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The real king of darkness: Nikon D700 with special night vision system

Credit: U.S. Navy photo by David Rush

Popphoto has an interesting article about US military photographers. The picture above is of a Nikon D700 with a Nightstalker II night vision system by Tactical Solutions LLC:

"Other lessons involve proper techniques for using cameras in conjunction with night-vision gear. Simple but potentially serious errors include failing to turn off the camera’s autofocus-assist lamp, which can overwhelm night-vision users with brightness and reveal the unit’s position to the enemy. Cameras with night-vision lenses lack AF systems—they focus manually. And setting exposure for night-vision cameras can be tricky."

Update: some images taken with this (and other similar equipment) can be seen at www.dlyost.com.

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  • FX DX

    Just got a D700 and love it.

    • thery

      Congratulations on the purchase. You may love it now.. but wait until you learn it down solid.. You’ll love it even more.

      • texajoe

        +100

        • Steph

          I’ve got my D700 for about 3 months now and it’s a very nice camera, absolutely love it.

          • No

            Got mine in September also picked up an F100, love both.

    • Hendog

      Tipping point for me has come…. I’m gonna get me a d700 :) I don’t like the idea of a 36mp D800 at $4000. Just wish I had got one a year ago! Hopefully the price will come down a bit when the D800 comes out. D700. Joy!

      • http://haroldellis4444@gmail.com Harold Ellis

        for those who dont need studio cam or iso 100 there will be D700s.

        • Hendog

          Oh please let that be the case…. I guess there’s no rumors whatsoever yet for such a camera though. Nikon should not deprive the D700 market of such a thing. It would be great if they launched them both at the same time. D800x and D800s. The aliasing filter/non aliasing filter option sounds unlikely somehow, perhaps it’s actually 2 entirely different models 16mp/36mp? Let’s hope so.

        • PJS

          Sorry – no 700s – the 700 is obsolete as of now. Enjoy your next DSLR – video whether you want it or not; $4K out the door…

          • FX DX

            Seriously? Just because Nikon is about to release D800 makes D700 obsolete. I will try to take some pictures on the D800 announcement date to make sure that the camera is powering up.

            My problem is not with the video. I love video very much and I would like to have in my DSLR; my problem is $4000 price tag. I think I will keep my obsolete D700 if the price of D800 is not sub $3000.

          • Mark

            Clearly, saying something is obsolete is merely a reference to that fellow’s sense of fashion. If he were a real photographer he would never make such a comment. A real photographer sees his/her equipment as mere tools to an end though they be treated with great respect.

            I have a D700 after using my FM and F3HP for years. I would not go back because the film cameras can’t capture night or indoor shots of people as well, even with high ISO film. This is simply my experience.

            If one thinks that video makes non-video cameras obsolete, then he be a fool.

            The D700 will go on for years as it should. And it does not need 36mp. Never fear buying a D700 because something new may come along in the future. It is a great camera and it will stretch any photographer, pro or otherwise.

            • PJS

              By all definition, the D700 is Obsolete. I still use my antique F5, so it doesn’t mean “unusable”. But you won’t be seeing anymore firmware updates on the D700…

              ob·so·lete/ˌäbsəˈlēt/Verb: Cause (a product or idea) to be or become obsolete by replacing it with something new: “we’re obsoleting last year’s designs”.
              Adjective: No longer produced or used; out of date.
              Synonyms: antiquated – out-of-date – outdated – old-fashioned

            • No

              you’re just not getting it.

            • Jim

              I think I will go back to my 4 x 5 field camera and be really obsolete – hand held light meters, etc. too.

            • http://www.flickr.com/genotypewriter genotypewriter

              “real photographer”? lol

              If you like your 12MP-rated, sub-12MP camera then it’s fine… just don’t call people fake because they want something that doesn’t even give the resolution of 35mm film.

            • http://www.flickr.com/genotypewriter genotypewriter

              Typo… I meant they *don’t* want…

            • Jim

              Perfectly said, Mark!

    • Hom Thogan

      Glad to see someone at last not whinning about cameras that aren’t yet in the market! Enjoy it a whole lot mate the D700 will serve you well and you will love it!

  • http://ronscubadiver.wordpress.com Ron Scubadiver

    I love my D700 too, but I can probably pass on the spy lens. It must take some pretty spooky pictures. I guess there are no good rumors around, since this is what is on the menu.

