So a question came up on our photography forum on facebook... Will Nikon's VR work in space?

If you're not aware Nikon and most brands have an image stabilizer lens (generally at the rear of the lens barrel) that attempts to compensate for hand shake.

I've got no idea exactly what sensor they use and the most expedient search reveals this article on nikon's site. It mentions "Angular Velocity" sensors.



  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Angular velocity wouldn't be any different in space but if it uses an accelerometer to orient gravity then it might have problems. $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2015 at 8:45
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianLynch: Still, you can shoot photos straight up or straight down, and I guess there would be complaints if one couldn't jump off a plane with a parachute and take a couple photos in freefall. The automatic picture orientation feature will be wonky but stabilization should work just fine. Generally most electronics and micromechanisms have no problems with freefall, portable hard disks (2.5") being a notorious exception: they switch off and park the head safely detecting freefall, in expectation of immediate crash. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Nov 16, 2015 at 15:08
  • $\begingroup$ Hence my use of the words "if" and "might"! $\endgroup$ Nov 16, 2015 at 15:53

1 Answer 1


Nikon uses angular velocity sensors (rate gyros*) for measuring the lens shake and determine the compensation to be applied (from the link you provided).

Nikon VR lenses use two angular velocity sensors, one that detects vertical movement (pitch), the other, horizontal movement (yaw), with diagonal motion handled by both sensors working together.

Nikon VR

Source: nikon.com

As angular velocity is same in earth or space for same motions, there should not be a problem in operating VR in space.

Nikon's VR lenses are in use in space (ISS) without any modifications. According to Nikon,

Nikon Corporation is pleased to announce that orders for one Nikon D3S and two Nikon D3X digital-SLR cameras, four interchangeable lenses including AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8G ED VR ... This equipment will be transported to the ISS via the Soyuz TMA-19 spacecraft, to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 16, 2010. ... No special improvements or modifications will be made to these products. They will be the same products available to consumers, ...

  • from An Introduction to Feedback Control for Optical Systems by Keith B. Powell

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