Photographing the night sky can deliver some spectacular results. With the right camera, lens, and settings, the wonders of the galaxy can be captured. Astrophotography can be a tricky art to master however. The same theories and photographic rules for daylight photography don’t necessarily apply, and there are other factors to account for.
Below, we’ve outlined some of the best Canon cameras for astrophotography and what makes them so well suited to it(check out this guide on best lens for astrophotography instead). We’ll cover both full-frame Canon cameras and APS-C (crop-frame) ones across a range of budgets. Once you have an understanding of what’s on offer, we’ll give some of our top advice for buying a camera for astrophotography.
Best Full-Frame Canon Cameras for Astrophotography
Why it’s great:
- 4-megapixel CMOS sensor.
- ISO 100-32,000 which is expandable to 50-102,400.
- Digital Lens Optimizer helps supress different unwanted optical defects.
Our top full-frame astrophotography camera is the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, and for good reason. The 30.4-megapixel sensor performs fantastically well at higher ISOs and in low-light, producing very little image noise. When it comes to capturing the night sky, this is perhaps the most important factor. One of the innovative technologies that will be useful for astrophotographers is the Dual Pixel RAW image format, which helps users fix any blurring or slight miss-focusing in post-production. Image quality promises to be fantastic – this is a professional-level camera after all. Aside from the features that benefit astrophotography, the 5D is packed full of other technologies that make it desirable; 4K video capture, built-in Wi-Fi, 7fps continuous shooting, and a touchscreen.
- There’s no denying the Canon 5D Mark IV is an expensive bit of kit. For the amateur or newcomer to full-frame cameras, this will likely be way out of budget.
2. Canon 5DSR
Why it’s great:
- 6-megapixel CMOS sensor.
- Low-pass filter effect cancellation gives superior image clarity.
- ISO range of 100-6400.
It’s a close call between the top two cameras on our list. The incredible 50.6-megapixel sensor is what sets the 5DSR apart for night photography. That, coupled with the low-pass filter effect cancellation makes it possible to capture some breathtakingly beautiful astrophotography images with this camera. It performs very well in low-light settings across its ISO range. There’s no doubt it’s a specialised piece of equipment however, and won’t be suitable for the average user.
- Like the EOS 5D, this is a very expensive camera aimed at professionals.
- It also lacks some of the mod cons of similarly priced cameras; there’s no 4K video or Wi-Fi.
3. Canon EOS 6D
Why it’s great:
- 2-megapixel CMOS sensor.
- More affordable than the above options.
- ISO range of 50-102,400 with extension.
The 5D and 5DSR are serious bits of kit, realistically out of the price range of most photographers. The EOS 6D is definitely more affordable and is still an excellent Canon camera for astrophotography. The 20.2-megapixel sensor captures a great deal of detail, and the ISO can be extended to a range of 50-102,400 which is simply huge. It performs very well across that range and there is little image noise when shooting at night. The 6D also comes with all of the features you’d expect to find in a modern DSLR; Wi-Fi connectivity, in-camera RAW image processing, an 11-point autofocus system, and more. It’s a good all-rounder that’s also good at night sky photography.
- There’s very little to criticize about this camera. Although it’s more affordable than the two above, it still might be a bit pricey for those just starting with astrophotography.
Best APS-C / Crop-Frame Canon Cameras for Astrophotography
Why it’s great:
- 2-megapixel sensor.
- Image noise is well-controlled.
- Good all-rounder.
The Canon 7D tops the range of APS-C cameras and sits just below the above mentioned 5D in Canon’s range. It’s a very versatile camera that also offers good enough performance to please astrophotographers. Image noise is very well handled by the 7D and this is a real boon when photographing the Milky Way; higher ISOs and shutter speeds can be used without producing a grainy image. The weatherproofing is excellent, meaning you can take this camera with you no matter what the conditions are. All combined, this is our favourite crop-frame camera for astrophotography.
- There’s no built-in Wi-Fi and the screen isn’t touch-sensitive. These are features users may expect to find on similarly priced cameras.
Why it’s great:
- 2-megapxiel sensor.
- ISO range of 100-25,600.
- 0-inch Vari-Angle Touchscreen.
There’s a lot to like about the Canon EOS Rebel T7i (or 800D depending on country). It improves over its younger brother, the Rebel T6i (750D) by offering a better sensor and a greater range of ISO settings. It’s good as an all-rounder, and that includes astrophotography; it delivers high-quality images that are crisp and clear, with a good amount of noise suppression. It’s a more affordable alternative to the above 7D and would be well-suited to a photographer who is just getting started with shooting nightscapes. Build quality, live view, and a 6fps continuous shooting speeds are all additional benefits that make this such a good camera for the price.
- There are a lot of cameras available in this price range, some with additional features.
Why it’s great:
- 2 megapixel CMOS sensor.
- 3 inch tiltable touchscreen LCD screen.
- Good low-light performance.
We’ve mentioned affordability in our list so far, but it’s a relative term. The Canon Rebel T6i (or 750D) is truly affordable if you’re just starting out with astrophotography. Performance is very impressive given the cost; the 24.2 megapixel sensor delivers beautifully sharp images, helped by the live view autofocus system. If you’re on a budget this could be the camera for you. Performance is good across the board and there are plenty of attractive features.
- The more seasoned photographer will perhaps find the T6i lacking in some areas.
Astrophotography Camera Buying Advice
When buying a new camera for astrophotography, there are a few key considerations you have to make. Whether you’re a professional who is upgrading, or a beginner just starting out, your needs and budget will vary. Below are some of the important points you should consider.
There’s a wide range of Canon DSLR cameras available to buy. As we’ve outlined previously, whether you’re buying a full or crop-frame camera will have a big impact on your budget. APS-C sensors are usually much cheaper than their 35mm, full-frame equivalents. It’s a good idea to have a firm budget in mind when buying a new astrophotography camera. This will allow you eliminate different price brackets and have more of a focus on cameras around your price range. A good way of doing this is to draw up a list of ‘must-haves’ for your new camera; factors such as sensor size, megapixels, and conveniences such as built in Wi-Fi and an articulating screen should be considered.
2. Sensor Size and ISO Sensitivity
When shooting the night sky, two of the most important technical aspects of a camera are the sensor size and ISO sensitivity. As we’ve mentioned above, your choice really lies between full-frame and APS-C. Price will likely be a factor in this, with the beginner likely to only need and be able to afford an APS-C. ISO sensitivity is also important. Ideally you want a camera that has minimal image noise at higher ISOs. This will give you the opportunity to take a wider variety of shots without your images being grainy and pixelated.
Although your camera will be doing a lot of the hard work when you’re taking nightscape pictures, having a suitable lens is also essential. When you’re making a new camera purchase, be sure to keep this in mind. The kit lens that comes with your camera may not be particularly well suited to astrophotography. If you need to buy a new lens to deal with this, you should bear that in mind when it comes to deciding on budget. A good wide-angle lens is also going to cost a fair bit.