  • http://www.zinchuk.ca Zinchuk

    It’s getting late in the Christmas season, and nothing came out other than an update to a flash, so we’re probably rumored out till January.

  • Gareth

    i would be interested to see some of the captured images.

    and where is the focus ring

    • http://500px.com/StephenMeese Stephen

      The cap you see on the front has a small pinhole that pretty much works as an aperture ring and puts everything in focus, but it also limits your visibility and everything is darker… for obvious reasons :)

      The cap is removable which reveals the focus ring. It is very small.

      And the images aren’t going to be all that exciting. Well, at first they are ;)

  • bratvlad

    The fact that they use D700 in a military. That says something about the build quality of the camera.

    • Anonymous

      Great observation!! Nikon does build them like tanks :)

      • http://500px.com/StephenMeese Stephen

        They use EVERYTHING in the military. I’ve seen PAO guys (that’s army Public Affairs Office) with the D300s and some panasonic Lumix (I think it was the GH2). To my knowledge the more elite, if you want to call them that, typically use the D700 or D300s. But I wouldn’t call them elite :)

      • http://micahmedia.com Micah

        …after 9 months of repairs, I’ve learned that the D700 is definitely a tank. A tank that you don’t ever want to put water in.

  • http://micahmedia.com Micah

    This is neat info, but I have to say I’m shocked that they’d be using any of the current FX cams, since they all have such loud shutters. Even my old D90 and D70 were quieter. My new D7000 is always along for performances for this reason.

    Wonder how tough something like this is to build? That’s passive ya?

    Looks like a well loved unit. Cool stuff.

    • thery

      I think their last worry is the sound of the shutter.. Specially with all those machien guns firing.. and bombs dropping.. and tanks rolling and screams coming out of wounded soliders.. lol

      • Laird Knox

        Think surveillance.

        Not sure they need a lot of stills of a battle scene after the fact.

      • http://hashbr0wn.deviantart.com/ benjamin

        if you’re in recon, you wouldnt even want to crunch a leaf.. perhaps with a tele it’d be more useful

        • thery

          though i doubt they use these for recon work.

    • Anthony

      Guys, It’s night vision! They can take the mirror off. Maybe thats how Nikon mirrorless started.

      • iamlucky13

        I enjoyed the article, but was disappointed it didn’t talk about modifications to the camera.

        Another good one would be strip the Bayer filter. That give you another stop or two of low light performance.

        It potentially would also let you use conventional lenses with infrared lights to achieve night vision without the amplifier scope. You’d probably get higher overall image quality as a result.

        • http://www.flickr.com/genotypewriter genotypewriter

          The Bayer filter is not something that can be removed like the lowpass/IR filters. If you don’t want it, the sensor needs to be made like that.

          But no… it doesn’t not mean you can use conventional lenses with IR lights. An IR filter can be in place even if the camera has no Bayer filter. That aside, regular lenses don’t have trouble in IR because of the Bayer filter… most of the time the problem is in the lens itself.

      • Calibrator

        Live view illuminating the face of the soldier using it? Are you kidding?

        • wublili

          Live view can be fitted with eyepiece also.

          http://www.kjs-store.com/viewitem.php?productid=293

        • http://ph.otographer.com George

          Interestingly, when you have this scope attached to the camera, even without live view (I had it attached to a Fuji S3 Pro) the light from the viewfinder illuminates your face

  • http://natdes.com NaturalDesigns

    Great article. I wanna play like that.

  • Don

    Can I buy this lens at Army/Navy Surplus?

    • Tony

      You can buy any US made surveillance tech but you would need to qualify as a bonafide dictator or a corrupt government to qualify. If you plan to use it to silence your opponents then I think you just need an oil pipeline and a credit card.

      • Andre

        Love it!!!!!

      • http://ph.otographer.com George

        Actually this scope / lens cannot be sent out of the US. It costs a couple of grand to buy and there’s a vigorous export restriction.

  • sgts

    it says even more about the military that their trained personnel use a camera while wearing sunglasses.

  • T.I.M

    OMG, this is a mutilation, I’m calling 911
    :)

  • peterb

    Be thankful for the democratization caused by the Internet. Why else would this be in a pubic publication, much less out there where any scmuck with $5.00 can learn even more about the tools we use to protect the pursuit of happiness.

