Choosing the best camera for photographing the Milky Way can be overwhelming.
I’ve been testing and comparing different models and, in a nutshell, these are the best digital cameras for Milky Way photography:
Besides having a good camera, using the best Milky Way camera settings is key to shooting our galaxy. Also, don’t forget that lenses are as important as cameras in night photography, so I highly recommend pairing your camera with one of the best lenses for Milky Way photography.
However, throughout this article, you’ll find a breakdown of the best cameras to take pictures of the Milky Way according to your budget and preferences. I’ve included APS-C cameras, Micro 4/3, compact cameras, and the best Milky Way camera models on a budget.
Ready to find the best camera for Milky Way?
Note: I didn’t split the article into Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras. Check out our guide on that topic if you still don’t know which system is best for you.
GET THE CALENDAR WITH THE BEST DATES TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MILKY WAY IN 2022
You'll also receive our PDF guide to photographing the Milky Way!
The Sony A7S series are specifically designed for low-light video and photography. On the A7S III, you can set an impressive range of ISO 80-102400, opening up a world of possibilities for shooting our galaxy. This is not only the best mirrorless camera for Milky Way photography, but also one of the best cameras for Milky Way video and time-lapses. Recommended lens: Sony FE 24mm F/1.4 GM.
This is the first full-frame mirrorless camera dedicated to astrophotography and the best Canon camera for Milky Way. This camera has a special infrared filter that allows you to capture 4x the detail and color in the Milky Way nebulae compared to standard cameras. If you’re interested in doing some deep-sky astrophotography, this is the best Milky Way camera for you. Suggested lens pairing: Canon RF 15-35 mm f/2.8 L.
This high-end Full-Frame camera is the best Nikon camera for Milky Way photography. This model offers a brilliant performance in terms of high ISO vs. digital noise that will translate into clean Astro images. You can also pair this camera with some of the top Nikon Z Lenses for Milky Way. Recommended lens: Nikkor Z 20 mm f/1.8
The successor of the renowned Sony A7III is a very versatile camera and one of the best quality-price Full-Frame cameras for Milky Way in 2022. This new model includes an upgrade in the number of megapixels (33), but without compromising the noise when shooting at high ISOs. If you are ready to jump into Full-Frame from a crop-sensor or even a DSLR camera, this will be a very well-rounded camera for all purposes including Astro, and at a reasonable price. Suggested lens Pairing: Sony 35 mm f/1.4
This is one of the best Sony cameras for Milky Way photography. The A7RIV is all you need to take high-resolution Milky Way images, and it’s also a superb camera for landscape photography in general. This is one of the cameras that I’ve been using for my Milky Way photography over the last 2 years and, if you use the right Milky Way settings, you can take otherworldly images of our galaxy. (Highly) Recommended lens: Sony 20 mm f/1.8 G.
If budget is not a problem and you’re looking for a high-end/high res. camera, I’d recommend the Sony A1 instead. It’s my current favorite camera for shooting the Milky Way and Astro in general.
This is the best high-res. Nikon camera for Milky Way. The huge dynamic range and low-light performance of this model can take your Milky Way images to the next level. This is also a great camera in terms of battery life, weather sealing, and even autofocus in low-light conditions. If budget is not an issue, I’d go for the new Nikon Z9 instead, which offers more capabilities while maintaining a high number of Mpx. Recommended lens: Nikkor Z 14-24 mm f/2.8 S.
The current mirrorless flagship of the brand, this is one of the best Canon cameras for Milky Way photography. This model is especially recommended if you also shoot landscapes and other genres since it’s a more well-rounded camera compared to the previously discussed Canon EOS RA. The price isn’t cheap and there aren’t many lens options compared to Sony & Nikon, but the low-light capabilities of this camera are superb. Recommended lens: Canon RF 15-35 mm f/2.8.
Usually eclipsed by other brands, not many people talk today about Pentax these days, but they have one of the best DSLR cameras for Milky Way photography on the market. If you still prefer a DSLR camera, this model includes a ton of features for astrophotography, like a night vision LCD screen, and a function called “Astrotracer,” which allows the sensor to track the stars and take super high-quality images of the Milky Way. Recommended lens: Pentax 15-30 mm f/2.8 ED.
