Is the Nikon D810A good for Astrophotography? (2023)

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The Nikon D810A is one of a limited range of DSLR or mirrorless cameras optimized for astrophotography.

Our research on the best cameras for astrophotography shows that it is the fifth most-used DSLR or mirrorless camera in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition in the past five years (2018-2022), even though it has been discontinued for a number of years.

It can still be bought on the used market:

Astrophotography DSLR
Nikon D810A

Astrophotography Modified DSLR Camera

Pros:
  • 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
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Below we delve into what makes this camera special for astrophotography.


What are specialist astrophotography DSLRs?

Specialist astrophotography DSLRs are optimized for deep sky astrophotography because of an infrared-blocking filter that lets in more h-alpha light than standard DSLR filters.

Most cameras’ Infrared filters are more broad-ranging and filter out some visible red light, as well as infrared.

The filter on cameras optimized for deep sky astrophotography 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 sky objects (for example, galaxies 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.

Orion nebula
Photo of the Orion Nebula (Credit: Bryan Goff)

Which DLSR models are optimized for astrophotography?

The Nikon D810A, the Canon 60Da, and the Canon EOS Ra are the three most recent specialist DSLR cameras optimized for astrophotography available to buy.

Nikon D810A

Nikon D810A FX-format Digital SLR

The Nikon D810A was released in 2015. It is a version of the popular Nikon D810 model, but optimized for astrophotography – the “a” at the end of the name is for “astrophotography”.

It was the world’s first full-frame DSLR dedicated to astrophotography when released and has a legitimate claim to being the best DSLR for astrophotography.

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.

The camera also has other features:

  • 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.
  • 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

There were however some potential downsides to the camera, in that because it was optimized for shooting the night sky the D810A gave poor color rendition for normal photography – manifested as a red tinge on regular images.

It, therefore, underperforms when compared to other high-end cameras in other areas of photography and so a photographer is likely to still need a regular DSLR for other photography.

See the profile of the Nikon D810A on Nikon’s site for the full details of the camera.

Canon 60Da

canon 60da

The Canon 60Da was released in 2012. It was a tweaked version of the regular Canon 60D DSLR but optimized for astrophotography in a similar way to the

Canon had previously offered an astrophotography DSLR in the Canon 20Da, which was released in 2005.

See the profile of the Canon 60Da on Canon’s site for the full details of the camera.

Canon EOS Ra

Canon EOS Ra Astrophotography Mirrorless Camera, Black - 4180C002

The Canon EOS Ra was released in 2020 and is the first astro-modified mirrorless camera.

It has a full frame, 30-megapixel sensor, and the same filter optimizations to make it excel for astrophotography.

It was discontinued after just a short while available but can be bought used now:

Canon EOS Ra

Astrophotography Mirrorless Camera

Pros:
  • Modified filter for enhanced night sky recording
  • Rf mount compatible with RF lenses and EF/EF-S lenses*
  • 30 3 Megapixel Full-frame CMOS Sensor and DIGIC 8 Image processor
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Nikon D810a FAQs

Do I need a specialist astrophotography camera?

It is likely that only the very experienced astrophotographer will need – and be able to make the most of – one of these specialist astrophotography cameras.

As noted above, 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. See our article on the best cameras for astrophotography for an up-to-date overview.

However, if you really want to take your deep sky photography to another level, then a specialist astrophotography camera might be for you and maybe you can get hold of one of them pre-owned.

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

Yes, there are companies that can convert regular cameras to be optimized for deep space astrophotography.

Check out our full overview of Astro Modified DSLRs.

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

Life Pixel

Infrared Conversions, IR Modifications & Photography Tutorials

Check Out Life Pixel

Is the Nikon D810A good for astrophotography?

The Nikon D810a is great for astrophotography of all kinds. Its filter has been modified specifically for the purpose of capturing the type of light emitted by deep sky objects.

Can the Nikon D810A be used for normal photography?

The Nikon D810a can be used for normal photography but the filter modification affects the color on regular images.

Is the Nikon D810A discontinued?

The Nikon D810a is discontinued but can be bought second-hand.


Related articles:

Anthony Robinson founded Skies & Scopes in 2017 and has been practicing and writing obsessively about astrophotography and astronomy ever since. He has written for Amateur Astrophotography and Dark Sky Travels magazines. Skies & Scopes has also been featured in Forbes, Digital Camera World, Peta Pixel, and many other publications.

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