- Nikon Astrophotography Cameras
- Best Nikon for Astrophotography
- Nikon Z6 II
- Nikon Z7 II
- Nikon D850
- Nikon D750
- Nikon D810A
- Other Nikon cameras for astrophotography
- Final Word – What’s the Best Nikon for Astrophotography?
We examined over 800 images shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition in the past six years to find the cameras being used to produce the most stunning astrophotography photos.
From this data, we can recommend the best Nikon for astrophotography.
See the quick links below or read on to see all the data and for more information about Nikon cameras for astrophotography.
Nikon Astrophotography Cameras
In our research to find the best camera for astrophotography, we analyzed 828 images shortlisted in the past six years for the world’s most prestigious annual astrophotography competition – Royal Museums Greenwich Astronomy Photographer of the Year.
When we look at the data for which DSLR and Mirrorless brands were used, we can see that Nikon has been the most successful camera manufacturer in the competition in the past three years:
Nikon overtook Canon in 2020 and has held this spot since, despite an increase in the use of Sony cameras.
Best Nikon for Astrophotography
Over the six years, 146 shortlisted images were taken with Nikon cameras and 18 different models have been used.
The top most successful models are:
You can see an extended list here:
However, if we look at just the data for the past two years (2022 and 2023) then the mirrorless Nikon Z6 II is the highest, with the Nikon Z7 II in third as use of the newer mirrorless models has increased:
This leads us to DSLR vs mirrorless Nikon cameras for astrophotography.
Nikon DSLR vs Mirrorless for Astrophotography
The vast majority of Nikon cameras used in the competition from 2018 to 2022 have been DSLRs:
This makes sense historically, as Nikon’s mirrorless range is relatively new.
However, if we isolate just the 2022 and 2023 data, then it is a split of:
- 59% DSLR
- 41% Mirrorless
So you can see that mirrorless use is increasing, as you might expect with the wider trend in photography of growing mirrorless popularity.
See DSLR vs Mirrorless Cameras for Astrophotography if you want more analysis on this.
Nikon Full Frame vs APS-C for Astrophotography
The final thing to look at is sensor size.
As you can see, the Nikon cameras used are overwhelmingly full frame sensor models, rather than crop sensor APS-C models:
This makes sense because:
- Full frame sensors are better in low light conditions (like night sky photography)
- Have a wider field of view which is best for landscape astrophotography where you want to capture as wide an expanse of night sky as possible
This is why all the cameras that we recommend in this article are full-frame models.
See Full Frame vs APS-C for Astrophotography if you want to understand more about this.
Let’s look now at each of our recommended cameras.
Top Pick – Best Nikon for Astrophotography
Our top recommendation for the best Nikon camera for astrophotography in 2023 is the Nikon Z6 II.
The Z6 and Z6 II have the same sensor but among the upgrades are two features that are particularly good for astrophotography:
- The Z6 II allows you to take long exposures of up to 15 minutes without using an external intervalometer, whereas the original Z6 has this capped at 30 seconds, which is quite limiting for long-exposure photography in low light.
- When you turn the Z6 II off and back on again it remembers your last focus settings. This is great if you are using it mostly for astrophotography and want to be able to pick up where you left off on a previous night.
Therefore it is worth going for the Z6 II if you have the budget, but you can save some money by going for the older version and living without the above tweaks (the first point is remedied by using an intervalometer).
The Z6 II is lower resolution than the Nikon Z7 II but is substantially cheaper and proven for astrophotography so it makes our top recommendation.
Nikon Z7 II
Premium Pick – Best Nikon for Astrophotography
If you have the budget and want higher megapixels, then the Nikon Z7 II might be your preferred option.
Best Nikon DSLR for Astrophotography
Next is the Nikon D850. Overall in our data, this is the most used Nikon model.
It is a professional-level full-frame DSLR and has a 45.7-megapixel sensor.
It is more expensive than the Nikon D750 but it is more versatile and better suited for things like video.
Despite being in a premium price range, it is also not a new camera (it was released in 2017) and so there are often good deals to be found.
Best Budget Nikon Camera for Astrophotography
Based on our findings, the best budget Nikon for astrophotography is the Nikon D750.
It is a full-frame DSLR with a 24.5-megapixel sensor that is perfect for amateur astrophotography and landing milky way shots.
