As most people ask when starting astrophotography as a hobby, we wonder what the cheapest camera for astrophotography is that a beginner could use easily and get good results from. Later on, when we become more knowledgeable and experienced, we may upgrade to something more expensive. In this article, I’ll give you the benefit of my first couple of years of experience using different cameras and the results I’ve had so far.
The cheapest camera for astrophotography is an older DSLR, such as a Canon or Nikon. It is very cheap to buy one of these, new or second-hand. You may have a DSLR camera already, in which case there is no need to buy anything expensive. Another alternative is to use your phone, although this is not ideal.
If you are looking to get into astrophotography and are looking to buy something cheap to begin with, then there are many important things to understand before you buy something. And if you already have a camera, it is a good idea to find out if this will be suitable or not.
In order to point you in the right direction so that you can make a choice that will help you begin in the best and easiest way possible, I’ll try to explain what I have learned in the last few years since I started and what exactly you need to think about before jumping in. Here is a helpful guide on what you need for astrophotography to get the best images.
Do You Need an Expensive Camera for Astrophotography?
The answer is no. There are some really good astrophotographers using cheaper equipment, but, on the other hand, there are some average or poor astrophotographers using expensive equipment. It is not necessary to spend thousands of dollars, especially at the beginning. Two manufacturers stand out: should you choose to buy a Canon or Nikon DSLR camera?
In my opinion, the best option is to use a cheaper, older DSLR, either second-hand, refurbished, or one you already have. Using a mobile phone is clunky at best. It can be done, but why?
Click this link to find out if you need a special camera for astrophotography.
In my experience, it is best to start astrophotography with a cheaper camera. You won’t be able to use a more expensive model properly anyway until you have experience and acquire an understanding of astrophotography, so it’s best to start simply.
When I started astrophotography, I spent a few hundred dollars on a Canon 600D, and I got great results. Later, I got the camera Astro modified and have been using it for more than two years.
Only now have I decided to upgrade to something more expensive to try to improve my results. I can now choose my equipment with greater care and know what I need. This hobby is best followed in small steps, each building on the last.
What is the Cheapest Camera for Astrophotography?
First, let’s take a look at DSLRs, which are often used and are inexpensive yet good for astrophotography.
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Other alternatives include:
- Nikon D7500, $1000
- Canon EOS 6D Mk. II: Here’s a video that talks about how good this camera is for astrophotography and backs it up with data to prove the point. If you’re considering this camera, you should definitely watch this video. It is possible to get one of these cameras for about $500 or less.
- Sony A6600: $1200, but second-hand, it will be much cheaper.
- Canon 800D: $650
- Canon 600D – New $600 second hand approximately $300. This is the camera I have used for the last two years or so. It does the job.
Now let’s take a look at dedicated astronomy cameras that are used specifically for astrophotography:
- SVBony 305: This is a dedicated astronomy camera that needs to be connected to a PC or laptop but is probably the cheapest camera for astrophotography at about $150. It can be used for planetary, deep sky, or guide camera. I have one of these and can testify that it is great for photographing the moon, taking video of planets to image them, or as a guiding camera.
- ZWO ASI224 MC – CMOS astrophotography camera which is approximately $199. It can cope with some deep sky imaging plus planetary photography but it is not cooled, hence the cheaper price. You need a PC or laptop to use this, though.
As you can see from above, the cameras listed do require that you determine how much or how little you would like to spend. Dedicated astronomy cameras can ONLY be used for astrophotography, whereas a DSLR can also be used for normal photography.
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Dedicated astronomy cameras are more complicated to use and are not normally the best camera for astrophotography beginners, so if you are dipping your toes into astrophotography, it’s probably best to use a DSLR camera.
Best Cheap Camera for Night Sky Photography
So far we have mainly considered cameras that can be used for planetary and deep sky astro images, but now let’s consider a very popular form of photography, night landscape photography, including shots of the Milky Way or other celestial objects such as comets or meteors. This kind of photography requires wide-field lenses to be used and normally does not involve the use of a telescope.
Here are three suggestions for the cheapest camera for astrophotography that would be practical:
- Sony Alpha A6000 Mirrorless. Fantastic camera at a price (new) of $650.
- Fujifilm X-T20 – This is a mirrorless camera, and now it is about $899. Is that cheap? It depends on you, but it is good value!
- The Canon EOS 6D is a camera that many top astrophotographers use to photograph the Milky Way and night landscapes, including Alyn Wallace and many others. You can get this one for less money than either of the above two cameras, and if I were trying to get into this hobby now, I’d look into this camera as it comes with a long history of great photos taken of these kinds of nighttime shots.
