Best Compact Digital Camera For Astrophotography

By | 26/10/2022

Astrophotography is the art of capturing what y’all come across in the night heaven to produce beautiful images of the creation, showing planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae, or fifty-fifty starry nightscapes of the Milky Mode stretching upward from the horizon.

Just choosing which astrophotography camera to purchase can exist the hardest function of the whole process.

How do you navigate among the dissimilar types of camera available, with dissimilar capabilities and different price points?

Volition yous be able to connect your photographic camera to your telescope? Volition a smartphone camera suffice for capturing images of the night sky?

If you lot detect yourself asking these questions, don’t worry! These are all things to consider before yous have the leap into the incredible globe of astrophotography.

The blazon of astrophotography camera yous demand depends ultimately on what you want to accept photographs of, but of course both your upkeep and level of feel will come into play.

camera tripod

Credit: iStock

The main consideration when selecting what sort of camera you need for astrophotography is whether y’all wish to pursue wide-field, planetary, or deep-sky imaging.

Typically, any device used for night-heaven imaging will need to perform long exposures, take remote shutter capability and ISO control (to alter sensitivity to light).

Hither we’re going to run through the most popular cameras for astro imaging, pointing out strengths and considerations, starting with type of photographic camera that many people will have with them almost of the fourth dimension.

Scroll down further for our guide to the best cameras for astrophotography.

Different types of camera for astrophotography

Smartphones

The smartphone you carry every day can be used to capture a range of night-sky objects. Credit: iStock

The smartphone you carry every twenty-four hours can exist used to capture a range of dark-sky objects. Credit: iStock

Many smartphones can perform entry-level astrophotography, while some offering the ability to take long exposures, meaning yous can option upwardly Milky Way details or star trails.

Yous can as well concord smartphones up to a telescope eyepiece to take pictures, or utilize a smartphone adaptor (more than on this below). This enables lunar and planetary imaging, merely it’southward difficult to get precipitous images.

Andromeda taken using 1.55x zoom. Exposure: 16", f/2.4, ISO 687. Credit: Paul Money

Andromeda captured on the Google Pixel 4 smartphone using its ‘Dark Sight’ mode. Credit: Paul Money

Although some smartphones have multiple cameras installed, these are tricky to line upwardly to eyepieces. In a nutshell, smartphones are non defended astrophotography products and don’t offer the exposure control of a DSLR camera.

For more on smartphone astrophotography, read our peak tips for photographing the dark sky with a smartphone, or the best smartphone astrophotography gadgets.

  • Best suited for
    Star trails, Milky way and general broad-field imaging
  • Limitations
    Deep-sky photography
  • Ideal accessories
    Tripod, telescope adaptor

DSLR cameras

Canon EOS M100 camera review

Canon EOS M100 DSLR camera

DSLRs (Digital single-lens reflex cameras) are good all-rounders. Because yous tin can alter the ISO level and manage exposure lengths, these cameras are hands adjusted for many astronomy targets.

Increasing the ISO setting ensures a DSLR can pick up details from deep-sky objects, including nebulae, merely if this is coupled with a long exposure fourth dimension there can be an issue with noise (unwanted artefacts) creeping in, which can be because the ISO is also high (the best ISO varies between cameras) or because the exposure time is causing the sensor to warm up.

The Andromeda Galaxy Tom Howard, Isle of Wight/Crawley, December 2018 and August 2020. Equipment: Nikon D7000 DSLR camera, TS-Optics 65mm quadruplet refractor, Sky-Watcher EQ6 mount

The Andromeda Milky way, captured by Tom Howard with a Nikon D7000 DSLR camera, TS-Optics 65mm quadruplet refractor and Sky-Watcher EQ6 mount.

DSLRs with ‘Live View’ or video capability can be used for planetary imaging, although they’re less efficient at cutting through atmospheric distortion than a planetary photographic camera. For more on this, read our guide to astronomical seeing.

