Best camera for astrophotography [2018]

2018-10-06T16:54:49+00:00September 29th, 2018|

In this article, we assess the best cameras from the leading manufacturers to give recommendations on the best cameras for astrophotography in 2018.

As part of this website’s astrophotography masters series, we have asked some of the world’s best night sky photographers what cameras they use and their recommendations are included here.

The camera models below are all technologically up-to-date in 2018 and popular amongst astrophotography enthusiasts, both amateur and professional.

1. Best DSLR cameras for astrophotography

Preview
Best specialist astrophotography camera
Nikon D810A FX-format Digital SLR
Best Canon
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
Best all-round
Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body
Make & model
Nikon D810A FX-format Digital SLR
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body
Type
DSLR
DSLR
DSLR
Megapixels
36.3
30.4
45.7
Screen Size
3.2 inch
3.2 inch
3.2 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
200-12800 (expands to 100-51200)
100–32000 (expands to 50–102400)
64-25600 (expands to 32-102400)
Image stabilization
Item Weight
1.94 lbs
1.76 lbs
2.02 lbs
Best specialist astrophotography camera
Preview
Nikon D810A FX-format Digital SLR
Make & model
Nikon D810A FX-format Digital SLR
Type
DSLR
Megapixels
36.3
Screen Size
3.2 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
200-12800 (expands to 100-51200)
Image stabilization
Item Weight
1.94 lbs
Check prices
Best Canon
Preview
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
Make & model
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
Type
DSLR
Megapixels
30.4
Screen Size
3.2 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
100–32000 (expands to 50–102400)
Image stabilization
Item Weight
1.76 lbs
Check prices
Best all-round
Preview
Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body
Make & model
Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body
Type
DSLR
Megapixels
45.7
Screen Size
3.2 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
64-25600 (expands to 32-102400)
Image stabilization
Item Weight
2.02 lbs
Check prices

Last update on 2018-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1.1 Canon EOS 5D Mark IV – Best Canon for astrophotography

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV was released in the second half of 2016 and is a great camera with outstanding low-light capabilities.

It is one of the best DSLR cameras for astrophotography and potentially the best Canon astrophotography camera.

From the Skies & Scopes astrophotography masters interview series, Ivan Slade and Leonardo Orazi both use the older predecessor to this camera (the Canon 6D).

Pros

  • Sensor: A 30.4 megapixel full-frame high-speed CMOS sensor means it performs well for shooting the night skies.
  • ISO: It has a high ISO range of 100–32000 (expandable up to 50–102400) and features one of the best CMOS sensors for shooting photos at night.
  • Noise: The EOS 5D Mark IV has powerful built-in features for noise reduction and delivers some of the best results in tests of various cameras’ abilities to suppress noise. The high resolution of approximately 30.4MP brings out the variation in brightness of the stars. Because noise is basically pixel-based, the more pixels there are, the smaller the pixels, and therefore the less they stand out. Moreover, because dark stars will appear smaller, the variations in the brightness of the stars are brought out.
  • Weight: It’s marginally lighter than the Nikon D810A at 800 grams (28.22 oz), although heavier than the Sony A7Rii covered below.
  • Touchscreen: A great feature for night shooting as it helps your reviewing your picture in the dark.
  • Usability: A relatively small thing, but the remote control terminal has been placed in the front of the camera which makes it much easier to use in the dark.

Cons

  • Screen: Again, like the Nikon D810a it has no tilt screen
  • Battery: The battery life of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV has compared unfavorably with other models
  • Ergonomics: It can be awkward using the touchscreen because your right-hand grips the camera you need to loosen that to pinch zoom in/out.

Find more detail on the EOS 5D Mark IV on Canon’s site.

Summary

Canon did previously offer specialized models for astrophotography (for example, the Canon 60 DA) but this practice has been discontinued in favor of focusing on high-performance DSLRs that can deliver in multiple areas. The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is a great example of this done successfully.

This is a brilliant all-round camera and many astrophotographers generally believe that Canon outperforms Nikon in this area, so don’t be put off but not being able to find a specialist Canon model for astrophotography. 

Check prices for the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV on Amazon

 

1.2 Nikon D850 – best all-round Nikon DSLR camera

 

Nikon D850 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body

The Nikon D850 is widely regarded as one of the two best new cameras of 2017 (with the Sony A7RIII being the other one – see below) and is being referred to as ‘the last great DSLR’ camera. It’s Nikon’s newest and most advanced model and is gaining popularity amongst users as a fantastic camera. It is not a specialist astrophotography camera but it is a brilliant all-round DSLR that can deliver in this area.

