Jump to content


Which DSLR for a wannabe astrophotographer?


Recommended Posts


I'm still in the research phase, haven't got a telescope yet but am thinking about future plans for a spot of astrophotography (planets, dso, anything that takes my fancy). I don't yet have a DSLR and this would be a good excuse to buy one, probably with a budget of around £400-500 if it means I can get something that will give me those extra sharp and large night sky images.

I see most people using Canon or Nikon DSLRs, though I know there are others out there. I'm not looking for mega high end stuff, I know the price of these things can sky-rocket if one gets carried away.

I think for the time-being a dedicated CCD is out as I'd also like an upgrade to my existing digital camera for a spot of wildlife photography.

Mounts and motor drives - I'm looking at the SkyWatcher 130 with the intention of upgrading it with a motor drive, is there a minimum that I should look for if photography is on the cards? What kind of price should I expect to pay and what makes / models would suit an entry level setup?

I would really appreciate it if people could share their experiences with Canon or Nikon DSLRs of up to and around £500 value (including a lens - I would need that for general photography!)

I gather in terms of image quality the Canon and Nikons are much of a muchness, it comes down to the position of buttons and how well the camera sits in the hand. I have had a poor experience with Nikon though in the form of the 5700 which has practically non-existent auto-focus ability in dim lighting conditions, I would assume this is not a problem on the DSLR range though. The only thing that puts me off the D40 is that it only has 6 megapixels, and I do assume that the more megapixels the better when we're talking astrophotography. Also I have read about the IR filter which can be removed from the CCD in DSLR cameras, this is also something I should think about in case I want to capture nebula or such (I'm guessing) - any advice on this?

It may well be the case that a DSLR I buy will last me quite a while, probably through the next scope I buy (if I'm still keen) and possibly the one after that too, so I want to get it right!

Thanks for any advice you wonderful people can give me! :wave:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You won't go far wrong with either a canon 300D or 350D. I have the 350D which has been modified for HA. I'd recommend either as Ive used both for . Preference would be the 350D simply because its faster downloading images to the PC (its USB2) and it has a slightly bigger CMOS than the 300D.

Do a search on these forums on either and also google it, lots of info and reviews if you look :)

Both are well within your budget.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jonathon,

Before we decide on the camera, we need to decide on the mount. For any long exposure photography, you really must have a driven mount. You could get away with just having an RA motor if you were willing to do precise polar alignment and possibly drift alignment.

The only difference beween the makes/models are really the weight they can carry, and if they have "GoTo". GoTo simply allows you to tell the scope where you want it to go and it'll move the mount there. The next difference between the types of mounts around is if they're AltAz or Equatorial. EQ(Equatorial) mounts are needed for long-exposure photography, as with an AltAz mount while it may track your object you will get something called Field Rotation. Field Rotation is where even if your tracking may be perfect, your object will pivot around the centre of your FOV.

AltAz mounts can be put on a wedge, which will then allow them to counteract field rotation.

The camera a lot of people here use are the Canon xxxD series. I myself, have a 350D which I am intending to mod. The IR filter which can be removed from the camera blocks out light which allows the camera to be perfect for daylight photography, but for astrophotography it blocks out Ha light. It just so happens a lot of nebulas have a strong Ha emission.

You can either have the filter replaced or removed, replaced allows you to retain autofocus and simply create a custom white balance to use for normal daylight photography. If you have the filter removed, there are external filters you can get to use it for normal daylight photography.

The latest model to the scene is the 1000D. Cheap, but has lots of features; including live view. Live view makes it much easier to focus. Otherwise you can pick up second hand 350Ds and 400Ds pretty cheaply and have them modded or do it yourself. 300Ds are good n'all, but held back by USB 1.1 - you can just save images to the flash card and then read them in a usb2 card reader, but when taking focusing shots that isn't particulaly convienient. The price isn't that difference between 300Ds and 350Ds, and the noise on the 350D is more under control. But still, both are great cameras. Same with the 400D and the 450D.

More megapixels the better isnt really true with DSLRs. Most of these camera's have the same size chip, called a 1.6crop. Compared to a film camera, this chip is slightly smaller. This means the FoV you get will be 1.6x smaller than you would on a film camera, with the same lens. As all these cameras are using the same size chip, adding more megapixels means squeezing more megapixels on. This means the pixels are smaller, and therefore less sensitive to light. In practicality though...it doesn't really make much difference.

The 40D modded is mean to be fantastic, very low noise. And the 50D, I'm not sure - hasn't really come into full flow on the astronomy sides yet.

Nikon don't really have a presence in DSLR Astrophotography, I'm sure some astounding photos have been taken with them, but it's pretty much Canon's territory.

The Canon 200mm f/2.8L is fantastic for lens astrophotography - a stunning performer in daytime photography too. Still, it's expensive and a prime.

The nifty-fifty, the Canon 50mm f/1.8 is a great lens. Plasticy, but around £50 and a performer that holds its ground.

One last thing, most DSLRs use CMOS sensors rather than CCDs. CMOS are less sensitive to light...but far cheaper to produce.

I think most of that's right..!


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would suggest going for the 400D as they should be available second hand. The 400D and upwards are less noisier than previous models and do not suffer from amp glow like the 300 and 350D. If you can stretch the budget a 1000D or a 450D would be great as they have the liveview function as Kurt has mentioned, which makes focusing easier.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some top advice there from all of you, thank you very much.

I hadn't heard of the Canon 1000D but it sounds like the perfect camera for me - £299 from a certain popular online retailer by the river, looks like it has everything the 450D has except for 2 less megapixels (which is actually better according to some of you guys) and 2 less focusing points... I'll live. :)

As for the mount - I think that's something I'll have to learn about when the time comes; if a fitted motor drive doesn't do the trick for photography then I may just have to spend some money on a better quality motor-driven setup.

Now I think a trip to the shops may be in order to hold some of these cameras for myself, before deciding where to buy from at the cheapest price. Shopper's perogative. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If its connected to a laptop then the liveview images can be displayed on the Lappy screen...with both cameras... both can also be fully controlled form the laptop includign long exposure sequences of images usign the software that comes with them ...

I am thinking of adding a 1000D to the arsenal this crimbo...


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I have just been out on a shopping trip and got myself a Canon 1000D, looks very handy, and once the battery is fully charged I shall be having a good old play with it. :(

On the telescope side it's looking more dodgy, I might not have the space to store one so that part might have to be put on hold for now. Still, I could always invest the money in a good zoom lens for the camera and take some nice night sky images. :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would have a look on ebay for some older primes and use them with an adpator. Seeing as canon use the shortest mount to focal plane distance of any of the major manufacturers there are loads of adpators available to use 3rd party lenses with canon cameras.

For astro work you arent going to need autofocus , or auto aperture so go an grab some bargains..

Zooms are laways a compromise even when you spend mega bucks on the manufacturers top of the range ones.

Remeber the longer teh focal length the shorter thge exposure your going to be able to take before trailing becomes evident unless your going to use a tracking mount.

Also if you have Light polluted skies a CLS clip in filter is going to be a very worthwhile investment


Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.