Best Camera for Astrophotography 2024: Unique Data Analysis

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best camera for astrophotography

We analyzed 828 images shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition in the past six years to find the Best Camera for Astrophotography.

These cameras are proven to deliver for astrophotography even though they are not the most expensive models on the market.

If you buy one of these models you can be completely confident going out to shoot the stars.

See our top recommendations below or read on for the full data and analysis:

Top Pick
Best Sony
Budget Pick
Premium Pick
Nikon Z6 II
Sony A7 III
Canon EOS 6D
Sony A7 IV
Mirrorless
Mirrorless
DSLR
Mirrorless
Full-frame
Full-frame
Full-frame
Full-frame
24.3 MP
24.2 MP
20.2 MP
33 MP
Top Pick
Nikon Z6 II
Mirrorless
Full-frame
24.3 MP
Best Sony
Sony A7 III
Mirrorless
Full-frame
24.2 MP
Budget Pick
Canon EOS 6D
DSLR
Full-frame
20.2 MP
Premium Pick
Sony A7 IV
Mirrorless
Full-frame
33 MP
derek horlock nikon z6 ii astrophotography
Image taken with a Nikon Z6 II (Credit: Derek Horlock)

Best Cameras for Astrophotography

 Top Pick: Nikon Z6 II
— Best Sony: Sony A7 III / Premium Pick: Sony A7 IV
— Best Budget: Canon EOS 6D
 Best Planetary: ZWO ASI174MM
 Best Deep Sky: ZWO ASI6200MM Pro


How We Chose the Best Cameras for Astrophotography

We analyzed all 828 images shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition for the past six years (2018 to 2023) to see what cameras were used.

Of these 828 images, we have split the analysis between:

  • 417 taken with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, most commonly for Milky Way and landscape astrophotography
  • 381 taken with a dedicated astronomy camera (also known as a CCD or CMOS camera) and telescope for planetary and deep sky astrophotography

Note: a small number taken with smartphones and other devices are omitted which is why this adds up to 798, rather than 828.

Let’s look at each of these categories in turn.

Best DSLR and Mirrorless Cameras for Astrophotography

The top five most used DSLR and mirrorless cameras in shortlisted images in the past three years are:

  1. Nikon Z6 II
  2. Canon EOS 6D
  3. Nikon D850
  4. Sony A7R III
  5. Sony A7 III
Top Pick
Nikon Z6 II
4.8
$1,996.95 $1,596.95

Full frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

Pros:
  • Great new mirrorless from Nikon
  • Proven astrophotography performance
  • Mid-range price
Cons:
  • Fairly expensive
  • Lower resolution than other options
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03/06/2024 01:26 pm GMT

Here’s the top 12:

Best Camera for Astrophotography
DSLR and mirrorless cameras in images shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2021-2023

As you can see, it is a mix of DSLRs and mirrorless models from the three top manufacturers – Nikon, Canon, and Sony.

Canon has been the number-one brand over the six years:

What camera brand is best for astrophotography?
Percentage of images taken with DSLR or mirrorless cameras shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018-2023
Dario Giannobile Canon 6D astrophotography
Image taken with a Canon EOS 6D in 2023 (Credit: Dario Giannobile)
Budget Pick
Canon EOS 6D

Full frame interchangeable-lens DSLR camera

Pros:
  • Most successfully used camera in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition from 2018 to 2023
  • Bargain to picked up on the used market
Cons:
  • Fairly old
  • No Live View functionality
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However, in the past two years Nikon and Sony cameras have become more popular:

best cameras for astrophotography
Percentage of images taken with DSLR or mirrorless cameras shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022-2023

This is likely a reflection of the popularity of Nikon and Sony’s newer mirrorless models in comparison to Canon’s.

burak esenbey sony a7 iii astrophotography image
Image taken with a Sony A7 III (Credit: Burak Esenbey)
Best Sony
Sony A7 III
4.7
$1,798.00

Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

Pros:
  • No.1 Camera in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2022
  • Light Weight, High-Quality
  • 24.2 Megapixel Resolution
Cons:
  • Not a "Budget" option
  • Sony UX can be hard to master
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03/06/2024 01:42 pm GMT

One thing that they all have in common is that they are all full-frame sensor cameras, as opposed to APS-C (crop sensor) models.

Full-frame cameras are much more commonly used for landscape astrophotography:

full frame astrophotography cameras
DSLR and mirrorless cameras in landscape astrophotography images shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018-2023

This is because full-frame cameras:

  1. Can capture a wider expanse of the sky (APS-C sensors crop the image smaller)
  2. Are better at capturing light in dark conditions, like under the night sky.