Pros

  • Sensor: At 45.7 megapixel it provides outstanding resolution.
  • Screen: It has a tilting touchscreen, which is greatly appreciated when photographing the night sky – as are the illuminated buttons.
  • ISO: Extremely high at 64-25600 (expanding to 32-102400).
  • Video: Capable of 4K Ultra HD video recording.

Cons

  • Weight: At 2.02 lbs it is heavier than the Sony A7RIII.
  • Cost: As with all the top-end cameras on this list, it requires a reasonable investment and so would only be for those with sufficient budgets.

Find out more about the D850 on Nikon’s site.

Summary

The Nikon D850 makes the perfect choice for someone looking for the most up-to-date and technologically advanced DSLR camera that be used for all photography – this is where it contrasts with the Nikon D810A, which is a specialist astrophotography model.

The D850 is ideal for someone looking for a market-leading camera that can also be used for all kinds of photography. It’s definitely a camera that can take pictures of the stars, but it also excels for portrait, landscape or whatever else you want to shoot. The highly respected Expert Imaging and Sound Association (EISA) awards for 2018/19 named the Nikon D850 the ‘best professional DSLR camera’.

An alternative to the D850 is the slightly lower spec Nikon D750. This camera makes a great option if your budget is lower but you still want a top of the range Nikon. This is also a camera that is popular with astrophotographers.

Check prices for the Nikon D850 on Amazon

1.3 Nikon D810A – Best Nikon astrophotography camera

 

Nikon D810A FX-format Digital SLR

The Nikon D810A is a version of the popular D810 model but optimized for astrophotography. It was also the world’s first full-frame DSLR dedicated to astrophotography when released in 2015 and therefore has a legitimate claim to being the best DSLR for astrophotography.

So what’s different about this camera and how it is designed for astrophotography? Well, most cameras’ Infrared filters are more broad-ranging and filter out some visible red light, as well as infrared.

The filter on the D810A is much more precise and around four times more sensitive to long-wavelength red light than an ordinary DSLR. This makes it much more capable of capturing images of deep space objects and Nebulae by better capturing the Hydrogen Alpha spectral line (656nm) – the precise color emitted by the hot clouds of Hydrogen gas that occur in emission nebulae.

This same quality though does mean that it will deliver above and beyond for astrophotography but conversely will underperform when compared to other high-end cameras in other areas of photography.

Pros

As you would expect from a high-end Nikon dedicated to astronomy, it’s a fantastic camera that will produce outstanding results in this field.

What you need from a camera for night photography are in particular a high ISO with low noise, and a long exposure time – and this camera delivers. It has:

  • ISO: High ISO with low noise levels up to 12,800 (expandable to 51,000)
  • Virtual preview: For shots longer than 30 seconds this feature enables you to have a better idea of how your long exposure shots will turn out\
  • Exposure: Long in-camera exposure settings of 15 minutes

As part of its optimization for astrophotography it has:

  • Filter: As mentioned above, the optical Infrared cut filter with specific transmission characteristics enables the capture of nebulae and distant galaxies that emit H-alpha wavelength in red.
  • Shooting: Unlimited continuous JPEG shooting, in order to create star trail images that span the entire sky
  • Viewfinder: The ability to enable the viewfinder virtual horizon in M* manual mode and keep it lit in red. This will help to level the camera in the dark when you don’t want to degrade your night vision by using the virtual horizon on the rear LCD screen

Cons

It is a great astrophotography camera, but let’s cover the downsides:

  • Adaptability: It is worth considering that because it is optimized for shooting the night sky (namely higher sensitivity to red (H-alpha) for shooting nebulae) the D810A can give poor color rendition for normal photography – manifested as red tinge on regular images. Therefore you are likely to still need a regular DSLR for other photography so you should only be considering this camera if you are committed to astrophotography and/or have other DSLRs in your collection for regular photography.
  • Long exposure: The in-camera exposure settings of up to 15 minutes could actually be a bit longer – other models have up to 30 minutes. You can buy remote releases and timers at extra cost though, and a cynic might suggest that keeping it to 15mins in the camera firmware “encourages” you to do this…
  • Sensor: Deep sky photography requires taking relatively short exposures of the same object, then stacking them to create a single picture. The 36MP RAW files produced by this camera are huge in size and software performance and computer storage might be an issue when stacking multiple images.
  • Weight: It’s heavy at 880 grams and might present balancing issues if mounting on a telescope.
  • Screen: The rear LCD screen is not of the tilting type. Considering that the camera will often be used at odd angles, a tilt-screen is valuable.
  • Availability: In 2018, there are rumors that the camera has been discontinued and is hard to get hold of.