It falls in the mid-range price bracket and that likely accounts for some of its popularity – the D850 and D810A outlined below are in the more premium price bracket (at least when bought new).
Yet, the D750 can clearly perform for astrophotography and is being used today by some of the best astrophotographers in the world.
For us, this camera can perform as well as any for astrophotography and is perfect if you don’t want to be limited by your camera but also have a budget that won’t stretch for the professional level models (like the D850).
What’s awesome, is that given that this camera was originally released in 2014 you can easily find used models on sale (see links below).
If you do want a newer Nikon DSLR, then the Nikon D780 was released in 2020 as the upgrade to the D750. It is a more modern version, but naturally more expensive.
The only specific Nikon Astrophotography Camera
Lastly, we need to mention the Nikon D810A as it is the only Nikon camera specifically optimized for astrophotography (the “A” is for astrophotography).
This means that it has had its sensor adjusted so that it doesn’t filter out specific types of light that are emitted by objects in deep space – any normal DSLR filters this out. The result is that astrophotography images taken with this camera.
The only other mass-market camera tailored for astrophotography available to buy currently is the Canon EOS Ra (where, again, the “A” stands for “astrophotography”).
It’s very hard to find new models on sale anymore but you can find it used (click the buttons below to check).
Astrophotography Modified DSLR Camera
- 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
Other Nikon cameras for astrophotography
The other most successfully used Nikon cameras in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition are:
- Nikon D810 – This is the non-astrophotography tweaked version of the D810A covered above. It’s a premium full-frame DSLR.
- Nikon D780 – A full-frame DSLR that superseded the D750
- Nikon D610 – A versatile full-frame DSLR in the mid-range price bracket.
- Nikon D600 – An older mid-range DSLR that was superseded by the D610 above.
- Nikon D3400 – An entry-level DSLR that would suit those with lower budgets.
- Nikon D5300 – A beginners-level Nikon DSLR that has superseded by the versatile D5600
- Nikon D800 – An older full-frame DSLR that was updated by the D850.
- Nikon Z7 – This is Nikon’s premium full-frame sensor mirrorless camera, upgraded with the Z7 II.
- Nikon D7100 – A entry-level/mid-range DSLR with an APS-C sensor that has been upgraded by the D7500
- Nikon D800E – Like the D800, this is an older camera superseded by the D850.
- Nikon Z6 – Nikon’s mid-range mirrorless camera. Released in 2018 and then upgraded with the Z6 II.
Just to quickly note some things about these findings – being higher on the list does not necessarily mean it is a better camera for astrophotography, it just means it has been more frequently used.
These findings, therefore, balance what is just the “best” camera with value for money as well as age.
For example, the D850 is a more expensive and higher bracket camera than the D750, yet the D750 is higher in these findings. It is likely that more people own the D750 as it’s cheaper and it can obviously perform for astrophotography.
In addition, older models will be higher on the list because they have been around for longer and are well trusted by their owners who are rarely going to be buying a new camera every year.
Final Word – What’s the Best Nikon for Astrophotography?
So the best Nikon camera for astrophotography for you depends on what you are looking for:
- If you want to go mirrorless, then the Nikon Z6 II is proven and great value
- If you want the upgrade version with higher resolution, then the Nikon Z7 II is for you
- If you just want something specifically for astrophotography, then the D750 might be the best option, and there are real bargains to be found if you are happy to buy a used model.
- If you want a camera that is the best at everything (for example, video as well as all-round photography), then the D850 might be for you.
- Finally, if you want a premium Nikon DSLR that has been optimized just for astrophotography, then see if you can find a D810a for sale (it might be hard).
Note that these are all full-frame sensor cameras (as opposed to crop/APS-C sensor cameras) as these are generally what is best for landscape astrophotography (i.e. shots of the milky way above the earth).
This is due to their better low-light performance and capacity to capture wider expanses of the sky (a crop sensor camera will literally crop the image). See more about this in our article on the best cameras for astrophotography.
For us, the D750 is a great option for amateur astrophotographers and the model that I use myself.
If buying new now I might consider the D780 or go for the mirrorless Z6 II, but I am currently very happy with my D750 and think that will remain the case for at least a few more years.