Nikon has today announced that their Z 9 model has boldly gone where no Z series camera body has gone before! That’s right, the Nikon Z 9 along with a selection of lenses, is off to space and I, for one, cannot wait to see the images.
I love space! I am fascinated by it; I always have been, and that is certainly where my interest in astrophotography, Northern Lights photography, etc., comes from. Let’s face it, I am not going to be visiting the Space Station any time soon! So, for me, the next best thing is seeing photographs from astronauts or satellites.
A few years ago, I purchased Tim Peake’s book “Hello, is this planet Earth?” which was a collection of over 150 beautiful photographs captured from onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The images were visually breathtaking, seeing cities, towns, rivers, mountains, and more from 400 km above us was truly awe-inspiring.
According to Tim Peake, the camera of choice on the ISS at the time was the Nikon D4 with its 16.4-megapixel resolution. A range of lenses was available, but Tim preferred to use either a 28mm, 50-500mm, 400mm, or 800mm lens.
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of practice to get a good nighttime photo of a city that is 400 km beneath you when you’re traveling at 25 times the speed of sound!
Fast-forward to 2024, and Nikon has announced that the Nikon Z 9 was launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in January. Nikon has stated that the camera bodies are physically unmodified in their press release. What does Nikon mean by unmodified, you ask? Well, according to Nikon’s statement:
The cameras used on the orbiting laboratory are physically unmodified, meaning terrestrial consumers have access to the same build quality as the space station crew in space. This is a testament, certifying that Nikon technology and the Z 9 is capable of thriving in the extreme rigors of living in zero gravity and space exploration.
It is also confirmed that this is the first Nikon mirrorless camera used by the space station crew.
Nikon, however, has stated that custom changes have been made to the firmware, such as expanding noise reduction and faster shutter speeds, among a few others. This is to account for the challenging conditions up there, which includes cosmic radiation.
Nikon has a long history of providing equipment to NASA over the years, such as the D4 which Tim Peake was using in 2015 onboard the space station. The history spans over 50 years with other models such as the Nikon F5 in 1999 and then the D5 and D6 in later years.
Photography onboard the space station is not just for epic shots of the Earth from 400 km up; cameras are also used in space to document activities such as inspection and maintenance.