For instance, Canon users are much more likely to stay loyal to the brand after purchasing multiple camera lenses made for a Canon DSLR body. Whichever brand of DSLR you choose in the beginning, you are more likely to stick with until the end, so choose wisely.
My advice would be to start with an entry-level body such as the Canon Rebel T7i or Nikon D3400. Both of these cameras support a staggering amount of camera lenses and software applications. The Sony mirrorless a7 series cameras look impressive for wide-angle landscape-style astrophotography, but I see very few people using them for deep sky imaging.
A DSLR camera is very versatile and easy to use with various lenses. A dedicated astronomy camera, on the other hand, is designed primarily for deep-sky imaging through a telescope and requires dedicated software to run. I currently use both types of astrophotography cameras on a regular basis.
If you already own a DSLR for daytime photography, I would definitely recommend trying it out for astrophotography before looking to upgrade. The professional-level DSLRs from Canon and Nikon such as the 5D Mark IV and Nikon D850 would make excellent astro-cameras.
For an idea of what a DSLR camera is capable of, have a look at the following image of the Andromeda Galaxy captured using a Canon 60Da. This camera body is rather unique in the fact that it was actually designed specifically for astrophotography.
This method can be enjoyed both on a tripod, or on a simple tracking mount (star tracker) such as the iOptron SkyTracker Pro, or Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer. A DSLR camera and lens are simple and easy to mount for long exposure, tracked images of the night sky.
When you have invested in your first astrophotography telescope, you can then attach your DSLR camera via a T-ring and adapter. This is known as prime-focus astrophotography and can lead to an extraordinary world of deep-sky imaging. This is where my true passion for this hobby began to take shape.
With my first astrophotography camera (Canon EOS Rebel Xsi), I carefully removed the stock IR cut filter in the camera with the aid of this tutorial video. I am happy to report that after 4 intense hours of work, I was successful.
In 2020, I tested a new astrophotography camera developed by Canon. The Canon EOS Ra is a full-frame mirrorless camera capable of capturing stunning high-resolution images. This is a new breed of camera, not only because of its mirrorless design, but also features like 4K video and 30X live-view focus.
Astrophotography with a camera lens is a lot of fun, and can often be a simpler and more enjoyable experience than with a telescope. Even a kit lens such as the 18-55mm that is included with many beginner-level DSLRs has some excellent astrophotography potential.
These days there are many dedicated astronomy cameras on the market that are designed specifically for astrophotography, and nothing else. They lack a display screen and camera controls on the body and must be controlled using dedicated software on your computer.
Cameras with CMOS sensors that include TEC (Thermoelectric cooling), precision gain controls and can produce images in . FIT format are extremely popular for astrophotography. Dedicated astronomy cameras come in two formats, one-shot-color, and mono. If you are like me, and your clear sky time is limited, a one-shot-color camera is a very convenient choice.
Years ago, CCD cameras ruled the market in this category, but advancements in CMOS sensor technology have increased the popularity of brands like ZWO Astronomy Cameras. A camera with a monochrome sensor such as the ZWO ASI 1600MM Pro records images in greyscale, meaning that a minimum of 3 filters (R, G, B) are necessary to create a full-color image.
Mono CMOS sensors are much more sensitive than their color counterparts, you just have to work a little harder. As you take pictures through each color or narrowband filter, you benefit from a stronger signal due to the lack of the Bayer filter (CFA) found in traditional color cameras.
ZWO cameras have the option of being controlled using a unique dedicated camera capture device called the ZWO ASIair. This Raspberry Pi based computer allows you to control ASI cameras from your smartphone or tablet. Here, you can control everything from autoguiding to plate solving without touching your telescope.
I have found that using this particular camera with a duo-narrowband filter can produce some incredible results from a light-polluted area. The following image uses the STC Astro Duo-Narrowband filter with the ASI294MC-Pro on the Pacman Nebula.
When using this camera under a dark sky (Bortle Class 3), my results using the ASI294MC-Pro unfiltered (Just a UV-IR filter) were impressive. The following image of the Triangulum Galaxy was captured at the Black Forest Star Party through a Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 telescope.