Find more detail about the D810A on Nikon’s site.

Summary

The Nikon D810A is undoubtedly a fantastic astrophotography camera. It is expensive though and given that it’s not recommended for other types of photography, you should be committed to astrophotography to be making this investment. However, if that’s the direction you want to go, then you will definitely be rewarded with stunning astronomy images with this camera.

Unfortunately though, in 2018, it’s extremely hard to get hold of a new D810A and it seems to have been discontinued. The only way to get hold of a D810A is seemingly second-hand – KEH Cameras are specialists in pre-owned camera equipment and have them on sale here.

Check prices for the Nikon D810A on KEH Cameras

 

2. Best mirrorless cameras for astrophotography

Preview
Professional option
Sony a7R III 42.4MP Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera
High-value option
Sony a7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera Optical with 3-Inch LCD, Black (ILCE7M3/B)
Make & model
Sony a7R III 42.4MP Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera
Sony a7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera Optical with 3-Inch LCD, Black (ILCE7M3/B)
Type
Mirrorless
Mirrorless
Megapixels
42.4
24.2
Screen size
3 inch
3 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
100-32000 (expands to 50–102400)
100 - 51200 (expands to ISO 50 – 204800)
Image stabilization
Item weight
1.45 lbs
1.4 lbs
Professional option
Preview
Sony a7R III 42.4MP Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera
Make & model
Sony a7R III 42.4MP Full-frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera
Type
Mirrorless
Megapixels
42.4
Screen size
3 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
100-32000 (expands to 50–102400)
Image stabilization
Item weight
1.45 lbs
Check prices
High-value option
Preview
Sony a7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera Optical with 3-Inch LCD, Black (ILCE7M3/B)
Make & model
Sony a7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera Optical with 3-Inch LCD, Black (ILCE7M3/B)
Type
Mirrorless
Megapixels
24.2
Screen size
3 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
100 - 51200 (expands to ISO 50 – 204800)
Image stabilization
Item weight
1.4 lbs
Check prices

Last update on 2018-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

2.1 Sony A7RIII – best mirrorless camera for astrophotography

Sony a7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera Optical with 3-Inch LCD, Black (ILCE7M3/B)

The Sony A7RIII is a high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera it can seriously compete with the best DSLRs for astrophotography and as an all-purpose camera.

In fact, it is widely regarded as one of the top two all-round cameras on the market now – with the Nikon D850 being its primary rival.

From the Skies & Scopes astrophotography masters interview series, both Ivan Slade and Talman Madsen use this camera for amazing results in photographing the stars and Milky Way – they say:

“for astro the dynamic range is insanely good” – Ivan Slade

“the Sony Camera system has the best dynamic range I’ve ever used allowing me to really push my files in post-processing” – Talman Madsen

Pros

  • ISO: High ISO of 100-32000 (expandable to 50-102400) with excellent noise performance.
  • Sensor: 42.4 MP back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS image sensor results in stunning image quality with high levels of detail.
  • Lenses: Any lens of just about any brand can be used with the camera (with the use of an additional adapter).
  • Screen: Unlike the models featured above it has a tilting screen – yay!
  • Weight: At 1.45 lbs it is significantly lighter than the Nikon and Canon models featured here and feels less clunky to carry.
  • Battery life: In a significant improvement from the previous model (the A7RII), the battery life is no longer a weak point and it now can be expected to last as long as a comparable Nikon or Canon model.

Cons

  • The “star eater” issue: A Sony firmware update for the camera in early 2017 resulted in a loss of performance when shooting the night sky – with stars disappearing as they are under 1 pixel in the image and therefore mistaken by the camera as ‘hot pixels’ and deleted – this has become known as the “star eater” issue. However, as of 2018 the problem has been resolved.
  • Menu system: It’s not the most intuitive and can take a long time to get set up to shoot as you want it to.
  • Screen: Lacks full touchscreen functionality.
  • Lenses: Whilst you can adapt Nikon or Canon lenses to work in this camera they will lose performance as a lens always works best on its own brand of camera. Therefore the Sony Zeiss lenses work best for this camera but this limits your options.

