Best cameras for astrophotography: Deal this holiday season

One of the best cameras for astrophotography the Sony A7R IV in front of durdle door with the milky way above in the night sky


Here we’ve rounded up the best cameras for astrophotography that we think will help you capture your best astro images. Many are even at a discount price in the lead-up to the holiday season.

The bonus of having one of the best cameras for astrophotography is that they are typically versatile cameras that perform exceptionally for daytime shooting too. This negates the need to spend on additional equipment, something we all want to avoid with the ongoing rise in the cost of living.

Remember, it’s not all about the camera. Lenses are just as (if not more) important. That’s why we’ve laid out the best lenses for astrophotography too. We’ve also put together a guide for the best camera accessories for astrophotography and the best light pollution filters for astrophotography, especially important if you’re shooting in an area prone to skyglow.

DSLRs and mirrorless cameras have long been known for their night sky shooting prowess. Low image noise, high ISO capabilities, and flexibility for regular daytime shooting make them ideal devices for many users. However, there are also astro-specific cameras that traditional photographers often overlook. These specialized devices mount to telescopes for incredibly clear astrophotographs that can easily surpass DSLR or mirrorless cameras, although they are unsuitable for conventional photography.

Astrophotographers will need to pay close attention to the performance of each system’s noise handling, as this is a common problem for low-light and night-time photographers. Check how well the camera blocks infrared light, as this is the only way to view cosmic objects. Removing the IR filter can be done by a specialist post-purchase. Dimensions and weight are also essential factors for portability and durability, chances are you’ll be traveling to find a suitable dark sky.

Despite the common misconception, expensive doesn’t necessarily mean best (for your purpose). Some cameras cost far less but give superior astro image quality than even the most expensive models. There does always tend to be a trade-off. That might be shooting flexibility or lens mount versatility. Of course, you won’t be able to capture the stars without a sturdy tripod, so check out our guide to the best tripods for astrophotography to prepare yourself with the best possible setup. 

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The best cameras for astrophotography in 2022

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

A workhorse and detail-oriented powerhouse, this 45.4MP DSLR is possibly one of the best cameras for astro full stop

Specifications

Type: DSLR

Sensor: 45.4MP, Full-frame 35mm

Lens mount: F-mount

ISO range: 64-25600 (102400 expandable)

Viewfinder size/resolution: Optical, 0.75x mag

Video capability: 4K UHD 30FPS

Weight: 915g

Size: 146 x 124 x 78.5 mm

Memory card type: 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC and UHS-II, 1x XQD/CF Express

Reasons to buy

+

Huge stills resolution for extra detail 

+

Native compatibility with F-mount lens range 

+

Reliable and durable weather sealing 

Reasons to avoid

Bigger and bulkier than mirrorless 

Low ISO range 

Optical viewfinder 

The Nikon D850 DSLR was released almost five years ago but still keeps up with the young kids on the block, in many photography disciplines, including astro. The 45.7-megapixel image sensor on the D850 produces ultra-detailed stills photos while keeping image noise to a minimum. It even can shoot 4K UHD 30 frames per second video for those who want to make movies of the stars.

Partly due to when it was made, It is considerably heavier, bigger and bulkier than astro-specific cameras or its mirrorless competition. Still, thanks to its rugged construction and excellent weather sealing, it will last for many years, no matter what environment you choose to shoot in.

Like all DSLRs, it has an optical viewfinder, making it a little more challenging to compose and focus for night sky imaging, but the rear tilting touchscreen remedies this problem. It has two card slots for SD and XQD/CF Express cards to ensure it can record all that incredible detail at speed and for added peace of mind.

As seen on the flagship Nikon D5 (opens in new tab), the D850 utilizes full button illumination, making it simple to operate in the dark without needing a headlamp that may damage your night vision. This was one of the features we enjoyed most during our Nikon D850 review alongside its expandable ISO sensitivity range of 102400 — it practically sees in the dark. Although a very high ISO will drastically reduce image quality, it can useful just to help you compose your shot if nothing else.


