The night sky fascinated people for centuries with its beauty and mysteries. We live in the best time possible to gaze at the stars and capture their unique beauty thanks to astrophotography.
In fact, astrophotography cameras can capture such moments to enjoy for years to come.
But the process of finding the best astrophotography camera can be overwhelming, especially if you are a novice.
On 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 is 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.
What to take into consideration when shooting astrophotography
When taking deep-sky astrophotography there are a lot of things to consider so you can get the perfect shot beside the camera and lens.
Take a look at this advice and tell us if you have other recommendations as well.
1. Time of the year and location
Depending on your region and climate there might be a lot of cloudy nights when shooting astrophotography is close to impossible.
As a rule of thumb, the perfect window is from June to early August.
That’s when the Milky Ways is most visible from Earth, making the perfect subject for your astrophotography.
As for location, you might want to find an open space to allow you to capture the best scenery possible.
When taking photos of the night sky you might want to take into consideration your location to add dimension to your astrophotography.
2. Aperture and speed
For amazing results we recommend you to use a “fast” aperture of F/2.8 – F/4.
In addition, when it comes to speed in astrophotography the rule of 500 is your best starting point.
According to the rule, the longest shutter speed you can use before your photo gets blurry is equal to 500 divided by your lens’ focal length.
This kind of setting allows you to create really astonishing photos, either crisp and clear, or star trails.
It is entirely up to you and your personal style.
Your astrophotography camera will create noise as your camera sensor starts heating.
At this point, you must use a high ISO setting so you can get the results you want, especially with your DSLR camera.
To find the right ISO you have to find the perfect balance between the collected light and the amount of noise produced.
To do this we recommend you to take a series of test photos back to back and stacking them together to improve the noise ratio.
4. Use a tripod
Being a long exposure type of photography, astrophotography camera must stand perfectly still. Because of that you need a tripod with a ball head, placed on solid ground. Make sure the camera body will not move, otherwise your photos will be affected.
How We Reviewed
To give you the full perspective on the best astrophotography cameras, we took into consideration 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.
Another important aspect that decided how we reviewed was also considering the compatibility of the camera with attachments like telescopes, lenses, and computers.
Overall Price Range Of Astrophotography Cameras
The price of best astrophotography cameras varies wildly depending on features, just like normal cameras.
In order 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, perfect for astrophotography lovers with a tight budget.
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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
- SONY Alpha A7 III
Dedicated Astrophotography Cameras
An important aspect to know is that 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.
The download speed is up to 72fps at full resolution for this camera.
You can use this camera to capture the sun, moon, planets and deep-sky imaging. The camera comes with a 150-degree lens for wide-angle, night sky shots.
Exposure time is up to 1000 seconds and it’s possible even for high sensitivity.
It also has 75 percent efficiency in the green specter, giving you a lot of room to capture great images.
You can attach auto gliders using its ST4 ports. The camera is quite rugged and encased in an aluminum body.
- Great heavy-duty aluminum design;
- Fast USB 3.0 download speeds;
- Low cost;
- All-sky shot abilities;
- It comes with great accessories.
- Below average image quality.
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.
This is a great camera for beginners who want to explore their astrophotography passion and not break the bank for the equipment.
- Does not need batteries
- The most affordable camera on our list
- Easy to use
- Ability to capture video
- Cannot function independently of a telescope
- Poor image quality
- Requires software download
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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.
Overall, it offers a great experience for astrophotography with low read noise and dynamic range.
- Low noise;
- High performance;
- Generous warranty;
- Very expensive.
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 (2.5×1.2×25 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 the moon. It is also suitable to capture galaxies and nebulas.
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.
When it comes to the software you get a camera packed with capture features such as exposure and gain settings, focus aids, histograms, etc.
- Auto glider functions;
- Compatible with numerous attachments;
- Fast frame rates of up 200fps;
- Comes with focus aids, histogram, exposure and gain settings, and auto dark frame removal.
- Monochrome color is not suitable for most novices.
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.
With this in mind, know that the camera power source is a USB 2.0 host, while the cooling system also requires a power source.
- Low noise levels;
- The camera has a cooling system good for hot environments;
- Fast USB 3.0 transfer rates;
- Easy to use;
- Produces stunning color images.
- The great camera comes at a price and this one’s expensive.
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 1,392×1,040 pixels measure 6.45μm.
- Easy to use
- Produces high-resolution images
- Has an ST-4 auto guider port
- Quality metallic body build
- Low noise levels
- Video streaming abilities
- Doesn’t have a threaded tripod hole
- Doesn’t have active cooling
- Designed only for short exposures
The Orion StarShoot 5MP (2592×1944) 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 planets, 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.
- Color images;
- Variety of image formats;
- Comes with software;
- Durable metallic body;
- Average image quality;
DSLR Cameras For Astrophotography
The Canon EOS Rebel T7i has a 24MP full-frame 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 T7i is one of the most suitable Canon cameras for beginners, that offers great specifications for the price range.
Canon’s product offers the option of 6fps continuous shooting speeds, also useful in astrophotography, as well as an LCD screen you can tilt to help when focusing.
- Continuous shooting speeds;
- Wide ISO range;
- Live view mode;
- Tilt-able LCD viewing screen;
- Produces high-resolution shots;
- It can be used for everyday pictures and astrophotography.
- Not weatherproof
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.
- Offers great image quality;
- Supports a wide variety of lenses;
- Compatible with many telescopes;
- Wide ISO range;
- Slow shutter speed;
- Capable of use for everyday pictures, as well.
- The LCD viewing screen is fixed.
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.
Additionally, the camera has an 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.
- Great noise reduction
- Built-in subject tracking
- Responsive live view 24.2MP
- Shoots good quality images
- Lacks weather sealing
- The viewfinder covers just 95% of the scene
- Low battery life allows just 440 shots
Sony a7 III Full-Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable-Lens Camera
One of the best mirrorless astrophotography cameras, it allows for high-resolution images with reduced noise with ISO 50 to 204,800.
With an incredible processing speed 24.2MP BSI Full-frame Image Sensor the results are going to have an amazing quality. With 4D focus, it offers a great number of phase-detection AF points.
It has a good battery life, approximately 200 minutes of continuous recording, or around 610-710 shots.
- 693 phase detection
- 93 percent image coverage
- Compatible with Sony E mount lenses
- High price for a non designated astrophotography camera.
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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 cameras 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.
In conclusion, 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.
Last update on 2021-06-16 at 19:52 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API