This is why we recommend going for a full-frame camera for astrophotography. It may be tempting to go for a cheaper, entry-level APS-C camera, but you will be better off buying an older and/or used full-frame model if astrophotography is something you have in mind.

In terms of DSLR versus mirrorless, neither is explicitly better for astrophotography but mirrorless cameras have become more successful in recent years:

DSLR vs Mirrorless Cameras in Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018 2023
DSLR vs mirrorless cameras in images shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018-2023

This is a trend occurring in wider photography as mirrorless cameras have become cheaper in recent years and tend to be smaller and lighter than DSLRs.

Premium Pick
Sony Alpha 7 IV
4.7
$2,498.00

Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

Pros:
  • 33 Megapixel resolution
  • Top-of-the-range premium camera for all photography
Cons:
  • Expensive
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03/06/2024 02:19 pm GMT

Now let’s look at the data for dedicated astrophotography cameras.

Best Dedicated Astrophotography Cameras

Dedicated astronomy cameras are used for deep sky and planetary astrophotography.

They are not standalone devices like DSLRs but are controlled externally via a laptop or similar device and are attached to telescopes rather than camera lenses.

Our data shows us that ZWO is by far the most successful brand for dedicated astronomy cameras:

Best Dedicated Astrophotography Cameras
Dedicated Astronomy Cameras by manufacturer in images shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018-2023

The top planetary cameras are:

These are monochrome, uncooled, CMOS cameras with fast frame rates and modest resolutions – the attributes wanted in a camera for planetary imaging:

dedicated astrophotography cameras for planetary imaging
Dedicated astronomy cameras in planetary images shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018-2023
Best Planetary Camera
ZWO ASI174MM
4.7
$545.92

2.3 MP CMOS Monochrome Astronomy Camera

Pros:
  • Capture high-resolution monochrome images of the Moon, Sun, planets, and some deep-sky objects
  • Advanced CMOS sensor with 1936 x 1216 (2.35MP) resolution
  • Fast USB 3.0 transfer at up to 164 frames per second at maximum resolution, with higher data transfer rates at lower resolution
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03/07/2024 02:09 pm GMT
deep sky astrophotography image
Image taken with a ZWO 2600MM Pro camera (Credit: Thomas Lease)

The most successful deep-sky models are the:

These are cooled, high-resolution cameras that are well-suited to deep-sky imaging:

Top Deep Sky Cameras in Astronomy Photographer of the Year
Dedicated astronomy cameras in deep sky images shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2018-2023
Premium Pick - Best ZWO DSO Camera
ZWO ASI6200MM Pro
5.0

Full Frame CMOS Monochrome Cooled Astronomy Camera

Pros:
  • One of the best dedicated astronomy cameras on the market
  • 62-megapixel high-resolution monochrome full frame sensor
  • 91% quantum efficiency with 16-bit ADC
  • Ultra-low 1.5e read noise and 51,400e full well capacity
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Best Camera for Astrophotography FAQs

Are DSLR or mirrorless cameras better for astrophotography?

Mirrorless cameras are increasingly used for astrophotography. However, neither mirrorless nor DSLRs are inherently better for this.

DSLRs have been the most popular camera type for photographers in the past decade as mirrorless cameras were more expensive, but technological advances have been bringing down their prices in recent years.

Mirrorless cameras do not have an optical mirror like a DSLR (hence the name) and tend to be smaller and lighter.

They feature an electronic viewfinder that displays what the camera image sensor sees, which can be a real bonus when composing shots and focusing on objects in the night sky. Like DSLRs, mirrorless cameras can be used with interchangeable lenses.

On the other hand, DSLRs often have better battery life, and work with a larger range of lenses.

You can read more on this here: DSLR vs Mirrorless Cameras for Astrophotography.

Are Full-Frame or APS-C sensor cameras better for astrophotography?

Full-frame cameras are best for astrophotography – especially landscape astrophotography.

From our research, we found out that 92% of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year finalists’ landscape astrophotography photos were taken with full-frame cameras.

As discussed above, full-frame cameras are generally better for astrophotography due to better performance in low-light conditions compared to crop sensor (APS-C) cameras.

In particular, they work better when using high ISO settings. In comparison at similar ISO levels, images from APS-C cameras will suffer from greater “noise” (a sort of graining on the image).

The full frame also gives you a wider field of view which is essential for landscape astrophotography when capturing a wide expanse of the sky in your images.

You can read a more in-depth analysis of this in our article, Full Frame vs APS-C: What’s Best for Astrophotography?

What’s the best budget camera for astrophotography?

