The best astrophotographers in the world mostly use Nikon cameras

Astronomy Photographer of the Year
The Starry Sky Over the World’s Highest National Highway © Yang Sutie (Image credit: Yang Sutie)

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 was found to be the single most successfully used camera in the 2022 competition, according to the study by Skies and Scopes. 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. 

Sony's A7 III was the top camera used in the 2022 Astronomy POTY, with 14% of shortlisted images taken on one (Image credit: Sony)

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 (14%), Sony A7R III (11%) and Nikon D850 (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 Jovian Family © Damian Peach (Image credit: Damian Peach)

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.

Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2 (Image credit: Sky Watcher)

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 too.

You might also like these guides:

Best camera for astrophotography
Best telescope for astrophotography
Best CCD camera for astrophotography
Best lenses for astrophotography
Best star tracker mounts for astrophotography
Best equatorial mounts

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Dan Mold
Deputy Editor

Deputy Editor on PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine, Dan also brings his technical wizardry and editing skills to Digital Camera World. He has been writing about all aspects of photography for over 10 years, having previously served as technical writer and technical editor for Practical Photography magazine, as well as Photoshop editor on Digital Photo

Dan is an Adobe-certified Photoshop guru, making him officially a beast at post-processing – so he’s the perfect person to share tips and tricks both in-camera and in post. Able to shoot all genres, Dan provides news, techniques and tutorials on everything from portraits and landscapes to macro and wildlife, helping photographers get the most out of their cameras, lenses, filters, lighting, tripods, and, of course, editing software.