New images from space captured with Nikon D3S

You can see the rest of the images here (credit: NASA).

The full press release after the break:

MELVILLE, NY (July 7, 2010) – The images exhibited were captured with equipment, including Nikon D3S digital-SLR cameras, NIKKOR lenses, Speedlights and other accessories, kept aboard the ISS. To date, NASA has captured more than 700,000 images with Nikon equipment carried into space. Among these many images, those rare and precious photos that can only be captured from space, as well as those captured under the extremely low-light conditions of space that exhibit the superior image quality of D3S noise suppression features are introduced.

Nikon has spent many years contributing to NASA's study of space through the development and manufacture of advanced and extremely durable cameras and NIKKOR lenses. Production of NIKKOR lenses, which make the most of Nikon’s optical technologies, reached fifty million units last September. Nikon’s history with NASA began with the Nikon Photomic FTN?, a modified Nikon F camera that was used aboard the Apollo 15 in 1971. Nikon’s relationship with NASA continued even with the transition to digital when NASA placed orders for Nikon D2XS digital-SLR cameras in 2008. These cameras are still being used in space today. In 2009, NASA ordered eleven D3S cameras and seven AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lenses for use in recording activities aboard the Space Shuttle and International Space Station. The D3S cameras were the same products available to consumers with no special modifications, and they were delivered to the ISS via the Space Shuttle Discovery launched on April 5, 2010.

Nikon products kept aboard the ISS

  • 1 Nikon D3S digital-SLR camera: Delivered to the ISS via the Discovery with Space Shuttle mission STS-131, which returned on April 20, 2010. Images are primarily those of the surface of the earth and nighttime scenes. Standard consumer product (no modifications).
  • 8 Nikon D2XS digital-SLR cameras: Modified according to NASA specifications for recording extravehicular activities (EVA)
  • 36 NIKKOR lenses (including three teleconverters)
  • 7 SB-800 Speedlights
  • 4 D2XS eyepieces: Eyepieces made exclusively for NASA Special eyepiece viewfinders that enable image framing and verification through a space helmet with extravehicular activities.
  • Miscellaneous (filters, cables, etc.)

Primary images captured by Nikon products

Image of extravehicular activities on the STS-131 mission. View of astronauts, as they work to tie down an Ammonia Tank Assembly on the International Space Station during STS-131 spacewalk.

Nikon's history with NASA

  • 1971: Nikon Photomic FTN* (NASA specifications) was used on Apollo 15
  • 1980: The “Small Camera”, based on the Nikon F3 and equipped with a motor drive, and the F3 "Big Camera", which utilized long film, were delivered to NASA. The “Small Camera” was used aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia launched the following year.
  • 1991: The Nikon F4 and F4S were delivered to NASA
  • 1999: The Nikon F5 and AI AF Nikkor lens were carried aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery to photograph extravehicular activities (EVA)
  • 2008: D2XS digital-SLR cameras were delivered to NASA. Eight D2XS cameras are still used in space to document activities such as inspections and maintenance operations.
  • In addition, approximately 15 types of lenses, more than 35 all together, are kept aboard the International Space Station for intra- and extravehicular photography that supports NASA’s space activities.
This entry was posted in Nikon D3s and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • one day that’ll be me taking those pictures

    • AJ

      Yeah, taking pictures of me.

  • injurytime

    7x sb800?
    why don’t they use sb900?

    • Because it overheats and shuts down?

    • Anonymous

      There’s no light falloff if there’s not particles to get in the way. Any flash will do.

      • Jose

        Look at the low noise level in this pictures specially in dark space.


        José V López

  • Sia

    None of these pictures look print worthy…

    • john

      And your post doesn’t look post worthy, yet you found the need to post it.

    • injurytime

      Nah … they’re astronouts, not photographer 😛

      • Exactly… 🙂

      • iamlucky13

        They do go through a photo class, but as far as I know it’s mainly to make sure everyone can use the cameras competently, and definitely not about teaching photography as an art. They use the cameras for historical documentation, engineering purposes, and basic science imaging.

