Best Cheap Camera For Night Sky Photography

Besides having a good camera, using the best Milky Way camera settings is key to shooting our galaxy. Also, don’t forget that lenses are as important as cameras in night photography, so I highly recommend pairing your camera with one of the best lenses for Milky Way photography.

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Best Cheap Camera For Night Sky Photography

Best Digital Cameras For Milky Way Photography:

1. SONY A7S III

The Sony A7S series are specifically designed for low-light video and photography. On the A7S III, you can set an impressive range of ISO 80-102400, opening up a world of possibilities for shooting our galaxy. This is not only the best mirrorless camera for Milky Way photography, but also one of the best cameras for Milky Way video and time-lapses. Recommended lens: Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM.

2. CANON EOS RA

This is the first full-frame mirrorless camera dedicated to astrophotography and the best Canon camera for Milky Way. This camera has a special infrared filter that allows you to capture 4x the detail and color in the Milky Way nebulae compared to standard cameras. If you’re interested in doing some deep-sky astrophotography, this is the best Milky Way camera for you. Suggested lens pairing: Canon RF 15-35 mm f/2.8 L.

3. NIKON Z6II

This high-end Full-Frame camera is the best Nikon camera for Milky Way photography. This model offers a brilliant performance in terms of high ISO vs. digital noise that will translate into clean Astro images. You can also pair this camera with some of the top Nikon Z Lenses for Milky Way. 

4. SONY A7IV

The successor of the renowned Sony A7III is a very versatile camera and one of the best quality-price Full-Frame cameras for Milky Way in 2022. This new model includes an upgrade in the number of megapixels (33), but without compromising the noise when shooting at high ISOs. If you are ready to jump into Full-Frame from a crop-sensor or even a DSLR camera, this will be a very well-rounded camera for all purposes including Astro, and at a reasonable price. 

5. SONY A7RIV

This is one of the best Sony cameras for Milky Way photography. The A7RIV is all you need to take high-resolution Milky Way images, and it’s also a superb camera for landscape photography in general. This is one of the cameras that I’ve been using for my Milky Way photography over the last 2 years and, if you use the right Milky Way settings, you can take otherworldly images of our galaxy. (Highly) Recommended lens: Sony 20 mm f/1.8 G.

If budget is not a problem and you’re looking for a high-end/high res. camera, I’d recommend the Sony A1 instead. It’s my current favorite camera for shooting the Milky Way and Astro in general. 

6. NIKON Z7 II

This is the best high-res. Nikon camera for Milky Way. The huge dynamic range and low-light performance of this model can take your Milky Way images to the next level. This is also a great camera in terms of battery life, weather sealing, and even autofocus in low-light conditions. If budget is not an issue, I’d go for the new Nikon Z9 instead, which offers more capabilities while maintaining a high number of Mpx. 

7. CANON EOS R5

The current mirrorless flagship of the brand, this is one of the best Canon cameras for Milky Way photography. This model is especially recommended if you also shoot landscapes and other genres since it’s a more well-rounded camera compared to the previously discussed Canon EOS RA. The price isn’t cheap and there aren’t many lens options compared to Sony & Nikon, but the low-light capabilities of this camera are superb. 

8. PENTAX K-1 MARK II (DSLR)

Usually eclipsed by other brands, not many people talk today about Pentax these days, but they have one of the best DSLR cameras for Milky Way photography on the market. If you still prefer a DSLR camera, this model includes a ton of features for astrophotography, like a night vision LCD screen, and a function called “Astrotracer,” which allows the sensor to track the stars and take super high-quality images of the Milky Way. 

BEST APS-C CAMERAS FOR SHOOTING THE MILKY WAY

Any crop-sensor (APS-C) camera can capture the Milky Way, but most of them can’t capture the same quality as full-frame cameras.

These cameras usually struggle in low-light conditions and won’t let you set a high ISO without creating a considerable amount of digital noise in your photographs. They’re usually cheaper and, with a few exceptions, are aimed at beginners and intermediate photographers.