Only a few short years ago, purchasing a dedicated CCD camera for astrophotography for under $1000 was unheard of. Modern advancements in CMOS sensor technology have brought the price of these cameras down significantly.
Dedicated astronomy cameras that are capable of cooling the sensor for a cleaner signal are now much more obtainable to the casual or beginner-level astrophotography enthusiast. The cameras listed below are best for deep-sky astrophotography. A different type of camera (and approach) is required for planetary or solar imaging.
On the other hand, dedicated astronomy cameras such as the ZWO ASI294MC Pro or QHY163C will only operate when connected to your computer and the necessary software. There is a big difference between running a DSLR camera and a dedicated astronomy camera.
I tested my first monochrome sensor CMOS camera in late 2017. It was my first venture into monochrome territory and was an eye-opening experience. Mono sensors can capture more detail in a single exposure but need 3X as much exposure time to produce a color image.
In 2021 I tested the ZWO ASI2600MM Pro, a high-resolution monochrome CMOS camera with an APS-C sized sensor. This camera is behind some of my best personal astrophotography images including the Wizard shown below.
Modern DLSRs are user-friendly and can help you fast-track the basics of night photography including shutter speeds, white balance, and understanding how to monitor the histogram of your images. Mirrorless cameras have gained in popularity over the past few years, with many of them being used for astrophotography specifically.
In fact, In November 2019, Canon announced their latest camera designed for astrophotography, the full-frame, mirrorless Canon EOS Ra. This camera boasts impressive features for night photography including increased sensitivity to the hydrogen-alpha wavelength and a 30X live-view magnification mode.
Once you have had success using a camera lens for astrophotography, you can swap it out with a telescope for some deep-sky imaging. The telescope you choose for astrophotography will likely have a much longer focal length and will make focusing on stars much easier.
A telephoto camera lens will also do a fine job at capturing deep sky objects, but a telescope offers many advantages. For example, most high-end refractors include a locking dual-speed precision focuser.
These cameras work differently than a DSLR and dedicated CMOS astronomy cameras. They are designed to maximize collecting light for long periods of time, with exposure lengths of 10-20 minutes being a common practice.
Despite its age and humble statistics, the Canon 450D can produce stunning results that can compete with images of much more expensive cameras. For the most part, the noise can be taken care of by shooting dark frames, and noise reduction in post-processing.
Brands such as Canon and Nikon have dominated the market for DSLR astronomy photographers in the past, but now camera manufacturers like Sony have also entered the picture with their mirrorless design.
I have my preferences for the Canon line of DSLR and mirrorless cameras, but there are many satisfied Nikon, Sony, and Pentax shooters out there. If I had to choose the absolute best-case scenario for astrophotography, the Canon EOS Ra, and Nikon D810A stand out.
Both of these camera bodies include astro-modified sensors that are more sensitive to the h-alpha bandpass of the visible spectrum. This feature is best enjoyed while shooting the Milky Way or regions of hydrogen gas in the night sky.
Another aspect to consider is the availability and price of astrophotography filters. The clip-in variety of light-pollution and narrowband filters are more widely available and affordable on a crop-sensor DSLR than they are for a full-frame camera body.
DSLR cameras are great at accepting filters to use during your imaging sessions through your telescope. For example, I use an Astronomik 12nm Ha Filter in my Canon T3i to capture narrowband h-alpha photos.
These cameras have a thermoelectric cooling system on the sensor to help produce image long-exposure images with less noise than an uncooled DSLR camera. The cameras must be powered by an external source to accomplish this.
When I began my astrophotography journey back in 2010, the only two options for cameras were DSLRs or CCD imaging. Today, dedicated astronomy cameras are widely used and enjoyed by amateurs around the world.
When you get into the world of dedicated astronomy cameras, you will need to start paying attention to the pixel size of the camera sensor. The pixel size will determine the image scale you can expect with the telescope you are using.
When attached to my Sky-Watcher Esprit 100 ED refractor, the image scale is 1.73. (4.63 / 550mm x 206 = 1.73). For a better understanding of the importance of under and oversampling your images with a particular camera and telescope combination, have a look at this video from Chuck Ayoub. 2b1af7f3a8