Best Camera for Astrophotography

Best Camera for Astrophotography

To capture all the beauty of the starry sky you need the best camera for astrophotography and a telephoto lens. Since it is a pretty uncommon type of photography, there aren’t many reviews available to help you with it. Thus, I made a list of 10 DSLR and mirrorless models worthy of your attention if you want to shoot stars or The Milky Way.

best camera for astrophotography

10 Best Cameras for Astrophotography

Top 3 best astrophotography cameras

A specially designed astrophotography camera is quite expensive. Such a purchase is not justified for an amateur since this specific equipment cannot be adapted to other photo genres. Making money with such a hobby as astrophotography is quite unrealistic. But if you want to take these breathtaking night photos with clear sky and shining stars, I suggest you looking through my list of 10 best astrophotography cameras that are universal and can be used for many purposes.


1. Sony a7R III

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Pros+
  • Really wide dynamic range
  • High burst shooting mode ratio up to 10 fps
  • Effective image stabilizer based on matrix shift
  • Rotating touchscreen display
  • Two memory card slots, one with UHS-II support
Cons-
  • Bulky menu with confusing abbreviations
  • Slight delays when working with the menu
  • Not always smooth work with compatible applications
  • Limited touch interface functionality
 

I’m not going to get into all the frills and technical characteristics. I will only specify what the majority of readers would want to know about this mirrorless camera and what I like the most about this particular model. The first and, in my opinion, the crucial feature is its focus speed. The digital viewfinder with a resolution of almost 4 million dots gives a live picture without lags. The menu is responsive. Battery capacity was significantly increased. The stabilizer’s efficiency is increased compared to the previous generation and it really helps me when working with any optics.

Recommended camera lens:

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3

Sigma 150-600-millimeter 5-6.3 DG HSM OS Contemporary is very light and compact. It ensures top image quality in variable situations. You may use it to take clear and sharp night sky images.

sigma 150-600mm photo sample Photo by Sony a7R III

2. Nikon D3400

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Pros+
  • Smart Bridge and Bluetooth
  • Handy control ergonomics
  • Lightweight and compact
Cons-
  • Live View doesn’t work when you change diaphragm
  • Focusing and shooting takes too long in the Live View mode
  • No microphone jack
  • Cheap plastic body
 

This is a decent DSLR, which is often called the best cheap camera for astrophotography. It can be used for both astrophotography and simple night photography. I even managed to get some proper Orion nebula shots by means of Lightroom dehaze.

  • View more low light cameras that are good for dim and night photos taken without additional lighting and are quite inexpensive.

In fact, this Nikon astrophotography camera can be used for other purposes, like portrait and landscape shooting. The shots come out sharp and clear, obviously even better in dim light. The SnapBridge Bluetooth application proved to be incredibly handy in many situations. Battery lasts several hours when actively shooting.

Recommended camera lens:

Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

This model was developed specifically for DX-format cameras. 35 mm equivalent focal length is 27-82.5 mm. The most important reason why the lens is worth using its high resolution even on Nikon full-frame cameras in DX mode.

nikkor 18-55mm photo sample Photo by Nikon D3400

3. Nikon D5500

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Pros+
  • Shooting up to 5 frames per second
  • Rotating touchscreen display
  • Low noise level up to ISO 3200
  • High image detail
Cons-
  • No built-in GPS module
  • Limited buffer for RAW + JPG shooting
 

This is a truly reliable camera body, so if you’re searching for an entry level DSLR for astrophotography this is a safe try. It ensures great pictures and sits very comfortably in the so-called big hands. The benefit of having a 24mp is widely misjudged, I think. It isn’t in receiving a better picture but in being free to crop. The Moon is a fascinating object and it feels great to zoom in to study its surface.

  • If you’ve never taken photos in the darkness, follow my basic night photography tips that will become very useful at the first photoshoot at night.

This astrophotography camera is substantial and comfortable to grip despite being so compact and light. It’s been optimized for use by amateurs. Touchscreen allows to quickly set aperture, ISO, shutter speed, etc.

Recommended camera lens:

Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II

This popular lens is very convenient for taking photos while walking thanks to its variable focal length, compactness, light and portable design. The lens has a silent ultrasonic motor (SWM), which is Nikon’s original development, and provides noiseless autofocusing.