(Image credit: Diana Jarvis)

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Stylish but capable, body mounted controls make for easy operation in the dark

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless

Sensor: 26.1 megapixel APS-C

Lens mount: X-mount

ISO range: 160-12800 (80-51200 expanded)

Viewfinder size/resolution: 0.5-inch, 3.69 million dots

Video capability: 4K

Weight: 607g

Size: 135 x 93 x 64 mm

Memory card type: UHS-I / UHS-II / Video Speed Class V90 *1

Reasons to buy

+

Multi-swivel screen

+

Wide ISO sensitivity range 

+

Versatile for other photography types 

Reasons to avoid

Only 26MP 

Pricey 

No battery charger, it needs plugging in 

The X-T4 is Fujifilm’s flagship mirrorless camera and the most powerful X-series. It is an excellent option for astrophotography enthusiasts, as we discussed in our Fujifulm X-T4 review. The vari-angle screen makes composing shots much more comfortable than without, given the camera will be pointing at the sky. 

The classic look of the camera makes it stylish, but the body-mounted dial controls make it easier to use in the dark if you can remember which dial does what. The 26.1MP APS-C sensor creates excellent image quality, and there are plenty of lenses available to fit this model to enhance them further.

The Fuji X-T4 uses the NP-W235 battery with a CIPA rating of around 500 shots per charge in an everyday performance mode. When we carried out our full review, we found this can be much higher when shooting in the daytime. However, when shooting the night sky, the long exposures needed sap the battery more, so expect slightly fewer. 

This camera is a versatile option for photographers who regularly dabble in other styles of photography. It has a generous 6.5 stops of in-body image stabilization, excellent low-light performance, and a high-speed processing engine. That makes it ideal for action or sports photography. It is also a top choice when it comes to timelapse photography. Check out our best cameras for timelapse videos for alternative options for this style of capture.


(Image credit: Lauren Scott)

A low light beast, this camera set a precedent as one of the best astro mirrorless cameras

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless

Sensor: 24.2MP, Full-frame 35mm

Lens mount: E-mount

ISO range: 50-51200 (204800 for stills)

Viewfinder size/resolution: 0.5-inch, 2.35 million dots

Video capability: 4K UHD 30fps

Weight: 650g

Size: 126.9mm x 95.6mm x 73.7mm

Memory card type: 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I/II compliant) 1x Multi slot for Memory

: Stick Duo/SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I compliant)

Reasons to buy

+

Incredible low light video performance

+

Good battery life

+

93% AF point coverage 

Reasons to avoid

Certainly a more expensive option

Low stills resolution compared to competition

New version now available

The Sony A7 III is a favorite among astrophotographers that like to shoot mirrorless and is one of the brightest stars of the astro camera world (pardon the pun). Though its electronic viewfinder isn’t as detailed as others we’ve listed, it still provides a beneficial exposure-ramped view to aid with composing astrophotographs. Low light autofocus detection, while not as sophisticated as some in this list, still performs well by working in -3 EV. In our Sony A7 III review, we were particularly impressed with the high dynamic range which allows you to recover amazing detail from the shadows.

Even when ramped up to a massive ISO 51200, this camera handles image noise well and produces excellent image results. For those not too worried about movie shooting (though it can capture 4K UHD at 30FPS), ISO can jump higher, expanding to an insane 204800 for stills photography. 

Shooting for hours at night can drain the battery quickly, especially when you consider it has to run power both to the rear screen and the EVF. However, this camera is CIPA-rated well above average for a mirrorless of this type and can shoot 710 still shots via the rear LCD monitor. It is a touch more expensive than others in its class, but if you’re after a natural low light performer that is also versatile enough to excel in other photography styles, the A7 III might be the one for you.