A used Canon EOS 6D is our recommendation as the best budget camera for astrophotography.

If you don’t want a used camera, or just not one that is as old as this, then another option is to go for older versions of the top full-frame models, like the Sony A7 or Sony A7 II.

In our opinion, this is better than getting a new APS-C sensor camera just because it is cheaper.

Jeff Graphy Canon EOS 6D Astrophotography
Image taken with a Canon EOS 6D (Credit: Jeff Graphy)

What’s the best DSLR camera for astrophotography?

Our data shows that the best DSLRs for astrophotography are the:

  1. Canon EOS 6D
  2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
  3. Nikon D750
  4. Nikon D850

What’s the best mirrorless camera for astrophotography?

The best mirrorless cameras for astrophotography are the top recommended cameras in this article, namely the Nikon Z6 II and Sony A7 III.

The other premium options are also great, like the Nikon Z7 II and the Sony A7 IV and the So7R IV.

See the Best Mirrorless Cameras for Astrophotography for more on this.

What’s the best Canon camera for astrophotography?

Using our research and findings we recommend the Canon EOS 6D as the best Canon astrophotography camera.

The alternative to this is the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV which is actually the second most successfully used camera in our Astronomy Photographer of the Year results. It is Canon’s premium full-frame DSLR and is a better all-round camera with improved features in areas like video capability. It is generally more expensive than the 6D though.

You can also see our deeper dive into the Best Canon Cameras for Astrophotography.

What’s the best Sony camera for astrophotography?

The best Sony cameras for astrophotography are the Sony A7 III, Sony A7 IV, and Sony A7R IV.

Some prominent astrophotographers have recently moved over to using Sony mirrorless models instead of DSLRs as their camera of choice for astronomy imaging.

It’s worth noting that there was previously an astrophotography issue with Sony mirrorless cameras where a firmware update resulted in stars disappearing from images as they were mistaken by the camera as ‘hot pixels’ and deleted.

This was known as the “star eater” issue. However, the problem was resolved in 2018 and should not be a barrier to you considering using a Sony mirrorless camera for astrophotography now.

What’s the best Nikon camera for astrophotography?

The best Nikon cameras for astrophotography are the mirrorless Nikon Z6 II or Nikon Z7 II or the older DSLR Nikon D750, and Nikon D850.

See our article on the Best Nikon for Astrophotography for more details.

What’s the best Pentax camera for astrophotography?

The best Pentax camera for astrophotography is the Pentax K-1 Mark II.

See our article on the Best Pentax for Astrophotography for more details.

What’s the best beginner camera for astrophotography?

The best astrophotography camera for beginners depends on your budget but there are a few options:

  1. If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera already then start with that, even if it has a crop sensor. No need to buy something new if you are just experimenting at the start – you can get results with any camera (even a smartphone).
  2. If you want to buy something relatively budget then look at a used Canon EOS 6D or Sony A7 or Sony A7 II.
  3. If cost is not an issue then probably go for one of the models we have recommended at the top of this article like the Nikon Z6 II.

What camera brand is best for astrophotography?

Our data shows that Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras are by, far the most successfully used for astrophotography.

See our article Canon vs Nikon vs Sony Astrophotography.

Do megapixels matter for astrophotography?

Yes, but it is not necessarily that this should be higher to be better.

More megapixels can degrade low-light performance in cameras although with modern high-resolution models like the Sony A7R IV this is not an issue,

Our results show that cameras with a megapixel count of around 25 MP are the most sucessful for astrophotography.

See our article, How Many Megapixels Do You Need For Astrophotography?

What are dedicated astronomy cameras?

Dedicated astronomy cameras are webcam-like objects that are attached to telescopes and are controlled via a laptop or similar external device.

These are also often referred to as CCD cameras or CMOS cameras and are used for deep sky and planetary astrophotography.

If you want to see an analysis of the best dedicated astronomy cameras, see these articles:

What are astro modified cameras?

Astro-modified cameras are DSLR or mirrorless cameras that have been specifically modified for astrophotography.

The sensors in regular cameras are not ideal for capturing the light emitted by nebulae and other DSOs as they filter out certain colors. What can be done is that the sensor can be altered to improve performance in this area.

This can be done manually yourself (risky), or by paying for this service from a company like Life Pixel:

Life Pixel

Infrared Conversions, IR Modifications & Photography Tutorials

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There are some models that have had this alteration done already, these are the:

The “a” in both refers to “astrophotography”.

