Many astrophotographers can take advantage of using the best camera accessories for astrophotography because, let’s face it, taking pictures of the night sky isn’t easy. To the untrained eye astrophotography — meant here to mean the creation of nightscapes featuring starry backgrounds (and, if you get the timing right, the Milky Way) — is the same as any other kind of landscape photography. However, there are camera accessories you absolutely must have for astrophotography if you want to produce awe-inspiring images, alongside one of the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.
Things are made even more difficult by the fact that you’ll probably need to travel to indulge in your love of shooting astro. That means it’s best to buy the kind of camera equipment you’re going to be happy traveling with, whether that be in a car in your own country or a more intrepid trip overseas to one of the best locations for astrophotography and stargazing in search of dark skies.
One of the most important things you need for astrophotography is, of course, one of the best tripods for astrophotography. Every single nightscape photo you produce will require some kind of long exposure. Exactly how long depends on your lens’s aperture and how dark the sky is, but a tripod is one of the most important things any astrophotographer needs besides a suitable DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual controls. Something else you’re going to need is a decent camera backpack. Since you’ll have to be traveling with a tripod, find one that can support such a thing easily, as well as how’s your camera(s) and a couple of lenses.
Other accessories we’ve included here comprise a light pollution filter, a red light torch for finding your way around your camera gear at night without ruining your night vision, a power bank that is also a handwarmer, and some star trackers that allow you to make even longer exposures of stars and deep sky objects by keeping in sync with the rotation of our planet.
Best camera accessories for astrophotography April 2023
Best camera accessories for astrophotography 2023
Best camera accessories for astrophotography 2023
We reviewed the BioLite Headlamp 425 late in 2022, just after it was released, and we loved it — it’s hard to fault.
The red flood light, the ‘run forever’ battery, the glove-friendly power button and the comfortable moisture-wicking headband with the battery weight sitting at the back of your head are all things that will maximize your sky-watching comfort while keeping your hands free and your night vision intact.
The battery will last on a single charge for 60 hours when on the lowest setting and there’s an indicator to show how much power you have left before it needs to be charged using a convenient USB-C cable.
The IPX4 rating means the headlamp can withstand splashing water from any direction, so no need to worry if you do get caught out in a rain shower. It can also handle extreme temperatures of -4F to 140F.
We were really splitting hairs in our BioLite Headlamp 425 review to find anything to fault!
If there’s one thing every astrophotographer needs, it’s a sturdy tripod, but since almost all of us need to travel to find dark skies, it also hugely helps if it’s portable.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod, which features in our best tripods buying guide, attempts to create a travel-friendly tripod by being very narrow and short when packed up yet tall enough to use easily. It just about succeeds at the latter, reaching 600 inches/152.4cm when completely unfurled, though it easily achieves the former with a 3.13 -inches/7.9cm diameter and a ball head that tucks away unbelievably neatly.
The five-section legs use soft-close cams that are a dream to open and close, while the Arca-Swiss quick-release tripod plate is streamlined and stable. It’s a shame that the base plate for a camera requires a Hex key and that the one supplied with the Peak Design Tripod is tucked away on one of the tripod legs yet comes loose far too easily. One of the things we found disappointing during our Peak Design Travel Tripod review. That said, we liked the hidden fold-up smartphone clamp stored inside the adjustable center column. Genius!
The Celestron Elements FireCel Mega 6 is an excellent space-saving bit of kit. It is a power bank, a hand warmer and a four-mode flashlight, including red LEDs to help preserve your night vision.
It is a clever multi-functional design built to withstand the harshest elements. While you won’t be out sky-watching in extreme weather, you’ll likely either get cold out at night, need to find something in the dark, or perhaps need a bit of ‘juice’ in one of your devices. The Firecel Mega 6 can help in all of those situations, and it’s supplied with a handy paracord strip and carabiner to hang it wherever you need.
After our Celestron Elements FireCel Mega 6 review, where we discuss the ins and outs of the product, in ‘real life,’ we have often found ourselves reaching for this in favor of higher capacity power banks because it is so light and pocketable. Moreover, while it’s in your pocket, you can use it to warm your hands up for up to eight hours.
The only real downside is that it needs to be charged using mini-USB; we’d much prefer USB-C. Its USB output is also USB-A, so you may need an adapter if you want to use a USB-C cable.
We’ve found this product increasingly hard to find, but there are a couple of similar models such as the Celestron ThermoCharge (opens in new tab) and ThermoTrek (opens in new tab) which have a slightly lower capacity power bank and no torch.
How sturdy is your tripod? An exceptionally lightweight aluminum tripod, the Manfrotto Befree-Advanced Travel Tripod is easy to carry, boasts a simple set-up and take down and is exceptionally still even in strong winds.
Well-sized for a full-frame DSLR camera rig, the exceptionally well-constructed Manfrotto Befree-Advanced Travel Tripod has four-section legs that fasten using rubber twist-locks and unfurl to a maximum height of 59-inches/150cm. Most so-called travel tripods have a wobbly center column to get to that height from a compact size. Not so the Manfrotto Befree-Advanced Travel Tripod, which has a particularly tough and unique locking ring to keep its extending center column super-solid.
As we found in our Manfrotto Befree Advanced Travel Tripod review, there’s also an unusual collapse configuration whereby the three legs fold through 180 degrees to meet the ball head when collapsing the tripod, rather than the other way around. That reduces its travel bulk, but the Manfrotto Befree-Advanced Travel Tripod isn’t particularly compact when packed down. In fact, there’s a lot of room between its legs, taking up a lot of room in a suitcase when astro-traveling. However, we like its aluminum 200PL PRO baseplate, which attaches to a camera using a no-tools-required D-ring that can, if desired, be tightened using an Allen key.