Capture Stunning Starry Skies with the Cheapest Camera for Astrophotography
Are you someone who wants to capture nighttime views on a budget? Are you searching for a camera that will help you capture breathtaking starry skies at a cheap price?
These are the most important things you need to think about before buying a camera for star photography:
1. Low-Light Performance
When it comes to astrophotography, the ability of a camera to handle low-light conditions is crucial. To capture the beauty of the night sky, choose a camera with a larger sensor. This will enable you to take photos of the sky with exceptional clarity. You should check the prices for different sensors because they do vary. To get the cheapest camera for astrophotography, you need to find a balance between the quality of the sensor and the price.
2. Interchangeable Lenses: Expanding Your Creative Horizons
Unleash your creativity and embrace versatility by choosing a camera with interchangeable lenses. This feature gives you the freedom to experiment and use different focal lengths for captivating night sky shots. Capture the beauty of the cosmos from multiple perspectives. Do be careful about the lenses you buy, as with some, you can place a clip-in filter in front of the lens, but with others, you can’t. In astrophotography, filters can be very helpful, so this is an important thing to check.
3. Manual Settings Control: Master the Art of Astrophotography
To improve your star photography, you need a camera that puts you in control. Manual setting control is a must-have feature for astrophotography enthusiasts. Take charge of your exposure settings and fine-tune your shots by adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. This level of control is vital to capturing stars with precision and elegance. Even the cheapest camera for astrophotography needs to be operated in manual mode. Make sure that you learn how to use these manual settings correctly.
4. Bulb Mode: Unveiling the Mysteries of the Night
Use a camera that offers a “bulb” mode. This incredible feature allows you to take long exposure shots that surpass the limitations of standard shutter speeds. By using bulb mode, you can capture stunning star trails and other long-exposure astrophotography that will leave viewers in awe.
5. Noise Reduction Capabilities: Preserve the Splendour of the Stars
When shooting at high ISO settings, noise can creep into your images, reducing their overall quality. Tackle this by opting for a camera equipped with exceptional noise-reduction capabilities. These built-in features can preserve the splendour of the stars, ensuring your astrophotographs are free from distracting visual noise. If your aim is to buy the cheapest camera for astrophotography, you can ignore the noise reduction in the camera and process this out when you are editing your images.
6. Compatibility with a Remote Shutter Release: Steady Shots for Stellar Results
Achieving steady shots is extremely important in astrophotography, and a remote shutter release or an intervalometer can be your best friend. By utilising this helpful tool, you can capture long-exposure shots without the risk of introducing camera shake. Ensure your camera can be used with a remote shutter release to maximise your DSLR camera’s ability to capture astronomical targets and the stars.
7. Good Battery Life: Photograph the Night Sky without Interruption
Night sky photography demands a long battery life to withstand long exposure times. To avoid being left in the dark, choose a camera with the option to use an external power source. This way, you’ll be able to take photos without worrying about dead batteries.
There are many popular and budget-friendly camera models out there. Keep an eye out for entry-level DSLRs and mirrorless cameras from reputable brands such as Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax. Stay up-to-date with the latest models and compare their features, user reviews, and pricing. By doing so, you can make an informed decision when purchasing your camera. Also, consider buying used or refurbished gear, which can offer significant savings without compromising performance.
Remember, the camera is just one piece of the puzzle. Enhance your astrophotography by investing in a fast wide-angle lens and a sturdy tripod. Take the time to learn and practise the basic astrophotography techniques. With the perfect camera and the right tools in your arsenal, you’ll discover how amazing the night sky really is!
We’ve seen how cheap is open to your interpretation, but I consider that less than about $500–600 for a camera would be a good price for the cheapest camera for astrophotography use. For nighttime photography, we need a good range of quality specs from either a DSLR from one of the big brands, or you could opt for an astronomy camera from ZWO without cooling or from SVBony, who makes quality products at cheaper prices.
You’ll find that although you can use almost any DSLR for astrophotography, it is best to choose one that has a good record, as you will certainly become more knowledgeable about photography and any limitations that your camera has. Just spending a small amount more can actually make good sense, as you are likely to use the camera for longer. You may outgrow a very cheap camera quickly.
The moral of this story is that you should choose your camera wisely and take time to figure out what you need and how much you are willing to spend. There’s lots of advice to be had on this website and elsewhere online, so be sure to do your research well before buying any astrophotography equipment!