Nikon in space: new NightPod intelligent tripod compensates for motion when taking images from space

Credit: ESA/NASA

The European Space Agency published the article "Tracking cities at night from the Space Station" where they describe a new NightPOD intelligent tripod head used to take long exposure photographs by eliminating the motion blur from the International Space Station:

"To help astronauts take better pictures, ESA developed a motorized tripod in collaboration with Dutch company Cosine. Called NightPod, this device compensates for the motion of the Space Station by tracking single points on Earth automatically. The subject stays centered in frame so the final image is in focus.

Astronauts enter data regarding the Station’s orbit and attitude and then NightPod can start taking pictures. It can even be set to run on its own for up to six hours."

Here is an image of Athens taken from the ISS with the NightPod + Nikon D3s camera + 80-200mm f/2.8 lens:

Credit: ESA/NASA


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  • Rob

    I could really use one of these in my space station.

    • Petter

      Me too, I keep getting blurry images while in orbit 🙁

    • wublili

      Same problem. Already ordered mine !

      Overnight delivery to the orbit wasn’t excatly a cheap option…

  • applepie

    When tracking the rotation of the Earth, place the “E/V” switch in the “E” position. When reducing vibration, for example due to the space station being on fire, place the switch in the “V” mode. The “V” mode may also be used when the space station is being attacked by aliens. Whichever setting you use, anchoring the camera itself will help reduce shaking due to other factors. To attach the camera’s tripod securely to the space station, screw the Nikon SMT-4 into the camera’s tripod mount, and thread the other end onto the NASA J39-40049-2E700-A using the provided tool.

  • anon

    what lens is that? it seems to be non-gelded with image stabilizer.

    • Jake

      I wish people would stop calling G-series lenses “gelded”. Ken Rockwell literally made that up because he was upset that he couldn’t use modern lenses with his 40 year old manual focus film cameras.. Gelded means neutered, and is used in references to horses. The “G” in lens descriptions means “G-series”, not gelded.

      • carbon43

        Actually Jake, it means Grape. (little known fact)

        • Ben


      • I hate to say this but…

        Ken Rockwell is right.

        I dont meant right as in that’s what Nikon was thinking when they called them G lenses, but he’s right in that it practically means gelded. And yes, exactly the same gelded as in horses. They have castrated/gelded/neutered/removed the aperture ring.

        • They may be gelded by some, but to the vast majority (no facts to backup my numbers) of users it was necessary. Too many people became freaked out (and missed photos) when their no-longer-used aperture ring wondered slightly off of f22 rendering their camera inoperable.
          You may not have heard from these people, but I’m sure Nikon heard from them in droves.

          Yea the pro’s didn’t like it, that’s why pro lenses were the last to loose the aperture ring, but eventually even they had to give in as more and more pro’s (including me) were no longer using it and it only became an annoyance.
          Besides, it cost money to make those rings.

          • iamlucky13

            Hey, gelded isn’t all bad in horses either, so don’t get all worked up about the term.

            But aside from being slightly humorous, even if tiresome to some, it’s semi-accurate – for better or for worse, a feature is being removed, be it the ability to breed, or the ability to control your aperture on older cameras.

            I understand why Nikon did it, but that doesn’t mean the decision to geld newer lenses doesn’t negatively affect their utility to me.

            • Ever try to change the f-stop with the wheel while taking video? It sucks. Movement galore. They should not only add the aperture ring back, but do so with the ability to turn off the clicks for the f-stops. Nikon “gelded” the lenses, just in time to screw them up for the DSLR video revolution.

      • 103David

        Also bear in mind that Ken doesn’t think you need anything more than a 6 meg D40 ’cause on account you neither ever blow things up beyond 4×6 nor ever crop within the frame.
        By the way, it’s the “A” setting that means “Aliens” and it’s the “M” setting that means “Martians.” I never use the “P” setting anymore ’cause on account Pluto was demoted from planetary status a year or so ago so we don’t see Plutonians around so much anymore…

      • anon

        u mad?
        ‘The “G” in lens descriptions means “G-series”’ ? you’ve got to be kidding. The “Nikon” symbol on “Nikon” cameras means they are “Nikon cameras”.

      • anon

        Actually, since the ‘G’ designation denotes the addition of exactly NO functionality but DOES denote the REMOVAL of functionality (being able to set aperature through the (removed) ring, GELDED is VERY appropriate terminology. Something important (the aperature ring) was removed in this ‘operation’, leaving a device with less function than previously thought ‘normal’.

    • iamlucky13

      It looks like the 80-400. They have a pretty sizable collection of lenses onboard (more than a dozen) the space station to suit whatever they need to document ranging from features on the ground to atmospheric phenomena to approaching spacecraft to EVA’s.

  • Zoot

    I sent back my intelligent tripod. I couldn’t work out how to open it.

  • Steven Georges

    Okay, what lens is that? It’s a zoom lens, seems to be too short to be a 70-200 2.8, it’s old enough to have an aperture ring, but new enough to have VR with no focus lock buttons.

    • Steven Georges

      Found a bigger version of the photo.
      80-400? Wasn’t that lens heavily criticized for lack of sharpness?

      BTW – Found another cool photo of the NightPod here

      I think it’ the NightPod, can’t read a word on that page.

      • erik

        Kuipers realized during his previous stay in space that it is impossible to take long exposer night pictures while travelling at 7000m/s and asked for this tripod to be developed for a project to create a world map of light pollution.

        Google translate:

      • D

        That is the 80-400 and I don’t know where you got its not a sharp lens because when I had it i got nothing but sharp images with it.

