What is the best camera for Milky Way photography (2024)?

By Antoni Cladera

Capturing the majestic beauty of the Milky Way isn't just about finding the darkest spot on the map and pointing your camera skyward. Sure, that's part of it, but there's a lot more that goes into those breathtaking images of our galaxy.

Wondering how photographers manage to capture the Milky Way in all its stellar glory? It's not through digital trickery or complex post-processing techniques.

Just like Saeed Ahmadzadeh, whose stunning Milky Way photograph I've used as the cover of this guide, achieving such awe-inspiring shots starts with three simple, yet crucial steps:

  1. Carefully reading our Milky Way photography guide to learn from our expertise.

  2. Planning the shot with precision using PhotoPills.

  3. Following a consistent shooting workflow.

Seems straightforward, right? Well, while this might sound simple, the devil, as they say, is in the details.

The truth is, capturing the Milky Way also requires some serious thought about your camera gear. From choosing the right camera body to selecting a lens that can gather enough light, the equipment you choose can make or break your night sky photography.

So, what's the best camera for Milky Way photography?

Let's dive in and find out how you can gear up to capture the cosmos like never before.

"The gear you can't afford is not the barrier keeping you from success. Gear has very little to do with photography." - Chase Jarvis

Milky Way: The Definitive Photography Guide

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  1. What is the best camera for Milky Way photography?
  2. How to choose the best camera to capture the Milky Way
  3. Best Nikon camera for Milky Way photography
  4. Best Sony camera to take photos of the Milky Way
  5. Best Canon camera for taking photos of the Milky Way
  6. Best Fujifilm camera for capturing the Milky Way
  7. Best Panasonic camera to take pictures of Milky Way
  8. Best cheap cameras for Milky Way photography
  9. Capturing the Milky Way with a DSLR or mirrorless camera
  10. Photographing the Milky Way with a smartphone
  11. Invest your energy in planning and practicing

1.What is the best camera for Milky Way photography?

man in a human carved cave with milky way behind in Cappadocia, Turkey
Olympus E-M5 Mark III | 7 (14 in 35)mm | f/2.8 (sky), f/6.3 (foreground) | 25s (sky), 60s (foreground) | ISO 3200 (sky), ISO 400 (foreground)
Photo by Zoltan Nagy

"Toni, tell me... What's the best camera for Milky Way photography?"

Don't fret if you think you need to break the bank to capture the Milky Way – that's not necessarily the case! :D

The best camera is the one you have with you.


To capture the Milky Way in all its luminous detail, ensure your camera:

  • Is equipped with a sensor capable of capturing high dynamic range. This means it can handle the extreme contrasts between the darkest and brightest areas of the night sky.
  • Minimizes noise, especially at higher ISO settings, which is crucial for clear, crisp night sky images.
  • Offers good resolution to ensure that the fine details of the stars and the galaxy are visible.
  • Includes some form of stabilization technology to help keep your shots sharp during long exposures.

Through extensive testing and comparison of various camera bodies, here are my top picks for cameras that excel at Milky Way photography:

And remember that you can combine one of these camera bodies with the best lens for shooting the Milky Way.

2.How to choose the best camera for Milky Way photography

milky way rising behind SEESTRASSE while a vehicle is leaving light trails, Switzerland
Canon R (astromodified) | 14mm | f/2.4 | Sky: 5x 60s, f/2.4, ISO 800 Foreground: 5x 30s | Car Trails: 1 x 30s, f/5.6, ISO 400s
Photo by Benjamin Barakat

When choosing the best camera for Milky Way photography, it's crucial to consider not only the camera's capabilities for night sky imaging but also what else you'll use the camera for.

1. The ideal camera for Milky Way shots should offer high low light sensitivity and performance.

I recommend you to have a full frame camera because of its larger sensor size, which captures more light, making it suitable for the low light conditions of Milky Way photography. However, APS-C or Micro 4/3s cameras can also produce acceptable results if budget constraints are an issue.

2. The camera should have a high ISO range.

In this sense, an ISO range of 3200-6400 is typical for Milky Way shots. It should also have minimal noise, and excellent dynamic range to pull details from underexposed sections.

3. Look for a low megapixel count in the largest possible sensor.

Megapixels are less critical; too high a count could actually hinder learning night photography due to issues like star trailing and diffraction. A large sensor with less megapixels will help you to capture light more efficiently.

4. A camera with a good quality LCD screen is important.

Another desirable feature is a quality LCD screen (with the highest possible resolution), ideally one that tilts or articulates, to facilitate composition in the dark.

