What is an Astro Modified Camera? (And How To Get One)

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infrared astrophotography

You may have heard astrophotographers talk about using an astro modified camera or a modded camera.

But what does this mean, do you need one, and how do you get one?

In this article, we are going to explain all you need to know.

Canon EOS Ra Astrophotography Mirrorless Camera, Black - 4180C002

What is an Astro Modified Camera?

Astro modified cameras are regular DSLR or mirrorless cameras where part of the infrared (IR) filter has been removed to allow it to process color from deep-sky objects better.

Specifically, this makes it more capable of capturing images of nebulae by better capturing the Hydrogen Alpha spectral line (656nm) – this is the precise color emitted by hot clouds of Hydrogen gas that occur in emission nebulae.

Regular cameras are not designed to be sensitive to this wavelength, but with modification of the IR filter, they can be.

astro modified dslr
A post on Reddit where an astrophotographer has noted the use of an astro-modifed Canon camera

Types of Astro Camera Conversions

There are two main types of camera astro modification:

  1. H-Alpha Conversion
  2. Full Spectrum Conversion

H-Alpha Conversion

This is the most common type and usually what people have when they talk about astro modification.

This means that your camera will be capable of capturing hydrogen alpha light and visible light.

This is most popular for landscape astrophotographers since it enables the capture of the pink and red patches of hydrogen emissions in the night sky from nebulae or clouds of hydrogen gas.

One advantage of this type of conversion is that your camera will still be able to be able to be used in the daytime for regular photography.

You can see examples in these images:

Full Spectrum Conversion

Full spectrum converted cameras are capable of capturing all types of light:

  • Infrared (IR)
  • Ultraviolet (UV)
  • Visible light

These make your camera more versatile and is favored for deep sky astrophotography.

A downside is that full spectrum modified cameras will not perform well for regular, daytime photography.

For more on this, here is a great video on the topic:


How To Get An Astrophotography Modified Camera

There are four ways to get an astro modified camera:

  1. Buy a pre-modded camera
  2. Buy an astro modified camera for sale
  3. Use an astro modification service
  4. Perform the modification yourself on your own camera

1. Buy a pre-modded camera

Both Canon and Nikon have manufactured pre-modded astrophotography cameras, the:

  1. Canon EOS Ra
  2. Canon 60Da
  3. Nikon D810a

The Canon 60Da DSLR was released in 2008 and has been long discontinued.

The Canon EOS Ra Mirrorless was released in 2019 but discontinued in 2021. You can still buy it used though:

Astrophotography Specialist
Canon EOS Ra

Astrophotography Mirrorless Camera

Pros:
  • Modified filter for enhanced astrophotography imaging - better capture of H-Alpha light
  • 30.3 Megapixel Full-frame Sensor
  • Rf mount compatible with RF lenses and EF/EF-S lenses
Check Price on Amazon Check All Stores

The Nikon D810A was released in 2015 and has since been discontinued. It can be found available to buy still today though:

Astro-Modified
Nikon D810A
5.0
$3,796.95 $1,350.00

Astrophotography Modified DSLR Camera

Pros:
  • Employs an optical IR cut filter with specific transmission characteristics (characteristics in the 656nm range), enabling the capture of nebulae and distant galaxies that emit H-alpha wavelength in red
  • 36.3MP FX-format CMOS sensor
  • Virtual preview for more accurate focusing and composition for exposure longer than 30 seconds
Buy on Amazon Buy on KEH Camera
02/21/2024 09:04 pm GMT

2. Buy an astro modified camera for sale

You can buy astro modified cameras from certain companies:

Pre-modded cameras on sale at Life Pixel

3. Use an astro modification service

Life Pixel also offers to modify your camera by manually altering the sensor for you.

Life Pixel

Infrared Conversions, IR Modifications & Photography Tutorials

Check Out Life Pixel

This is cheaper than buying a pre-modified model (above) but less risky than trying to do it yourself (below).

4. Modify your own camera

There are tutorials available online to show you how you can go through the process of opening up your camera.

See for example here:

Obviously, there is a risk involved in taking your own camera apart and playing around with the insides and so be sure that it is what you want to do before starting the process.


FAQs: Astro Modified Cameras

What does astro modified mean?

Astro modified means that the sensor of a DSLR or mirrorless camera has been altered to make better for astrophotography.

Specifically, it will be more sensitive to certain kinds of light emitted in space that cannot be seen with the naked eye or captured with regular camera sensors.

Do I need to modify my DSLR for astrophotography?

An astro modified camera will capture more but most astrophotographers use regular, non-modified cameras and still have great results.

It’s not necessary but you may choose to do it at some point in your astrophotography journey.

What is a “modded camera”?

A modded camera is another name for an astrophotography-modified camera that has had its sensor altered to better capture light from space.

How to modify a DSLR for astrophotography?

You can use professional services to modify your DSLR for astrophotography or you can follow guides to do it yourself (at your own risk).


Verdict: Astrophotography Modified Cameras

Images from astro modified cameras can be stunning but as a beginner getting into astrophotography you definitely do not need to do this. A regular DSLR or mirrorless camera can perform amazingly well for astrophotography.

Modifying a camera, or buying a pre-modded one, can be a great step for an experienced astrophotographer that has reached the limited of their existing camera and wants to explore new ways to push it further.

Related articles:

About the Author

Anthony Robinson is the founder and owner of Skies & Scopes, a publication and community focused on amateur astronomy and astrophotography. His work has been featured in publications such as Amateur Astrophotography, Forbes, the Guardian, DIY Photography, PetaPixel, and Digital Camera World - read more.

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2 thoughts on “What is an Astro Modified Camera? (And How To Get One)”

    • You can purchase a Astronomik OWB Filter – Type 3 that will restore the ability of the camera to be used for terrestrial photography, like the original standard equipment filter

      Reply

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