Video Shows Off Awesome Franken-Kodak DSLR Aboard 1991 Space Shuttle

It’s #throwbackthursday, right? Good, because we have a rather interesting piece of photography history to share with you, courtesy of NASA, Nikon and Kodak.

Believe it or not, there was a point in time when Kodak was the front-runner in the digital photography world (crazy, we know…), and it all started with a little help from NASA back in 1991.

Called the Kodak Hawkeye II, this Franken-camera was made up of a Kodak-built 1.3-megapixel CCD sensor — and accompanying wiring — attached to the back of a Nikon F3 body. This setup turned an otherwise analogue beast into the first digital camera to make its way to space.


The process of taking pictures with this camera wasn’t quite as simple as we’ve become accustomed to, though. The camera was attached to a processing unit and power supply by means of a 20-pin serial connector, and the resulting shots were stored on a whopping 100MB hard drive.

Thankfully, technology has come a long way. But all jokes aside, it’s always fascinating to see the humble beginnings of our digital photographic endeavors.

(via Nikon Rumors)

  • Panchoskywalker

    Was it full frame?

  • behindthecamera

    Looks like the precursor to the Kodak DCS420 (Nikon body, Kodak back). Great camera for its time; my company shelled out over $10,000 for that thing when it was introduced.

  • behindthecamera
  • arachnophilia

    pretty sure that’s a DCS-100: or a DCS-100 prototype.

    not sure where the hawkeye designation came from, but i’ve found it a few other places. the only cameras that i’m aware of that kodak called “hawk-eye” were folding cameras and brownie cameras, and a disc camera (that happens to be listed at the top of the DCS-100 page there…)

  • jon

    that is very similar to the dcs 100 although the bulge on the back right of the grip is different.

  • arachnophilia

    yeah, it’s a little different. but it’s basically a DCS-100.

  • RonVol

    The camera shown here, Kodak Hawkeye II, was not the first electronic stills camera used by NASA, it was in fact the 2nd.

    The first was a system based around the Nikon F4 called H.E.R.C.U.L.E.S. (Hand-held, Earth-oriented, Real-time, Cooperative, User-friendly, Location, Targeting, & Environmental System) which flew in a shuttle mission one month before the Hawkeye II did.

    Here’s a link to a white paper on the HERCULES system –

    See a video of the HERCULES system on-board shuttle mission STS-48 here –

  • Davor

    Man how far have we come!