Best camera accessories for astrophotography in 2022

Best camera accessories for astrophotography against a star trail background
(Image credit: Getty)

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, 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 in 2022

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Peak Design travel tripod in the hand

The Peak Design Tripod weighs just 1.5kg (Image credit: Future)
A super-compact and tall tripod that fits in the smallest of camera bags

Specifications

Material: Aluminium
Leg sections: Five
Weight: 3.44lbs/1.56kg
Max load: 20lbs/9.1kg
Folded height: 15.4"/39.1cm
Ball head or pan/tilt head: Ball head

Reasons to buy

+
Easily supports full-frame gear
+
Hidden smartphone mount

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks height
-
Requires Hex Key

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 easily achieves the former with a 3.125-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 itself yet comes loose far too easily. One of the things we found disappointing during our Peak Design Travel Tripod review. That said, we did like the hidden fold-up smartphone clamp that's stored inside the adjustable center column. Genius! 


Product photo of the Celestron Flashlight

Using only red light helps keep your eyes dark-adapted.  (Image credit: Celestron)

Celestron Night Vision Flashlight

Save your eyes' dark-adaption with this dimmable red light flashlight

Specifications

Weight: 0.25 lbs/120 g
Dimensions: 5.7”x2.56”x2.4”/145x66x61mm
Power: 9V battery (included)
Output: 25-Lumens
Construction material: Plastic

Reasons to buy

+
Helps preserve night vision
+
Brightness can be altered

Reasons to avoid

-
9v battery is inconvenient

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 to be 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.

For a hands-free means of finding your way around or adjusting your equipment in the dark, check out our best headlamps for stargazing and lowlight scenes.


Sky-watcher star adventurer mini being used atop a mountain overlooking a sunrise

A portable yet powerful way to super-charge Milky Way and starry night photograph  (Image credit: Future)
A portable yet powerful way to super-charge Milky Way and starry night photography

Specifications

Weight: 650g
Dimensions: 76x70x103mm
Max payload: 6.6lbs/3kg
Max lens focal length: 100mm
Power: 2 x AA batteries or external USB supply

Reasons to buy

+
Travel-friendly size
+
Accurate and easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Polar-scope illuminator is separate
-
Works up to 100mm focal lengths only

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, we were impressed with the Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer Mini during our review 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. 


A product photo of the Hoya Starscape light pollution filter in its packaging

(Image credit: Hoya)

Hoya Starscape light pollution filter

Don't let urban skyglow spoil your astro photos

Specifications

Available circular filter sizes: 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm and 100mm
Filter insert sizes available: 100mm
Clip-in sizes available: N/A

Reasons to buy

+
Boosts contrast
+
Good value

Reasons to avoid

-
Darkens image by 0.5 stops
-
Not available in 150mm

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.


Product photo of the Manfrotto Befree-Advanced Travel Tripod

This aluminum tripod unfurls to a maximum height of 59”/150cm  (Image credit: Manfrotto)
A lightweight and solid travel tripod that easily supports a full-frame DSLR rig

Specifications

Material: Aluminum
Leg sections: Four
Weight: 3.28 lbs/1.49 kg
Max load: 19.48 lbs/9 kg
Folded height: 15.7”/40 cm
Ball head or pan/tilt head: Ball head

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile ball-head
+
Soft twist leg locks

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively large when collapsed
-
Not full height

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 ballhead 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. 


The MoveShootMove Star tracker laying flat on someones hand

The Move Shoot Move is designed for DSLR and mirrorless cameras  (Image credit: Jamie Carter)
Super-lightweight device for keeping your astro-landscapes in-sync with the stars

Specifications

Weight: 1.01 lbs/450g
Dimensions: 1.7" x 3.15" x 3.9"/43x80x99mm
Max payload: 6.6lbs/3kg
Max lens focal length: 70mm
Power: Built-in lithium-ion battery

Reasons to buy

+
Compact and lightweight
+
Easy to align

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't handle heavy lenses
-
Short battery life

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.


Product photo of the Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II backpack

Uniquely modular camera backpack ideal for those traveling to find dark skies  (Image credit: Lowerpro)

Lowepro ProTactic BP 350 AW II backpack

Uniquely modular camera backpack ideal for those traveling to find dark skies

Specifications

Weight: 4.6 lbs/2.12kg
Dimensions: 11.8”x7”x18.5”/300x180x470mm
Hip-belt: Yes
Volume: 15.89 L
Laptop size: Up to 13"
Material: Nylon/ Polyester

Reasons to buy

+
Modular design
+
Can take a lot of gear

Reasons to avoid

-
 Max. 14-inch laptop 
-
 Can look cluttered 

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. See more backpacks for astrophotography in our best camera backpacks buying guide.

How we test the best camera accessories for astrophotography

In order 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.

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Jamie Carter
Contributing Writer

Jamie is an experienced science, technology and travel journalist and stargazer who writes about exploring the night sky, solar and lunar eclipses, moon-gazing, astro-travel, astronomy and space exploration. He is the editor of WhenIsTheNextEclipse.com (opens in new tab) and author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (opens in new tab), and is a senior contributor at Forbes. His special skill is turning tech-babble into plain English.