EN
JP

From the moon and planets to distant nebulae and galaxies, a variety of astronomical subjects in the night sky are yours to be captured. Nikon’s digital cameras are available in three categories. We’ll guide you through them so that you can pick a model most appropriate for the subject’s characteristics, to produce images of the cosmos like you’ve never seen.

Nikon digital SLR cameras

The larger image sensor of digital SLR cameras compared to that of Nikon 1 or COOLPIX cameras means it is able to receive faint light from the stars effectively, resulting in brilliant images. They are ideal for almost any category of astrophotography.

Nikon 1-series Advanced Cameras with Interchangeable Lenses

The Nikon 1 J5 featuring backside illumination image sensor is the best option for astrophotography use. The camera’s compact and lightweight body makes an excellent companion for casual shooting of the stars, and despite the smaller size, its image sensor size is more than adequate to produce beautiful images of the starry sky.

Nikon COOLPIX compact digital cameras

Compact cameras in general are not recommended for shooting star clusters or nebulae, but the COOLPIX P900 and P610 are exceptions. The power of their super-telephoto zoom rivals that of astronomical telescopes, achieving amazing close ups of the moon and even capturing images of the planets.

Astrophotography matching chart – Nikon’s recommended cameras

The following combinations of astronomical subjects and cameras are discussed on this website. ( indicates discussed topics)

Camera Subject

Nikon digital SLR
cameras

Nikon 1-series
Advanced Cameras
with Interchangeable
Lenses

COOLPIX compact
digital cameras

Nebulae, star clusters, and distant galaxies

(Dim)


  • FX format is ideal.
  • DX format is recommended for beginners.
  • D810A especially suits star clusters, nebulae and galaxies that emit H-alpha wavelengths.

Lens (optical system):

Telephoto lens or a telescope

Skill:

Advanced

Subjects can be captured.

Digital SLR cameras offer better image quality.

Not suitable.

Constellations

(Dim and widely spread)

  • FX format is ideal.
  • DX format is recommended for beginners.

Lens:

Fast normal to wide-angle lens

Skill:

Beginner to advanced

Nikon 1 J5 is recommended.

Lens:

Fast normal to wide-angle lens

Skill:

Beginner to advanced

P900 and P610 that enable time-lapse movie in-camera are recommended.

Moon

(Bright)

P900 and P610 feature an easy-to-use [Moon] mode. It is also possible to capture the moon in a variety of ways in manual mode.

No telescope is required.

Skill:

Beginner to advanced

Planets(Jupiter and Saturn)

(Bright and small)

P900 and P610’s ultra-high-power zoom enables you to challenge shooting the planets.

No telescope is required.

Skill:

Intermediate to advanced

Nikon’s digital cameras bring their powers into play in astrophotography.

Nikon’s digital cameras bring their powers into play not just in general photographic shooting, but also in the field of astrophotography. In this section we introduce Nikon digital cameras’ useful, convenient and Nikon-exclusive features for astrophotography, followed by a features introduction of Nikon digital SLR cameras, the Nikon 1 J5, and the COOLPIX P900 and P610.

Useful features

Sufficient number of effective pixels on the image sensor

Generally speaking, excellent high ISO sensitivity performance and a large number of effective pixels are regarded as advantageous factors for astrophotography. All the current Nikon digital SLR cameras feature over 15 megapixels. A wide variation of effective pixels from 16.2 megapixels in the FX format providing superior high sensitivity performance with a large pixel pitch, to 36.3 megapixels for capturing ultra-high-definition images of star field is available.

Superb performance at high ISO sensitivity

High image quality after long exposure time at high sensitivity is required. By setting the camera with a high ISO sensitivity, a fast shutter speed can be used to achieve correct exposure. This allows easy shooting of the starry sky with the fixed-mount method for beginners.