5. Make sure it has a good battery life.

Photographing the Milky Way requires that you be outside, at night, for a reasonable amount of time.

In very cold weather, batteries produce electricity much more slowly and less efficiently. Your battery can run down extremely quickly and stop powering your camera right in the middle of your shooting session.

3.Best Nikon camera for Milky Way photography

Milky way rising above a dry tree in Parco nazionale del Pollino, Italy
Nikon D850 | 14mm | f/5.6 | 238s | ISO 1600
Photo by Pierandrea Folle

Nikon Z6 II is the best Nikon camera for Milky Way photography.

This camera comes equipped with a 24.2MP full-frame sensor, balancing high resolution with incredible light sensitivity. This balance is crucial for capturing the fine details of the Milky Way without overwhelming the camera's processor.

While the autofocus system may not be the leader in speed, the Nikon Z6 II's AF is more than capable of providing sharp focus in low light conditions, essential when you're aiming at the stars. Although it's slightly behind some competitors in daylight performance, at night, where manual focus is more common, this becomes a non-issue.

Where the Nikon Z6 II really shines is in its low light performance. Its ability to handle high ISO settings without significant noise is impressive. You can comfortably shoot from ISO 100 up to ISO 6400, maintaining excellent dynamic range and detail in both bright stars and dark skies.

Another standout feature is the exposure metering, which is effective all the way down to -6EV, making the Nikon Z6 II nearly clairvoyant in near-darkness. Combined with its robust in-body image stabilization, this camera allows you to take long-exposure shots without the blur, capturing the night sky with stunning clarity.

Nikon's lineup of Z lenses, including several prime and zoom options specifically suited for astrophotography, means that you'll have plenty of high-quality choices for your lens needs. Whether you're sticking with a wide-angle lens for sprawling landscapes or a more focused telephoto to pick out celestial details, the Nikon Z6 II is a superb tool for bringing those night scenes to life.


  • Great for low-light shooting.
  • Excellent weather sealing.
  • Great lens options.


  • No articulating screen.
  • Lots of competition at a similar or lower price.
  • Menu system needs improvement.

4.Best Sony camera to take photos of the Milky Way

vertical milky way behind the Dolmen de Guadalperal in El Gordo (Spain)
Sony a7 III and Sony a7 II (astromodified) | Foreground: Panorama (x4), 14mm f/4, 180s, ISO 1600, 3400K | Sky: Stacking (x10): 24mm, f/2.5, 300s (tracked), ISO 800, custom WB
Photo by José Manuel Galván

One of the standout choices for Milky Way photography is the Sony a7 IV, a great mirrorless camera that combines high resolution with excellent low-light performance.

Equipped with a 33MP full frame sensor, the Sony a7 IV captures images with remarkable detail and clarity. Its back-illuminated sensor enhances its ability to perform in low-light conditions, making it a top pick for night sky enthusiasts. The colors are vibrant, and the images show minimal noise, which is crucial for Milky Way photography.

However, this high resolution does come with a couple of trade-offs.

Firstly, while the Sony a7 IV generally performs well in low light, higher ISO settings can introduce more noise than some of its mirrorless counterparts.

Secondly, its dynamic range is noticeably weaker than the competition once you exceed ISO 400.

Where the Sony a7 IV truly shines is in its autofocus capabilities. It features a sophisticated system with 759 phase-detection points, ensuring sharp focus across a wide area, even in the dim light of a starry night. This makes it exceptionally reliable for capturing the night sky.

For those transitioning from an entry-level DSLR or looking for a camera that excels in both daytime and nighttime photography, the Sony a7 IV is an excellent investment.


  • Fully articulated LCD.
  • Solid build quality.
  • Great EVF.
  • Sensor anti dust function.


  • Complex to set up and use.
  • Overheating issues in some units.

5.Best Canon camera for taking photos of the Milky Way

vertical milky way behind a hill with two human silhouettes far away in Bruneau Dunes State Park, Idaho (USA)
Canon EOS 6D (astromodified) | 50mm | f/2.8 | 30s (tracked) | ISO 3200
Photo by Noel Benadom

The Canon R6 is an exceptional camera that excels in capturing the night sky, especially the Milky Way.

Though it features a 20.1MP sensor, which might not seem overly high by today's standards, it's more than adequate for astrophotography. This resolution strikes the perfect balance between capturing enough detail without overwhelming noise, which is a common issue in many high-resolution cameras.

One of the standout features of the Canon R6 is its phenomenal performance in low light conditions. Its high ISO capabilities allow it to perform exceptionally well under the starlit sky, making it easier to capture the fine details of the Milky Way without significant loss of quality.

