Canon has been dethroned as the king of astrophotography!

© Katie McGuinness
Close Encounters of The Haslingden Kind © Katie McGuinness | Taken with a Sony ILCE-7M4 camera, 20 mm f/4, ISO 160 (Image credit: © Katie McGuinness)

Canon, once the undisputed king of award-worthy astrophotography, has been dethroned after ruling the roost for almost half a decade. An annual study has gathered data on the last six years of shortlisted images from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest. By analyzing a whopping 828 images, it found some pretty interesting results and trends.

The study has shown that over the past six years, the Canon EOS 6D has been the most used camera – and Canon was the most-used brand overall. However, over the past two years, it has been surpassed by Nikon and Sony, with the Sony A7 III and the Nikon Z6 II being the most successful mirrorless cameras in the competition, with a significant overall increase in mirrorless bodies being used. 

A similar study published in 2018 showed that the percentage of mirrorless camera users stood at 17%, but this year has seen that figure rise to 58% – a significant increase that replicates the movement to mirrorless observed in other fields of photography.

Nikon Z6 II - One of the most used mirrorless camera's for the Astrophotographer of the Year (Image credit: Digital Camera World)

The information comes from the study published by Astro website Skies & Scopes, which analyzed the images entered in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year Competition operated by Royal Museums Greenwich in the UK. 

By examining the 828 shortlisted images over the past 6 years, it collated data on the all gear used – cameras, lenses, telescopes, and more have been tracked and plotted on graphs to provide useful information to other Astro enthusiasts to find the best equipment for taking photographs of space.

Full frame cameras are the most used and the most successful, the study finds, with a staggering 87% compared to APS-C at 13%. This is to be expected, as the full-frame sensor size allows for greater coverage of light, allowing it to perform more successfully in low light. This is even more evident when narrowing down the category to Landscape Astrophotography where full-frame cameras amount to 97% of the images.

Sigma 14mm f/1.4 DG DN Art lens (Image credit: Sigma)

Sigma leads the way in the lens category, with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art and 14mm f/2.8 and lenses being the most used for landscape astrophotography. Perhaps this is another reason that Canon is losing ground in the mirrorless battle, as the RF mount is still effectively (well, selectively) closed to third parties. 

Other standout results from the article include:

• ZWO cameras lead for both planetary and deep sky imaging with the successful planetary cameras being the ZWO ASI174MM and ZWO ASI178MM.

Celestron is the most successful telescope manufacturer overall, with the most successful planetary imaging telescopes being named Celestron C11 and C14 Schmidt-Cassegrains.

There are also results regarding the most common and successful star trackers, deep-sky telescopes, and telescope mounts.

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year provides an array of stunning images showcasing the beauty of our solar system. You can see last year's winners at an exhibition at Royal Museums Greenwich

Take a look at the best cameras for astrophotography, and make sure to pair them with the best lenses for astrophotography. If you're more interesting in looking than shooting, check out the best telescopes for astrophotography and the best binoculars for astronomy.

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Kalum Carter
Staff Writer

Kalum Carter is a UK-based photographer, writer, and photo editor. Kalum has been working as a freelance photographer for the best part of ten years, covering a wide range of assignments for well-known brands and publications in areas including portraiture, fashion, and documentary. 

Between commercial assignments, Kalum is currently working on a personal photography project exploring his connection to the Gower region of South Wales UK, as part of an MA in Photography from The University of West England.