This list shows the best APS-C cameras for Milky Way photography:

  • Fujifilm XT-4 (Mirrorless): Based on its price and performance, this camera is aimed at enthusiasts/semi-professionals, and, without a doubt, it’s the best crop sensor camera for shooting the Milky Way. You’ll forget that you’re shooting with an APS-C camera once you see the results in your low-light photographs. 
  • Nikon Z50 (Mirrorless): This is the best APS-C Nikon camera for capturing the Milky Way. Its quality in low-light is on the same level as many basic full-frame cameras. 
  • Sony a6600 (Mirrorless): The Sony a6500 is the “go-to” Sony camera for Milky Way in the mirrorless APS-C range. It stands out for its performance in low-light conditions and its wide array of lenses. 
  • Nikon D7500 (DSLR): The D7500 is a good camera for Milky Way photography in the APS-C DSLR range. It’s cheaper but it can’t beat the low-light performance of the Nikon mirrorless Z50. 
  • Canon 7D Mark II (DSLR): This is one of the best Canon Astro-cameras for shooting the Milky Way. If the 5D Mark IV doesn’t suit your budget, this option offers you good quality for a decent price.

BEST CHEAP CAMERA FOR MILKY WAY

If you’re looking for the best value for money, these are the best cameras for shooting the Milky Way on a budget: 

  • Sony Alpha a6000 (Mirrorless): For around $500, you can get a good mirrorless camera for shooting the Milky Way. Together with the Rokinon 12 mm f/2, you’ll have the best cheap camera setup for Milky Way pictures. 
  • Sony A7II (Mirrorless): This is one of the cameras we use, and, to me, it’s the best quality-price mirrorless camera for shooting the Milky Way that you can get on a budget. The price (less than $900) and the results from shooting the Northern Lights and the Milky Way are simply outstanding. 
    Since the release of the new A7IV, there is also a significant markdown in the Sony A7III, which makes it also a great budget-friendly and well-rounded FF camera for Milky Way. 
  • Nikon D750 (DSLR): This is one of the most well-rounded and quality-priced DSLR cameras ever made. Pair it with a lens like the Rokinon 14 mm f/2.8, and for less than $1800, you’ll have an awesome Milky Way camera setup. 

BEST MICRO 4/3 CAMERAS FOR MILKY WAY

Most photographers agree that Micro four-thirds cameras aren’t the best cameras for Milky Way photography, particularly because of their inferior performance in low-light situations, and, secondly, because they have fewer options for cheap and fast wide-angle lenses.

Nevertheless, some models are noteworthy, and there are two good Micro 4/3 cameras for Milky Way photography:

  • Olympus OM-D E-M1 X (Mirrorless): It’s expensive, and for the same price, you can buy any of the top full-frame cameras for the Milky Way. However, if this camera system is your top choice, this is the best micro 4/3 camera for Milky Way. Recommended lens: Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8.
  • Panasonic Lumix G9: This is a cheaper option in the micro four-thirds range. The Lumix G9, paired with a fast, good-quality Milky Way lens, can capture nice Milky Way results. 

BEST COMPACT CAMERA FOR MILKY WAY PHOTOGRAPHY

It’s more challenging, but you can also take decent pictures of the Milky Way with a compact camera. For this reason, we had to include the best compact cameras for photographing the Milky Way in this guide.

*Note: Please bear in mind that compact cameras are light and small, but that comes at a price; the built-in lenses usually have a range of 24-70mm and are not the best at capturing light. Even though you can capture nice images, don’t expect the same quality and capabilities as with a standard DSLR/mirrorless camera mounted with a fast lens.

These are the best point and shoot cameras for Milky Way photography:

  • Sony rx100 VII: For many reasons, this is the best compact camera to shoot the Milky Way. If you make the most of this camera, you can get even better results than with some entry-level DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

If you’re looking for a cheaper option, the first version of this camera (Sony rx100) could also work as a compact camera for Milky Way (Just don’t expect the same quality results, especially in terms of detail and digital noise).

  • Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II: This Canon point and shoot camera can also capture nice images of the Milky Way. It includes a built-in star mode, perfect for shooting stars and general night photography.

  • Panasonic lx100 II: This is one of the newest compact models and a good compact camera for shooting the Milky Way.

BASIC CAMERA REQUIREMENTS FOR MILKY WAY

To help you decide on your next camera for taking pictures of the Milky Way, I want to highlight a few basics that you should look at regardless of the camera model.

While looking for a good camera to shoot the Milky Way, make sure that it meets the following basic requirements:

  • Shooting in manual mode: This is one of the most important requirements in order to adjust the basic settings for Milky Way photography manually, such as the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.
  • Shooting RAW files: Shooting in RAW is key to making the most of your camera and extracting as much detail as possible.