Some astro imagers modify a DSLR past removing the infrared (IR) filter, which makes it more sensitive to nebulae. A modified DSLR also allows narrowband filters to exist used, which ameliorate image details.

Keep your photographic camera in pristine status with our guide on how to clean a DSLR camera. Get more out of your camera with our DSLR guide.

  • All-time suited for
    Wide-field, lunar and deep-sky imaging
  • Limitations
    Exposures lasting over ~5 minutes, planetary imaging
  • Platonic accessories
    Tracking mountain, intervalometer (remote shutter release cable)

Planetary cameras and webcams

If you're a planetary imager, make sure your laptop and software are ready for a new season of astronomy. Credit: Steve Marsh

Planetary and web cams require a laptop and the latest software. Credit: Steve Marsh

Planetary imaging requires a telescope and you’ll find that reflectors are most suitable considering of their long focal lengths.

If a planetary camera is also coupled with a 2x Barlow lens you’ll be able to achieve the magnification required for planetary detail, while the photographic camera’s high frame rate will permit you lot to cutting through atmospheric turbulence.

You’ll crave a laptop to run these cameras and, as you’re viewing an object upwardly close, a solid tracking telescope mount is as well needed, which allows y’all to keep the planet fundamental in the field of view.

01 - Moon mosaic Craig Towell, Bristol, 21 September 2019 Equipment: Altair Astro GPCAM3 290M mono camera, Fullerscope 8.75" f/7.5 Newtonian, Sky-Watcher EQ6 mount

A mosaic of the Moon captured by Craig Towell from Bristol, UK, using a an Altair Astro GPCAM3 290M mono camera, Fullerscope 8.75″ f/7.5 Newtonian and Sky-Watcher EQ6 mountain.

When it comes to deep-heaven imaging, planetary cameras have small sensors, which ways they’re not always suited.

It’s also possible to modify an off-the-shelf webcam for planetary imaging, and so that it fits into the eyepiece holder of your telescope (see beneath for more details).

  • Best suited for
    Lunar and planetary imaging
  • Limitations
    Deep-heaven objects and broad-field imaging
  • Platonic accessories
    Laptop, 2x Barlow lens, processing software (eg RegiStax)

CMOS & CCD cameras

QHYCCD QHY 168C CMOS colour camera. Credit: BBC Sky at Night Magazine

QHYCCD QHY 168C CMOS colour camera. Credit: BBC Sky at Night Magazine

CMOS and CCDs are ‘dedicated astrocams’ designed to be fitted to a telescope. Each comes in ‘color’ – for RGB (Red, Green and Blue) imaging – or ‘mono’ variants. Mono cameras require the use of color or narrowband filters.

CCD (charge-coupled device) cameras are suited for long-exposure astrophotography (ten-plus minutes per frame) because they have ‘gear up-point’ cooling systems that go along the sensor temperature constant, which is known every bit ‘active’ camera cooling.

CMOS sensors perform ameliorate with shorter exposures and come as either actively or ‘passively’ cooled.

Southern Pinwheel Galaxy Rogerio Alonso, Minas Gerais, Brazil, 19 August 2018. Equipment: ZWO Optical ASI1600MM CMOS camera, SkyWatcher 200/1000mm Newtonian, SkyWatcher AZ-EQ6 GT mount

The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy captured by Rogerio Alonso, Minas Gerais, Brazil, with a ZWO Optical ASI1600MM CMOS camera, Sky-Watcher 200/1000mm Newtonian and SkyWatcher AZ-EQ6 GT mount.

Laptops are needed to run either device. To maximise CCD exposure times, additional accessories – including guiding equipment and software – are frequently required. Using these cameras tin can be a steep learning bend, then it’due south all-time to build up to it gradually.

More than similar this

There are adaptors available that fit these ‘astro cams’ to DSLR camera lenses, which allows you lot to utilise them for wide-field deep-heaven imaging.

For more than on CCDs, read our guide to the best CCD cameras for astrophotography or our beginner’s guide to CMOS astrophotography.