The Sony A7R III vs the Sony A7 III

Sony also offers the confusingly-similar named model, the Sony A7 III, which was released in 2018.

The A7III is a slightly lower-spec model to the A7RIII, in particular the a7R III allows the capture of higher-resolution images at 42 megapixels, compared to 24 megapixels for the A7III.

However, the A7III is offered at a correspondingly lower price and some photographers even believe that it performs slightly better in low light than the A7RIII.

Interestingly, the 2018/19 EISA awards named the Sony A7RIII as the ‘best professional mirrorless camera’, and the Sony A7III overall ‘camera of the year’.

Overall, if you think you higher resolution images for your astrophotography then the a7R III is a slightly better camera, but this is – of course – what you pay extra for, and the A7III is an amazing mirrorless camera in 2018.

Find more detail on the A7 RIII and the A7 III on Sony’s site.

Summary

The Sony A7RIII is a great camera and makes sharp, high-resolution images and will deliver for astrophotography. It’s incredibly popular with its owners. Many photographers do prefer DSLRs and you should be aware of the differences when considering investing in this camera, but it is a great all-round model.

As noted, this camera (released in 2017) is widely-regarded as one of the best available all-round cameras on the market – and that’s not just mirrorless cameras, all cameras including DSLRs. Previously, the “star eater” issue caused by a firmware update was a problem for astrophotographers, but this has been resolved in 2018.

Check prices for the Sony A7R III on Amazon

 

3. Best beginners cameras for astrophotography

The cameras above are all high-end models – the best available on the market. But you don’t necessarily need an absolute top-end camera to take great pictures of the night sky. In fact, many budget and mid-range models will provide all you need in the way of performance for capturing the milky way and the stars. 

The below cameras are some of the newest models from the most reliable brands that will provide what you need in a camera for night sky photography, and all other types of photography, but at a lower cost.

We have recommended here four cameras that provide some of the best value in 2018 and would suit beginners looking for a first DSLR or mirrorless camera, or just someone looking for a 2018 upgrade.

They are not specialist astrophotography cameras, but rather great all-round performers that are more than capable of delivering this area.

Preview
Extremely popular
Pentax K-70 Weather-Sealed DSLR Camera, Body Only (Black)
Brilliant affordable Nikon
Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)
Popular entry-level Canon
Canon EOS REBEL T7i Body
Mid-range mirrorless
Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera - Silver (Body Only)
Make & Model
Pentax K-70 Weather-Sealed DSLR Camera, Body Only (Black)
Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)
Canon EOS REBEL T7i Body
Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera - Silver (Body Only)
Type
DSLR
DSLR
DSLR
Mirrorless
Megapixels
24.24
24.2
24.2
24.3
Screen size
3 inch
3 inch
3 inch
3 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
100-204800
100-25600
100-25600
200-12800
Image stabilization
Item weight
2 lbs
0.87 lb
1.18 lbs
2.2 lbs
Extremely popular
Preview
Pentax K-70 Weather-Sealed DSLR Camera, Body Only (Black)
Make & Model
Pentax K-70 Weather-Sealed DSLR Camera, Body Only (Black)
Type
DSLR
Megapixels
24.24
Screen size
3 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
100-204800
Image stabilization
Item weight
2 lbs
Check prices
Brilliant affordable Nikon
Preview
Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)
Make & Model
Nikon D3400 w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)
Type
DSLR
Megapixels
24.2
Screen size
3 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
100-25600
Image stabilization
Item weight
0.87 lb
Check prices
Popular entry-level Canon
Preview
Canon EOS REBEL T7i Body
Make & Model
Canon EOS REBEL T7i Body
Type
DSLR
Megapixels
24.2
Screen size
3 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
100-25600
Image stabilization
Item weight
1.18 lbs
Check prices
Mid-range mirrorless
Preview
Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera - Silver (Body Only)
Make & Model
Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera - Silver (Body Only)
Type
Mirrorless
Megapixels
24.3
Screen size
3 inch
Tilting screen
ISO range
200-12800
Image stabilization
Item weight
2.2 lbs
Check prices

Last update on 2018-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3.1 Pentax K-70

 

Pentax K-70 Weather-Sealed DSLR Camera, Body Only (Black)

The Pentax K-70 is a great DSLR that is suitable for beginners and more experienced users alike. It has a tilting night-vision screen and is weather-sealed so you don’t need to worry about it getting wet in the rain.

It was first released on to the market in summer 2016 and provides great value for money.

