Nikon D3s for Astrophotography

I’ve recently been researching astrophotography and found that there is a lot of disinformation about Nikon cameras and their suitability for astrophotography. The major source seems to be a blogger who actually has some fantastic information and astro photos on his site. This person seems to be misinformed as to the suitability the D3s for astrophotography for reasons of sensor noise.

“The readout noise of the Nikon and Canon CMOS detectors is very similar. The high ISO sensitivity displayed by Nikon is for the marketing: Nikon D3 CMOS (and also the CMOS D300 CMOS – Sony origin) is a very high quality sensor, but in the end, Nikon just rises now the level of Canon technology… Today the Canon and Pentax cameras seem to be the only ones useable digital SLR for efficient and advanced astronomy.”

In fact the full frame sensor on the D3s is one of the best noiseless sensor available in a DSLR. Even this blogger reluctantly admits in his conclusions that the Nikon sensor “rises to the level of Canon” but still, quite ridiculously biased and falsely, claims that only Cannon or Pentax cameras are suitable for “efficient and advanced astronomy.”

In some cases Nikon cameras exceed the noise performance of many Canon DSLR cameras. Here are some black frame exposures from both the D3s and a D300 for comparison:

30 second exposures are very usable up to ISO 12800 and practically noise free at ISO 3200:

Note that I used the Photoshop 5  Load Files into Stack script and increased the brightness to the maximum slider value of 150 to highlight the noise well beyond what one would normally see. These frames were also cropped to 800 pixels on the long side.

4 minute exposures are very usable up to ISO 3200 and practically noise free at ISO 400:

30 second exposures using a D300 are very useable up to ISO 1600 and practically noise free up to ISO 400:

If there is anyone who is not satisfied with a Nikon D3s for its noise margins, which are indeed incredible improvements over the very respectable D300 with the Active D-lighting OFF, does not know a damn thing about Nikon cameras and should keep their biased opinions to themselves. I normally would not bring this up but this web page dribble seems to have propagated into numerous other astrophotography web pages.

Note that NASA has been using Nikon cameras in its missions for years:

Apollo 15 and Space Shuttle photos

Space Station Photos

Here is a blog showcasing the D3 and D3s and their astrophotographic potential without tracking or stacking. Professional Photographer RICHARD PETERS Gives Some of His Best Tips

While dedicated cameras designed specifically for astrophotography with relatively large cell sizes and active sensor cooling can, and easily do, outperform any stock DSLR currently available I challenge anyone to show me an unmodified Canon DSLR that actually outperforms the low light capabilities of the Nikon D3s.