CAMERAS

Best Camera for Astrophotography: Exactly What You Need for Perfect Astrophotos

Ready for astrophotography
Cole Palmer
Written by Cole Palmer

For you to take amazing twilight pictures of the planets, the moon and constellations you must get the best camera for Astrophotography. Otherwise, it will be an impossible task.

However, it will be even harder if you do not have even the basic knowledge of astronomy so taking some time to learn about the seasons and the movements of the heavenly bodies will be helpful. In astrophotography, the focus is on anything that is not on the earth.

Camera with 500mm lens

Almost everyone knows that the planet earth constantly rotates on its axis and this means that whatever you will be trying to capture will always seem to be in motion. And even worse, this motion state makes the objects appear faint, so you require the best camera that will give you clear images.

Product nameDimension (inch)Weight (lbs.)Price
Orion 53083 Starshoot G38.5×8.3×5.21.9Check the price on Amazon
Vixen Optics Ccd Video Camera4x4x41.43
Check the price on Amazon
Celestron 95507 Skyris7.1×3.6×61Check the price on Amazon
Orion 52031 Starshoot2.5×1.25×2.50.13Check the price on Amazon
Orion 53082 Starshoot G35.1×8.3×8.31.85
Check the price on Amazon
Ioptron 5200 Ie51003.9×5.8×61.05Check the price on Amazon
Astrostreet Toupcam Monochrome6.3×5.9×2.41Check the price on Amazon

Features to Consider

To get the best, there are some factors you should always consider and they should guide you through the selection. They include:

Price

You do not need to break a bank to get the best. There are many affordable astrophotography cameras on the market.

Astrophotography cam setup on tripod

Flexibility/Versatility

How much can you achieve with your camera? Shoot video, daytime images, sports, nature, family snapshots, wildlife and nature

Shutter Speeds, Aperture, ISO

99% of everything you want to shoot will be faint meaning you will have to record enough light for a clear picture.

Shutter speed dial

You should, therefore, buy a camera whose shutter opens long enough and aperture large enough to allow as much light as possible in. ISO is a setting in cameras that allows you to change its sensitivity to a higher number to get a brighter image.

Focus

You will always find the instructions on how you should turn off the camera’s autofocus, then manually focus your camera on infinity.

Macro lens focus

However, some instructions on the same are hard to follow which might consume too much of your time than necessary. Therefore, ensure that your camera is easy to focus as this is vital for a clear capture.

In-Camera Noise Reduction

Noise from your camera as you capture your photos may interfere with the quality of the photos. However, some cameras have in-camera noise reduction options which help you get the best photos possible. Also, if the camera has TEC

Beginner strophotography camera

Zoom lens

If you don’t want to go direct to using a telescope when shooting astrophotos, then get a camera with a good zoom lens. The zoom lens is especially a great recommendation for beginner astrophotography.

Lens zoom in

However, ensure that the lens is faster optically meaning it should have a larger aperture to allow in more light because more light equals better pictures.

Included Components

We are trying to cut costs here and there, and this is the same even in astrophotography. You do this by purchasing a camera that comes with as many components as possible to avoid incurring extra costs and time purchasing any.

Ready for night astrophotography

Compatibility

It’s obvious that you will need other accessories to complete your astrophotography task and it is important for your camera to be compatible with as many as possible as this will make the process hassle-free.

Reviews of the Best Camera for Astrophotography

We have gathered together a list of some of the top choices for cameras for astrophotography.  You’ll want to consider the above features and the specific use you will be needing it for.

Orion 53083 StarShoot G3

Price: approx. $350

Orion 53083 StarShootWeight: 1.9 lbs.

Product Dimensions: 8.5×8.3×5.2 inches

Specific Features: Solid construction, Great sensitivity, Very low noise, low cost

Best Use: tri-color astrophotos, LRGB astrophotos,

Orion StarShoot Imaging Camera is best suited for new astrophotographers who want just to get started quickly avoiding the calibrating frames hassle. It is also best for anyone moving from DSLR to CCD, but they have to be ready for a smaller field of view.

However, on the positive side, they will experience lower noise, capture narrowband images and LRGB. Also, if you want to try imaging, but don’t want to spend a fortune buying a camera, this here is your best solution.