Additionally, the camera boasts an impressive autofocus system that remains reliable even in dim conditions, which is crucial for focusing on stars at night. The in-body image stabilization further aids in achieving sharp, clear images by reducing camera shake, a common challenge when shooting long exposures necessary for Milky Way photography.

Overall, the Canon R6 offers a robust package for anyone serious about night photography, providing all the essential features needed to capture the galaxy with clarity and detail.


  • Astonishing low light performance.
  • Excellent autofocus.
  • Outstanding image stabilization.
  • Good value for price.


  • Limited resolution (20.1MP).
  • Limited lens options.
  • Improvable monitor and viewfinder.

6.Best Fujifilm camera for capturing the Milky Way

Milky way from the Cave of Tanggamus Beach, Indonesia
Sony 7r III | 16mm | f/2.8 | 25s | ISO 2000
Photo by Gary Bhaztara

The Fujifilm X-H2S is undeniably a top choice for anyone serious about shooting the Milky Way.

This camera boasts a 26.1MP full frame sensor renowned for its exceptional performance in low-light environments. The sensor design significantly enhances image quality, reduces noise levels, and brings out the best in colors and details – even under the starry night sky.

It features a robust focusing system with 425 phase-detection points, which becomes incredibly useful in low light conditions, being sensitive down to -7EV. This means you can achieve sharp focus on stars even when they're faintly visible.

The built-in 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization is another standout feature, compensating for camera shake by up to 7 stops. This is particularly beneficial for night sky photography, where long exposures are essential, and even slight movements can blur your shot.

In terms of image detail, the Fujifilm X-H2S performs admirably across all sensitivity ranges, capturing the fine details of the Milky Way with clarity and precision.

Additionally, Fujifilm offers an extensive range of high-quality lenses, which are perfect for capturing everything from wide-angle star skies with vast landscapes to detailed close-ups of the Milky Way core.


  • Excellent image quality.
  • Up to 7 stops of stabilization.
  • Good battery life.


  • Costs as much as full frame competitors.
  • May need an optional cooling fan.

7.Best Panasonic camera to take pictures of Milky Way

two human silhouettes facing a vertical milky way in Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife (Spain)
Nikon D5200 | 18mm | f/2.8 | 15s | ISO 3200
Photo by David Novales

The Panasonic S1 is a great choice for Milky Way photography, blending high performance with user-friendly features in a solidly built body.

Unlike some of its rivals that might skimp on low-light capabilities, the Panasonic S1 excels at night. Its 24MP full frame sensor is a perfect sweet spot for astrophotography, offering exceptional detail without piling on too much noise.

What really sets it apart is its extraordinary ability to handle high ISO settings. Noise is barely a concern even at ISO values as high as 12800, making it ideal for capturing the faint glimmers of distant stars.

The dynamic range is equally impressive, allowing significant flexibility in post-processing; you can push your low ISO raw files up to about 5EV without noticeable degradation in image quality.

This camera is not just about its sensor, though. The overall build quality is rugged enough to withstand chilly nights under starlit skies, ensuring that the Panasonic S1 is as durable as it is capable.


  • Stunning image quality.
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilization.
  • Accessible price relative to S1R.


  • Too bulky.
  • No fully-articulated screen.

8.Best cheap cameras for Milky Way photography

frozen lake and snowy mountains with vertical milky way behind in Alpstein, Switzerland
Sony a7 III | 15mm | f/2 | 15s | ISO 3200
Photo by Liana Manukyan

If you think capturing the Milky Way requires an astronomically (pun intended!) high investment in camera gear, think again. You don't need to splash out on the most expensive setup to get spectacular shots of our galaxy. In fact, the camera you already own, paired with a suitable wide angle lens, could very well do the trick.

However, if you're in the market for a great value camera that excels in night sky photography without breaking the bank, here are some top picks:

  • Nikon Z5. This camera is an excellent choice for budget-conscious enthusiasts looking to step into the realm of astrophotography. It boasts a 24.3MP sensor that provides stunning image clarity, even at higher ISO settings (up to ISO 51200) which you'll often rely on for Milky Way photography.
  • Sony a6700. Known for its impressive autofocus system, this camera is also a strong contender. It features a 24.2MP APS-C sensor and offers fantastic image quality in low light conditions, which is crucial for capturing the Milky Way.
  • Canon R8. With its 24.2MP sensor and an expanded ISO range up to 102400, this camera is another affordable option that doesn't skimp on capabilities. It's particularly user-friendly for those who are new to using full frame cameras.

