Best Camera for Astrophotography (2022 Unique Data Analysis)

We analyzed 350+ images shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year in the past three years in order to find the Best Camera for Astrophotography:

Best Camera for Astrophotography
(Percentage of all images taken with DSLR or mirrorless cameras)

You can see above the top seven cameras used in images shortlisted in this leading astrophotography competition in the past three years.

Using this research, we have made recommendations on the best cameras for astrophotography for you to help you take stunning images of the starry skies and more.

See the quick links below or read on for more analysis.

*This website makes money through affiliate commissions. This means we may be compensated if you click links on this page at no extra cost to you.

Preview
Best Budget
Canon EOS 6D 20.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only) - Wi-Fi Enabled - International Version (No Warranty)
Best Canon
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
Best Nikon
Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body
Budget Nikon
Nikon D750 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body
Best Sony
Sony a7R III Mirrorless Camera: 42.4MP Full Frame High Resolution Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with Front End LSI Image Processor, 4K HDR Video and 3" LCD Screen - ILCE7RM3/B Body, Black
Make & Model
Canon EOS 6D
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Nikon D850
Nikon D750
Sony A7R III
Type
DSLR
DSLR
DSLR
DSLR
Mirrorless
Sensor type
Full-frame
Full-frame
Full-frame
Full-frame
Full-frame
Sensor size
20.2 MP
30.4 MP
45.7 MP
24.3 MP
42.4 MP
Best Budget
Preview
Canon EOS 6D 20.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only) - Wi-Fi Enabled - International Version (No Warranty)
Make & Model
Canon EOS 6D
Type
DSLR
Sensor type
Full-frame
Sensor size
20.2 MP
Check availability
Best Canon
Preview
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body
Make & Model
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
Type
DSLR
Sensor type
Full-frame
Sensor size
30.4 MP
Check availability
Best Nikon
Preview
Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body
Make & Model
Nikon D850
Type
DSLR
Sensor type
Full-frame
Sensor size
45.7 MP
Check availability
Budget Nikon
Preview
Nikon D750 FX-format Digital SLR Camera Body
Make & Model
Nikon D750
Type
DSLR
Sensor type
Full-frame
Sensor size
24.3 MP
Check availability
Best Sony
Preview
Sony a7R III Mirrorless Camera: 42.4MP Full Frame High Resolution Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with Front End LSI Image Processor, 4K HDR Video and 3" LCD Screen - ILCE7RM3/B Body, Black
Make & Model
Sony A7R III
Type
Mirrorless
Sensor type
Full-frame
Sensor size
42.4 MP
Check availability

Last update on 2022-05-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


What’s the Best Camera for Astrophotography? (Data Analysis)

We analyzed all 376 images shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition for the past three years (2019, 2020, and 2021) to see what cameras were used.

Of these images, 205 were taken with DSLR or mirrorless cameras and that forms the basis of our results here.

As you can see in the chart in the introduction above, we found that:

  1. Canon EOS 6D was the most frequently used DSLR and best performing overall.
  2. This is followed in second by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.
  3. Nikon D750 was the top Nikon DSLR and third overall.
  4. This is followed in fourth by the Nikon D850 and then the (now discontinued) Nikon D810A.
  5. Sony A7R III was the most frequently used mirrorless camera, followed by the Sony A7 III.

We will now examine these top DSLR and mirrorless models for astrophotography and explore the pros and cons of each:

Canon EOS 6D

Best Budget DSLR for Astrophotography

Canon EOS 6D 20.2 MP CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD (Body Only) - Wi-Fi Enabled - International Version (No Warranty)

The Canon EOS 6D is the most successfully used camera by far in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards in the past three years and we recommend it here as the best budget camera for astrophotography.

The results from our findings show that this camera can really deliver despite being relatively old and this is a really great option if you don’t want to spend too much and are looking for a model specifically to dabble in astrophotography.