Given that most of everything you will be capturing will seem faint, this camera will help you take beautiful astrophotos as its CCD chip sensitivity goes up to 752×582 pixel array thus perfectly capturing even the finest of details.

The StarShoot G3 is also very low priced yet featuring a ½” format CCD-sensor, mostly found in very expensive cameras, thus offering a larger imaging field of view and enabling you to shoot more sky within a very short time.

With this camera, you will also be in a position to perform the advanced tri-color imaging techniques. This makes astrophotography more fun, but you will need to find the best narrowband astrophotography filters or LRGB for best results.

And, most importantly, this camera features a regulated thermoselectric cooling, TEC, and it helps in noise reduction by enhancing proper dark frame acquisition thus improving astrophoto quality. It is the only camera with the feature within this price range.

It comes with a complete Orion Studio Software enabling easy image capture and processing or sharing of the astrophotos. It also comes with ASCOM drivers important for auto guiding use. It is also compatible with Windows XP, 7 & 8, Vista.

In a nutshell, the camera has a low cost, excellent sensitivity, regulated TEC cooling, low dark noise, and doubles as an ST-4 auto guider.

PROS:

  • The Orion StarShoot G3 Monochrome can also be used as a dedicated,
    high-performance, low-noise auto guider with ST-4 output jack built right in.
  • 16-bit A/D conversion.
  • It has a regulated thermoelectric cooling system.
  • 1/2″ format monochrome CCD sensor and an on-board thermoelectric cooler (TEC).
CONS:

  • The chip is a bit small (752 x 580).
  • The software does not work on higher OS.

Related: The Orion 5522 5-Position 1.25-Inch Filter Wheel has 25″ filters for visual and/or imaging use, a huge time-saver for filtered planetary and lunar observation using different color filters, or for tri-color astrophotography pursuits, making it useful for this camera.

Check the price on Amazon

Vixen Optics CCD Video Camera

Price: approx. $400

Vixen Optics CCDWeight: 1.43 lbs.

Product Dimensions: 4x4x4 inches

Specific Features: 1/3 inches color imaging sensor, BNC Video-Out Terminal, 540TV Lines Resolution

Best Use: Autoguiding, Imaging

Vixen Optics CCD Video Camera is ideal for auto guiding and imaging. It provides a great tracking precision and allows capturing of images, stacking and filtering. When it comes to calibrating, this video camera allows one to auto-calibrate the mount quickly and with ease thus giving accurate tracking compensation.

It works seamlessly with the Vixen’s StarBook 10 Advanced Unit to allow auto-calibrating the mount as needed. What’s more, you can use your camera on Vexen’s flip mirror-system to capture images via the OTA using the optional T-ring adaptor.

When it comes to functioning, this camera features an Auto-tracking White Balance ensuring that the correct colors are always displayed even when there isn’t any white color in the scene. It also has Auto White Balance Control.

It uses the factory-preset white standard, and it constantly adjusts to it depending on how the lighting condition changes. It also features auto sharpness ensuring that the images are always as bright as needed and an image flip that corrects subject orientation.

The camera also features a digital zoom enabling you to capture even the finest details with a clear view and Black Light Compensation to improve the image quality in conditions with extreme lighting in the same view. It’s included accessories are: AC adapter, BNC-RCA conversion plug, RCA cord, IR-Cut external switch-code, and polarity conversion code.

PROS:

  • Electronic shutter: Auto: 1 / 60 ~ 1 / 120,000 sec.
  • AUTO IRIS support: DC-IRIS.
  • IR-Cut Filter ON/OFF/AUTO, BLC, flipping, zooming.
  • Included Accessories: AC adapter, RCA cord, BNC-RCA conversion plug, polarity conversion code, IR-Cut external switch code.
CONS:

Related: You can use the Orion 53082 StarShoot G3 Deep Space Color Imaging Camera. It features a 1/2″ format CCD sensor and an on-board thermoelectric cooler (TEC), with high-tech features such as 16-bit A/D conversion, regulated thermoelectric cooling, onboard fan.

The Orion StarShoot G3 can also be used as a dedicated, high-performance, low-noise auto guider with ST-4 output built right in. it is a very good replacement for the Vixen Optics CCD Video Camera.

