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Almost all of the DSLR cameras that have been produced by Canon and Nikon in the last couple of years are great for astrophotography.

For long-exposure deep-sky astrophotography, the most important things to look for in a DSLR camera are low noise, high sensitivity and a good signal-to-noise ratio in the final output data.

Usability features, like live-view focusing and single-cable operation are also very attractive features to consider for astrophotography when choosing a camera.

I generally recommend Canon DSLR cameras over Nikon because of Canon's proven performance, low-noise characteristics, and ease of use. But if you already have a Nikon system, there are some Nikon cameras, particularly the latest generation, that are good for astrophotography also.

Here is a simple way to pick a really good Canon or Nikon DSLR camera for long-exposure deep-sky astrophotography - select one that has Live View.

This will greatly help you in focusing your camera on the stars, and it will automatically give you a late-generation camera with great signal-to-noise characteristics.

My web page Nikon and Canon DSLR Cameras Compared has the latest up-to-date camera information about available models.

In making your decision, you will have to choose between price, performance, and features. Newer cameras all have good signal-to-noise ratios and also have very attractive features like live-view focus.

For general daytime photography and some fun astrophotography, try an unmodified stock camera. If you get really serious later about long-exposure deep-sky astrophotography of red emission nebulae, you can have your camera modified or pick up a Canon 60Da.

How Much Do You Want to Spend?

Pick a budget and stick to it. Don't forget to include money in your budget for things such as camera-to-telescope adapters. You'll almost certainly want an inexpensive remote interval timer. Luckily, you can get by on a reasonably frugal budget to get started.

Even with an unlimited budget, it still requires dedication and expertise to excel. Be prepared to invest your time in learning the craft of astrophotography.

As the DSLR market matures, real bargains are now available in previous generation models that are no longer being manufactured. These cameras can be found for sale used on Ebay, Astromart and at reputable camera stores like B&H, Adorama and KEH.

It is also possible to buy "refurbished" cameras at significant discounts. These are cameras that have been returned to the manufacturer for one reason or another, usually because they have not been sold by dealers. They are thoroughly checked out and re-sold. Canon even offers a full one-year warranty on them. These are what I usually buy. You can buy these refurbished cameras directly from Canon.

Note that the older models that were manufactured before about 2004 were relatively high noise. Be careful about really early generation cameras, such as the Canon 10D, which use USB1 which takes a really long time to download images. These cameras will also have higher thermal noise and worse amp glow. Again, any camera with Live View is probably going to be a good camera for astrophotography.

Astrophotography of Red Hydrogen-Emission Nebulae

For serious long-exposure deep-sky astrophotography, most of the latest generation of low-noise DSLR cameras are excellent for objects such as star clusters, blue reflection nebulae, and galaxies. The problem with stock cameras is that they almost all have a low-pass, long-wavelength filter that makes them poor at recording hydrogen-alpha light in red emission nebulae, as we have discussed previously.

Luckily, for those astrophotographers who love emission nebulae, there are two solutions to this problem. One is the Canon 60Da which is specifically designed for astrophotography right out of the box. It has a modified filter that passes 3 times more of the hydrogen-alpha wavelength compared to a normal 60D, making it very good for emission nebula. It also offers a live focusing mode with 5x and 10x magnification. The Canon 60Da is also good for normal daytime photography.

The other solution is to replace the manufacturer's long-wavelength filter in a stock camera. Several third party vendors offer this service, such as Hap Griffin, Gary Honis, and Andy Ellis in the UK. Other companies such as Maxmax and LifePixel also offer modified cameras for daytime infrared work, but with filters that should also work for astrophotography.

All of the latest DSLR cameras made by Canon and Nikon are excellent for daytime photography and nighttime astrophotography of galaxies, blue reflection nebulae, and star clusters.

For the best long-exposure astrophotography of red emission nebula, you will need a Canon 60Da or a modified camera.

The quality of astrophoto images produced with the latest generation of DSLR cameras is now more dependent on the expertise of the photographer using them than by any limitations of the cameras themselves.

The latest models usually offer the best performance characteristics in terms of the lowest noise and latest and greatest technology, but will cost the most. The sweet spot in the price-to-performance ratio is usually found in camera models that are one generation older than the current models. Seriously consider a refurbished model if you want a great deal on a great camera.

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