Having the right equipment can make a huge difference when it comes to taking pictures of the stars. Getting started with astrophotography doesn’t have to be expensive. Amazon has a lot of great deals on refurbished products and your local camera store or Craigslist are also great places to check.
The great debate! In my personal camera collection I have a Canon Rebel 7*, a Nikon 7500*, and a Sony Aii7*. My preferred camera for night shooting is the Sony Aii but I will often use the Nikon to do portrait photography. The Canon cameras are wonderful and affordable camera’s to learn on but I find a deeper black and more resolution in my Sony for sure. That being said, Canon did just come out with a new camera specific for astrophotography, the Canon EOS Ra* and I am very interested in renting one to see what it can do. You can rent cameras and lenses at Mike’s Camera or LensRentals.com and the camera you use should have settings to store files in both RAW format and JPEG. Choosing a camera can be tricky and it mostly depends on where you are in your journey as a photographer and what you are trying to capture. Some features to consider in a camera are:
- The weight and size (if you’re lugging around equipment at night, you want it to be compact)
- Mirrored or mirrorless cameras: Mirrorless cameras are the newer technology and have a incredible definition but they are also more expensive. DSLR or mirror cameras still capture incredible photos at a more affordable price.
- Display settings: this might seem like an odd thing to consider but when working in the night, it’s nice to have a camera that you don’t have to touch a lot to adjust.
- Battery and Memory card slots: Some camera manufacturers put the memory card or the battery pack slot in the same position as the tripod mount and this is incredibly annoying to have to take the mount off every time you go to charge or change your battery.
Lenses will be the most important (and expensive) piece of equipment you will purchase. You can rent lenses at Mike’s Camera or at to check out which one you like best prior to your purchase. All camera companies manufacture their own lenses, but some companies manufactures lenses only to fit all different camera mounts. Just be sure when purchasing a lens that the lens will fit the mount of your camera. I use Sigma and Tamron most with all my cameras. When shooting night photography most people prefer a wide angle lens which is usually considered a 35mm focal width or less. I have used a 50mm in doing portraits in the evening or of getting a more specific part of the sky. Most affordable lenses for night photography are a fixed focal length meaning you can’t zoom in or out, but you can find some that do have this function at a higher cost. The most important feature of a night photography lens is the aperture: also known as the f-stop or AV setting. For optimal milky way pictures, use a lens with a 2.8 aperture or less. I also prefer lenses that have the infinity focus symbol so I can ensure that everything I’m capturing is in focus. Some features to double check in a lens are:
- A focal width of 35mm or less
- An aperature or f-stop of 2.8 or less
- The infinity focus symbol
Don’t forget a filter to go over the lens to protect it.
There are a few applications that will really help you improve your photography game. Some of my favorites are:
PhotoPills: This app is a one time cost of $10 and it allows you to put a pin in a map and it will tell you all pertinent information for night photography such as:
- What direction is the milky way core?
- Where does the moon rise/set?
- When is the golden hour?What time the sun rises and sets daily?
- 1,000 other features that you can get lost in
Light Pollution Map or LPM: This app gives you a map and shows you where the darkest skies are and at what time of night.
Sky View: This app you hold up as you are out in the night to see the map of constellations and planets so you know what you are shooting.
All Trails: This app shows you amazing off road driving and hiking trails you can take to escape into the night.
Post Processing: Post processing is the more challenging portion of photography and there are many classes and videos you can watch that will help you with your processing technique. This is something I don’t like to give to many “how to’s” on because I believe that this is what gives each photographer their own flair. I do use both Lightroom and Photoshop in processing my photos because they each offer different features that I use when processing pictures. Lightroom is typically my first draft and photo shop is usually my fine tune. Feel free email me to set up a zoom tutorial if interested.
If you’re looking to test the waters with astrophotography but don’t want to invest is your own equipment yet, consider booking an astrophotography experience and you can try out one of my camera setups.
* Links to Amazon products are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.