It was released in 2012 and you can only buy it used now, but you should be able to pick up a good model for around $500.

It is a full-frame DSLR with a 20.2 Megapixel sensor and an ISO range of up to 102,000.

We have examples on this site that show what pictures can be taken with this camera – see our case studies with Ivan Slade and Leonardo Orazi. These results speak for themselves and this is a great astrophotography camera.

Prominent astrophotographer Alyn Wallace produced a video based on our findings to talk a bit more about the Canon EOS 6D (and other cameras):

Canon EOS 6D vs 6D Mark II

One thing to note is that there is a Canon EOS 6D, and a Canon EOS 6D Mark II.

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is a more recent model (released in 2017) and an update on the original 6D with some slight modifications (like a flip screen). It is also a full-frame DSLR but with a bigger (26.2 megapixel) sensor.

Both models are great for astrophotography. If you are happy with a used model and want the budget option then find a second-hand 6D, if you just prefer owning a new camera then go for a 6D Mark II.

Key specifications

  • Camera Type: DSLR
  • Sensor Type: Full-frame
  • Sensor Size: 20.2 MP
  • ISO Range: 100-102400

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV

Best Canon Camera for Astrophotography

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

The Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is the second most successful astrophotography camera overall in our results and the best Canon that you can actually still buy new.

It is a full-frame DSLR with a 30.4 MP sensor.

This model is more up-to-date and a better all-round camera (including for video) than the EOS 6D above, but is generally more expensive.

If you have the budget though and want something for all your photography pursuits then this might be the perfect option for you.

Key specifications

  • Camera Type: DSLR
  • Sensor Type: Full-frame
  • Sensor Size: 30.4 MP
  • ISO Range: 100-32000, expandable to 50-102400

What’s the Best Canon Camera for Astrophotography?

Using our research and findings we recommend the Canon EOS 6D as the best value 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 may prefer the 5D Mark IV over the 6D if you want a professional-level camera for more than just astrophotography and are willing to pay for it.

Here are the top five Canon cameras from the astrophotography competition results:

Best canon camera for astrophotography
(Percentage of all images taken with Canon cameras)

Nikon D750

Best Budget Nikon Camera for Astrophotography

Nikon D750

Our findings indicate that the top-rated Nikon is the Nikon D750.

Similar to the Canon 6D outlined above, this was a good discovery for those on a budget as, again, it is a relatively old camera (released in 2014). However, the evidence shows that it is still being used extremely successfully by astrophotographers today.

The Nikon D750 is a full-frame sensor DSLR. It has a 24.3-megapixel sensor, a tilting touchscreen (which is extremely when photographing the night sky – as are the illuminated buttons), and an ISO that goes up to 51,200.

You can see images taken with this camera in this case study with photographer Marcus Cote.

I personally have a D750 as my camera of choice for astrophotography. I favored it over the Canon EOS 6D solely because my previous camera was a Nikon and I had a few Nikon-fitting lenses that I wanted to be able to reuse. If it wasn’t for this then it would be a pretty even shoot out between which of these two cameras are the best value for astrophotography and both work extremely well for this purpose and can be picked up for relatively cheap (especially if bought used).

This is a great option if you prefer Nikon and have existing compatible lenses. It is a good all round camera and not just for astrophotography.

Key specifications

  • Camera Type: DSLR
  • Sensor Type: Full-frame
  • Sensor Size: 24.3 MP
  • ISO Range: 100-12,800, expandable to 51,200

Nikon D850

Best Nikon DSLR Camera for Astrophotography

Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR Camera Body

The fourth overall camera in our results is the Nikon D850.

This is the premium Nikon DSLR with a 45.7 MP sensor. It was released in 2017 and so compared to the D750 is it higher spec and more modern.

Key specifications

  • Camera Type: DSLR
  • Sensor Type: Full-frame
  • Sensor Size: 45.7 MP
  • ISO Range: 64-25,600, expandable to 32-102400

What’s the Best Nikon Camera for Astrophotography?

