By Mark Kalan
In advertising, testimonials carry a lot of weight.
As proof, take a look at the demise of Tiger Woods’ revenue since his recent dalliances became public. Not only has his income from endorsements taken a hit—it’s been estimated that the value of the companies he stumped for have dropped nearly twelve billion dollars. That’s billion, as in one thousand million. We’re talking nine zeros! That’s a lot of scratch! Perhaps even the cost of a space shuttle mission.
When I was a kid the sports heroes of the day were Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, however these baseball sluggers were eclipsed by a few heroes of greater proportion: The Astronauts.
Today, space exploration has become commonplace with Space Shuttle launches and landings garnishing just a few minutes on CNN. Back in the day, whenever a rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral my family would join the entire nation as we sat in front of our black and white televisions watching Walter Cronkite narrate history, and if the launch was during school hours the teacher would have one of the AV nerds roll a television into the classroom.
And for breakfast we drank Tang, because the Astronauts did!
A vintage Tang Ad featuring the Gemini capsule
Today, despite graduating from corn flakes and Tang to Irish Oatmeal (or a spinach and cheese omelet …yum!) and fresh-squeezed orange juice I still enjoy the thrill of a rocket launch. I thank the space program for the technical advances that allow me to sit at a laptop computer and share my thoughts with you.
So you can imagine my elation when I learned that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration placed an order for eleven Nikon D3S dSLR cameras, along with seven AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lenses. According Nikon and NASA press releases these imaging devices are to be used for photographic documentation. (Duh?)
The Nikon D3s
The Nikon D3S cameras and NIKKOR lenses will be launched into space via the Space Shuttle. Upon arrival at the International Space Station (aka ISS) they will be used for various photograph activities. Nikon notes that NASA will make no special modifications to the cameras or lenses. These new bodies and lenses will be used right along side the existing Nikon dSLR cameras and accessories that already reside on the ISS, which include Nikon D2Xs dSLRs, and several Nikon speedlights.
Nikon has a long history with NASA:
In 1971 the Nikon Photomic FTN (specially designed to NASA specifications) was used on Apollo 15.
In 1980 NASA commissioned a “Small Camera”, based on the Nikon F3 equipped with a motor drive, and an F3 “Big Camera”, which utilized long rolls of film thus avoiding the need to reload. The “Small Camera” was also used aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia launched the following year.
In 1991 Nikon F4 and F4S cameras were delivered to NASA.
In 1999 the a Nikon F5 and AF Nikkor lens were carried aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery to photograph extravehicular activities. (Spacewalking!)
In 2008 the first digital SLR cameras were delivered to NASA. Six D2XS cameras are used in space to document activities such as inspection and maintenance.
According to NASA and Nikon approximately about 15 types of NIKKOR lenses (more than 35 lenses all together) are kept aboard the International Space Station for intravehicular and extravehicular photography to provide continued support for NASA’s space activities.
So what does this mean to you the average earth-based photophile?
The same thing that Tang meant to me as a kid!
I’m jealous. Not only do the astronauts have a great job with a killer view, they get to use the best photo gear on earth, and supplied in copious quantities!
However I did stop and think about the needs of an orbiting photographer verses the needs of the rest of us. The astronauts are getting the Nikon D3s, a weather-sealed dSLR with full-frame 35mm CMOS 12.1 megapixel sensor. It will also shoot 24 frames per second 720p video and had slots for two memory cards. The D3s also offers a feature called “Live View” which allows the unit to be tethered to a computer and operated remotely. That’s a lot of camera and it ought to be since the price tag of five-plus large! Without the lens!
If you don’t need to shoot video and you realize that 10 megapixels are more that adequate I personally would chooses a Nikon D3000 which you can buy with a lens for 10% of the cost and you can still feel a kinship with our space explorers.