Few things in this world are as charming as gazing into the night sky. A good astrophotography camera can capture such moments to enjoy for years to come. But the process of finding the right astrophotography camera can be overwhelming, especially if you are a novice.
On the one end, you will come across entry-level models that do no more than capture basic images of the stars. On the other end are complex, and expensive, instruments used by professional astronomers. There are also a big variety of cameras in between.
We understand that all you need is a reliable camera with the right features and the right price. That's why we've researched and put together a list of our recommendations of the 10 best astrophotography cameras on the market.
Astrophotography Cameras | FAQs
1. What is an Astrophotography Camera?
An astrophotography camera is used to produce photos of objects in the universe. It enables you to take images of astronomical objects, celestial events and massive areas of the sky. Although photos can be taken at any time of the day, the best time for such photos is at night.
The cost of equipment used in professional astrophotography is usually prohibitive to most people. However, there are a number of products for novices and semi-professionals. In some cases, even ordinary DSLR cameras can be used to do astrophotography.
2. Do I Need an Astrophotography Camera with a CCD or CMOS Sensor?
Cameras with both types of sensors are widely used in astrophotography and each has its advantages and disadvantages in certain situations. But the needs of most astrophotography enthusiasts are better served by a CCD camera. CCD cameras generally are more sensitive, have a good signal-to-noise performance and are accurate on long-exposure shorts. On the other hand, cameras with CMOS sensors tend to be more inexpensive.
3. What Are Key Camera Qualities to Seek Out?
Image scale, a measure of how much detail your camera can take, is vitally important. The higher the image scale of your camera (measured in arc-seconds per pixel), the better the camera.
The "noise" of the camera is also important. It is a measure of how much the camera records items that are not really existent in the sky. The lower the noise level, the better the camera.
You also should consider whether the camera has built-in cooling abilities, especially if you intend to use it in warm areas.
4. Where Can You Buy Astrophotography Cameras?
You can find these cameras at any photography equipment site, like High Point Scientific. But, more conveniently, every one of the astrophotography cameras that made our top 10 list can be bought at a good price with the click of a mouse on Amazon.com.
5. Should I Buy a Color or Monochrome Astrophotography Camera?
Many professional deep space astrophotographers prefer monochrome cameras for the simple reason that they do not degrade image quality. We, however, recommend color cameras for novices because they require less post-processing work.
How We Reviewed
We considered a number of parameters when compiling our "best of" list. First, we considered the image quality and versatility of the camera. For dedicated astrophotography cameras, we placed emphasis on their cooling abilities. We also considered the compatibility of the camera with attachments like telescopes, lenses and computers.
Overall Price Range Of Astrophotography Cameras
Like normal cameras, the price of astrophotography cameras varies wildly depending on features. But to get a decent dedicated astrophotography camera, be prepared to pay $400-$1,200, although top-spec models can cost up to $1,800. There are some DSLR cameras that can be used for astrophotography and their prices are in the $400-$600 range.
What We Reviewed
Dedicated Astrophotography Cameras
- ZWO (ASI120MC-S) Color Astronomy Camera
- Orion StarShoot USB Eyepiece Camera II
- ZWO Pro 16 (ASI071MC) Color Astronomy Camera
- Orion StarShoot (52031) Mono Astrophotography Camera
- ZWO Pro 11.3 (ASI294MC) CMOS Color Astronomy Camera
- Atik Infinity Mono CCD Camera
- Orion StarShoot 5MP Solar System Color Camera
DSLR Cameras for Astrophotography
- Canon EOS REBEL T7i
- Nikon D3400
- Canon EOS 750D Digital SLR Camera
Dedicated Astrophotography Cameras
- ZWO ASI120MC-S 1.2 megapixel color astronomy camera for capturing color images of the Moon, planets, brighter deep sky...
- Uses CMOS camera sensor with 1280x960 resolution; USB3.0 data transfer at up to 60 frames per second at maximum...
- Compact, lightweight, and attractive red anodized CNC aluminum body stands up to heavy field use; Connects to 1.25"...
The ZWO ASi120MC-S camera is a simple color-imaging camera with a USB 3.0 interface. It has a 1.2MP CMOS sensor and sports 3.75 μm pixels in 1280 x960. This camera has download speeds of up 72fps at full resolution.
You can use this camera to capture the sun, moon, planets and deep sky objects. It comes with a 150-degree lens for wide-angled, night sky shots. You can attach auto gliders using its ST4 ports. This camera is quite rugged and encased in an aluminum body.
- Fun and useful USB Eyepiece Camera allows you to transmit the real-time view through your telescope to a laptop or PC,...
- Share the view of bright planets, the Moon, and terrestrial targets through your telescope with friends, family, and...
- An affordable introduction to the rewarding hobby of astrophotography. Great for lunar and planetary shots - not...
The Orion StarShoot USB camera is the camera of choice for those shopping on a tight budget. This camera is a telescope-mounted model that captures incredible visuals of the stars, the moon and more.
It can capture and send images straight to your computer screen. The camera fits into any 1.25-inch telescope focuser and is powered by a USB cable attached to the computer.
- Notice：Cooled ZWO ASI cameras requires a 12v power supply, which is not included with the camera. You need order a...
- ASI071MC Pro offers very good performance for astrophotography. Low read noise, high dynamic range
- he Dark Current of ASI071MC Pro is better controled than before with the help of DDR buffer and new improvment of...
The ZWO Pro 16 uses a Sony IMX071 color sensor to take stunning photos. It has an 18mm-diameter body sealed with six screws that protect the CMOS chamber from dew and frost.