  • Best suited for
    Deep-sky imaging
  • Limitations
    Galaxy and broad-field imaging
  • Accessories
    Laptop, telescope, guide equipment and software

How to connect a camera to your telescope

telescope smartphone holder

A smartphone adaptor will allow you lot line up your phones camera with your telescope eyepiece.

You lot can go far with astrophotography by using a DSLR and lenses, but for a deep-sky object or planetary photography the add-on of a telescope to your setup will widen your options. Your target will appear larger, allowing more detail.

Smartphones
tin can be fitted to a telescope eyepiece holder via an adaptor: you just need the right one for your model. If yous fancy making your own, read our DIY guide to making a smartphone adaptor for your telescope.

To attach a
DSLR
you will need a T-ring and nosepiece. The T-ring fits to the camera like a lens. For example, if you are using a Canon DSLR, you’ll need a Canon-fit T ring. The nosepiece is either 2-inch or 1.25-inch and you’ll find that about telescopes take either bore.

If yous are using a
webcam, you’ll demand to consider modifying information technology to fit to the telescopic’s eyepiece holder. This frequently involves stripping the webcam down to rehouse it in suitable casing. How difficult and effective this is volition depend on the model.

If yous are using a 2x or 3x Barlow lens and a reflector, you’ll pop the Barlow into the eyepiece barrel earlier attaching your webcam.

Designated planetary cameras,
CCD
and
CMOS
devices, come up with a nosepiece attachment that fits to your scope.

Research thoroughly so you know what sort of astrophotography camera is best for what you want to capture. Credit: Misato Nomura / EyeEm / Getty Images

Inquiry thoroughly so y’all know what sort of astrophotography camera is all-time for what you want to capture. Credit: Misato Nomura / EyeEm / Getty Images

We’ve reviewed a lot of astro imaging cameras over the years at
BBC Heaven at Nighttime Magazine, from value models that provide reliable quality for those on a lower upkeep, to more than loftier-cease cameras for professionals or those who desire to take their astrophotography to the next step.

If yous want more information almost ownership astrophotography cameras, browse all of our camera reviews. And for help using your camera to capture images of the dark sky or deep-sky targets, we take numerous astrophotography guides written by our squad of experienced experts.

Or if you already have your camera sorted, read our guide to the best telescopes for astrophotography.

And don’t forget to ship u.s.a. your astrophotos. Nosotros always love to encounter them, and they could terminate up appearing in print in a future edition of
BBC Sky at Night Mag.

22 of the best cameras for astrophotography

Canon EOS 1000D D-SLR camera. Credit: Credit: Digital Camera Magazine / Getty Images

Credit: Digital Camera Magazine / Getty Images

Bresser full HD deep-sky camera review

A star rating of 4.5 out of 5.

The GPCAM2 327C is simple to gear up and go going, making it a proficient choice for those who need to make the nigh of gaps in clouds. Once the drivers are installed, you plug it in and the software recognises it immediately, enabling you to slew your scope to your target and set exposure length and gain.

The photographic camera is particularly good for electronically assisted astronomy, with live video that can be displayed on a laptop for outreach events or showing off to friends. The camera uses the Sony IMX327 STARVIS sensor, with 2.9micron pixels in 1920×1080 format. At full resolution in 12-bit way, speeds of up to 18 frames per second (fps) tin be accomplished.


Read our total Altair GPCAM2 327 C review.

4

ZWO ASI224 high frame rate colour photographic camera

ZWO ASI224 high frame rate colour camera review
  • Buy now
    from MPB

Similar Catechism’s EOS 1000D, the Nikon D700 is an older model and every bit such, a great budget option for those looking for a reliable camera that won’t stretch the bank residual. As an astrophotography camera, there’southward a lot to shout about, such as its default ISO range from 200-6400 and the power to extend this further to 100-26600. Loftier ISO increases sensitivity, enabling you to catch more item.