        I don’t remember any names now, but I’m pretty sure I’ve read a couple astronaut biographies where they list photography as one of their hobbies. They probably get pretty stoke about playing with these cameras.

  • Click

    Hell, I could have taken those good of photos with some of the newer Cell Phone cameras and saved the Taxpayer tons of our hard earned money. Have you ever seen the Government do anything right though? What the heck are they doing up there anyway, in the past we would at least get some rocks brought back from the moon for our tax dollars, now we just get photo’s sent back. Why did Nasa purchase all this new Nikon Gear when they are discontinuing the Shuttle Program. Didn’t Obama just task NASA with improving Muslim relationships earlier in the week.

    Hopefully when they empty the on board port a potty they are doing it over IRAN (Achmadinajad’s Palace)… ha ha..

    • JBR

      So you really think that NASA payed full price, or even payed at all? Nikon is obviously getting huge marketing value out of this and is either giving them big discounts or all the gear for free. No reason to bring out the “our governement is doing a horrible job”-card on this one 🙂

      • Click

        If you read the post above, it clearly stated a couple of times that NASA “ordered” the equipment from Nikon. That indicates to me that they paid some type of price for the equipment. Surely the advertisement was icing on the cake but most all companies that do business with the US Government charge real good money for products and/or services. We’re having roads paved in our area here in Florida, the government is paying ONE Million bucks per mile to have them paved or re-surfaced, charity huh?? You would think that NASA would have ordered Nikon’s premiere DSLR (D3X) to capture all that space in it’s glory but they ordered the lesser or should I say cheaper D3s. That sure seems to show me that the D3x is way overpriced and it didn’t have any video, that’s why they aren’t selling them in any numbers. Does Nikon have it wrong, is the D3s the premiere DSLR or is it the D3x I am really confused?

        I’m hoping for a D3s sensor in a D700 body, that would work for me with or without video but only time will tell.

        • JBR

          ***edited by admin – please, keep it clean guys*** How much light do you think there is in outer space? A lot or a little? What camera would you prefer if you had very little light? The D3s or the D3x? If you were in outer space and didn’t have access to a new camera if the one you had broke would you rather want a proven and well tested camera than one which came out fairly recently? And let’s not go into the why this and that state is paying this and that for pavement of roads. The whole system is flawed as it is.

          And lastly, no the word order doesn’t mean that they payed for it at all. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, but the word order does not imply in any way that an economical compensation was made.

          • Stephan

            Paying like 10.000$ for camera equipment sound quite reasonable for me, if you consider, that the camera will stay there for years and should work during this time.
            I think many other (and cheaper) cameras would not last this long under these circumstances (hot/cold, atmosphere/vakuum).
            Just to mention it: Not only US is paying for the ISS, but also Japan, Europe and if I am right, also Russia!

    • iamlucky13

      I’d love to see the cell phone camera that can take clear photos of aurora or upper atmosphere lightning phenomena, or usefully high resolution shots at 800mm of the shuttle’s thermal protection system. Even the D2Xs is somewhat limited for some of these purposes.

      As far as I know, government agencies generally aren’t allowed to accept free contributions from companies. Effectively, they have to buy them.

      As to what are we doing up there: Right now we’re completing construction of an orbital science station. Even though the station is not yet finished, they’ve performed or are conducting approximately 1500 experiments.

      Lastly, if you’ve been paying close attention, you should recognize that the D3S and D3x have slightly different purposes. The D3S – “Lord of Darkness” as the admin likes to call it – is mainly for high speed and/or high ISO shooting, and this appears to be why NASA chose it. The resolution of the D3x probably wouldn’t hurt, but it has clearly less high-ISO ability than the D3S.

  • Anonymous

    Houston, we have a dust spot!
    HAHA! at least 3 of the images from NASA have a dust spot in the upper left corner! Maybe its moondust?

  • Clark

    how did they shoot the 1. photo?

    Also, is it just me or the reflection of his left hand look out of place?

    • Noel

      It’s Very likely it was shot via a longer lens through the window above the airlock. The lens is behind the glass and in the dark which is why you can’t see the camera in the image. The black rectangle of that window is right in the middle of the reflective visor where it would need to be if the image was taken that way. The highly curved visor gives a false impression that the image is wide angle but in fact it’s clearly a telephoto image if you look behind the astronaut at the sharp reduction of DoF behind him

      • Clark

        Hey- thanks for the feedback.
        Yeah, I was kinda guessing it was from the window but thanks for making it all clear. I woder what lens was used:)

  • alvix

    …if you go in the outer need a camera that is capable of rendering very deep black…and most of all ..the Void ! 😉

  • injurytime

    There’s rumor that the next FX cameras come from alien technology found by these astronauts 🙂

  • Eng Seng

    Where is the shot of the astronauts singing “I love the whole world, boom bee ya da”?

  • Jeroen

    If you save the pictures, you can view the EXIF data in some of the pictures.

    Most are taken at 4000 ISO @ f2.8

  • f-stop

    I dont know about this ..I mean come on why would the leader in space exploration be using D2xs? why not testing out the D4 or something better..and why so many flashes who do they think they are Joe Mcnally lol! It just doesn’t make sense to me…billion/trillion dollar program but hey lets use old ass cameras?..

    • layner

      There is a simple answer for that: Reliability.
      In space you want to use the most proven and reliable technology. There are many examples of that.
      In the Apollo program, all the on-board computers were dated and old technology even by the late 1960’s standards.
      Current satellite electronic chips are manufactured in .35um, or .25um technology, when your laptop computer is using .040um tech. Why? Manufacturing reliability (resistance to defects), and is a well-known and very proven technology.

    • Jay

      F-stop, the D2Xs cameras have been there a while…There were no D3 series cameras when they were purchased. As for testing a D4, are you nuts? Do you have a clue as to how much it costs to lift a pound of material into space?

      Granted, I think it’s cool that our favorite brand is well represented in space!

      By the way, did anyone notice the D3s bodies were consumer-grade, while the D2Xs cameras were modified (generally a lubricant change )for EVA? I think the D3s’ will live comfortably onboard the ISS and not see space from the outside.

      • iamlucky13

        I don’t doubt that sometime in the next few years they’ll replace all the D2x’s with D3’s (or better), including the EVA cameras.

      • Faiz Imam

        Im pretty sure i read an earlier press release from Nikon boasting how the D3 was EVA rated without any modification, other than bigger buttons for the gloves.

        cant remember exactly when though

  • scott

    tracked the pictures down on nasa’s website. looks like the photos came off STS-132. photos can be found here:
    looks like plenty of other great stuff in there!

  • Nicole

    So that’s why I had to wait 3 months for my D3s? Nikon had to test it in orbit before delivery. 🙂

  • Humanoid

    NASA, capture some UFOs now!!

  • P

    My X10 mini has better resolution those pictures.

  • Ryan

    Is it just me or does the horizon look a little curved?

  • D700 (feels like F3)

    the images are stunning – who will ever have a chance to be in that location. And that should amaze us much more, than “just” the equipment – shouldn’t it?

    • Dan


    • Nicole

      I agree 100% too.

  • Louis

    Man I will so GIve up everything too be a Photographer for NASA..IN SPACE!!!!!

  • Dweeb

    That’s one weird post. Nikon Sucking up to Nasa I guess. The D3X has been used since the Kibo lab was sent. I’m not sure if it is Russian or JP owned. It’s not American. It has been used for high res tile inspection.

    BTW anything other than the D2X are being used inside which is a controlled lab environment. Your own camera sees more wear and tear at Christmas. Don’t fall for the outer space baloney. Your camera probably pulled more Gs when UPS dropped it that at launch.

    Things Nikon don’t tell you about are the Sigmas being used. The 800 and the 8 fish if I remember correctly. Nikon just don’t make the range they used to.

  • Phei

    The horizon isn’t straight!

  • Back to top