This camera is also protected from air leaks and it can maintain its functions in any situation. With low read noise and a high dynamic range similar to a CCD camera, this camera’s cooling system is quite effective although it needs an external power supply to function.
This camera has an integrated 256MB DDR3 memory buffer that eliminates amp-glow issues. This ZWO Pro 16 has an optional independent control solution called ZWO ASIair, which can be controlled through a mobile device.
- Highly sensitive monochrome imaging device ideal for autoguiding and imaging
- Exceptional 74% quantum efficiency ensures accurate guiding for sharp, pinpoint images
- Very fast frame rate of up to 200 fps can catch every moment of clear seeing
The Orion StarShoot 52031 Mono camera is a sensitive camera designed for precise auto guiding. This unit can also be used as an astrophotography camera. It has 74 percent quantum efficiency and a built-in ST-4 port. At a weight of just 2.08 ounces (2.5x1.2x25 inches), this camera can be used for back-focus range and is compatible with several guiding and imaging accessories, including off-axis guiders.
The camera has a 1/3 inch 1.2MP CMOS sensor and can capture sharp monochrome exposures of the planets and moon. It's very fast, achieving frame rates of up to 200 fps. That combined with its long exposure time of up to 10 minutes gives the user a wide range of capabilities.
- ZWO ASI294MC-Pro cooled color astronomy camera for capturing high-resolution color images of deep-sky objects such as...
- Advanced micro-4/3 CMOS sensor with 4144x2822 (11.7 megapixel) resolution to capture fine detail in astronomical...
- Fast USB3.0 transfer at up to 16 frames per second at maximum resolution; 256MB DDR3 buffer for quick and stable data...
The ZWO Pro 11.3 camera is a powerful device that uses a CMOS IMX294CJK Micro-4/3 sensor from Sony. With a resolution of 11.7MP and a high signal-to-noise range, it is ideal for imaging deep-sky objects. It can be used for fast lunar, solar and planet imaging. And, the results are some sharp images of bright stars.
This ZWO product has an internal 256MB DDR3 buffer for a stable data transfer. Its USB 3.0 port can achieve fast 16fps capture rates. Another feature of the camera is its two-stage TEC cooling system that keeps noise very low, even on warm nights. The camera's power source is a USB 2.0 host, while the cooling system also requires a power source.
Atik's camera combines CCD imaging and video broadcasting features. Powered by Sony’s ICX825 CCD sensor, this camera offers low noise and is controlled by the Windows-based program called "Infinity." Its quantum efficiency peaks at 73 percent at 525nm, and its 1,392x1,040 pixels measure 6.45μm.
- Our highest resolution solar system imaging camera built around a 5-megapixel one-shot color sensor
- Orion-exclusive EZPlanCap software enables live video viewing and capture of hi-res images of solar system objects on...
- Super-small 2.2 micron square pixel size makes the StarShoot 5 MP the ideal solution for capturing highly magnified...
The Orion StarShoot 5MP (2592x1944) camera is powered by a 5MP one-shot color sensor. This camera, with its 2.2-micron square pixel size, is good for capturing magnified exposures of objects like planes, the moon and the sun.
It has a frame rate of up to 51fps and comes with software for both Mac and Windows. Images captured with this camera can be saved in a number of formats, including TIF, BMP, JPG and PNG, while videos can be saved as AVI or MOV. The camera has a metallic body and can be used with 1.25” Orion filters of any telescope.
DSLR Cameras For Astrophotography
The Canon EOS Rebel T7i has a 24MP sensor, the DIGIC 7 processor and a wide ISO range of up to 25,600. The camera captures crisp images and has low noise levels. It is equipped with several modes including the live view mode which is useful in astrophotography.
Canon's product offers the option of 6fps continuous shooting speeds (also useful in astrophotography,) as well as a LCD screen you can tilt to help when focusing.
Nikon's D3400 model was built with the APS-C CMOS 24MP sensor and the EXPEED 4 image processor. It captures HD video and great, sharp photos, thanks to its 11-point autofocus system and 5fps burst shooting capabilities.
The ISO range of this Nikon is also up to 25,600, but unlike its Canon counterpart, this camera’s LCD screen is not tilt-able.
- Effortlessly take your pictures to the next level with the latest DSLR technology and Scene Intelligent Auto mode
- Achieve stunning shots in any situation thanks to the 24.2 Megapixel APS-C sensor and DIGIC 6 processor
- Easily shoot cinematic Full HD movies with Hybrid CMOS AF III to track movement and focus smoothly between subjects
The EOS 750 is a 24.2MP camera built with a hybrid CMOS AF III sensor. One of the most useful features of this camera as far as astrophotography is concerned is its accurate focusing. The camera also has intelligent viewfinder that aids you in getting clear astrophotography shots.
This Canon model has 5fps continuous shooting, with a modest buffer memory that can maintain speeds for a number of RAW frames.
After taking into consideration a truckload of specs for these different products, we determined that the ZWO Pro 11.3 is our top choice for the best astrophotography camera for beginners. Its powerful 11.3MP sensor, fast file transfers and active cooling abilities make it a good all-around camera.
For intermediate to semi-professional astrophotographers who want to get more serious, the Atik Infinity Monochrome CCD camera is a good choice. Its powerful sensor, passive cooling and video streaming abilities make it a useful and versatile tool of the trade.
And, for those who want a DSLR camera so they can use it all the time (not just when not trying to capture the night sky,) the Canon EOS 750D is our favorite selection. This high resolution 24.2 MP camera's continuous shooting abilities, noise reduction features and intelligent viewfinder deliver great astrophotography photos.