Suitable cameras for astrophotography include both conventional cameras with interchangeable lenses (ILC) and dedicated astrophotography video cameras. Astronomical video cameras require a separate computer and display to focus, frame the image, and save images as well as a telescope. A conventional interchangeable lens camera (ILC) is a more flexible starting point, that many people already own for daylight photography. They are self contained, easy to use, and can deliver outstanding results with and without a telescope for many different kinds of astrophotographs.
If you already have a camera with a removable lens, all you need is a sturdy tripod to make your first astrophotographs. With sturdy tripod and a lens of 50 mm focal length or less you can make Make Milky Way or star trail images. With a longer telephoto lens, you can take sharp, clear, images of the moon. Telephoto shots of dimmer deep sky objects will require a star tracking mount. Once you are taking images, you will begin to appreciate the value of the features listed here. If you are frustrated by the lack of some of them or don’t already have a camera, use these as a guide to picking a new camera well suited to astrophotography.
There are two common types of ILCs: DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Both can work well but mirrorless cameras have advantages for astrophotography:
These are good reasons to choose a mirrorless camera body over a DSLR if you are purchasing a camera specifically for astrophotography. If you already own a DSLR you can probably get good results with it. If you also use your camera for wildlife or sports action shots you may want to choose a DSLR and work with its limitations for astrophotography.
Sensor size and sensitivity are the most important features of your camera for astrophotography. Look for:
For any camera there are features that will make it easier to get good astrophotography results. If your camera doesn’t have some, you can work around them. If you are buying a camera specifically for for astrophotography, you should look for these and understand their value to you.
For an idea of the variety of ways that you can use a ILC camera in astrophotography see the images below. These were taken with both crop sensor and full frame mirrorless cameras. Some were on a fixed tripod and others required tracking mounts. Camera lenses from 14mm f/2.8 to 300mm f/5.6 and a 1350/89 mm f/15 telescope were used.
The image below was taken with a crop sensor Sony a6300 with a 135mm lens on a fixed tripod:
The Milk Way can be shot with a wide lens from a fixed tripod. Here with a full frame Sony a7iii and a Samyang 14mm lens:
Here on a star tracking mount for deep space images:
Image below taken with a Sony NEX-5N 16MP crop sensor camera and Questar 89mm telescope
The sword of Orion taken with a Sony a7iii, a Nikkor 300mm ED lens, and a Vixen Polaie star tracking mount:
With a telescope for lunar close ups
Images below take with a Sony NEX-5N 16MP crop sensor camera and Questar 89mm telescope
Planetary images using lucky image stacking benefit from the fast video frame rates of astronomical video cameras, but good results are possible with an ILC camera like the Sony a6300 and a small telescope like the Questar 89mm
Image below take with a Sony NEX-5N 16MP crop sensor camera and Questar 89mm telescope
Content created: 2019-11-26
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