The Nikon D750 is the most successful Nikon camera for astrophotography with the Nikon D850 coming in second and the D810A third:

best nikon camera for astrophotography
(Percentage of all images taken with Nikon cameras)

We dig more into this in our article on the Best Nikon Camera for Astrophotography.

Sony A7R III

Best Sony Mirrorless for Astrophotography

Sony a7R III Mirrorless Camera: 42.4MP Full Frame High Resolution Interchangeable Lens Digital Camera with Front End LSI Image Processor, 4K HDR Video and 3" LCD Screen - ILCE7RM3/B Body, Black

Our findings show that the Sony A7R III is the most successfully used mirrorless camera in astrophotography.

From our case study series, both Ivan Slade and Talman Madsen use Sony mirrorless cameras 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

The Sony A7R III is a full-frame mirrorless camera released in 2017. It has a 42.4 MP image sensor and a high ISO of 204,800 with excellent noise performance. It has a tilting screen and at 1.45 lbs it is significantly lighter than many DSLR models featured here and feels less clunky to carry.

Any lens of just about any brand can be used with the camera with the use of an additional adapter.

There are many other great Sony full-frame mirrorless models that will excel for astrophotography but our data shows the Sony A7R III can deliver brilliant results.

Key specifications

  • Camera Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor Type: Full-frame
  • Sensor Size: 42.4 MP
  • ISO Range: 100-32,000 (expandable to 50-102,400)

Sony A7 III

Best Budget Sony Camera for Astrophotography

Sony a7 III ILCE7M3/B Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera with 3-Inch LCD, Body Only,Base Configuration,Black

The Sony A7 III rounds out our list of the top 7 cameras for astrophotography and is the second most successful Sony model and mirrorless model.

It makes for a great lower cost alternative to the A7R III above.

It has a lower resolution of 24.2 MP, but this can be an advantage for astrophotography (and other low light photography) as a lower pixel count can reduce the amount of noise in images.

Key specifications

  • Camera Type: Mirrorless
  • Sensor Type: Full-frame
  • Sensor Size: 24.2 MP
  • ISO Range: 50-204,800

What’s the best Sony camera for astrophotography?

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

As outlined above, we recommend the Sony A7R III because it came out as the top-performing Sony camera in our Astronomy Photographer of the Year analysis:

best sony camera for astrophotography
(Percentage of all images taken with Sony cameras)

The second most successful Sony camera (and overall mirrorless camera) is the Sony A7 III, which is in the mid-range price-wise for Sony models and so provides good value for money and is well worth considering alongside the A7R III due to the lower price.

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.


How To Choose A Camera for Astrophotography

Let’s now take it back a step and review how these cameras outlined above differ.

When picking a camera for astrophotography there are four main categories to consider:

  1. Entry-level DSLR cameras (with “crop” sensors)
  2. Professional-level full-frame sensor DSLRs or mirrorless cameras
  3. Astro-modified DSLR/mirrorless cameras
  4. Dedicated astronomy cameras (CCD/CMOS)

What is best for you will depend on your level of experience/ambition, and what you plan to do with it.

1. Entry-level DSLRs – best cheap cameras for astrophotography

These are the cheapest cameras for astrophotography and the best if you are on a budget and just looking to casually explore photographing the night sky whilst also using it for everyday photography.

An up-to-date entry-level DSLR from a leading manufacturer like Canon, Nikon, or Pentax will be capable of capturing the stars and Milky Way, as well as deep-sky objects if you work hard.

They will generally cost in the region of $500-$600 if bought new, cheaper if buying used (which is a perfectly good option using a retailer like KEH).

What differentiates them from the higher-performing DLSR or mirrorless models covered below is that they will have what is known as an APS-C or “crop” sensor, instead of a full-frame sensor.

This makes them cheaper, but, for astrophotography, this will mean a slightly lower performance in taking clear images of the night sky.