If you want to read more about modifying cameras for astrophotography, see our article on astro modified cameras and how to get one.


nikon z6 ii astrophotography
Picture taken with a Nikon Z6 II (Credit: Abhijit Patil)

Verdict: The Best Cameras for Astrophotography

Most othe articles or guides on this topic are a fairly random list based on the author’s experience, which is very subjective and limited.

In truth, there is no “best camera for astrophotography”.

However, there are certain models that have been proven to perform and certain characteristics that make a camera more suited to this type of photography. Our objective research has identified these.

We looked at over 800 award-nominated astrophotography images and have found the most successful models and their common characteristics.

This adds to the personal experience of the many expert astrophotographers we work with to provide the most trustworthy recommendations. Overall, we recommend:

  1. The Nikon Z6 II as our top pick. It is top of our rankings for the past few years and is in the mid-range price bracket for a modern mirrorless.
  2. The Sony A7 III is our alternative pick for Sony users.
  3. Our premium pick is the Sony A7 IV for those who want the latest and highest spec.
  4. The Canon EOS 6D as the best budget camera for astrophotography
  5. The ZWO ASI174MM is the top dedicated astrophotography camera for those working with telescopes
  6. The ZWO ASI6200MM Pro is the best deep-sky dedicated model

My personal astrophotography camera of choice right now is a Nikon D750 which I’ve had for a few years. I don’t feel the need to upgrade right now, but if I was going to I would probably go for the Nikon Z6 II.

You can also see a wider write-up of our analysis of images in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition here, covering telescopes and mounts, as well as cameras.

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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19 thoughts on “Best Camera for Astrophotography 2024: Unique Data Analysis”

  1. Please mind the ”star eater” issue with the Sony A7 series which is not solved yet. Many articles available. If it turns out the problem got solved, please let us know then 😉
    Cheers.

    Reply
    • Hi Nicholas, thanks for pointing this out. It is indeed a relevant issue and is still not resolved. We have updated the article now to cover this and will continue to monitor to see if Sony resolve the situation.

      Reply
        • Not really resolved. Sure, newer models are better but Sony has NOT addressed the issue with firmware updates to older models. I personally don’t recommend sony for people who think they might get serious into astro using a wide angle lens on a star tracker. for telephoto work ,star eater isn’t as big of a deal.

          Reply
  2. My suggestion for the least expensive and most versatile astrophotography camera: If you have an older Nikon D3000 or D5000 series, send it to Lifepixel.com and have the low pass filter replaced with one that allows Halpha emissions, so the longer wavelengths in the red part of the spectrum, through. Then get a new model for every day photography. The difference between low pass and Halpha permeable filter is stunning. Sensitivity in the red emission nebula spectral range increases by 5-fold.
    There is no need to have a very complex and feature rich camera body for astrophotography. Essentially all you need is a camera body to which you can connect a remote release that keeps the shutter open for minutes at a time. Autofocus, program automatic, all that is irrelevant. A chip that gives reasonably low noise at 1600 ISO is all that is required.

    Reply
  3. A glaring omission in your review is mention of the Pentax K-1 – arguably the best camera for night photography on the market.

    Reply
  4. Maybe you should change the title to “Best DSLR camera for AP” as imho a dedicated CCD or CMOS camera is far better than a DSLR…

    Reply
  5. The Best Digital Camera for AP, especially Small Objects, is the Samsung NX-mini
    – 4 min. Bulb Exposure at ISO 800 is enough for the faintest Galaxies & Nebulae
    – BSI Sensor is the Sony imx183 with a Top QE of 84% in the Green Channel
    – its IR-cut Filter is very easy to remove, even for a non-specialist

    Reply
  6. Thank you for your article and information! Missing in your list of the best is the Pentax K-3 Mark iii, an excellent DLSR recently released. Please don’t just recommend on frequency of use, so that people don’t even look into using an excellent camera system. Thank you!

    Reply
  7. Correction on one of the Cons, you list for the Canon EOS 6D it does have live view functionality, always has have been using it since 2012. Got two of them, one astromodified by Spencer’s Camera with H-Alpha, one in factory status still work like a charm. What the 6D doesn’t have is the irritating flip screen of the Canon EOS 6D Mk II. Canon EOS 6D is a great astro camera, more prize winning shots have been taken with it than any other model for nightscapes. I’m also using my Canon EOS 1DX Mk II, which is another great model with a great sensor.

    Reply
  8. You probably just saved me around €5500,00. I have been looking at the ASI6200 Pro Series color camera as a replacement for the Canon EOS M6MKII that I use for Astrophotography. However, I have a Sony a7RM3 that I have never used for Astrophotography. After reading your article, I will swap my Canon EOS M6MKII for the Sony and see how that works out.

    Reply

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