(Image credit: Jacob Little)

Small but important improvements over its predecessor

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless

Sensor: BSI-CMOS 24.5MP

Lens mount: Z-mount

ISO range: 100-51200 (expanded 50-204800)

Video: 4K 60p

Weight without lens: 1.5lbs/675g

Memory card slots: 1x CFexpress/XQD, 1x UHS-II SD

Reasons to buy

+

Great for low-light shooting

+

Excellent weather sealing

Reasons to avoid

Not worth upgrading from the Z6

Lots of competition at a similar or lower price

Following the aforementioned Nikon Z6, it makes sense to talk about its successor, the Nikon Z6 II. As we discussed in our hands-on Nikon Z6 II review, there aren’t enough upgrades to warrant upgrading from one model to the other, and it’s not worth the extra cost if you’re only going to be shooting astro with it. 

That said, suppose you’re upgrading from a beginner model, capturing video, and shooting other photography styles alongside astro. In that case, the Z6 II is worth considering if you can spare the extra dollars, as it is a little more refined.

Take note of everything the Z6 has, but add a second memory card slot for extra storage and peace of mind, a faster burst rate and autofocus, quicker image processing, and 60FPS at 4K video shooting. 

Another inclusion astrophotographers will love is the better range of shutter speeds, allowing more control over those long exposure shots. The shutter speed limit is now 900 seconds (15 minutes).


(Image credit: Andy Hartup)

Realistic but exceptionally clear images of the night sky, and a better option for astro than the Z7

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless

Sensor: 24.5MP, Full-frame 35mm

Lens mount: Z-mount

ISO range: 100-51200 (204800 expandable)

Viewfinder size/resolution: : 0.5-inch, 3.69 million dots

Video capability: 4K UHD 30fps

Weight: 705g

Size: 134 x 100.5 x 69.5 mm

Memory card type: 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC and UHS-II, 1x XQD/CF Express

Reasons to buy

+

Low image noise 

+

Superb electronic viewfinder 

+

Great low light Autofocus 

Reasons to avoid

Stills resolution not the highest 

Limited lens range 

Superseded by Z6 II 

Though superseded a while back by the superior Nikon Z6 II, the Z6 (one-half of the first two mirrorless cameras Nikon ever produced), is still one heck of a camera and excels in low light. For our money, we think the Z6 is better for astrophotographers than its big brother, the Z7, due to the lower resolution. A lower resolution on the same full-frame image sensor means less image noise detracting from the final shot. Whats more, the Z6 is also much cheaper than the Z7.

The Electronic Viewfinder has excellent detail, with a million more dots than the aforementioned Sony A7 III, and gives a realistic, clear image. Though the Z-mount lens range is expanding, but it’s still not as established as other models in this guide. Saying this, with an FTZ adapter, you can use any of Nikon’s F-mount lenses from the past several decades, so this isn’t a problem.

Our Nikon Z6 review found that shooting even up as high as ISO 12,800 adds very little noise or softness to the image, making it perfect for low-light situations like astro and night-time photography. This is especially true if you’re trying to pick out unlit objects or scenery to give the night sky some context. The image quality only degrades a little on the maximum and expanded settings.


(Image credit: Tantse Walter)

A pleasure to compose your shot even in the darkest skies as well as a nifty timelapse function

Specifications

Type: DSLR

Sensor: 26.2MP, Full-frame 35mm

Lens mount: EF-mount

ISO range: 100-40000 (102400 expandable)

Viewfinder size/resolution: Optical, 0.71x mag

Video capability: 1920 x 1080, 60fps

Weight: 765g

Size: 144.0 x 110.5 x 74.8 mm

Memory card type: SD, SDHC or SDXC (UHS-I) card

Reasons to buy

+

4K timelapse feature 

+

Handy vari-angle touchscreen display 

+

A lot of camera for the money 

Reasons to avoid

No 4K video recording 

Only one SD memory card slot 

Low dynamic range a shame 

The Canon EOS 6D Mk 2 is an affordable DSLR for those wanting to dip their toes into astrophotography without breaking the bank. It does lack some modern features, but this is a brilliant full-frame option for its price point.