However, as you can see in our data below, 15% of shortlisted images for Astronomy Photographer of the Year use APS-C cameras. This shows that they are perfectly capable of delivering results, although you can see that full-frame cameras dominate.

Recommended beginners’ astrophotography cameras are:

These are the latest entry-level cameras from these leading manufacturers and have the potential to capture great images and provide good value for money.

The Pentax K-70 is a great option if you have no preference for Canon or Nikon. One of the main features that distinguish it is that it is weather-proof, and so tailored for outdoor photography. In addition, it has a feature called pixel shift resolution that can help take sharper images over long exposures.

2. Full-frame DSLR or mirrorless cameras

Full-frame mirrorless and DSLR cameras are the top tier and are preferred by professional photographers and serious hobbyists.

You should expect to pay something in the range of $1000 to $2500 for a new full-frame model (but you can find cheaper if buying used).

For what we are discussing – astrophotography and capturing the night sky – full-frame sensor cameras will generally perform much better than crop sensor (APS-C) cameras for landscape astrophotography.

In particular, they work better when using high ISO settings – which are needed to compensate for low levels of light.

In comparison at similar ISO levels, images from APS-C cameras will suffer from greater “noise” – which is a sort of graining on the image – and therefore less crisp, clear photos of the night sky.

The full frame also gives you a wider field of view. This is essential for landscape astrophotography and our research shows that 14mm is the ideal lens focal length for these images. APS-C cameras crop this framing and effectively make it 21mm. Therefore to get suitable wide-field images with a crop sensor camera you would need to use lenses with even shorter focal lengths, which reduces your lens options.

Examples of full-frame cameras which are good for astro imaging are those models we feature above which are the best overall.

3. Astro-modified DSLRs or mirrorless cameras

There is also a further category of DSLR/mirrorless camera, which is one that has been specifically modified for astrophotography – and for photographing deep sky objects in particular.

Essentially, the sensors in regular cameras are not ideal for capturing the light emitted by nebulae and galaxies as they filter out a certain color. What can be done is that the sensor can be altered to improve performance in this area.

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

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

Unfortunately, both of these cameras have been discontinued so can only be bought used and it can be quite hard to find models on sale. Click the links above to check availability at any time.

Modifying a DSLR for astrophotography

You can also modify a regular DSLR or mirrorless camera for astrophotography – either by yourself at your risk following a video on YouTube, or by using a service like Life Pixel who can do it for you.

What some keen astrophotographers do is buy a cheap used camera like a Canon EOS 6D and modify it for astrophotography using a service like Life Pixel.

It will then solely be used for astro imaging and so you will likely need to have another camera for other photography.

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

4. Dedicated astronomy cameras (CCD or CMOS)

Lastly, you can also use specialist CCD cameras or CMOS cameras for astrophotography.

These are webcam-like objects that are attached to telescopes and are controlled via a separate laptop or similar. These are generally for advanced deep sky or planetary imaging.

Our research indicates that:

For more detail on these, see our separate articles on:

How to choose the best astrophotography camera for you

To make your choice of what camera is best for you, there are really two main things to consider:

  1. What are you planning to photograph, and
  2. How serious you are about it (including how much you want to spend).

Generally, if you are looking for a first camera just to dabble with capturing the night sky along with other photography, then an entry-level DSLR will be perfect.

If you are a bit more ambitious with your astrophotography and want picture-perfect images of the Milky Way etc, then a full-frame camera will probably suit you.

Other than its capacity to take great images, some great added extras to look for in a camera for astrophotography are:

  1. A tilting screen: This is because you might have to have your camera at weird angles or heights at times and being able to tilt the screen can make it a lot easier to operate the camera.
  2. A screen capable of ‘live-view’: Using a live view screen is one of the best ways to help you get sharply focused on the stars you are shooting.
  3. A light weight: This will reduce the burden if taking on trips and on the payload capacity of your star tracker if using one.
  4. Weather-proofing: For night sky photography you often have to stay out for hours in areas where the weather may be unpredictable. This just might extend the life of your camera and save your shots.