Shooting RAW files in manual mode is key in any camera for Milky Way Photography.

Nowadays, many smartphone cameras can shoot RAW files in manual mode, but that doesn’t mean that they are quality cameras for Milky Way photography. You can also photograph the Milky Way with a GoPro camera, but don’t expect the same results as with a standard digital camera.

Some other things to consider when buying a digital camera for Milky Way photography are:

  • Low megapixel count in the largest possible sensor to capture light more efficiently.
  • The battery life is important, especially during long Milky Way nights.
  • Focus peaking in mirrorless cameras makes focusing much easier.
  • Having the opportunity to charge the camera with an external USB is useful for time lapse.
  • Having a fully articulated or tilted LCD screen is very convenient in some types of shoots.
  • Low Dual ISO and ISO invariance (useful to preserve highlights in advanced Milky Way shootings)

The camera sensor is the most important feature in a Milky Way camera, so I highly recommend you read my guide on the best camera sensor size to see why a big sensor with bigger pixels makes a difference in Milky Way photography!

CAMERA SENSOR SIZE IN PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE

CONCLUSION

That’s all! As you can see, shooting with one of the top Milky Way cameras is key for getting the best Milky Way images.

Remember that it doesn’t matter what your budget or skills are; you’ll find a good camera to photograph the Milky Way, and the only thing you need once you have the right camera is to know the best techniques and settings for photographing the Milky Way.

Also, don’t forget that the lens is just as important as the camera you use. You can also check out my guide to the best lenses for Milky Way photography so you can make the most out of your camera.

Get a good camera for Milky Way, pair it with a good lens, and you’ll be all set! Image taken with a Sony A7RIV + Sony 20 mm f/1.8

My last tip before purchasing any camera for Milky Way is to test it out. These cameras are designed for working in low-light conditions and are usually more expensive, so I always recommend giving them a try first.

I personally like to rent a second camera for taking Milky Way time-lapses and video when I take a night photography trip. I always rent with Lens rentals. They operate in the US., and their rentals are affordable and straightforward. Plus, if you rent your equipment through this link and use the Lens rental promo code ATLAS15, you will get a 15% discount

The 4 Best Astrophotography Cameras for Any Budget

ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY

May 24, 2019

Looking up at the night sky and wanting to capture its awe-inspiring beauty is a feeling familiar to most photographers and astronomy enthusiasts. In this article, I’ll to explain exactly how to do that and which of the best astrophotography cameras are right for you and your budget.

I’m coming at it from a photographer’s point of view: I spend my time showing people how to become travel photographers, and shooting astrophotography is a great way to develop your skills behind the camera.

While there are some amazing cameras out there specifically designed for astrophotography, I’m going to focus on more traditional consumer/prosumer cameras. The astrophotography cameras I’m going to talk about don’t need expensive filters and complicated computer-controlled, star-tracking tripod mounts in order to work.

At its most basic level, all you’ll need to create stunning images of the sky at night is one of the cameras mentioned in this article (or similar), a lens, a tripod and your own sense of creativity.   Astrophotography TipsPlay Video

Table of Contents

What to Consider When Shooting Astrophotography

By far the most important settings you need to consider are the exposure settings. These will tell your camera how much light to capture. Something that you won’t be surprised to hear is very important when shooting in the dead of night.

1. Aperture

The first thing you need to set is your aperture. It’s really simple, you just set it to be as wide as possible.

2. Shutter Speed

Next up is the shutter speed. This depends on what focal length you are using. To roughly calculate your shutter speed you should use the “rule of 500”. The rule of 500 says that you should divide 500 by whatever focal length you are using to obtain your shutter speed.

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For example, if you are using a 50mm lens you calculate 500 ÷ 50 = 10. So, in this case, your shutter speed would be 10 seconds. Any longer would mean the stars would become blurry and leave trails behind them caused by the spinning of the earth.

Whether you want to have totally sharp and in focus stars, or you would rather they create star trails, is down to personal taste and what you are trying to achieve.

You can merge multiple long exposure images together so that you get a dramatic star trail effect like in the photo above. Alternatively, if you want sharp and in focus stars like in the photo below, you need to follow the rule of 500.