Its handy vari-angle touchscreen display makes it simple to compose the scene even if the camera is pointing skyward. For astro-shooters that like a moving image, the EOS 6D Mk 2 can shoot 4K time-lapses (in timelapse mode), making it perfect for detailed videos of the night sky, especially when paired with a slider or a star tracker. We found in our Canon EOS 6D Mk 2 review that it’s best to avoid this model if you’re planning on shooting fast action in low light, but that’s not a problem for astrophotography.

While it only captures regular video footage at full-HD 1080p, it records this at 60FPS for smooth results. Its dynamic range also leaves something to be desired, but if combined with plenty of calibration frames, this shouldn’t make much difference after image processing.

A single SD card slot might have nervous shooters biting their nails during longer sessions, but with 102400 expandable ISO and 26.2MP stills capture, you can relax knowing results will be clear and crisp every time.


(Image credit: Amazon)

A dedicated color astro camera producing stunning high resolution stills with an enormous frame rate

Specifications

Type: Color CMOS astronomy camera

Sensor: 20.1MP, 1-inch

Lens mount: Scope mounted

ISO range: N/A

Video capability: 5496 x 3672, 19 FPS

Weight: 140g

Size: 62mm diameter

Memory card type: N/A

Reasons to buy

+

Electronic shutter minimises camera movement 

+

19FPS perfect for solar/lunar photography 

+

USB 3.0 output 

Reasons to avoid

Scope mounted only 

Requires dedicated software to run 

Images at 12 bit depth maximum 

This is a compact full-color camera with its own onboard cooling system to minimize noise whilst shooting long exposures. It is one of the best-dedicated astrophotography cameras out there, the ZWO Optical ASI183MC Pro is the color version of the ZWO Optical ASI183. 

In our ZWO Optical ASI183MC Pro review, we found it to represent a great choice for astrophotographers looking for a dedicated astro-imaging camera. You won’t need to bring a stack of RGB filters when heading out to shoot. It’s also much smaller and lighter than other astro cams. Still, at 1.6e read noise, it’s a serious camera.

It’s one of the more efficient camera models for astrophotography and provides a whopping 84% Quantum Efficiency peak. For an astro camera, it also has a high pixel count, at approximately 20.48MP.

It shoots an all-out frame rate of 19FPS at full resolution, which makes the ZWO Optical ASI183MC ideal for solar or lunar imaging. However, if users drop the resolution down, there’s the potential to shoot hundreds of frames a second if wanted! One downside, as with all dedicated astro cams, is that you’ll need to plug it into a computer with dedicated software to run it. A fast USB3.0 port means a healthy data transfer for the higher frame rate captures. 


(Image credit: https://astronomy-imaging-camera.com)

This camera’s design and build is very specifically geared towards clean astro shooting, as complemented by its zero amp glow

Specifications

Type: Color CMOS astronomy camera

Sensor: 9MP, 1-inch

Lens mount: Scope mounted

ISO range: N/A

Viewfinder size/resolution: N/A

Video capability: 3008 x 3008, 20FPS

Weight: 800g

Size: 78mm

Memory card type: N/A

Reasons to buy

+

Zero amp glow 

+

80% quantum efficiency 

+

High 20FPS frame rate 

Reasons to avoid

No mono version 

Square CMOS sensor unusual for some 

The ZWO Optical ASI 533 Pro’s most attractive feature is likely that it has zero amp glow. Although you can remove this in editing software, this additional processing time can stack up and reduce productivity, especially when considering that you could opt for an astro camera like this and avoid it altogether. By removing the need for extra processing, you’re also keeping a cleaner, more efficient resulting image.

This camera only comes in a color version, so monochromatic enthusiasts should leave their RGB filters at home. It has a good 80% Quantum Efficiency and a quick 20FPS frame rate for those needing to shoot fast. As with almost all dedicated astro cameras, the ZWO Optical ASI 533 Pro needs an external power supply to work. A 9MP square sensor might seem a little unusual to some photographers, but it has 1.0e read noise and a 14-bit ADC for good dynamic range. 

In our ZWO Optical ASI 533 Pro review, we concluded that it is a great choice for those looking for a simple-to-use, dedicated astro-imaging camera at an affordable price.