Note that compact cameras or bridge cameras will generally not be suitable for astrophotography as they don’t give enough manual control over the settings and will not allow interchangeable lenses.

Lastly, if you are a serious astrophotographer and want to capture deep-sky objects, then you could look at a dedicated astronomy camera, but bear in mind that these will be good only for this and not any other photography and also require quality astrophotography telescopes and mounts, amongst other accessories.


FAQs: Best Cameras for Astrophotography

DSLR vs Mirrorless for Astrophotography?

Using our data set, we can see that – if we take just images taken with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras – 72% of the finalists’ images for Astronomy Photographer of the Year in the past three years have been taken with DSLRs, versus 28% with mirrorless cameras:

DSLR vs mirrorless cameras for astrophotography
(Percentage of all images taken with DSLR or mirrorless cameras)

DSLRs have been the most popular camera type for photographers in the past decade or so, but mirrorless cameras are growing in popularity.

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

The quick answer is that neither DSLR nor mirrorless is “better” for astrophotography. There are great DSLRs (like those featured above), but they are now being rivaled in both performance and price by mirrorless cameras.

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

Full Frame vs APS-C for Astrophotography?

From our research, we found out that 83% of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year finalists’ photos were taken with full-frame cameras:

APS-C or full-frame sensor cameras best for astrophotography?

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 the best budget camera for astrophotography.

What’s the best DSLR camera for astrophotography?

The best DSLRs for astrophotography are the Canon EOS 6D, the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, the Nikon D750, and the Nikon D850.

What’s the best mirrorless camera for astrophotography?

The best mirrorless cameras for astrophotography are the Sony A7R III and the Sony A7 III:

best mirrorless cameras for astrophotography
(Percentage of all images taken with mirrorless cameras)

What’s the best Canon camera for astrophotography?

The best Canon cameras for astrophotography are the Canon EOS 6D and the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

What’s the best Sony camera for astrophotography?

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

What’s the best Nikon camera for astrophotography?

The Best Nikon cameras for astrophotography are the Nikon D750, and the Nikon D850.

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

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 detail.

What’s the best beginner camera for astrophotography?

It depends on your budget but there are a few options for beginners:

  1. If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera already then start with that. No need to buy something new if you are just experimenting at the start and 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 an APS-C sensor model like the Canon EOS Rebel T8i, Pentax K-70, or Nikon D3500
  3. If cost is not an issue then probably look at one of the latest mirrorless models from Sony, Canon, or Nikon. They tend to be lighter and easier to use and are generally thought to be the future of cameras over DSLRs.

What cameras are best for astrophotography: Canon, Nikon or Sony?

Our data shows that Canon and Nikon are more popular for astrophotography than Sony.

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 and this is why the best DSLRs for astrophotography (like the Canon EOS 6D and Nikon D750) have around 20-25MP, rather than the 40MP+ that can be found in other cameras.

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


Conclusion: What’s the Best Camera for Astrophotography?

We hope you found this article useful and that it provided something different from other things you may have read.

The data from astrophotography competitions hopefully helps shed some light on which cameras are being successfully used (and that they are not necessarily the most expensive models).

In summary, from our data we believe that the:

  1. Canon EOS 6D is the best budget DSLR/Mirrorless camera for astrophotography.
  2. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV is the best modern Canon DSLR for astrophotography.
  3. Nikon D750 is the best budget Nikon for astrophotography.
  4. Nikon D850 is the best premium Nikon for astrophotography.
  5. Sony A7R III is the best mirrorless camera for astrophotography and the best Sony.
  6. Sony A7 III is the best budget Sony for astrophotography.

Please let us know in the comment below your opinions or if you have any questions.

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13 thoughts on “Best Camera for Astrophotography (2022 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

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