Keep your cool: PrimaLuceLab’s modified Nikon D5500a Cooled is ready to capture the night sky


posted Tuesday, October 11, 2016 at 1:32 PM EDT


PrimaLuceLab in Italy specializes in products for astronomy and astrophotography, and their latest product, the Nikon D5500a Cooled DSLR, is the world's first "cooled" Nikon camera for this specialized purpose. Indeed, the D5500a Cooled combines the astrophotography capabilities of a specialized, cooled CCD camera with the usability of a DSLR. For users looking to capture great astro shots without the complexity of equipment, this modified D5500 looks to be an excellent option.

The D5500a Cooled, which has a distinct appearance, includes a wide variety of features that are designed to appeal to serious astrophotographers. The most obvious modification is the sensor cooling system that sticks out from the back of the camera body. The cooling system is engineered to keep the sensor from overheating and thereby reducing visible noise in long exposure and high ISO images. It's designed with a double Peltier cell which keeps the sensor at a constant temperature, as cold as -27 degrees Celsius.

On the back of the cooling module is a display which shows the current sensor and desired temperatures along with buttons to make settings adjustments. There's a cooling fan, which is said to not introduce vibrations, and an anti-dewing system as well, both of which have manually-controllable intensities.



The sensor being cooled is not the same one found in a stock Nikon D5500, but rather a sensor with a modified filter designed specifically for astrophotography. You can see the wavelengths of light that the D5500a Cooled is sensitive to relative to the original D5500 in the graph below, but it is more sensitive to wavelengths of light across a wide range, particularly from 500nm to over 700nm. This is not dissimilar from the modified filter on the Nikon D800A, meaning the D5500a Cooled is better-equipped to photograph the hydrogen alpha wavelength than the standard IR-cut filter-equipped D5500. 

Image credit: PrimaLuceLab

You won't need to worry about running out of battery power when doing long or multiple exposures out in the field as the D5500a Cooled has a 9V power output. Using the supplied power adapter, you can power the D5500a indefinitely using 12V 3A power supplies (which are not included in the package). It is worth noting that this alteration to the power supply means that you can simultaneously power the camera and the cooler using a single 12V power source. Rather than be limited by your standard shutter speed options, the D5500a Cooled includes many functions that are typically reserved for remote releases, such as shutter speeds up to 900 seconds and automatic recording of up to 50 consecutive frames. 


Comparison between an image shot with the cooler on (left) versus the cooler off (right) at ISO 6400. Image credit: PrimaLuceLab
To better illustrate the impact of the cooler on visible noise in high ISO images, we have adjusted the above image to be a full stop brighter.

PrimaLuceLab's Nikon D5500a Cooled is available now for just over US$2,400 (€2,190) and it can be purchased directly from their website. If you'd like to learn more about this special product, see here.

PrimaLuceLab Nikon D5500a Cooled

Comparison between an image shot with the cooler on (left) versus the cooler off (right) at ISO 6400. Image credit: PrimaLuceLab