Nikon 18-55mm photo sample Photo by Nikon D5500

4. Sony a7R II

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Pros+
  • Wide dynamic range
  • High ISOs
  • Phase autofocus
  • 4K video recording
  • Excellent viewfinder with a high magnification ratio
Cons-
  • Long battery life
  • Long exposure “eats out” stars
 

I specialize in wildlife and landscape genres, but I also mess up with numerous styles like portraits, macro or long-exposure night shots. This camera’s performance is equally good in all situations and it can be deservedly called the best camera for astrophotography too. The camera is very portable, it focuses fast and takes sharp pictures with resolution exceeding my current needs. It sits snuggly in my hands as I switch through the tons of features and settings. Its performance in low light is beyond expectation.

  • View more about highest megapixels cameras that show outstanding results in astrophotography that lately can be printed in high resolution.

If you attach the right lens, you will get really cool results. I mostly stay in M-mode and am delighted with how I can customize everything. When I tried shooting at night using 30 second exposure at different ISO settings one after another, I could see how the camera produced some noise at 50-100 ISO but got completely rid of it by 800 and performed excellently all the way up to 6400, which is great.

Recommended camera lens:

Samyang SY14M-S 14mm f/2.8

Ultra-wide, non-autofocus high-aperture lens with top picture quality, excellent assembly, and affordable price. Many landscape and interior photographers choose this model as a great compromise between price and quality.

Samyang 14mm photo sample Photo by Sony A7R II

5. Canon EOS Rebel T3

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Pros+
  • Excellent assembly
  • High monitor resolution – 1040000 points
  • Precise white balance setting
  • Fast autofocus and high camera responsiveness
  • Full HD video recording
Cons-
  • Autofocus strobe flash
  • No screen cut-off sensor when you approach the viewfinder
  • No in-camera processing of RAW files and their conversion to JPEG
  • Slow Live View mode autofocus
 

The improved automatic shooting programs can fulfill almost every photographer’s task. I use it pretty often for landscape photography and taking group portraits. With this Canon astrophotography device, I decided to master night shooting using a telescope. Which telescope is best for astrophotography? I decided that it was Orion 8297 8-Inch f/3.9 that allowed me not only to reach the far stars but also show clear colors and sharpness of photos taken with Canon EOS Rebel T3i. By the way, I really appreciated its huge tilting screen and the AF system, as well as the general functionality of this astrophotography camera.

Recommended camera lens:

Orion 8297 8-Inch f/3.9

This astrophotography telescope is for people who want to take amazing pictures with their DSLR. It has a motorized mount and amazing photo samples that speak for themselves.

orion 8297 8-inch photo sample Photo by Canon EOS Rebel T3

6. Nikon D500

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Pros+
  • Wonderful autofocus system
  • Fast and easy Live View focusing
  • Wide dynamic range and well-extending RAW
Cons-
  • SnapBridge wireless connection occasionally freezes and loses connection
 

This model is targeted at sports and wildlife photographers. Besides, it shows great results while shooting portraits. I tried to take astrophotography and managed to do tack-sharp focusing a star through the viewfinder. I also appreciated how bright OVF is and the way it covers the frame. Nikon D500 has 10 f/s shooting rate and 153 AF points scattered all over the frame, which is an amazing offer for this price.

A tilt-base sensor screen makes this astrophotography DSLR camera a pleasure to use. You can also shoot 4K clips, as the overall video capabilities are great. Another interesting bonus is the wireless technology based on SnapBridge app that is a great benefit for reporters. This astrophotography camera can perfectly serve a street-photographer, traveler and blogger. I occasionally use it for wedding photography and satisfied with footage.

Recommended camera lens:

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

Compact, lightweight, high-aperture telezoom G-type lens with vibration reduction. Built-in SWM motor for instant noiseless autofocus. The effect of using VR is equivalent to using a shutter speed of 3 stops (8 times) shorter.