It has vignette control to reduce the ‘shading’ event at the edge of frame that can be produced by some optics. We also love that it has an intervalometer, allowing you to plan the camera to take a sequence of exposures automatically. This makes it corking for capturing a time-lapse of the stars or for photographing shooting star showers.


Read our total Nikon D700 review.

6

Pentax Astrotracer DSLR photographic camera kit

Pentax Astrotracer DSLR camera kit review
  • Buy now
    from Amazon

The packet we reviewed comprised Pentax’s flagship 1000-5 IIs DSLR camera, a 16-50mm f/2.eight lens, a wireless remote control and the Astrotracer O-GPS1 unit, which is a a device that tracks the heaven through a past physically adjusting the DSLR’due south mirror.

The photographic camera’s built-in shake reduction organization uses sensors to dampen vibrations during handheld photography, and the Astrotracer is able to employ information from the sensors to generate alignment information in iii axes. This enables information technology to calculate the movement of angelic objects every bit Earth rotates.

Later 1 minute the Astrotracer was able to cope well with tracking, and fifty-fifty after two minutes, at that place was fiddling error axiomatic.

Indeed, considering it only takes 10 seconds for stars to trail in photographs taken on a stock-still camera with a 50mm lens, the Astrotracer is pretty impressive in that information technology can compensate for Earth’south rotation, even after two minutes.

This is probably a photographic camera that will appeal to astrophotography beginners, and oif you’re on a budget it could serve every bit an alternative to expensive standalone tracking platforms.


Read our full Pentax Astrotracer DSLR camera kit review.

7

Catechism EOS M100 photographic camera review

Canon EOS M100 camera review
  • Buy now
    from Amazon

Catechism’s EOS M100 is an entry-level, mirrorless, interchangeable lens photographic camera that’s highly portable, and upon experimentation with a telescope, concluded upward being a decent camera for astrophotography.

Catechism’s K-series models are designed to take EF-M lenses, just you can still use EF/EF-Due south lenses on the EOS M100 with the help of an optional adaptor. This allows you to connect the camera to a telescope via an EF-T mount adaptor.

Shutter speed can exist fix to take exposures lasting 1/4,000th of a 2nd to 30 seconds, or fifty-fifty longer with bulb mode. ISO extends from 100-25,600, but nosotros managed groovy results with 1,600-3,200. We were encouraged, using the EOS M100 with a telescope. It’due south non perfect, but it’s flexible, like shooting fish in a barrel to use, portable and capable of taking some great astronomy shots.


Read our full Canon EOS M100 review.

8

Altair Hypercam 183M V2 mono astronomy imaging photographic camera

Altair Hypercam 183M V2 mono astronomy imaging camera

The Hypercam 183M is a compact photographic camera that pairs well with brusk focal length refractors or camera lenses. It has a congenital-in filter that blocks infrared and ultraviolet wavelengths. Set-up is piece of cake. Just download and install the driver bundle and so plug in the camera.

The camera is aimed at deep-sky imaging, although with user-divers Region of Interest settings, lunar, solar or planetary imaging are possible because the photographic camera will tape video files that can be processed and stacked. At a decent price and simple to use, this Hypercam is a swell option for deep-sky imaging, including narrowband objects.


Read our full Altair Hypercam 183M V2 review.

9

Atik Infinity monochrome CCD camera

Atik Infinity monochrome CCD camera review

The Atik Infinity is controlled by a Windows-based program likewise called Infinity, which is well-designed and simple to utilise. The controls enable you to adjust exposure and binning. A ‘finder’ way lets the camera perform a curt exposure, high-binned loop, perfect for locating faint objects.

In video mode the camera exposes in a continuous loop, sending ii or 3 total frames to the computer every second. Its software analyses image quality and adds it to a stacked result to produce a cleaner epitome. Nosotros loved watching the screw arms of the Whirlpool Galaxy go better defined after only a few stacked images.

The software interface is easy to become to grips with and is great for outreach sessions where you might be using the camera for live public viewing.


Read our total Atik Infinity monochrome CCD photographic camera review.

10

ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera

ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera review