Nikkors on a train

Next time you take a train in Switzerland and go through a tunnel, you can rest assured that the inside walls are in perfect shape thanks to.... five fisheye Nikkor lenses:

This piece of fascinating technology is the front of the diagnostic vehicle for rail infrastructure of the Swiss Federal Railways, which was part of the Innotrans - the international trade fair for rail transportation that took place last week in Berlin, Germany:

Inside the housing, there are five cameras equipped with Nikon DX AF Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED lenses. The view of the cameras is reflected sideways by 90 degrees using five mirrors mounted on the backside of the front cover. The images from all five cameras are then stitched together into a ring shaped view of the surrounding and is captured as a video stream. Additionally, a 3D-wireframe model is generated in real-time and recorded alongside with the video (it records the closest distance to a object from the apparatus).

The system is used to check the clearance of the track in an automated way - it can detect and document even the smallest deformation in tunnel walls, while driving at full speed. For example: the system has a longitudinal resolution of 7cm (2 3/4 in.) at 200 km/h (125 mph), better at slower speeds, and it can indentify a variety of defects automatically.

Special thanks to Manuel Euer from Berlin, Germany for sending me the pictures and the story behind them. You can see some more images from the show here and here.

The actual product is called T Sight 5000 High performance Clearance Gauge and Tunnel Walls Inspection System and it looks like this:

This is how a portion of the stitched image looks like:

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  • ob1ne


    Awesome way to use the lens

    • ob1ne

      so i’m guessing they’re going to implement this 3d tech somehow to the DSLRs?

    • Dave

      Really? Is no forum safe from this. What next….”did he died?”

      • Rocking Kenwell

        Your language skills died too, apparently!

        • guy


  • preston

    I hope that company had a grant for that research. .

  • NascarGeoff

    wow, amazing technology!

  • Neat!!!!!

  • Interesting! didn’t know they use lenses in that automation system 😮

  • James

    Very interesting indeed, thanks for posting this Admin.

  • Phillip

    That’s the lens that I want for D9.

  • baked bananas

    Cool! And these are dx lenses…unlike the top of the line full framers like the 14-24. That’s nikon quality. Now where’s my d700 replacement?

    • Dave

      There is no difference in quality from DX or full frame lenses. Just a smaller image circle. The 10.5 is one of the sharpest fisheye lenses I have shot, sharper than my 16mm full frame.

      • Dave

        Correction…THE sharpest. I have owned several fisheyes too. The 10.5 is amazing.

      • Nicola

        So there is intelligent life,who isn’t misleaded by the Dx/Fx marketing stuff?If you come to Italy,I owe you a beer.

    • jk

      Who cares if they are dx, fx or whatever really. They are not mounted to a Nikon camera from what I can tell. So the angle of view, crop factor, sensor, megapixels, iq etc…. could be totally different.

  • jdsl

    wow! super cool.

  • Azmir


  • DX

    (expected reactions)

    Boring, not an FX lense, lol!

    • Daniel

      Duh, the 10.5 Fisheye is perfect on FX bodies, if you just shave off the plastic lens shade, and tadaa – you’lle get an awesome 7mm FX fisheye with f/2.8

      • WoutK89

        In what way does it become 7mm? I thought the 10.5mm was already the “FX equivalent”…, effective its almost 16mm on DX bodies.

        • VanHoff

          16mm on aps-c Canon bodies, on Nikon it is a 15mm…. Canon user detected! ( :’-D

  • igeekpro

    Am I the only person here that wants to just smash this open and take those lenses? LOL

    • Kevin

      LOL 😀

      • we have room for three more in our team… 😀

    • Manuel

      See all the glue used to fix the focus? I would’t take them.

  • Kevin

    which camera are they using?
    or is it custom made?

  • ukj

    The fx people are gonna say, they should have uses a 14-24mm the best lens in the world.

    • WoutK89

      Why use a zoom lens? It will only create problems when it accidently zooms because of vibrations.


    Guess what my car is getting tomorrow…

    • I THINK YES!
      I knew I took that bumper off for a reason! lol

  • When I saw that first picture I thought: “Yes, my dream came true – Big Train with Minigun on the front…” 😀

  • Nikkorz

    Great post, admin. More posts like this would be a pleasant instead of news all the time.

  • Nicola

    Now,if there is a God,this technology should be put in use for the good of mankind.
    Let’s say behind the stage on the next Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

  • Kingyo

    wonder which camera they’re attached to..?

    • Harriv

      Probably industrial camera, something like this.

  • D300s or D2xs maybe ?

    • Teun

      I would say a custom, non nikon one. They need the videofeed and the possibility to stich, i don’t think nikon would build such a custom instrument. It’s more likely that another company has build the rig, using the nikkor lenses, which were cheaper and better than designing lenses themselves. I also doubt if their mounts are still intact, it would make sense to modify the nikkors to be a good fit on the custom build cameras.

    • D90 ?

  • camaman

    So they paid this probably $500.000… I would walk those tunnels for that kind of pay.
    Why do they need speed. Whats the hurry!? 🙂

    • Teun

      I’m guessing they would not want the need to close the tunnels for inspection. These rails are frequently used. So unless you have a superhuman kind of power to dodge +-320mph incoming trains, that’s not really an option. Also, these tunnels are pretty dark and inspection by people is more prone to errors.

    • Manuel

      The general operating speed of this particular Swiss vehicle is up to 160 km/h (100 mph). This is needed in order to run between scheduled trains. Even the long-distance freight trains regularly travel at 100-120 km/h (65-75 mph) in Europe.

      The mainlines in Europe are operated around the clock, some of them see one train in each direction every 5 minutes during daytime. Therefore, closing down for regular inspection is not an option.

  • mikey


  • ja

    is this the calm before the nikon storm , when nikon releases products that blow other DSLR away we are talking D800, D4, D400

    • Mike


    • S

      aammmm….let me think……..NO! (wish it was though)

  • krizz

    multiple-lens monster on wheels?! we already had this 50 years ago:

    • Nicole

      Is that the prototype Dalek? 😀

  • Dweeb

    Some of you geezers may remember the Nikon 6 mm with 220º of view. That was a single lense/camera used for various pipe type inspections in the film days.

  • The invisible man

    This is good news, look like Nikon is back on tracks !

    • human tripod

      Oh no you didn’t…

      • camaman

        I’m laughing so hard right now!
        Thanks you guys! 😀

  • John

    Never mind the lenses, what kind of computer and software horsepower must it take to stitch 5 sets of images into a video AND create a 3D wireframe in real-time, at 200km/h?!? That is some mind-boggling ingenuity.

    • Manuel

      The inside of the vehicle is actually crammed with computer racks, but not only for this system. There are several other systems, e.g. to monitor track geometry, wear of the rails, rail fastenings, the catenary, etc.

  • My computer coughs at a simple still panoramic – love to see the heat farm powering this badboy.

  • jk

    Probably not even that much heat. I would assume it would be air cooled to start

  • Udo

    this isn’t a rumor… Just a fact

  • AG

    Nevermind the train… when are they gonna start shipping D7000???!!!!

    • The invisible man

      Well, they started shipping the D7000 this week…… train !

  • Interesting way to get a 10.5 fisheye for cheap 😀

  • DaWolf

    Nikon headquarters must have misunderstood our request…we need a Full Frame camera, not a Full Train camera 🙂
    Happy Friday to ya’ ll !!!

    • Rocking Kenwell

      Don’t you have a D40?

  • I’ve seen the British version of this particular gadget – it’s an old diesel engine with a leather chair nailed to the front in which sits a man with a torch, a sketchpad and a box of crayons.

    • Eric

      enough said.

  • Geet

    Shame that this couldn’t save the people who died on the Swiss tourist train in July though, eh?,_dozens_injured_in_train_crash.html?cid=18027170

    • Nicole

      Err… But that was on a different railway (The RhB), which is narrow gauge (So it wouldn’t fit on the rails.), and it was nowhere near a tunnel. So I can’t really see how it would have helped. I agree that it was a tragic accident though.

      • Manuel

        Ongoing investigations are indicating that this tragical accident has been caused by the train exceeding the compulsory speed by far.

        How this could happen is not quite clear by now.

        Nevertheless, rail is still the safest way to travel (anywhere on the planet, relatively to local conditions).

        Unfortunately, accidents happen, but safety standards for railroads are certainly at a top-level throughout Europe, and perhaps at their best in Switzerland.

  • Alex1956

    Amazing! Leave it to the Swiss! They have the most amazing craftsmanship, technology, and creative-engineering abilities in the world. They embrace what I call, “The Culture of Quality” in everything they do, and it shows!

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