It’s a 24 megapixel, APS-C sensor camera with an ISO range of 100-204800. Find out more about the K-70 on Pentax’s site.

Check prices for the Pentax K-70 on Amazon

3.2 Nikon D3400

 

Nikon D3400 w/AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR (Black)

The D3400 is fantastic entry-level / mid-range DSLR from one of the most popular camera manufacturers out there.

First released in mid-2016, but definitely up-to-standard in 2018. Photographer Marcus Cote uses the earlier version of this camera (the D3200) for astrophotography.

It’s lightweight, has a 24mp DX-Format CMOS Sensor with an ISO of 100-25600. Find out more about the D3400 on Nikon’s site.

Check prices for the Nikon D3400 on Amazon

3.3 Canon EOS REBEL T7i

 

Canon EOS REBEL T7i Body

Canon’s EOS Rebel T7i was released only around a year ago in early 2017 and is one of the best beginner DSLR cameras available.

It has a 24 megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor with an ISO range of 100-25600. Find out more about the EOS Rebel T7i on Canon’s site.

Check prices for the Canon EOS Rebel T7i on Amazon

3.4 Fujifilm X-T20

 

Fujifilm X-T20 Mirrorless Digital Camera - Silver (Body Only)

For a mid-range mirrorless camera, the Fujifilm X-T20 is one of the best options out there in 2018.

Brand new on the market last year (2017), it’s extremely popular with users and is considerably smaller than the other (DSLR) cameras on this list.

It has a 24MP APS-C sensor with an ISO range of 200-12800 and a tilting touchscreen. Find out more about the X-T20 on Fujifilm’s site.

Check prices for the Fujifilm X-T20 on Amazon

 

4. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about astrophotography cameras

4.1 What should I look for in a camera for astrophotography?

Before you buy a camera for astrophotography, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions:

  1. What kind of pictures do you want to take? I.e. starry skies, the Milky Way and the planets, vs deep sky imaging (far-off galaxies and nebula). 
  2. How seriously are you going to use the camera? I.e. just for occasional fun, vs a regular and serious hobby, vs a professional money-making venture.
  3. How much is your budget? Cameras can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. It’s best to decide how much you want to spend on it and find the best model within that range.

If you want to mostly take pictures of starry landscapes, then a standard DSLR or mirrorless will likely be best for you. Similarly, if this is something you want to do as a hobby, then would make sense to get a good all-round camera as you can use it for all your photography.

If you are serious about getting into deep sky photography, then a specialist (or converted) astrophotography camera might be what you need.

 

4.2 Can I use a normal DSLR or mirrorless camera for astrophotography?

Modern, standard DSLR and mirrorless cameras are highly capable of performing excellent astrophotography imaging.

However, they aren’t perfect as they have a filter that reduces the amount of infrared light that enters the image sensor. This reduces their performance for deep sky imaging – i.e. photographing far-off objects like galaxies and nebulae.

The filter is there to improve the performance of the camera in regular daytime photography, but it filters out hydrogen-alpha (h-alpha) infrared light which many deep-sky objects emit and so limits the capability to photograph these.

 

4.3 Are there specialist astrophotography cameras?

Yes, the Nikon D810A and the Canon 60Da are both specialist DSLR cameras optimized for astrophotography. They feature an infrared-blocking filter to let in more h-alpha light than the standard model and thereby better to perform deep sky imaging.

The Nikon D810A was released in 2015 and is detailed above – click here to read.

The Canon 60Da was released in 2012. It was a tweaked version of the regular Canon 60D DSLR but optimized for astrophotography. Canon had previously offered an astrophotography DSLR in the Canon 20Da, which was released in 2005.

All of these cameras are currently discontinued and so the only way to get hold of them is second-hand. Try KEH cameras, who specialize in pre-owned photography equipment.

Nikon D810A FX-format Digital SLR

The Nikon D810a

 

4.4 Do I need a specialist astrophotography camera?

Of the cameras featured in this article, the Nikon D810A is the only specialist astrophotography camera. All the others are high-performing DSLR and Mirrorless cameras that are capable of capturing brilliant images of the stars and night sky.

It is only the very experienced astrophotographer that will need – and be able to make the most of – one of these specialist astrophotography cameras. The specialist Canon and Nikon astrophotography models do not work perfectly as all-purpose cameras, as the differences in how they capture infrared light interferes with photography in the daylight.

