Best Camera For Astrophotography

Space is one of the most frequently photographed subjects in the history of In order to accurately capture the wonders of the cosmos, though, you need more than the average digital camera.

Given that you’ll be zooming in considerably, your cell phone’s 0.32 megapixel camera isn’t going to cut it, either, even if you’ve got the latest iPhone (sorry to those diehard Apple fans). 


So what are you looking for then?


Best Camera For Astrophotography

There are hundreds, if not thousands of high quality cameras on the market and sifting through all of them would take you longer than it would to get to space! That’s why we’re here to provide five of the best options available to you right now.

For more information on what features you’re looking out for in a camera suited to astrophotography, our clear and concise Buyer’s Guide outlines everything you need to know, a result of thorough research on the art of capturing the stars.

Are you hovering over the Add To Cart button, but still lingering on a question or concern? Check out the set of FAQs which we’ve saved for last; having answered the most common queries of fellow customers, we’ve probably solved yours too!   

Prefer Perfect Planetary Pictures? Here’s Our Top Pick:

OUR TOP PICK

Boasting 26.2 megapixels, the EOS 6D II DSLR is our number one choice for astrophotography: it’s certainly incredibly expensive, but if you’re looking to capture the night sky in all its glory, this is the camera to do it on.

Being a full-frame, CMOS sensor, it’s ideal for wide range and long exposure shots, offering phase detection and Full HD 60p shots, so you’ll be able to pick up plenty of light and capture even the slowest of shooting stars.

An optical viewfinder makes pinpointing the planets easier, with a 45 point all cross AF system, and as it works at between 32 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit, those chilly night time shoots won’t be a problem at all.

Thanks to a ginormous ISO range of between 100 and 40,000, delivering incredibly high quality images even in pitch black is a joy, and the DIGIC 7 image processor makes things faster and smoother still.

For capturing spontaneous moments, or ensuring you don’t miss a single second of space action, it can continuously shoot for up to 6.5fps, though this may vary depending on the selected shutter speeds.

Pros:

  • 4x optical zoom
  • Full frame, 35mm CMOS sensor
  • Three inch, varied angle touch screen for swift switching between modes
  • Built in WIFI, NFC and Bluetooth capabilities for whatever accessories you want to connect

Cons:

  • Very much over the average price of a digital camera, but worth it if you’re looking for the best of the best

EDITORS CHOICE

Promising the world’s fastest automatic focus, at 0.02 seconds with real-time object tracking, the Alpha A6100 from Sony is another contender for capturing celestial snaps, more affordable than our Top Pick (but still a considerable investment)

Keeping your subject in focus has never been easier, thanks to the sophisticated, AI based tracking system, which copies the focusing methods of the human eye to allow for immediate detection, precisely and with great speed.

At 24.2 megapixels, with an APS-C CMOS sensor, it’s certainly possible to capture those up close details with extreme precision, but you might find that wider shots of space more generally are slightly more difficult to achieve given it’s groups sensor size.

Capable of up to 11 frames per second in the continuous Hi+ mode (though the maximum FPS is determined largely by battery level), you won’t miss those crucial shots and can capture events in real time.

As it offers natural, realistic color reproduction, you’ll find that the images you take are bolder and more vibrant than the typical snapshot, having been improved from previous models to offer a far greater reflection of real life.

Pros:

  • CMOS image sensor at 24.2 MP is ideal for space snapping
  • Latest Bionz X image processor to shoot at higher speeds
  • Lightweight at a little over 1lb
  • Highly compatible with different lenses (sold separately)

Cons:

  • Small crop-sized sensor - wide sensors best for astrophotography

BEST VALUE

Another mirrorless option, this time from the folks at Fujifilm, the X-T30 packs 25.1 megapixels into its BSI, crop-sized X-TRans CMOS 4 image sensor, coupled with an X-processor, quad core CPU for lightning fast footage capture and auto focus.

Their previous low-light limit for phase detection automatic focus has been improved, no longer at the conventional +0.5EV but a far superior -3EV, which allows for photography in a much greater range of lighting - great for astrophotography!

The unique X-Trans color filter array reduces moire (those pesky random waves or stripes of pattern) and false colors, without requiring the addition of an optical low pass filter, with a back-illuminated structure for even greater image quality.