Best APS-C cameras for shooting the Milky Way
Any crop-sensor (APS-C) camera can capture the Milky Way, but most of them can’t capture the same quality as full-frame cameras.
These cameras usually struggle in low-light conditions and won’t let you set a high ISO without creating a considerable amount of digital noise in your photographs. They’re usually cheaper and, with a few exceptions, are aimed at beginners and intermediate photographers.
This list shows the best APS-C cameras for Milky Way photography:
- Fujifilm XT-4 (Mirrorless): Based on its price and performance, this camera is aimed at enthusiasts/semi-professionals, and, without a doubt, it’s the best crop sensor camera for shooting the Milky Way. You’ll forget that you’re shooting with an APS-C camera once you see the results in your low-light photographs. Recommended lens: Fujinon XF16mm f/1.4.
- Nikon Z50 (Mirrorless): This is the best APS-C Nikon camera for capturing the Milky Way. Its quality in low-light is on the same level as many basic full-frame cameras. Recommended lens: Nikkor Z 20 mm f/1.8
- Sony a6600 (Mirrorless): The Sony a6500 is the “go-to” Sony camera for Milky Way in the mirrorless APS-C range. It stands out for its performance in low-light conditions and its wide array of lenses. Suggested lens pairing: Rokinon 12mm f/2.0.
- Nikon D7500 (DSLR): The D7500 is a good camera for Milky Way photography in the APS-C DSLR range. It’s cheaper but it can’t beat the low-light performance of the Nikon mirrorless Z50. Recommended lens: Tokina AT-X 11-20mm f/2.8 AF Pro DX.
- Canon 7D Mark II (DSLR): This is one of the best Canon Astro-cameras for shooting the Milky Way. If the 5D Mark IV doesn’t suit your budget, this option offers you good quality for a decent price. Recommended lens: Tokina AT-X 11-20mm f/2.8 AF Pro DX.
Best cheap camera for Milky Way
If you’re looking for the best value for money, these are the best cameras for shooting the Milky Way on a budget:
- Sony Alpha a6000 (Mirrorless): For around $500, you can get a good mirrorless camera for shooting the Milky Way. Together with the Rokinon 12 mm f/2, you’ll have the best cheap camera setup for Milky Way pictures. Recommended lens: Rokinon 12 mm f/2
- Sony A7II (Mirrorless): This is one of the cameras we use, and, to me, it’s the best quality-price mirrorless camera for shooting the Milky Way that you can get on a budget. The price (less than $900) and the results from shooting the Northern Lights and the Milky Way are simply outstanding. Recommended lens: Rokinon 14 mm f/2.8.
Since the release of the new A7IV, there is also a significant markdown in the Sony A7III, which makes it also a great budget-friendly and well-rounded FF camera for Milky Way.
- Nikon D750 (DSLR): This is one of the most well-rounded and quality-priced DSLR cameras ever made. Pair it with a lens like the Rokinon 14 mm f/2.8, and for less than $1800, you’ll have an awesome Milky Way camera setup. Recommended lens: Rokinon 14 mm f/2.8
Best Micro 4/3 Cameras for Milky Way
Most photographers agree that Micro four-thirds cameras aren’t the best cameras for Milky Way photography, particularly because of their inferior performance in low-light situations, and, secondly, because they have fewer options for cheap and fast wide-angle lenses.
Nevertheless, some models are noteworthy, and there are two good Micro 4/3 cameras for Milky Way photography:
- Olympus OM-D E-M1 X (Mirrorless): It’s expensive, and for the same price, you can buy any of the top full-frame cameras for the Milky Way. However, if this camera system is your top choice, this is the best micro 4/3 camera for Milky Way. Recommended lens: Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8.
- Panasonic Lumix G9: This is a cheaper option in the micro four-thirds range. The Lumix G9, paired with a fast, good-quality Milky Way lens, can capture nice Milky Way results. Recommended lens: Leica 12mm f/1.4 Summilux.