Each of these cameras is equipped with features that are ideal for night photography, such as high ISO capabilities and long exposure settings, making them perfect for shooting the Milky Way.

They are proof that you don't need the most expensive gear to capture the beauty of the night sky – just the right camera with the right features.

9.Capturing the Milky Way with a DSLR or mirrorless camera

Lavender fields and Milky Way in Valensole, France
Sony a7 III | 14mm | f/2.8 | 10s | ISO 6400
Photo by Emiliano Raineri

Have I told you that our motto is "Imagine. Plan. Shoot!"... ;)

That's right.

  1. Imagine. It all begins with the same question: "What story do you want to tell?"

  2. Plan. You can't expect to arrive at a location at any time of the day (or night), put your tripod anywhere, work a bit on your composition and settings and get a jaw-dropping picture. You need to plan your Milky Way shot (with PhotoPills of course).

  3. Shoot! It's finally time to grab your gear and capture that Milky Way shot you've planned so carefully...

Imagine your Milky Way shot after getting inspired (1)

PhotoPills Awards Instagram feed
PhotoPills Awards - Have a quick glance at our Instagram feed to see all the featured images.
PhotoPills Awards photo detail
PhotoPills Awards - If you're interested in a particular photo, tap it to see all the details.

If you need more examples to get inspired, check the PhotoPills Awards where dozens of PhotoPillers like you submit their best Milky Way photos every day.

You'll find them in our Instagram account (follow us!) and in the PhotoPills app (My Stuff Menu > Awards).

But there's more...

Because if you have an amazing shot that you want to be showcased, you can submit your own photos too and help us inspire other PhotoPillers! ;)

Apart from these specific examples, one good source of inspiration is this article I wrote with a selection of the 2023 best Milky Way pictures.

Plan your picture of the Milky Way (2)

PhotoPills Planner showing the Position of the Milky Way on July 29, 2022 at 01:43 am.
PhotoPills Planner - Position of the Milky Way on July 29, 2022 at 01:43 am.
PhotoPills Night Augmented Reality view showing Position of the Milky Way on July 29, 2022 at 01:43 am.
PhotoPills Night Augmented Reality view - Position of the Milky Way on July 29, 2022 at 01:43 am.

You can't expect to arrive at a location at any time of the day (or night), put your tripod anywhere, work a bit on your composition and settings and get an amazing picture.

That's not how it works.

You need to plan your photos.

Planning is always essential but even more so in Milky Way photography.

And this is where PhotoPills comes into play.

It's the best tool to help you plan your Milky Way picture, including the 3 basic pieces of information – the shooting spot, the shooting date and the shooting time.

And now let's have a look at a practical example where Rafa teaches you how to plan you Milky Way shot:

If you want learn how to do it step by step, have a look at my tutorial on how to plan a Milky Way shot.

Time to shoot your Milky Way photo! (3)

Milky way galactic core rising over the Upper Falls, Letchworth State Park, New York, USA
Nikon D810 | 250mm | f/9 | 1/60s | ISO 64
Photo by Arpan Das

To take a great picture of the Milky Way you basically need to follow a simple but effective shooting workflow.

  1. Get to your shooting spot in advance.

  2. Place the tripod at the shooting spot.

  3. Turn off both the lens stabilization system and the long exposure noise reduction feature.

  4. Set the shooting mode to Manual (M).

  5. Set the shortest focal length you can: always <35mm, ideally 14-24mm.

  6. Set the largest aperture you can: between f/1.4 and f/2.8.

  7. Focus at the hyperfocal distance.

  8. Frame using the highest ISO available in your camera.

  9. Adjust the shutter speed using the NPF rule: between 8s and 20s

  10. Fine tune the ISO: keep it between 3200 and 6400

  11. Set the white balance to 3900K.

  12. Take a test shot and check the histogram.

10.Photographing the Milky Way with a smartphone

Milky Way behind Castillo de Zafra, Guadalajara (Spain)
Canon EOS 6D | 150mm | f/9 | 1/60s | ISO 400
Photo by Javier Rosano

Here's a simple guide on how to photograph the Milky Way using just your smartphone, perfect for both iPhone (iOS) and Android devices.

Begin by gathering the necessary equipment which includes:

  • A smartphone capable of manual settings.
  • A sturdy tripod.
  • A remote shutter for stability.
  • Extra batteries or a power bank to keep your phone charged.

