of course, on the International Space Station it’s a bit more difficult to replace items in your camera bag if the unfortunate happens, so it’s essential to be well stocked. As well as exhibiting a selection of its most awe-inspiring images, NASA has also given us an insight into its list of kit currently circling the Earth. At the moment the Nikon products kept aboard the ISS include:
- 1 unmodified, standard consumer Nikon D3S digital-SLR camera for capturing images of the surface of the earth and night-time scenes
- 8 modified Nikon D2Xs digital-SLR cameras
- 36 NIKKOR lenses (including three teleconverters)
- 7 SB-800 Speedlights
- 4 D2Xs eyepieces (made exclusively for NASA to enable viewing through a space helmet)
NASA’s relationship with Nikon began back in 1971, when the Photomic FTN was first used on Apollo 15. More recently, in 2008 a shipment of D2Xs dSLR cameras were ordered. Eight of those original bodies are still used in space today.