    • Tony

      “protect the pursuit of happiness” lol, this gear and much worse is sold by the US to every despot on the planet. “The real king of darkness” …lol

      • Front line

        Yeh I blame Obama

  • http://grandejr.com stephen grande jr

    just put some gaff tape over the af assist lamp

    • WoutK89

      My thoughts exactly

    • broxibear

      Reminds me of that story about nasa spending millions to develop a pen that would work in zero gravity…the Russians…they just used a pencil ?

      • Urban legend?

        And they spend $200 billion rubles developing a pencil sharpener that works in zero gravity.

        • Ant

          Why would a bog-standard pencil sharpener not work in zero gravity?

      • T.I.M

        @broxibear
        BIC (french compagny that also make lighters) have ball pens that can write in space but they cost almost 50 cents each !
        :)

      • http://blackbeardben.smugmug.com Blackbeard Ben

        This “story” you have heard is false – unfortunately it is falsely used as an attempt at exposing supposed wasteful spending within NASA:

        “During the first NASA missions the astronauts used pencils. For Project Gemini, for example, NASA ordered mechanical pencils in 1965 from Tycam Engineering Manufacturing, Inc., in Houston. The fixed price contract purchased 34 units at a total cost of $4,382.50, or $128.89 per unit. That created something of a controversy at the time, as many people believed it was a frivolous expense. NASA backtracked immediately and equipped the astronauts with less costly items.

        During this time period, Paul C. Fisher of the Fisher Pen Co. designed a ballpoint pen that would operate better in the unique environment of space. His new pen, with a pressurized ink cartridge, functioned in a weightless environment, underwater, in other liquids, and in temperature extremes ranging from -50 F to +400 F.

        Fisher developed his space pen with no NASA funding. The company reportedly invested about $1 million of its own funds in the effort then patented its product and cornered the market as a result.

        Fisher offered the pens to NASA in 1965, but, because of the earlier controversy, the agency was hesitant in its approach. In 1967, after rigorous tests, NASA managers agreed to equip the Apollo astronauts with these pens. Media reports indicate that approximately 400 pens were purchased from Fisher at $6 per unit for Project Apollo.

        The Soviet Union also purchased 100 of the Fisher pens, and 1,000 ink cartridges, in February 1969, for use on its Soyuz space flights. Previously, its cosmonauts had been using grease pencils to write in orbit.

        Both American astronauts and Soviet/Russian cosmonauts have continued to use these pens.

        Fisher continues to market his space pens as the writing instrument that went to the Moon and has spun off this effort into a separate corporation, the Fisher Space Pen Co.

        Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
        For further information email histinfo@hq.nasa.gov

        http://history.nasa.gov/spacepen.html

        So not only were pressurized pens invented by a private company, they were sold to both NASA and the Russian space program (during the cold war, even) as a way to SAVE money! In fact, the article doesn’t mention it but pencils (even mechanical) have their own potentially deadly problem in space: dangerous loose debris from flakes of the graphite (or grease) getting into sensitive equipment. So this was a two-in-one deal for NASA, actually.

        • T.I.M

          Very interresting ! Thank you !

          You seems to know alot about space.

          I always wondering how astonauts deal with farting in space.
          Does the smell goes away after a while as it does on earth or does the gases stay around because of the zero gravity ?
          Any idea ?
          :)

          • David Hirsh

            @T.I.M

            You made me think of the book “Packing For Mars – The Curious Science of Life in the Void” by Mary Roach. I read it recently.

            It is a hilarious, yet informative look at exactly this type of thing (along with a host of others). She’s one of my favorite authors, and has a couple other great oddball science-related books as well.

            Cheers,

            David Hirsh

          • mooboy

            @ T.I.M.

            I now have an image of Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong looking at each other suspiciously as they’re landing down on the moon.

            For urban legends, I find snopes a good place to start:
            http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/spacepen.asp

            It didn’t tell me who was the first man to fart on the moon though.

        • broxibear

          “This “story” you have heard is false”
          I know..but it’s pretty funny though lol.

    • Hurt Durr

      Or turn it off in settings

  • Bjrichus

    Wouldn’t it be interesting if they strapped it on some kind of weapon?

    Be interesting in the hands of a sniper … Here is a portrait of you just before I shot you.