Since the light of the Milky Way is relatively soft and weak, you'll need a very long shutter speed. Some smartphones with a high-end sensor come with a camera app that has a manual mode (also called pro mode or professional mode).

But if yours doesn't have this feature, you can always download a dedicated long shutter app.

Long shutter speed apps for iOS:

Long shutter speed app for Android: Motion Pro Cam

Alternatively, you can download a camera app:

Finding the right date and time

To capture the Milky Way with your smartphone, you'll need to plan for a Moonless, cloudless night to ensure the stars are at their brightest.

Use PhotoPills and follow a simple workflow to nail your planning

Finding the right spot

Choose a location far away from city lights to avoid light pollution. Dark sites are ideal as they allow the best visibility of the Milky Way.

Use apps like Dark Sky Finder (iOS) and Light Pollution Map (Android) to locate the darkest skies near you.

Setting up your smartphone

PhotoPills Planner showing the Position of the Milky Way on August 23, 2025 at 12:43 am.
PhotoPills Planner - Position of the Milky Way on August 23, 2025 at 12:43 am.
PhotoPills Night Augmented Reality view showing the Position of the Milky Way on August 23, 2025 at 12:43 am
PhotoPills Night Augmented Reality view - Position of the Milky Way on August 23, 2025 at 12:43 am.

Use the PhotoPills Night Augmented Reality (AR) view to check the position of the Milky Way, the Galactic Center (red dot) and the two crossing points with the horizon (represented by a thin white line on the Planner's map).

And remember that you can swipe the Night AR view to the left to move time forwards, and swipe it to the right to move time backwards.

Now continue with the setup.

A tripod is essential to eliminate camera shake during the long exposure, and a remote shutter prevents any jolts when pressing the shutter button.

So mount the smartphone on the tripod and connect the remote shutter.

Adjust your smartphone camera settings

Once your setup is complete, it's time to adjust your smartphone camera settings:

  1. Manual Settings. Switch to the manual or pro mode on your camera app. You'll need to adjust three main settings:

  • Shutter Speed: Set it between 30 to 60 seconds to capture enough light from the stars.
  • ISO: Keep it between 1600 and 3200. The higher the ISO, the brighter the stars will appear, but this also increases the noise in your photos.
  • Focus: Set the focus manually to infinity to ensure the stars are sharp.
  1. No Flash: Turn off the flash as it's useless in lighting up the night sky.

  2. Image Quality: Opt for RAW format if possible, as it captures more detail and allows for more flexibility in post-processing.

Take the shot

Take multiple shots to increase your chances of capturing a clear image of the Milky Way.

Edit the picture

If you shoot in RAW, you can enhance your photos using software like Photoshop or Lightroom, where you can adjust exposure, contrast, and color settings to bring out the best in your Milky Way shots.

Remember, capturing the Milky Way with a smartphone requires patience and practice, but with the right conditions and settings, you'll be able to take stunning photos of the night sky.

11.Invest your energy in planning and practicing

Let's wrap-up our journey through my selection of the best cameras perfect for Milky Way photography.

We're all enthusiastic about the latest gear, aren't we?

It's exciting to explore the features of new cameras and see how they stack up with various lenses. Chances are, if you've stuck with me this far, you've got a bit of gear acquisition syndrome (GAS) too – always on the lookout for that perfect piece of equipment that promises to capture the Milky Way in all its glory.

And yes, I've pointed you towards some of the best cameras and lenses out there for this very purpose.

But here's a key takeaway that matters even more than owning top-tier gear: becoming a great photographer isn't just about the equipment.

It's about:

  1. Learning everything you can about Milky Way photography.

  2. Practicing your skills under the night sky.

So, while it's great to have the right camera to photograph the Milky Way, remember that the real magic happens when you continuously learn and practice. Dive into resources that teach you how to plan your Milky Way shots, master several shooting techniques, and understand what seasoned Milky Way photographers do to capture those stunning images.

Instead of getting lost in specifications and new product releases, invest your energy in planning your shoots and venturing out into the night to practice capturing the Milky Way.

And never stop learning; it's the most valuable advice I can offer.

So grab your gear, step out under the stars, and let the universe be your guide.

Happy shooting!


Antoni Cladera is a landscape photographer commited to the environment. Artist of the Spanish Confederation of Photography and member of the Spanish Association of Nature Photographers (AEFONA). He's part of the PhotoPills Team.

Special thanks to Sandra Vallaure, a great photographer and friend, for her tremendous help in making this article possible.

Note: Some links on this page are affiliate links. What does this mean? If you buy/rent using these links you're helping support us and it costs you nothing extra. Thank you for your support.

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