Check the price on Amazon

Celestron 95507 Skyris 236M

Price:

Celestron Skyris 236MWeight: 1 lb.

Product Dimensions: 7.1×3.6×6 inches

Specific Features: sensor pixel size is 2.8 microns, lightweight, and compatible with any telescope

Best Use: Planetary imaging

Celestron Skyris 236M CMOS is the ideal deal for all your planetary imaging projects. It is a high-resolution digital planetary imaging system allowing the user to capture astronomical images in less than a second. It also uses the latest technology of Sony Exmor CMOS that’s super sensitive near-infrared making it more beneficial for all planetary imaging.

You can easily capture the images using the monochrome Sony IMX236LQL sensor then send them directly to your Mac or Windows computer using the iCap imaging software that’s included with your purchase. This software enables you to control your camera, take pictures, and export them.

The iCap software has an integrated stacking program allowing you to filter your favorite images automatically then stack them and if you want, create the best composite celestial picture. It is powered by a Super Speed USB 3.0 technology that enables it to transfer data as fast as possible.

You will not need any external power for this, and this is advantageous especially when saving power. It can also be used with a USB 2.0, but this will slow its download speed.

It is therefore recommended to use the USB 3.0 as it allows you to gather many images in a very short time. This is critical especially when the weather together with the atmospheric conditions keep changing, and you do not have much time for imaging.

You can just use this camera by itself to capture black & white images, but you can also attach filters to get custom-colored images. If your interest is in capturing Mars, Saturn or its rings, and the moon then go for this camera. All you need, as recommended by the manufacturer, is a motorized mount and you will be in a position to capture clear & steady images of the planets.

PROS:

  • Powered by SuperSpeed USB 3.0 technology.
  • Uses the latest Sony Exmor CMOS technology.
  • It uses the monochrome Sony IMX236LQL sensor.
CONS:

• The software does not work on higher OS.

Related: You can use this camera with the Celestron 93973 SkyPortal Wifi Module. It helps in Aligning and controlling your telescope wirelessly using your smartphone or tablet and Celestron’s free SkyPortal app for iOS and Android devices. It also allows you to identify any celestial object you see immediately without delay.

Check the price on Amazon

Orion 52031 StarShoot Auto Guider Camera

Price: approx. $360

Orion StarShoot Autoguider CameraWeight: 0.13 Lbs.

Product Dimensions: 2.5×1.25×2.5 inches

Specific Features: 74% quantum efficiency, auto guiding sensitivity, built-in ST-4 port

Best Use: Precise auto guiding, High-quality astrophotography, Deep space objects imaging

Orion 52031 StarShoot Pro Mono Astrophotography Camera is best known for its guiding accuracy combined with multi-purpose image versatility. It is a highly sensitive monochrome device that’s primarily designed to provide precise auto guiding. However, you can still use it as an astrophotography camera to give you highly magnified detailed astro images.

And, to add to its versatility, this camera features a 10-mins maximum exposure time thus it can as well be used to image deep space objects. In addition, it has an excellent 74% quantum efficiency combined with the built-in ST-4 port and auto guiding sensitivity thus will perfectly guide you enabling you to capture more precise Astro photos.

Its lightweight and slim design give you an improved back-focus range enabling you to take better photos while giving it a greater compatibility with guiding and other imaging accessories like off-axis guiders.

With this camera, you are guaranteed an accurate auto guiding through its 1/3” CMOS sensor resolution of 1.2MP that also makes it a perfect imaging camera for the solar system as it is capable of capturing all sharp monochrome exposures of the planets and the Moon.

If you are in need of a fast frame rate camera, then this is the best with a max of 200 frames in a second which exceptionally fast. This ensures that you are in a position to capture every single moment of clear seeing. It also comes with Orion AstroCap software that has great capture features like the focus aids, auto-dark frame removal, histogram, and exposure & gain settings.

All these features ensure that you get the best results. You will also get other useful items such as the 1.25 inches nose-piece for use same sized filters, USB cable, and a parfocal ring that aids in matching the eyepiece focus to the camera focus, secure RJ-11 auto guider cable plus a foam-lined tin case useful for safe storage or transport. You can also connect the camera to your Windows XP, 7, 8, &10 and Vista.