A simultaneously mechanical and electronic shutter allows for up to 8 frames per second in full resolution, and up to 30fps of free continuous shooting when recording, so you’ll pick up all of the lovely astral lights in every picture.

With an intuitive design and much more comfortable controls, the 3 inch LCD touch screen enables much more efficient photography, even in difficult or adverse weather conditions, allowing you to concentrate on the task at hand.

Pros:

  • Accurate, near instantaneous auto focus
  • 26.1 MP CMOS sensor is optimum for capturing darker reaches of space
  • Available in three beautiful designs to suit any user
  • Faster, more accurate AF performance than its predecessors

Cons:

  • Again, another pretty expensive bit of kit

RUNNER UP

The second offering on our list from tech giants Canon is this fantastic all in one kit, which is perfect for a burgeoning astrophotographer’s first professional set up, given it comes in at a fraction of the cost of some of our other choices.

An impressive 24.1 megapixel CMOS sensor offers higher-resolution, more detailed and vibrant photos, whilst the DIGIC 4+ Image Processor brings a faster and more responsive performance.

Offering an ISO of 100-6400 ( which can be extended to 12,800!) the advanced, nine point Automatic Focus is excellent for capturing late-night images, whilst a manual focus lets users pick their preferred target as specifically as they like.

Weighing only 1.05lb, it’s ultra lightweight and highly portable, and thanks to a 3.00x optical zoom, you’ll be able to see even further out to space, without your images becoming immediately blurred and low-resolution.

Also included as part of your purchase are an 18-55mm lens, a telephoto and wide angle lens three piece filter kit, adjustable tripod and flash, as well as two 32 gigabyte SD cards AND a basic accessories kit. Talk about a good deal!

Pros:

  • Includes everything you need to get started in photography (astro or otherwise)
  • 24.1 megapixels, which is incredible at this price point
  • Extended ISO for low-light functionality
  • CMOS sensor delivers vibrant shots every time
  • Wifi and NFC technology for sharing directly from camera to social media

Cons:

  • Tripod included isn’t of the best quality

RUNNER UP

Last but not least is the Lumix FZ300; though it’s on the more affordable side, Panasonic have packed it full of features, including their exclusive 4K photo technology, for up to 30 frames per second of high resolution footage.

A full-range F2.8 aperture from the 25-600 millimeter LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens allows for low light shooting throughout the entire zoom range, so even when you’re exploring deep space you’ll still achieve that HD shot.

Though it’s a little less than some of the higher-end models, at 12.1 megapixels there’s still a chance for capturing HD images in space or otherwise, using high sensitivity MOS and venus engines for crisp, artifact free images.

Offering a splash and dustproof design with tightened, reinforced seals on every dial, button and joint, this bad boy withstands even the harshest weather conditions, and is great for those who are clumsier than others.

Blur is reduced all around thanks to the 5 Axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilizer, which compensates for five types of movement; by detecting and maintaining the horizon line, even whilst tilted, every shot is level and clear as glass.

Pros:

  • More affordable than other astrophotography-suited cameras 
  • High sensitivity MOS sensor allows for clearer, crisper images
  • Leica DC Vario Lemarit lens offers 24x zoom range
  • Rugged, water/splash resistant design

Cons:

  • Sensor is only 12.1 megapixels

Best Camera For Astrophotography Buying Guide

Whilst there are many expensive, high end cameras at thousands of dollars (and yes, some are excellent for astrophotography) it’s a specific set of characteristics you should be thinking about, and not how fancy your new toy is. For instance...

Shutter Speed

Every camera has a shutter, and it’s one of the most important components, determining how much light the lens has access to and how long for. Usually closed to protect those fragile sensors, it only opens when you hit the designated button.

In order to capture the speed and chaotic energy of humans, you would normally want a fast shutter speed. For astrophotography, however, you want a shutter that stays open for longer, picking up those achingly slow moving celestial subjects.

Opt for a camera with the greatest diversity in its shutter speed, as for those all important long-exposure shots (ideal for capturing tiny details), you need a broadened range of speeds to select from.

