Nikon are one of the best camera manufacturers in the world, but what is the best Nikon for astrophotography?
In this article, we look at what Nikon camera models were used in images shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year in the past two years and recommend your best options.
Overall, our findings show that the Nikon D750 is the best Nikon for astrophotography. Read to find out more.
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What Nikon cameras are used by successful astrophotographers?
In our research to find the best camera for astrophotography, we analyzed the 252 images that were shortlisted in the past two years for the world’s most prestigious annual astrophotography competition – Royal Museums Greenwich Astronomy Photographer of the Year.
From this we can see that Nikon have the most shortlisted images of any manufacturer:
Obviously this tells us that that Nikon cameras can be excellent for astrophotography. But which models are best?
Let’s look at the data by camera models then (Nikon only):
Let’s look now at each of these three cameras.
Based on our findings, the best Nikon for astrophotography is the Nikon D750.
It is a full-frame DSLR 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 other two cameras 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 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 is more than a few years old, you can easily find used models on sale on site like KEH (see links below).
The Nikon D850 is the second most successfully used Nikon camera in our findings.
This is a professional-level full-frame DSLR in a slightly higher price bracket. Compared to the D750 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. Click the button below to check the price and availability at different retailers.
The D810A was the last 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 used ones for sale (click the button below to check).
Other Nikon cameras for astrophotography
The remaining ten Nikon cameras outside the top three that were used for images shortlisted for Astronomy Photographer of the Year were:
- Nikon D810 – This is the non-astrophotography tweaked version of the D810A covered above. It’s a premium full-frame DSLR.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
This leads us on to the more recent Nikon mirrorless cameras.
Best Nikon mirrorless camera for astrophotography
These newer mirrorless models are likely lower on the list given that they are so new to the market yet are exceptional cameras and are likely to rise up the list and be more commonly used in future years.
There’s a fantastic hands-on review of the Z6 for astrophotography on the Amazing Sky website.
Final Word – What’s the Best Nikon Camera for Astrophotography?
So the best Nikon camera for astrophotography for you depends on what you are looking for:
- 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.
- 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 perfect option for most amateur astrophotographers and the model that I use myself.
However, it’s also worth noting that the Nikon D780 was released in 2020 as the upgraded model to the D750, and so you may want to consider that if you want the newest model.