Nikon 70-200mm photo sample Photo by Nikon D500

7. Nikon D850

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Pros+
  • High resolution 45.4 megapixel
  • Backlight CMOS sensor
  • Excellent performance at high ISO
  • Low noise level up to ISO 6400
  • Touch control
Cons-
  • Slow and not very sensitive autofocus in the Live View mode
  • No remote control with a smartphone
  • Too expensive for an amateur
 

Nikon D850 is a full frame camera that is positioned by the manufacturer as a model for professionals and advanced photographers. I have tested this camera every week for several months and can surely name it the best DLSR for astrophotography I have ever had. I used it in different weather conditions: in the pouring rain, in foggy weather and near the ocean in strong wind, and have no claims concerning its performance. The weather protection deserves special praise as this decent astrophotography DSLR won’t let you down in the most extreme shooting situations.

The color and dynamic range leave only positive impression, while the original low ISO of 64 ensures awesome results if you specialize in landscape photography. The images you get are clear and sharp. Don’t be afraid to use high ISO values either, as the taken photos won’t disappoint you with clarity and details. You may shoot starry sky and streets at night still getting very little noise in pictures.

Recommended camera lens:

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Properly adjusted aperture allows you to “draw” a beautiful radiance from light sources. This lens for astrophotography cameras has no alternatives in the lineup and remains the best tool for a professional shooter and a photo enthusiast.

Nikon af-s 14-24mm photo sample Photo by Nikon D850

8. Canon EOS 7D Mark II

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Pros+
  • Excellent, customizable autofocus
  • Burst shooting speed up to 10 frames/s
  • High image quality up to ISO 3200 inclusive
  • Supports 2 memory cards of different types
Cons-
  • The screen does not support touch control
  • Lacks 4K video recording
  • The screen is not swivel
  • Relatively high price
 

This device is often called the best camera for astrophotography for its impressive performance in the poorest light. The manufacturer studied weak points of the previous model and created Canon EOS 7D Mark II with more reliable features. The most significant upgrade is related to work at long exposures, namely, the camera has thermal dark current about 10 times lower than the analog devices from rival brands. Thus, 7D II camera sets new standards in astrophotography, which matters a lot if you wish to get detailed shots. Another pleasant characteristic is an affordable price for such a powerful model with a truly gorgeous AF. I really like its autofocus, both when looking in the viewfinder and using a display. High burst speed and large buffer are nice. The high ISO and 20MP matrix resolution allow using this model literally in any shooting situations: from the studio convenient conditions to dynamic reportage.

Recommended camera lens:

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens

Attach this compact, high-performance super-telephoto lens of the L series to your DSLR and enjoy the shooting process. Rotary zoom ring provides a more accurate composition and excellent balance when you hold your camera in the hands.

canon 100-400mm photo sample Photo by Canon EOS 7D Mark II

9. Pentax K-S2

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Pros+
  • Weatherproof case
  • Swivel screen
  • Charging through a micro USB cable that many users have at home
Cons-
  • Video capture button isn’t placed well
 

With Pentax K-S2 you will always take the best images even in terrible weather conditions. Built-in image stabilizer allows you to take high-quality and sharp photos. This device may become a cool astrophotography camera if you attach a suitable lens. The picture quality is very good. The weight of this model allows you to safely carry it with you anywhere without getting tired. Besides, it is very convenient to hold this camera in hands, thanks to the rubberized grip.

I also like that K-S2 has a swivel screen. It is awesome! This is a great innovation that allows you to take shots close to the ground surface or holding the camera at the arm’s length. I can recommend Pentax K-S2 to anyone, who is just starting his/her photography career and those, who have already gained some experience in this sphere and are looking for a reliable and compact camera.

Recommended camera lens:

Vivitar 500mm f/6.3 Mirror Lens (T Mount)

Looking for a small and light lens of an ultra-telephoto type? This is just what you need. Vivitar 500mm f/6.3 Telephoto Mirror Lens will become a great addition to your astrophotography camera. You can also attach it to your camera and take wildlife, nature, landscape and sports shooting.

vivitar 500mm photo sample Photo by Pentax K-S2

10. Nikon D5

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Pros+
  • Large buffer: up to 200 frames in RAW
  • High image quality up to ISO 51200
  • Full HD video at 60 frames per second
  • 4K-video with the possibility to save a still image
Cons-
  • Limited 4K video recording
  • Lacks integrated Wi-Fi and GPS
  • No autofocus picking, Log Gamma profiles, etc.
 