Sensor Size and Style

Behind every mirrorless or DSLR camera, there’s a sensor helping it to function. There are, generally, two different sizes of sensor widely available: the full frame and the APS-C (also known as cropped) sensor.

Equivalent to the recognisable 35mm film camera, the full-frame sensor is ideal for astrophotography, being more adept at picking up light and successfully capturing more intense levels, with a greater ISO range (more on that soon!) 

With a greater field depth, but coming in at around 2.5-3 times smaller than their full framed counterparts, a crop sensor allows for greater zooming, yes. BUT, the limitation here is that their smaller surface area prevents a lot of light capture.

As for the sensor type you’re looking at, the standard DSLR camera is usually great for astrophotography no matter which kind of sensor it adopts, provided that the ISO range and shutter speed are up to scratch.

However, if you can find yourself a camera with a CMOS or CCD sensor, you’ll find those are outstanding for capturing long-exposure shots. Those interested in deep-space astrophotography can successfully capture distant galaxies with ease.

Unfortunately, given as they’re usually referred to as ‘professional’ sensors, they’ll likely cost you a lot more than a standard camera would. If you have the budget and want the most crisp HD images possible, though, absolutely go for it.

ISO (Light Sensitivity) Values

Confusingly, ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization, but in relation to a camera, it basically means how sensitive that particular camera is to light. Beginners may struggle with this at first, but it gets easier over time.

For successfully achieving those deep space shots, you’ll be pointing the lens directly at the vast darkness of the solar system - the higher the ISO value, the better light detection, so for astrophotography, aim for the biggest you can!

By playing around with your camera’s ISO settings (and perhaps consulting the advice of other budding space photographers in online forums) you’ll find the perfect balance between ISO and your camera’s sensitive shutter.

Megapixels

The first port of call for most photographers is the number of megapixels a camera offers; in terms of astrophotography, other factors are more important, but it’s still worth considering, as it will determine how high your image’s resolutions are.

Older cameras dedicated to astrophotography may have less than one megapixel, typically coming in at between one or two. Even the original Hubble Telescope (which has since been upgraded) had less than one!

If you’re hoping to take much larger photographs, or print them out to display, megapixels are more important, as they will determine the quality of the image overall and how big it can be without blurring.

The quality of your lens matters far more than the number of megapixels its sensor can handle, so be sure you opt for accessories from reputable brands and always check customer reviews for the best results.

Specific Lenses

Whilst we unfortunately don’t have the space to cover all of the individual lenses available from each manufacturer, it could be worth your time to research what other lenses your fellow photographers may be purchasing separately.

For those who don’t have hundreds (or thousands) to spend on a professional camera, a simple lens upgrade can take your photographs from grainy to amazing and won’t break the bank as dramatically.

It’s worth looking at the lenses that are offered as purchases alongside the cameras we’ve linked, as these are usually matched with their individual specifications and are guaranteed to fit with your chosen product.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many megapixels do you need for astrophotography?

In order to achieve the clearest, crispest, sharpest image on a High Definition screen, you’re going to want at least 2.07 megapixels, around 1920x1090, though of course the higher the better.

Remember that megapixels as a standalone factor aren’t all you need to worry about, so maintaining that average of over 2MP and considering other features such as ISO and shutter speed/style is your key to top notch pictures.

What is the best shutter speed for night photography?

As we’ve already explained above, the slower the shutter speed, the more light that can enter the camera. Aiming for between 30 and 60 seconds allows plenty of time for capturing it all, though you’ll want to experiment between that range.

With practice, you’ll learn that different evenings (depending on the weather, time and other factors) need alternate settings, so it’s hard to offer a general estimation. Play around and find out what works best for you and when.

Do you need a telescope for astrophotography?

In a word… no! You don’t actually need a telescope to take pictures of space, but it’s definitely possible to invest in specific lenses that attach to your ‘scope for even higher quality at much greater levels of zoom.

It’s recommended you start out small, just using your regular camera and the lens it comes with, and then looking at upgrades and investing in a telescope (should you wish to) once you’ve committed to the hobby.

You can also get specific mounts that connect your camera and your telescope for a double whammy of zooming capability, enabling you to see farther into space than you may have ever thought possible!

Gordon Watts

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