    • http://500px.com/StephenMeese Stephen

      Lol, you actually have it somewhat backwards. This is a modified version of what is commonly used by military personnel already. Except instead of it being mounted on the weapon, this sort of visual aid is attached to the helmet while the weapon, i.e. and M4 or an M16, will have an invisible beam (I believe IR) pointed in the same direction as the weapon. You simply point it at whatever you want to shoot and you see where you’ll hit in you NVG’s attached to your helmet. The sniper rifle on the other hand will probably have a thermal sight.

      :)

      • Calibrator

        Probably the same kind of stuff Osama used while resisting his arrest…

        • regular

          bullshit, they wanted him dead, plain and simple.

  • borneoaddict

    ouch, the Nikon D700 now a tool of imperialism….

    • Ric

      Yeah Baby,

      Now all we need is sharks with fricken lasers!

    • http://micahmedia.com Micah

      …every tool is a weapon if you hold it right.

  • NikonTheAvenger

    The new Batman toy.

  • jg

    I’m green with envy.

  • http://www.modifiedphotographics.com Jason

    I enjoy the fact that the “lens” has a tactical rail mounting system on the top of it.

  • Dweeb

    I was just glancing at that article a few hours ago. Note they use a skylight filter but no lense hood in the field. Also no GPS unit.

    But they do use Nikons, just like Canada. ;-)

  • joe

    Cool that nvgs can come in f-mount… but if they’re as crappy as the ones they give us in the marine corps, I can imagine the novelty wearing off real quick :-)

  • Erik

    A D700 with a Picatinny rail = bad ass in my book!

  • Russ

    Just switch to continuous AF mode. Then they’ll never need worry about the AF illuminator. Either than or stove it in with a brick.

  • kaze kaze

    be afard, be very afard… wa haha hahah aha ha

    joke aside, now, the lack of electronic contacts and aparture ring… mean the exposure is done by manual, correct? and for someone with that capacity to “potentially serious errors include failing to turn off the camera’s autofocus-assist lamp, which can overwhelm night-vision users with brightness and reveal the unit’s position to the enemy” may be he need to be sent back to college, if I was the tech, there are few things better to do, 1) have firmware to permently turn off the lamp; 2) taped it up (go camo); 3) just remove the “electronics contacts”…

  • TheBearJew

    The A.C.O.G. will fit on top, where to attach the m9?

    • http://500px.com/StephenMeese Stephen

      Why would you want to attach an M9?

  • broxibear

    The winner of the 2011 Army Photographic Competition – Sgt Rupert Frere from 16 Air Assault Brigade – has been talking to British Forces News about his experiences on the frontline…
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utRDiTsEQvE
    Looks like a couple of D3s

  • http://www.yes-pictures.com Emilien

    looking sexy!

  • silmasan

    Gorgeous!

    but.. what’s that 120 film roll doing back there? :D

    • http://micahmedia.com Micah

      BWAHAHAHA! You had me goin for a second…I believe those are actually smoke grenades.

  • Landscape Photo

    Does this D700 combo produce the infamous green & grainy night shots (possibly based on UV detection & amplification) ?

    Surely not sort of art images :)

    • regular

      infrared, not UV.

  • WILSON

    For any assassins out there I think modifying a camera to be a gun would be pretty sick (if it were used in killing bad ppl) cause you could sneak in a camera gun with a filter screwed on in front of the gun barrel (said barrel inside lens and camera body casing) so that it just looked like a camera and have some way of using the viewfinder as a scope and then get to sniping b@$&hes

  • thery
  • simpleguy

    maybe with this equipment , you can see the d800 out from the dark

    • JonMcG

      +1!!

  • Johan Irvall

    Really adds a new way to why it’s called “point and shoot”.

  • sgts

    aye broxi – just like the gers spent 11m on flo and we got larson for buttons lol

  • El Nikonista

    ugly

    Make peace pictures not war pictures

  • Ken Fockwell

    Forget the AF-assist lamp…… an enemy can hear the D700′s mirror slap from 50 miles away!

  • fred

    A surveillance team using a camera with a loud mechanical shutter, relying on a menu option to avoid giving away their position? I’m not buying this for one second. Total PR piece.

  • Doug

    Anyone know who makes that strap? says “KEEPER” something or other.

  • http://www.createdbylove.com/ Lewis

    I thought it would be bigger.

  • http://www.photosbygregstrong.com DeathK

    My brother owns a multi-thousand dollar gen 4 night vision monocular. It’s a pretty sweet piece of kit. The stuff you can see at night is amazing. Great for star gazing :)

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