For the vast majority of people it would make sense to get the best all-round DLSR or mirrorless camera for their budget. However, if you really want to take your deep sky photography to another level, then a specialist astrophotography camera might be for you.

 

4.5 Can I convert a regular camera to be a specialist astrophotography camera?

Yes, there are companies that can convert regular cameras to be optimized for astrophotography, for instance Life Pixel.

If you have a standard DSLR or mirrorless camera you can replace the low pass filter replaced with one that allows H-Alpha emissions, or you can buy pre-converted camera models.

Check out Life Pixel here.

 

4.6 What is a DSLR camera?

DLSR stands for Digital Single-Lens Reflex camera. 

It is a digital camera that uses a mirror to reflect light from the lens to the optical viewfinder or onto an image sensor. They comprise a main body that can then have a range of different lenses attached.

They contrast with ‘point-and-shoot-cameras’ by being capable of attaching different lenses, and by offering more control over the settings, such as shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

These have been the most popular cameras for photographers in the past decade, but mirrorless cameras are growing in popularity.

Nikon D750 Digital SLR Camera & 24-120mm f/4 VR Lens with 64GB Card + Battery & Charger + Backpack + 3 Filters + Flash + Kit

The Nikon D750 is a DSLR camera

 

4.7 What is a mirrorless digital camera?

Mirrorless cameras do not have an optical mirror like a DSLR, but instead have an electronic viewfinder which displays what the camera image sensor sees. Like DSLRs, mirrorless cameras can be used with interchangeable lenses.

Mirrorless cameras are becoming more popular with photographers and 2018 saw the two main camera manufacturers – Nikon and Canon – release mirrorless models that could compete with Sony, the current market leader in mirrorless cameras.

Sony a7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera Optical with 3-Inch LCD, Black (ILCE7M3/B)

A mirrorless camera (The Sony A7 III)

 

4.8 What is best: DSLR vs mirrorless cameras?

Mirrorless cameras tend to be smaller and lighter than DSLRs and the digital display gives a more accurate image preview in the viewfinder.

DSLRs tend to have better autofocus capabilities, better battery life, and work with a larger range of lenses.

DSLRs remain the most popular choice for photographers, but mirrorless cameras are catching up as the technology advances and brings the cost down of the equipment. A common school of thought is that mirrorless cameras will eventually replace DSLRs as the default camera choice at some point in the future.

 

5. Overall – What is the best camera for astrophotography?

The cameras above are all high-end, high-performance cameras capable of delivering excellent results for astrophotography and if you are looking to make a serious investment in this area then you can’t go wrong with these.

It is of course more than possible to get great results with mid-range or budget DSLRs and the high-end models considered here have prices that reflect that they are for the serious enthusiasts.

None of the downsides of any of the above models are reasons to steer clear of them and ultimately which model you might go for will depend on a number of factors.

If you are a Nikon user then you may well favor the Nikon D810A, but be aware that it is a specialist astrophotography model and not necessarily ideal for other types of photography. The highly recommended alternative is the Nikon D850 – widely regarded as the best all-round camera on the market right now and was brand new in 2017.

If you are a Canon user then you can’t really go wrong with the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. It’s a brilliant all-round camera. Entry-level and mid-range Canon DSLRs tend to perform strongly for astrophotography and so you might want to explore this. There is a model to avoid though – the Canon 1100D – as it has a defect which leaves black lines under bright stars at long exposure. 

If you are looking to invest in something different and are not already in the Nikon or Canon camps then the Sony A7R iii may be a good option for you as a versatile camera capable of producing amazing pictures of all kinds. Many believe that the future of photography will be mirrorless over DSLR and if you agree this might be the right camera for you.

5.1 Vote – what do you think is the best astrophotography camera?


Be sure to also check out the best lens for astrophotography to help ensure you make the most of your camera for shooting the stars.

This article was originally posted on 17 July 2017 and has been updated for 2018. 

7 Comments

  1. Nicolas November 10, 2017 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    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.

    • Anthony Wallace January 5, 2018 at 6:43 pm - 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.

      • Anthony Wallace July 26, 2018 at 1:27 pm - Reply

        Just to note for readers – the ‘star eater’ problem for Sony cameras has been resolved in 2018!

  2. Jose Corazon June 8, 2018 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    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.

  3. John Tunney July 11, 2018 at 2:26 pm - Reply

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

    • Anthony Wallace July 16, 2018 at 8:58 am - Reply

      Thanks John! We’ll consider adding the camera on the next review and update of the article.

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