Can a consumer level DSLR like the Canon 550D or the Nikon 5100D withstand and function under g-forces that are encountered in fighter planes and spacecraft (0 - 10g)?

It has to be noted that this is not similar to when a camera falls and hits the ground. When hitting the ground high g-forces are also encountered, but those are sudden.
I am more interested in the case where there are sustained high g-forces.

  • Good question. My intuition is NO due to the mirrorbox but a mirrorless with an electronic shutter like the Nikon 1 J3 could probably work. – Itai Jan 8 '13 at 18:40
  • That's what I thought, but on the other hand, these all look like DSLR's and somehow got aboard the ISS. They might be adopted for space though. – Saaru Lindestøkke Jan 8 '13 at 19:01
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    0g should not be a hindrance for the operation of a DSLR, as it also has to work on earth when tilted to crazy angles. My biggest doubt is whether a consumer level DSLR can mechanically withstand the higher G forces. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Jan 8 '13 at 19:05
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    My guess is that any decent camera will remain undamaged at g forces where you don't get damaged either. They have to be able to withstand minor bumps, and the g forces from those add up quickly. They may not operate correctly at higher g levels, but at those levels you aren't going to be holding a camera to your face either. 0 g should be fine. – Olin Lathrop Jan 8 '13 at 19:12
  • The G-forces encountered during a rocket launch are not all that high: typiclly less than 10g. That's a lot for a human, but not much for a piece of machinery. The G encountered when the device is dropped on a hard surface is much higher. The cameras in the ISS are not required to be operational during the high-G manouvers. – DJClayworth Jan 9 '13 at 17:12

The camera would survive and probably even function correctly during that acceleration. The camera must be robust enough to withstand normal use, so it's going to handle a 10g static load just fine. Nothing in a DSLR depends on gravity to work, so 0g is fine. Extended time in an environment like a fighter plane will eventually break a consumer camera, but from shock and vibration rather than static g-loading.

I'd be more concerned with safely holding onto the camera in a fighter cockpit. The plane is designed not only to pull tight turns, but also roll and pitch very quickly. You don't want something like a DSLR bouncing around in there, as much for your and the plane's safety as the camera's.

There are cameras for this sort of application: no moving parts, small, light, easily mounted. Something like a GoPro costs less than the gas to get the plane off the ground.

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High G load will affect the mirror and shutter if you are trying to use the camera during high G situations. Each camera model will have different results, since they are not all made the same.

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    Could you maybe explain how it will affect the mirror and shutter? Will they be out of sync? Will they close slower? – Saaru Lindestøkke Jan 9 '13 at 15:18
  • They can become out of sync, and with enough load the mirror can fail to go up altogether. All of this happens at very high load, I personally have used an EOS 1 type body at +4 and -3 G without issue. When you are talking about 6-10G that is a whole different story, not to mention the load on the photographer, assuming it is not a remote shot. The other comments on holding the camera and lens are also very challenging. – Michael Steineke Jan 9 '13 at 15:33
  • I would expect that holding the camera at 6-10G is next to impossible. The good news is that even a fighter doesn't do that for very long. – Pat Farrell Jan 9 '13 at 17:51
  • That is exactly right Pat... I know that some pro bodies are actually capable of shooting in Gs long after the person in the G-Suit has passed out. My 3+ lb lens and body became 12+ lbs quickly, and hard to deal with... – Michael Steineke Jan 10 '13 at 3:42

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