3. ISO

The ISO you’ll use totally depends on a number of different factors like your lens’s maximum aperture, ambient light, and model of camera. But as a rule of thumb, it should be somewhere between 2000 and 5000. Just take several test shots and see what looks best.

4. Focus

To ensure your images are all in focus, switch your camera and lens to manual focus and twist the focus ring all the way to infinity.

5. LCD Screen Brightness

In your camera’s settings, you need to turn the LCD screen brightness down as low as it will go. LCD screens are backlit, so if you don’t turn the brightness down the image previews on the back or your camera won’t accurately represent the actual photo.

When you get back to your computer and take a look at the files you’ll be bitterly disappointed if you had the LCD brightness turned up. They will look much darker and a lot less spectacular than they did when you previewed them on your camera.

6. Ability to Shoot in RAW

You need to shoot in RAW format when it comes to astrophotography because it gives you much more flexibility during the editing process. Photos of the night sky come alive in the editing suite so it’s important to capture as much information as possible in a large file.

7. Location Scouting

Planning when and where your shoot will take place is just as important as choosing the best camera for astrophotography. You need to check the weather and plan to shoot when the skies are clear.

Also, you’ll need tofind a location with minimal light pollution. The same goes for nights when the moon is very bright. You are best off choosing to shoot on a night when there will be minimal moonlight.

One last thing to consider is your composition.

While pointing your camera straight up at the sky is a great way to get some stunning images, think about how you can add perspective to the scene by incorporating some foreground interest.

Think about these things when choosing your next astrophotography shoot location and you’ll already be halfway there to capturing a keeper.

What to Consider When Choosing Astrophotography Cameras

A lot of people will say that you need a full-frame camera for shooting the night sky. They say this for a number of reasons but it’s mainly because full-frame cameras have larger sensors. A larger sensor means it has a greater dynamic range, or in other words, it will perform better in low-light situations.

But if you’re on a budget, buying a full-frame camera might simply not be an option. However don’t worry, you can still shoot astrophotography.

If you are on a budget, you’ll need a digital camera with an APS-C sensor, sometimes known as a crop sensor. These sensors are smaller than full-frame ones but when used in the right way can produce amazing results. APS-C cameras also tend to be cheaper.

There are two main things to look for when choosing the best camera for night sky photography. Number one is the ability to use full manual mode, and the second is the ability to change lenses.

You need to be able to use a wide-angle lens (more on this later) and control the three main settings manually when it comes to exposure: ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

The Best Budget-Friendly Astrophotography Cameras

Shot with a Sony a6000 – Photo credit: Ricardo Braham via Flickr

Ok, so I’m going to recommend a total of four cameras that are great for night sky photography. These first two cameras are great options for people on a budget and beginners.

Sony A6000

The first astrophotography camera on this list is one of Sony’s entry-level mirrorless cameras. It’s a great camera for beginners or people just getting started out in astrophotography.

You can get the camera and lens together in a kit for a reasonable price. While getting the camera with a kit lens is a great idea, especially if it’s your first camera, the kit lens isn’t necessarily the best lens for astrophotography. But it is a great lens when you’re starting out for other types of photography.

For astrophotography, you’ll need a much wider focal length and maximum aperture. I recommend pairing the Sony a6000 with the Samyang 12mm f/2.0 E-mount lens for the best results. The Samyang lens is affordable and known for being a superb lens for shooting the night sky.

The only downside to the Sony a6000 is that because it has a smaller APS-C sized sensor, the image quality at high ISOs does suffer. You shouldn’t really go over ISO 3200 with this camera. You can achieve great shots under ISO 3200 though and, for the price, you can’t really complain.

Specifications:

  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Megapixels: 24.3
  • Focus points: 204 total
  • Native ISO range: 100 – 25600
  • Native shutter speed: 1/4000 – 30-sec

Fujifilm X-T20

Photo credit: Focus35mm via Wikimedia Commons

In my opinion, the Fujifilm X-T20 is the best cheap camera for night sky photography. I personally own an X-T20 and can vouch for its superior image quality.

The thing that I love about the X-T20, and all Fujis for that matter, is the tactile dials it has. They allow you to physically adjust the camera’s setting without diving into the menu. The old-school feel of the camera combined with the latest modern technology makes it a pleasure to use.

It’s fun and brings joy back to photography.

