A recent study analyzed the 685 starry shots that had been shortlisted for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest for the past five years, and it came out with some pretty interesting findings and trends.
The Sony A7 III (opens in new tab) was found to be the single most successfully used camera in the 2022 competition (opens in new tab), according to the study by Skies and Scopes (opens in new tab). It also found that Canon cameras had declined from their former top spot in 2018 and 2019, being overtaken by Nikon in 2020 – and it continued to be the preferred camera system in 2021 and 2022, too.
• Looking for the best cameras for astrophotography? (opens in new tab)
That said, Sony came a very close second in this year's contest – and it would be interesting to see if it takes the top spot as the most successfully used system in the 2023 contest.
What's interesting is that manufacturers like Canon and Nikon make dedicated camera bodies for astrophotography, such as Canon's EOS Ra and Nikon's D810A, which have specific IR cut filters for four times the amount of hydrogen-alpha light coming into the sensor for better star shots.
However, this study showed that the top three cameras used in the 2022 contest were the Sony A7 III (opens in new tab) (14%), Sony A7R III (opens in new tab) (11%) and Nikon D850 (opens in new tab) (10%). In fact the only dedicated astro body to make the list this year was the D810A down at 3%, so it would seem that astrophotographers are preferring to buy other camera models and convert them for astro photos themselves.
The study also saw mirrorless cameras becoming more popular than DSLRs in the competition for the first time. DSLR camera usage has fallen from its dominating 83% in 2018 to just 48% this year, while mirrorless use has grown from 17% in 2018 to 52% in 2022, making it marginally the more popular system. This is perhaps an upward trend that will continue to grow as many camera manufacturers have now pulled away from DSLRs to concentrate on mirrorless systems.
In other news, ZWO's dedicated astro cameras were the clear favorite for images of planets, and also the most popular for deep sky imaging. Of all shortlisted images of planets, 47% were taken with a ZWO camera while 19% of the shortlisted planetary shots for the past 5 years have been taken on the ZWO ASI174MM – making it the most popular model for planet close-ups.
Celestron leads the way for planetary images with a massive 40% of all shortlisted planet images being taken on one. This puts it ahead of telescope brands such as Takahashi, Sky-Watcher, and Planewave.
Some 32% of images used a Sky-Watcher telescope mount and the Sky-Watcher EQ8 Pro is the most popular individual model in the last two years. The Sky-Watcher Star adventurer is the most popular camera star tracker (opens in new tab) too.
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