Best compact camera for Milky Way Photography
It’s more challenging, but you can also take decent pictures of the Milky Way with a compact camera. For this reason, we had to include the best compact cameras for photographing the Milky Way in this guide.
*Note: Please bear in mind that compact cameras are light and small, but that comes at a price; the built-in lenses usually have a range of 24-70mm and are not the best at capturing light. Even though you can capture nice images, don’t expect the same quality and capabilities as with a standard DSLR/mirrorless camera mounted with a fast lens.
These are the best point and shoot cameras for Milky Way photography:
- Sony rx100 VII: For many reasons, this is the best compact camera to shoot the Milky Way. If you make the most of this camera, you can get even better results than with some entry-level DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, the first version of this camera (Sony rx100) could also work as a compact camera for Milky Way (Just don’t expect the same quality results, especially in terms of detail and digital noise).
- Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II: This Canon point and shoot camera can also capture nice images of the Milky Way. It includes a built-in star mode, perfect for shooting stars and general night photography.
- Panasonic lx100 II: This is one of the newest compact models and a good compact camera for shooting the Milky Way.
Basic camera requirements for Milky Way
To help you decide on your next camera for taking pictures of the Milky Way, I want to highlight a few basics that you should look at regardless of the camera model.
These recommendations also apply to shoot other night photography genres like star trails photography
While looking for a good camera to shoot the Milky Way, make sure that it meets the following basic requirements:
- Shooting in manual mode: This is one of the most important requirements in order to adjust the basic settings for Milky Way photography manually, such as the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.
- Shooting RAW files: Shooting in RAW is key to making the most of your camera and extracting as much detail as possible.
Nowadays, many smartphone cameras can shoot RAW files in manual mode, but that doesn’t mean that they are quality cameras for Milky Way photography. You can also photograph the Milky Way with a GoPro camera, but don’t expect the same results as with a standard digital camera.
Some other things to consider when buying a digital camera for Milky Way photography are:
- Low megapixel count in the largest possible sensor to capture light more efficiently.
- The battery life is important, especially during long Milky Way nights.
- Focus peaking in mirrorless cameras makes focusing much easier.
- Having the opportunity to charge the camera with an external USB is useful for timelapse.
- Having a fully articulated or tilted LCD screen is very convenient in some types of shoots.
- Low Dual ISO and ISO invariance (useful to preserve highlights in advanced Milky Way shootings)
The camera sensor is the most important feature in a Milky Way camera, so I highly recommend you read my guide on the best camera sensor size to see why a big sensor with bigger pixels makes a difference in Milky Way photography!
That’s all! As you can see, shooting with one of the top Milky Way cameras is key for getting the best Milky Way images.
Remember that it doesn’t matter what your budget or skills are; you’ll find a good camera to photograph the Milky Way, and the only thing you need once you have the right camera is to know the best techniques and settings for photographing the Milky Way.
Also, don’t forget that the lens is just as important as the camera you use. You can also check out my guide to the best lenses for Milky Way photography so you can make the most out of your camera.
My last tip before purchasing any camera for Milky Way is to test it out. These cameras are designed for working in low-light conditions and are usually more expensive, so I always recommend giving them a try first.
I personally like to rent a second camera for taking Milky Way time-lapses and video when I take a night photography trip. I always rent with Lensrentals. They operate in the US., and their rentals are affordable and straightforward. Plus, if you rent your equipment through this link and use the Lensrental promo code ATLAS15, you will get a 15% discount.
For example, the one-week rental of a Full Frame Sony a7RIV + a wide-angle fast lens like the Sony 24 mm f/1.4 costs $248. If you decide to buy this equipment, it would cost $4.400.
You can also check out other camera and lens rental companies near you.
I hope this guide helps you choose the best Milky Way camera for your needs. If you aren’t sure if you can shoot the Milky Way with your current camera or you’re hesitant about different models, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to help! 😉
Happy Captures and Clear Skies!
GET THE CALENDAR WITH THE BEST DATES TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MILKY WAY IN 2022
You'll also receive our PDF guide to photographing the Milky Way!