(Image credit: Andy Hartup)

While it’s an older model, it’s still a solid and reasonably priced choice for astrophotographers

Specifications

Type: Full-fram mirrorless

Sensor: 30 megapixels

Lens mount: RF (EF and EF-S with adapter)

ISO range: 100-40000

Viewfinder size/resolution: 0.5-inch OLED EVF

Video capability: 4K and 10-bit

Weight: 580g

Size: 135.8 x 98.3 x 84.4mm

Memory card type:

Reasons to buy

+

30MP sensor

+

Good value for money

+

Excellent autofocus

Reasons to avoid

Button layout could be better

Not as rugged as it’s rivals

Though four years old, Canon’s first-ever full-frame mirrorless RF system camera still holds its own against the more recent releases.

As we discussed in our Canon EOS R review, it’s neither the sleekest nor best-built body, so you’d have to be a little gentler with it than you would some of the hardier models — like the Nikon Z6 — and the layout of the buttons could be more intuitive. None of these would be reasons not to buy this model, but they could take some getting used to.

Body and build quality aside, the performance of the Canon EOS R is above average when shooting in low light. It performs especially when using long exposures, which is perfect for traditional astro shooting, including long exposures and time-lapse shooting (don’t forget your tripod). It also processes the shots very quickly with little noticeable buffer lag.

The screen is large and clear, with impressive touch functionality. Like a smartphone, you can drag and set the focus with your finger. The vari-angle touch screen also makes taking low-angle shots much more comfortable.

How we test the best cameras for astrophotography

To guarantee you’re getting honest, up-to-date recommendations on the best cameras to buy here at Space.com we make sure to put every camera through a rigorous review to fully test each product. Each camera is reviewed based on many aspects, from its construction and design, to how well it functions as an optical instrument and its performance in the field.

Each camera 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 and is judged based on its price point, class and destined use. For example, comparing a 60MP full-frame mirrorless camera to a sleek little crop-sensor DSLR wouldn’t be appropriate, though each camera might be the best performing product in its own class.

We look at how easy each camera is to operate, whether it contains the latest up-to-date imaging technology, whether the cameras can shoot high-quality stills photos and high-resolution video and also make suggestions if a particular camera would benefit from any additional kit to give you the best viewing experience possible.

With complete editorial independence, Space.com are here to ensure you get the best buying advice on cameras, whether you should purchase an instrument or not, making our buying guides and reviews reliable and transparent.

Best cameras for astrophotography: What to look for

It can be difficult to know what to look for in the best cameras for astrophotography, but there are some crucial factors to consider to help you decide. Budget is significant, with new users who want to dabble perhaps setting aside a little less than more seasoned photographers that will only settle for the very best images. However, image clarity is critical, and you’ll find that larger sensors with fewer pixels can capture astro shots with minimal image noise. By negating the effects of image noise, we’re able to process imagery more efficiently with better-detailed results.

While not particularly useful for astrophotography, autofocus may still be helpful for those who want to combine night-time shooting with near-twilight landscapes that show the brightest stars, planets, and satellites hanging above a beautiful foreground. A low EV rating on the autofocus ability is crucial for sharp shots in the dark. 

Fiddling around with one of the best headlamps can be helpful, but for those with inferior headlamps a dim-lit red light to set up your shot can be frustrating, so consider whether you need backlit illuminated buttons to help guide camera setup in the dark. 

Specialist astrophotography cameras have a predisposition to warm up during long exposure shots. Suppose you’re interested in getting an astro camera that has built-in cooling to keep the performance of the image capture high, it will likely be larger and heavier, and a little noisier as the fans whir while operating.

Photographers must consider lens choice when choosing a camera for astrophotography. While most major manufacturers have excellent ranges of top-quality glass, not all camera models can accept the full range of lenses due to differences in mount types. Ideally, fast lenses with wide apertures and excellent optical sharpness and clarity are what to look for when shooting astrophotography. Pair this with a camera body that handles high ISO and image noise well and you should be ready to go.