Bulb/Time shooting capability

Long-exposures are commonly used in astrophotography to accumulate faint light from the stars. For an exposure time over 30 seconds, the camera needs to be set to Bulb or Time.
- With Bulb setting, the shutter remains open while the shutter-release button is being pressed, and it closes with the release of the button.
- With Time setting, the shutter opens with a single full-press of the shutter-release button, then it closes with another full press.

Remote control support

Preventing camera shake is of the utmost importance in astrophotography. It is best practice to use a remote control or remote cord to release the shutter, and avoid pushing it with your finger. You could also set the camera to exposure delay mode to the same effect. This also allows you to set a long exposure time over 30 seconds (and over 900 seconds with the D810A), which cannot be set up with the camera alone.
- The self-timer function is useful for cameras like the D3300 which do not feature the exposure delay mode.

RAW-format support

With astrophotography, a workflow including the post-processing of images from RAW format is normally employed. To capture the Milky Way and star clusters and nebulae, it is recommended to shoot images in RAW for later adjustments.

Focal length/Optical zoom (COOLPIX P900/P610)

Shooting the moon or planets normally requires an astronomical telescope, but the COOLPIX P900’s and P610’s optical zoom lenses cover the range of 2,000mm (with 83x) and 1,400mm (60x), respectively*. It is a great advantage in astrophotography that you can shoot those distant subjects at a large scale without using a telescope.
- Digital zoom feature allows even higher magnification of up to 4x the maximum focal length, which lets you shoot with an angle of view matching approx. 8,000mm (P900) and 5,760mm (P610)*.
*35mm format equivalent

Wide maximum aperture (COOLPIX P900/P610)

A lens with a larger maximum aperture is recommended for shooting the moon or planets because stopping down the aperture excessively may cause deterioration of resolution. The P900’s and P610’s zoom lenses each feature the maximum aperture of f/6.5 at the telephoto end. Using a wide aperture helps you to shoot with a shorter exposure time.

Convenient features

Body weight

A lightweight camera body will be an advantage because the smaller total weight means that the system (with the lens and mount head) can be easily mounted onto a portable tracking mount, which is becoming popular in astrophotography.

High ISO NR (noise reduction)

Effectively reduces noise (image grain) at the higher ISO sensitivity range.

Long exposure NR

Effectively reduces noise (unevenness and bright spots) that occurs during long-exposure astrophotography.
- The time required for processing the image roughly doubles the exposure time when long exposure NR is enabled.

Adjustable LCD monitor

A tilting or vari-angle LCD monitor allows you to check your composition, focus status and captured shots easily, even when the camera is pointed directly up at the sky.

Virtual horizon display

This is convenient in star landscape shooting for checking if the camera is level. Cameras with a built-in virtual horizon allow you to adjust the level even in the dark.

Nikon’s original features

Interval-timer photography function

Allows shooting of consecutive still image frames for producing time-lapse movies. The camera shutter releases at a set interval up to 999 or 9,999 times, depending on the camera. (With the COOLPIX P900 and P610 you can only select the interval time via presets.)

Time-lapse movie function

Allows in-camera creation of time-lapse movies without the need of special software.

Exposure smoothing function

This smoothes out the exposure fluctuations between the frames in both interval-timer and time-lapse movie shooting. This helps production of smooth time-lapse movies with little flickering when shooting sunrise or sunset in auto-exposure mode (P/S/A). This function can also be enabled in exposure mode M (manual).

Moon mode (only with the COOLPIX P900/P610)

Shooting the moon beautifully in a large scale is not an easy task if you’re not familiar with it. The COOLPIX P900’s and P610’s Moon mode lets you photograph the moon’s surface dramatically with easy settings. Guide the moon into the framing border at the wide-angle end and a simple press of the OK button lets you zoom into the subject to the extreme telephoto end equivalent to 2,000 mm. You can also adjust hue to reddish or bluish color, and change brightness using exposure compensation.

