Best cameras for astrophotography in 2023: Shoot for the stars

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
(Image credit: Getty/Sony)

Here we've rounded up the best cameras for astrophotography that we believe will help you capture some stunning astro images. You can also see the best prices for each camera.

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.

Still, it's important to 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. We've also rounded up some of the best headlamps for stargazing and the best power banks for astronomy too, both things that will make your night of skywatching and photo-taking more enjoyable.

Today's best cameras for astrophotography deal:

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Canon EOS 6D Mark II (opens in new tab)

Canon EOS 6D Mk II: was $1799, now $1399 at Amazon (opens in new tab)

A $400 saving isn't to be sniffed at. While we have seen the 6D Mk II cheaper in the past, prices have been steadily rising so this is a good time to buy if you've had your eye on it. You get a lot of camera for the money  — there's even a 4K timelapse feature that skywatchers love, and it's Wi-Fi enabled for easy file transfer and sharing.


The best cameras for astrophotography in 2023

A side profile of the Nikon D850

(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.


Front view of the Sony a7r iv

(Image credit: Kimberley Lane)
Expensive, but in a class of it's own

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: 61 megapixels BSI-CMOS
Lens mount: Sony E
ISO range: ISO 100-32000 (expands to 50-102800)
Viewfinder size/resolution: 5.76M dots
Video capability: 4K at 30fps
Weight: 665g
Size: 129 x 96 x 78 mm
Memory card type: Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II compatible)

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible image quality
+
Highest resolution full frame camera
+
15 stops of dynamic range

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive
-
Huge files

The Sony A7R IVA (opens in new tab) is ultimately the same as the Sony A7R but with a few minor upgrades. You can see from our Sony A7R review that we think it is an incredible camera that is hard to beat performance and image quality-wise, although it is expensive.

This camera excels in astrophotography as it gives fantastic detail, even in the darkest shadows, and doesn't struggle with bright highlights. You can use images straight out of the camera at speeds up to ISO 6400, noise will start to become visible beyond that, which isn't surprising.

The buttons and autofocus joystick are more tactile than previous Sony models, which is excellent news for photographers who shoot at night while wearing gloves.

The 61-megapixel images are enormous, meaning you will have huge file sizes; you need a computer and storage that can keep up with processing and storing this file size. That said, for faster image processing, you can switch to turn the A7R IVA into a 26MP APSC camera with a 1.5x crop factor at the click of a button.

The screen isn't fully articulating, but it does tilt, so you should still be able to take amazing astro shots comfortably. The battery performance is excellent, so you will have no problem having all the power you need for a lengthy astro shooting session.


Fujifilm X-T5 in-hand with author

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)
Good performance in low light and a great all-rounder

Specifications

Type: Mirrorless
Sensor: 40.2MP CMOS
Lens mount: Fujifilm X
ISO range: 125-12,800 (exp 64-51,200)
Viewfinder size/resolution: 0.5-inch, 3.69M-dot OLED EVF
Video capability: 10-bit 4:2:2 video at 6.2K/30P, 4K/60p webcam mode
Weight: 557g (1.23lb) with battery
Size: 130 x 91 x 64 mm (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.5 in)
Memory card type: 2 x SD/SDHX/SDHC slots

Reasons to buy

+
Ergonomic design
+
Wide range of lenses
+
Great for traditionalists

Reasons to avoid

-
The screen isn't fully articulating
-
Dials take getting used to in the dark

We have replaced Fujifilm's now discontinued X-T4 in this guide with the newest of Fujifilm's X-series, the X-T5.  

While the former model is still an excellent option for astrophotography enthusiasts, as we discussed in our Fujifilm X-T4 review, the XT-5 has several improvements for not that much of a jump in price.

The classic look of the camera makes it stylish, but the body-mounted dial controls make it easier to use in the dark, once you are used to which dial does what, which, as we found in our Fujifilm X-T5 review will take a bit of practice. The 40.21MP CMOS sensor gives even better image quality than the 26.1MP predecessor and the processing engine is double the speed of the XT-4.

The Fuji X-T5 uses the NP-W235 battery with a CIPA rating of around 600 shots per charge in everyday performance mode and around 740 shots in economy mode. When we carried out our full review, we found the battery life to be noticeably impressive. When shooting the night sky, the long exposures needed sap the battery more, so expect slightly fewer. 

There are two SD memory card slots, and you can shoot JPGs and RAW files simultaneously, or you can use one of them as a backup in case the unthinkable happens to your main storage.

This camera is also a versatile option for photographers who regularly dabble in other styles of photography alongside astro. It has a generous seven 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.


Sony A7 III review: image shows Sony A7 III camera outside

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)
A beast in low light — 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, allowing you to recover fantastic 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. 

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.


A photo of the Nikon Z6 II from above on a white wooden table

(Image credit: Jacob Little)
Little but important improvements over its older sibling

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

Since you'll also find the Nikon Z6 in this guide, 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).


Nikon Z6 camera on a wooden table

(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.


The rear of the Canon EOS 6D MK2

(Image credit: Tantse Walter)
A pleasure to compose your shot even in the darkest skies as well as a handy 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.


Best cameras for astrophotography: ZWO ASI183MC Pro

(Image credit: Amazon)
A dedicated color astro camera producing beautiful 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 a dedicated 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 USB 3.0 port means a healthy data transfer for the higher frame rate captures. 


Best cameras for astrophotography: ZWO ASI1533MC Pro Camera

(Image credit: https://astronomy-imaging-camera.com)
This camera's design and build is 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 typically 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.


Canon EOS R on a wooden table

(Image credit: Andy Hartup)
Now five years old, but still a solid and reasonably priced choice for astrophotographers

Specifications

Type: Full-frame 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 more robust 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.

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Jason Parnell-Brookes
Channel Editor

Jason Parnell-Brookes is an award-winning photographer, educator and writer based in the UK. He won the Gold Prize award in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 beating over 90,000 other entrants and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a Masters graduate and has a wealth of academic and real-world experience in a variety of photographic disciplines from astrophotography and wildlife to fashion and portraiture. Now the Channel Editor for Cameras and Skywatching at Space.com his speciality is in low light optics and camera systems.

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