This model wasn’t originally designed as an astrophotography camera, but thanks to its impressive performance at high ISO, you can conveniently use it at night. The D5 has 20.8MP resolution and offers many interesting functions, which ensure successful work.

The model is dust- and waterproof. The burst shooting speed and large RAW buffer enable you to capture the necessary moment in any scenario. The battery life makes it possible to shoot all day long without any limit on the number of frames. All these features make Nikon D5 a serious rival even for the best camera for astrophotography.

Recommended camera lens:

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Nikon's legendary super wide-angle zoom turned out to be an optical tool with good sharpness that is stable and very high even at maximum opening. Properly adjusted aperture allows you to draw a beautiful radiance from light sources.

Nikon 14-24mm photo sample Photo by Nikon D5

List of 10 Best Astrophotography Cameras

 
Image Camera Features  
sony a7r iii
Sony a7R III
OUR CHOICE
  • 42.4MP Full Frame
  • BSI-CMOS
Check PRICE
Nikon d3400
Nikon d3400
CHEAP
  • 24.2MP DX-Format Sensor
  • EXPEED 4 Processor
Check PRICE
Nikon d5500
Nikon D5500
  • 24.2 MP DX-format
  • CMOS sensor
Check PRICE
sony a7r ii
Sony a7R II
BEST MIRRORLESS
  • 42.4 MP full-frame
  • CMOS sensor
Check PRICE
canon eos rebel t3
Canon EOS Rebel T3
FOR BEGINNERS
  • 18MP APS-C
  • CMOS sensor
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Nikon d500
Nikon D500
  • 20.9MP DX-Format
  • CMOS Sensor
Check PRICE
Nikon d850
Nikon D850
BEST DSLR
  • 46MP Full Frame
  • CMOS
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canon eos 7d mark ii
Canon EOS 7D Mark II
  • 20MP APS-C
  • CMOS
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pentax k-s2
Pentax K-S2
  • 20MP APS-C
  • CMOS
Check PRICE
Nikon d5
Nikon D5
  • 20.8MP FX-Format
  • CMOS Sensor
Check PRICE

How to Choose a Camera for Astrophotography?

1. Possibility to Use Long Exposures

best camera for astrophotography

The light from space objects, if it is not the Sun or the Moon, is rather dim. Therefore, in order to capture celestial bodies in photographs, it will be necessary to open the shutter of your camera as widely as possible and to wait as long as possible until the photosensitive matrix of the device accumulates a certain number of photons. Accordingly, the first requirement for the astrophotography camera is the ability to work at long exposures. Preferably thirty seconds or more.

2. Large Physical Dimensions of the Matrix

best camera for astrophotography

The best camera for astrophotography ensures that you’ll get clear pictures without noise. This becomes possible thanks to the large physical dimensions of the camera matrix. The relationship is as follows: the smaller the pixel size, the faster it will heat up during framing, resulting in digital noise. In addition, the larger the physical dimensions of the matrix are, the more sensitive it is and can capture more light, which is a very important factor, considering the shooting of rather dim distant objects. 

Therefore, when choosing, it is necessary not only to wonder “How many megapixels do you need for astrophotography?”, but also ask about the size of the matrix. If one of the two cameras you have selected has the number of megapixels the same as the first device, and the matrix diagonal is larger, then opt for the second variant. As for me, cameras from 20MP are the best choice.

3. Manual Settings

best camera for astrophotography

What is the best camera for taking pictures of the night sky? That, which gives you the opportunity to fully control the setting process of the camera. Be attentive and choose those astrophotography cameras, which give you a chance to manually adjust the exposure. In addition, they must support manual focusing, since autofocus is suitable only for shooting bright and contrast celestial bodies like the Moon or the Sun. The camera should allow you to shoot in manual mode when it is possible to set the sensitivity, exposure and aperture values to your taste.

4. Shooting in RAW Format

best camera for astrophotography

Devices with RAW format shooting support are more preferable, as you can save more details. Thus, you will have more freedom and better opportunities to process the images on your computer.

5. Possibility to Use Interchangeable Lenses

best camera for astrophotography

Many photographers prefer a DSLR for astrophotography, as such a device allows using interchangeable lenses. The conditions you are working in will greatly influence the choice of suitable lenses. Keep this in mind while selecting the best camera for astrophotography.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more