PROS:

  • Exceptional 74 percent quantum efficiency.
  • Slim, lightweight design.
  • Contains items like 25 inches nose-piece for use same sized filters, USB cable, and a parfocal ring that aids in matching the eyepiece focus to the camera focus, secure RJ-11 auto guider cable plus a foam-lined tin case.
  • The Very fast frame rate of up to 200 fps.
CONS:

Related: The Orion 5522 5-Position 1.25-Inch Filter Wheel has 25″ filters for visual and/or imaging use, a huge time-saver for filtered planetary and lunar observation using different color filters, or for tri-color astrophotography pursuits, making it useful for this camera.

Check the price on Amazon

Orion 53082 StarShoot G3 Deep Space Imaging Camera

Price: approx. $350

Orion StarShoot Deep Space CameraWeight: 1.85 lbs.

Product Dimensions: 5.1×8.3×8.3 inches

Specific Features: ½ inches format CCD sensor, on-board thermoelectric cooler, 16-bit A/D conversion, built-in fan

Best Use: Fine details capturing in celestial objects, dedicated auto guider

Orion StarShoot G3 Imaging Camera is very affordable despite it having all performance enhancing features plus software that could only be found in only the expensive CCD imagers. When it comes to capturing the celestial objects, this camera will capture even the finest details thanks to its highly sensitive sensor chip.

The sensor format is ½” thus provides a larger imaging field of view compared to those with 1/3” format chip. It is the only camera with kind of chip format for its price. Even most cameras with the 1/3” format are more expensive, yet their imaging field of view is smaller.

In addition, the camera features a regulated thermoelectric cooling which improves the astrophotos quality significantly and reducing the noise thus enabling an accurate dark frame acquisition. And, again, this is the only camera for the price that features this amazing feature, TEC.

It also features a vibration-free fan that assists the on-board thermoelectric cooling to remove the warm air thus further optimizing the imaging results. The camera also has a built-in ST-4 output which makes it a dedicated auto guider for more precise Astro photos.

In a nutshell, you will be getting a very affordable astrophotography camera with the most effective cooling technology ideal for noise reduction thus enabling you to capture perfect images when in the dark. It comes with ASCOM drivers and a Complete-Orion-Camera-Studio software for super easy image capture and processing or share.

PROS:

  • 1/2″ format CCD sensor and an on-board thermoelectric cooler (TEC).
  • The camera comes with ASCOM drivers and a Complete-Orion-Camera-Studio software.
  • 16-bit A/D conversion.
  • It has a low-noise auto guider with ST-4 output built right in.
CONS:

  • The software sometimes cannot recognize the scope.
  • The software is completely incompatible with any modern OS.

Related: Orion 0.5x Focal Reducer for StarShoot Imaging Cameras that increases imaging area by a factor of 4 and the Orion 5523 1.25-Inch Astrophotography Flip Mirror which makes framing and focusing celestial objects for CCD astrophotography as easy as flipping a switch!

Check the price on Amazon

iOptron 5200 iE5100 Planetarium Imager

Price: around $180

iOptron 5200 iE5100 ImagerWeight: 1.05 Lbs.

Product Dimensions: 3.9×5.8×6 inches

Specific Features: iOptron iE5100, HD resolution, optional SDK development package

Best use: Astrophotography, Terrestrial Imaging, Micro Imaging

iOptron 5200 Planetarium imager is a great digital imaging astrophotography camera featuring a standard 1.25 inch eyepiece holder allowing you to capture all full-color astronomical images. This eyepiece holder is compatible with a variety of 1.25 inch filters to allow advanced imaging techniques.

It comes with two important software packages; ToupView & ToupLite and drivers all on a disk. You will only take a few minutes to connect the camera to your computer using a USB 2.0, and from there you can directly view images of the Moon, Saturn and much more from your computer. Videos too can be streamed directly to an included software suite, ToupView, and ToupLite.

The software also allows for storage of the images, stacking, aligning, filtering, and adjusting them creating a single super-quality picture. The software is compatible with various Windows systems from XP-8, Linux, and Mac OS X.

This camera is very versatile. It also offers extraterrestrial viewing. With your telescope or the 1.25 inch eyepiece holder, you can drop it into the spotting scope then use it for digiscoping but, the telescope must have an erecting prism. The camera also has standard C-mount threads that allow you to directly mount it to any compatible-threaded spotting scope or microscope then using the same software.