And if it’s a pleasure to use, it encourages you to go out and shoot more. Practice will improve your photography more than anything else.

Again, since we are talking about budget-friendly options, the best lens for this camera when it comes to shooting the sky at night is the Samyang 12mm f/2.0 x-mount. Note the different mounts between the Sony and the Fujifilm. You must choose the right mount for the right camera.

Specifications:

  • Sensor: APS-C
  • Megapixels: 24.3
  • Focus points: 325 total
  • Native ISO range: 200 – 12800
  • Native shutter speed: 1/4000 – 30 sec

Buy the Fujifilm X-T20 on Amazon

The Best High-Performance Astrophotography Cameras

Shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV – Rodrigo Paredes via Flickr

These next two cameras are geared towards advanced amateurs and pros. You will be able to achieve incredible results with them, but those results come at a cost.https://e806f52a30f26d2020fe450c9cfda074.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

Sony A7Riii

The first high-performance camera on this list is another Sony. The A7Riii is a flagship model and is jam-packed full of powerful features. From its mammoth 42.2 megapixel sensor to its low-light performance and video capabilities, it is probably the best all-around camera on the market today.

Its full-frame sensor absorbs as much light as you can throw at it making it a great astrophotography camera.

It’s the only camera on this list to have In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) which comes in very handy for astrophotography. Any unintended camera shake during the long exposures needed to capture the stars will be eliminated.

Pair this camera with the equally mind-blowing FE 24mm f/1.4 GM lens and you’ve got a package that will help you capture the stars and beyond like no other.

Specifications:

  • Sensor: Full frame
  • Megapixels: 42.2
  • Focus points: 824 total
  • Native ISO range: 100 – 32000
  • Native shutter speed: 1/8000 – 30 sec

Buy the Sony A7Riii on Amazon

Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon’s latest iteration of its famous 5D model is the last camera we are going to talk about. The 5D Mark IV has led the charge for Canon in the “prosumer” market since 2016 when it was first released.

It has proven its worth as a true workhorse that can be relied upon in any situation. It too has a full frame sensor which will help you to extract every bit of detail from the night sky. With a great dynamic range and low-light performance, the Canon 5D Mark IV firmly cements its place on this list.

One of the best things about Canon cameras though is the range of lenses available. Canon produces some of the best glass out of any camera manufacturer. The EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM is probably Canon’s best wide-angle lens. But if you want something totally different, you can have a lot of fun with their fisheye lens, the EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM. Fisheye lenses really come into their own in astrophotography.

Specifications:

  • Sensor: Full frame
  • Megapixels: 30.4
  • Focus points: 61 total
  • Native ISO range: 100 – 32000
  • Native shutter speed: 1/8000 – 30 sec

Buy the Canon 5D Mark IV on Amazon

Other Photography Gear You’ll Need for Astrophotography

There are a few extra pieces of equipment you’ll need for astrophotography.

Tripod

You will be shooting long exposures. The camera has to be kept totally still for the duration of the exposure. So a good quality tripod is essential.

And I do mean a good quality one.

A cheap, flimsy one won’t work, especially if you are on soft, uneven ground or there is any wind. Go for reputable brands like Manfrotto or Vanguard. Something like the Vanguard Alta Pro 263B or the Manfrotto MT055CX Pro4 (catchy name, right?) will do the job.

Shutter Release or Remote

Most cameras can only shoot up to a 30-second exposure without a shutter release cable. While you probably won’t need to go over 30 seconds for astrophotography, you do need to minimize camera shake as much as possible.

Even pressing the shutter button to take a photo wobbles the camera slightly. Using a shutter release cable or remote eliminates that.

Red Light Flashlight/Headlamp

You’re going to be setting your gear up in the dark so it’s a great idea to have a red flashlight with you. Even better, a headlamp with a red setting will give you two hands free for setup and shooting.

At the end of the day, choosing the best camera for night sky photography comes down to personal preference and budget. While an expensive 40+ megapixel camera may be a great choice on paper, if it’s unattainable to you then it simply isn’t the best option.

As Chase Jarvis said: “The best camera is the one that’s with you”.

The best way you can improve any type of photography is by getting out there and practicing. Once you have the best astrophotography camera for you, spend your money on things like travel. The more you focus on shooting different locations, the quicker you’ll find your photography improving.

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