      • iamlucky13

        No, it has not been heavily criticized for lack of sharpness.

        More accurately, it’s been frequently criticized for limited sharpness while at the same time being praised for being a really good value for the price despite its limits.

        It also provides a lot of flexibility, having a 5x zoom, for framing cities of different sizes to fill the desired the amount of the frame.

        Keep in mind, we’re talking about measuring light pollution here. Absolute sharpness isn’t likely to be the primary consideration (frequently the atmosphere is your limiting factor anyways), compared to mapping the distribution of the lights.

    • Pauline

      From the looks of it, the lens appears to be th 80-400. The hood an aperture ring are what away my vote that way

      • NisseHult
        • Zeb

          That photo was taken by a Canon Kiss according to the EXIF (and it’s out of focus)
          Camera Maker: Canon
          Camera Model: Canon EOS Kiss X2
          Lens: EF-S17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
          Image Date: 2011-10-18 17:56:58 (no TZ)
          Focal Length: 17.0mm
          Aperture: f/4.0
          Exposure Time: 0.017 s (1/60)
          ISO equiv: 400
          Exposure Bias: none
          Metering Mode: Matrix
          Exposure: program (Auto)
          White Balance: Auto
          Flash Fired: Yes (Auto, return light detected)
          Orientation: Normal
          Color Space: sRGB
          GPS Coordinate: undefined, undefined

  • Vlad

    It’s not really a tripod. It looks like a dipod. 😉

  • JanH.Holgersen


  • anon

    nvm, it’s 80-400

  • T.I.M


    They are suposed to re-open on Sunday April 15th, here is what show B&H website page;

    “We are not accepting orders at this time. Online ordering will resume at 9:00PM EDT on Wednesday, April 20th.
    Our SuperStore and offices are currently closed and will reopen on Wednesday, April 27th at 9:00AM EDT.”

    I have a $3300 pre-order (paid) for the D800e, I would like to know what’s going on !
    When you call B&H 1-800 number, an answer machine say that they will re-open on April 15th, did some guy hacked the website and changed the dates ?


    • I’ll be sure to wait till next Wednesday before ordering my NightPod from B&H.

    • hq

      T.I.M- I haven’t even received my D800 pre0order yet (also paid since Feb 7 @ 3am). The D800E hasn’t officially shipped yet!

    • GeoffK

      A little crazy to be closed a week in this day and age. I would never order from them if they were near one of these week long closures. I realize everyone was not looking that far ahead (i would not have) however now I will. I am not going to be stuck waiting while a store is closed for a week.

      • applepie

        Yeah, people should stop honoring their religion when the economy is bad.

    • pola

      they just lazy enough and forgot to change those dates from last year’s Passover.

      • T.I.M

        I think you’re right, thanks, It make me feel much better !
        (they will loose 7 days online ordering, someone will get fired !)

    • Jabs

      @T.I.M – it’s Passover and being Hasidic Jews, they are closed for that period.
      Don’t panic – lol

      They have not gone ‘invisible’ – lol

      • T.I.M

        @ Jabs
        That’s not the point, they are close NOW (from last friday till Saturday April 14th), but the website says “close until April 27th”, as Pola said it must be a mistake, and they will be open next Sunday.

        The issue is that if you try to place orders online now, that message pop-out on top of the page (closed until April 27th), they will turn down many orders and probably loose $$$$$$ if nobody contact them or if they don’t read NR !

        • T.I.M

          @ Jabs,
          LOL !
          I guess B&H people do read NR !
          The wrong dates have just been fixed.
          They should thanks NR, (and give a reward to T.I.M, right ?)

          • Jabs

            OK – here is your reward.

            One atta boy (while bopping you on the head) for you.

            Serves ya right too – Ete vous bete? (are you foolish or stupid – if I remember my French) – LOL, if I am wrong.

            Comme ci Comme ca – lol (again, if my ‘Frenglish’ is correct).

            Waiting for an expected product delivery will indeed drive ya crazee!

  • lorenzo

    Wait! Adorama has a used NightPod, Free shipping, Condition SS-, call for price!

  • Funduro

    The Canon fanboys must be red with envy. As far as I know Hasselblad made it to the moon, don’t think any other commercial camera made it there.

    • Funduro

      BTW I like the scientist’s using a Sharpie to denote “left” below the window. Guess a label maker didn’t make the cut on the supply ships.

    • Jabs

      I think that Olympus once made it with a special OM-T film camera years ago – have to look up the details.

      I know that the E3 digital just made it via the European Space Program.

      Not sure on Canon though!

  • Interesting technology, but I don’t think I will be ordering one soon.

  • phr3dly

    ANYONE KNOW WHEN PRE-ORDERS OPEN??? GOnna make sure to get on all the lists for this one, but I bet Best Buy gets stock first!

  • Jabs
  • `/1nc3nt

    Wondering …

    When is the picture taken? Why use AF-D while Nikon always bets on AF-S now. Is AF-S not reliable enough to fly to the space? Hm .. Maybe.

    • Sergio45

      Maybe some components of the AF-S lens, like the floating elements or the gyroscopes involved in VR system doesnt work well without gravity. I do not know really it´s only a hypothesis .

    • fred

      Maybe you don’t need AF when photographing the Earth from outer space. Maybe focusing to a hard infinity stop is more reliable than using an AF sensor to find infinity. Yeah, maybe.

    • CajunCC

      Maybe they just wanted an 80-400 lens?

      • iamlucky13

        ^ This is the answer. NASA has several AF-S lenses aboard the station. The logical conclusion is simply that in this case, those involved in planning the research decided the 80-400 was the lens that best fit their needs.

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