You will be in a position to capture then create images of microscopic and terrestrial subjects. The camera captures amazing images of Mars and the Saturn rings, wildlife and boats, cell walls and a single drop of pond water while allowing you to share the final results with the world.

PROS:

  • It comes with ToupView & ToupLite and drivers.
  • It also offers extraterrestrial viewing.
  • Supports Microsoft Windows XP / Vista / 7 /8 (32 & 64 bit), OS X (Mac OS X), Linux.
  • Capture video on your PC with a frame rate up to 60fps @640 x 480.
CONS:

  • The software does not work on higher OS.

Related: Orion 1.25-Inch 13 Percent Transmission Moon Filter is a perfect complement for this camera. It reduces glare so you can see more lunar detail and surface features with your telescope.

Check the price on Amazon

Astrostreet Toupcam Monochrome Astronomy Camera

Price: Unavailable

Astrostreet Toupcam Monochrome CameraWeight: 1 Lb.

Product Dimensions: 6.3×5.9×2.4 inches

Specific Features: built-in ST4 auto-guider port, 13 minute exposure time, C-mount color camera

Best use: auto guiding, multiple types of astrophotography

AstroStreet ToupCam Monochrome Astronomy CMOS Guiding Camera is great for auto-guiding or multiple astrophotography such as Moon, Planets, Sun, Cluster, Galaxies, and Nebulae. The camera features the necessary software to support Astro video recording, previewing, and processing, so you will be getting more than just astrophotos.

It also supports darkfield correction to ensure that the final results of your images are just perfect.The camera also features a built-in ST4 auto-guider port allowing easy connection of your auto guider for precise photo capture. It also comes with native/ASCOM/WDM driver allowing easy and quick connection with various 3rd party astrophotography software.

This camera comes with an aluminum CNC housing featuring a standard 1.25” outer interface enabling it to fit the telescope eyepiece and a standard inner C-mount for the industrial lens. This enables you to capture clear images including the fine details. Its sensor size is 1/3” thus allows enough light in adding on the clarity of the images.

PROS:

  • Aluminum CNC housing with the standard 1.25-inch interface.
  • It has a native/ASCOM/WDM driver.
  • The camera has the needed software to support Astro video recording, previewing and processing.
CONS:

Related: In the absence of this camera, you can buy the USB2.0 CMOS 1.25″ Guiding Camera/Finder Scope for Telescopes (Gold) as they serve the same function.

Check the price on Amazon

What have we learned?

Astrophotography is great, and it enables you to gain access to the celestial objects. However, for you to enjoy this, you must get the best camera for astrophotography. Getting the best does not mean that you have to break the bank. Just ensure that it has all the necessary features and is compatible with other accessories that you might need in the process.

Astrophotography camera setup

The above list represents the best astrophotography camera on the market now, and through it, you can get a camera that will bring your astrophotography to a new level.

If you find the article helpful, feel free to share with a friend or two, and you can share your thoughts about this article in our comments section.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cole Palmer
Cole Palmer

Cole’s passion is travelling around the world. His favourite destinations are South Asia and Western Europe. Cole spends lots of time sailing and knows how important is to have a good gear while you are in the middle of the ocean. Another thing that he is passionate about is astronomy, he says that the best place to look at the sky at night is usually far from the coast.

  • Cole Palmer

    Photography of astronomical objects is quite an adventure and you need to have good knowledge of imaging software programs to be able to use an astrophotography camera.

  • Jennifer Svasta

    I have to say I am super stoked on developing a love for astrophotography. I have been doing a lot of research on finding the best camera for a novice such as myself.

    So, after reading this dense amount of information on your post, I feel that the Orion 52031 StarShoot Pro Mono Astrophotography Camera might be best suited for me as I would really like to get those Deep Space photos offered with the specs of this camera.

    I saw that the computer compatibility listed a few Windows options, but can anyone tell me if this camera is compatible with Mac computers as well?

    • Cole Palmer

      The Orion 52031 StarShoot Pro Mono Astrophotography Camera comes highly rated by users and it is competitively priced. You will certainly like the lightweight, slim design. Great choice, Jennifer.

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