What is a star tracker? Based on the same technology that you’ll find in a ‘go to’ computerized telescope or in a dedicated equatorial mount for a telescope, the SkyWatcher Star Adventurer Mini moves your camera in sync with Earth’s rotation.
Like our own planet, the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini — which attaches to any standard tripod using its 1/4-inch or 3/8-inch adaptors — rotates a DSLR camera through 360 degrees every 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4 seconds. Essentially that means you can do far longer exposures than you can if you just put your DSLR camera on a tripod.
A shrunken version of the original and larger SkyWatcher Star Adventurer, during our Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini review, we were impressed because this diminutive example of a star tracker weighs 650g, about the size of most camera lenses, yet retains superb accuracy.
It’s aligned using a small optical polar alignment scope, which must be done before the camera is mounted upon it, though its polar-scope illuminator is separate and easy to lose. The Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini is best considered for wide-angle nightscapes only since it promises accuracy only for lenses of a focal length of around 100mm.
There are different kinds of light pollution, but the one that amateur astronomers and astrophotographers despise is skyglow as it leaves an orangey-brown glow in your astrophotos.
Luckily, an array of light pollution filters are available to help subdue these unwanted colors. The Japan-made Hoya Starscape, which comes in a vast amount of different sizes, is one of our favorites.
It does an excellent job of dampening the yellowish, greenish and brownish color casts from sodium and mercury-vapor streetlights and general urban skyglow. What you’re left with is clear and contrasty nightscape images with more natural-looking colors than would be possible without.
While it is called ‘starscape’ it can also be used in the daytime for landscape photography, or nighttime cityscapes to help you achieve a more balanced and realistic color.
Why buy a star tracker like the Move Shoot Move? To stop the stars trailing and blurring during long exposure photography at night, that’s why.
Part of a new generation of lightweight and easy-to-use star trackers that keep your camera in sync with the Earth’s rotation, the Move Shoot Move allows rigs of up to 6.6lbs/3kg in weight to indulge in exposures of up to three minutes. Cue more light, color and detail that helps reveal a greater amount of starlight, galaxies and nebulae than any 30-second exposure from a stationary tripod can.
The Move Shoot Move is only designed for small set-ups, which means a reasonably lightweight wide-angle lens on a DSLR — and certainly not a heavy zoom lens — so it’s best chosen to create more impactful wide-angle nightscapes.
Alignment with Polaris, the North Star, is manual, using a supplied green laser pointer fixed to the platform’s side. During our MoveShootMove Star Tracker review, we found it to be a little fiddly to set up, but it’s accurate, works for about five hours on one charge and is incredibly easy to fit in a camera bag.
Astrophotography is much like landscape photography in that you must be in the right place at the right time to get the shot. However, the former also demands darkness and a complete absence of light pollution, which often necessitates foreign travel. Sensibly realizing that photographers need a backpack that also works as a super sleek in-flight carry-on, Lowepro has designed its ProTactic BP 350 AW II to be both access-all-areas (top, side and back) and entirely modular. We loved the original Lowepro Whistler BP 350 AW and think it’s one of the best camera bags for astrophotography.
In its bare bones guise, it’s hard-sided and can fit everything the average astrophotographer will need to take on a plane, namely a DSLR and lenses. Everything else can travel in a check-in bag, with two tripod straps and a Velcro-attached foot attached when you reach your destination. Ditto a clip-on pouch for storing a water bottle, a phone pouch and even a large hip belt that adds a lot of support for night-hike. However you use the ProTactic BP 350 AW II it’s always compact, though the drawback is that a maximum 13-inch laptop can fit in the laptop sleeve in its back panel.
Some astrophotographers don’t care so much about the night sky. They may want to capture its many wonders, but they’re not particularly interested in maximizing their own view, just that of their camera. That’s a mistake because only with properly dark adapted eyes can the observer see, and therefore more easily frame, the Milky Way during the summer, which is likely at, or near, the top of your ‘to capture’ list.
Cue the Celestron Night Vision Flashlight, a tiny flashlight that will save your night vision, which takes about 30 minutes to nurture and is killed off instantly by white light (e.g., from a smartphone) by emitting only red light.
Far less damaging to night vision, the Celestron Night Vision Flashlight’s two red LEDs can be dimmed using a handy thumbwheel, further lessening its impact on night vision. A lanyard/wrist strap keeps the Celestron Night Vision Flashlight within easy reach and its 9V battery keeps it going for months.
This device is about as basic as you can get. It isn’t for finding your way around in the dark, but it’s for tweaking your equipment, swapping your eyepiece, reading star charts and so on. If it’s a means of finding your way around in the dark you’re looking for, you’d do well to check out our best headlamps for stargazing and lowlight scenes.
How we test the best camera accessories for astrophotography
To guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best camera accessories for astrophotography to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every accessory through a rigorous review to fully test each product. Each accessory is reviewed based on a multitude of aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.
Each camera accessory for astrophotography is carefully tested by either our expert staff or knowledgeable freelance contributors who know their subject areas in depth. This ensures fair reviewing is backed by personal, hands-on experience with each camera accessory and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use.
We look at how easy each accessory is to operate, whether it contains the latest up-to-date technology, and also make suggestions if there are better or newer options available.
With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on camera accessories for photographing the cosmos, whether you should purchase an accessory or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.