H-alpha support (exclusive to the D810A)

The light-transmission characteristics of the IR-cut filter is altered to suit astrophotography shooting. Brilliantly reproduces nebulae that emit H-alpha wavelengths in red.

Long-exposure manual (M*) mode (exclusive to the D810A)

Allows extra-long exposure time without the need to set the camera to Bulb or Time mode. Available exposure times are 60, 120, 180, 240, 300, 600 and 900 seconds.

Virtual horizon display that remains lit in red in the viewfinder (exclusive to the D810A)

The virtual horizon indicators remain lit in red in the viewfinder when in the Long-exposure manual (M*) mode (in other modes, the indicator turns off immediately). This helps adjust the camera’s level during star landscape shooting.

From star landscapes and star fields to star clusters and nebulae, capture them with expanded versatility

- Nikon digital SLR cameras with a NIKKOR lens or a telescope

The Milky Way shot with the Nikon D5500 [fixed-mount shooting]

Takayuki Yoshida

Lens: AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II (shot at 18 mm)
Image quality: 14-bit RAW (NEF)
Exposure: [M] mode, 45 seconds, f/3.5
High ISO NR/Long exposure NR: Low/On
White balance: Auto
Sensitivity: ISO 3200

The diurnal rotation around the Polar star captured with the Nikon D750 [fixed-mount shooting]

Takayuki Yoshida

Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 20mm f/1.8G ED
Image quality: 14-bit RAW (NEF)
Exposure: [M] mode, 10 minutes, f/6.3
High ISO NR/Long exposure NR: Low/On
White balance: Auto
Sensitivity: ISO 800

Star time-lapse movies shot with a Nikon digital SLR camera

Summer Milky Way setting into the horizon [time-lapse movie]

Takayuki Yoshida

Camera: D750
Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED (shot at 14mm)

Test-shoot settings (still images):

Exposure: [M] mode, 15 seconds, f/3.5
High ISO NR/Long exposure NR: Normal/Off
White balance: Color temperature (4500K)
Sensitivity: ISO 6400 (Auto ISO sensitivity control OFF)

Movie settings:

Frame size/frame rate: 1920x1080/30p
Movie quality: high quality

Time-lapse movie settings:

Interval: 20 seconds
Shooting time: 2 hours
Exposure smoothing: Off

The Pleiades and Orion rising from the east [interval-timer photography]

Takayuki Yoshida

Camera: D750
Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 24mm f/1.4G ED

Test-shoot settings (still images):

Image quality: 14-bit RAW (NEF)
Exposure: [M] mode, 15 seconds, f/2.8
High ISO NR/Long exposure NR: Normal/Off
White balance: Color temperature (4500K)
Sensitivity: ISO 6400 (Auto ISO sensitivity control OFF)

Interval-timer photography settings:

Start: Now Interval: 20 seconds
No. of shots: 1000x1 (aborted at 644 shots due to rain)
Exposure smoothing: Off

Post-shoot image processing:

Captured RAW images are developed using third-party image-processing software. After adjusting white balance, the hue of passing clouds is lowered, then the brightness of the stars is enhanced using sharp filter. Processed files are then saved into JPEG format to composite them into a time-lapse movie using another third-party software.

Tips

Time-lapse movie function (automatic production in-camera)

Fix your composition with still-image test shots before you start movie recording.

  1. (1) Adjust Picture Control according to your preference.
  2. (2) Determine exposure (shutter speed/aperture/ISO sensitivity).
  3. (3) Set white balance.
  4. (4) Take test shots with still images.
  5. (5) Start time-lapse movie recording.

Interval-timer photography function (a time-lapse movie is produced after shooting using third-party software)

Shooting composite frames in RAW file format allows you to adjust Picture Control, exposure and white balance flexibly.

The time-lapse movie function is an easy way to enjoy producing time-lapse movies, while the interval-timer photography function allows a greater freedom to create elaborate movies reflecting your intentions.

Nikon’s original exposure-smoothing function helps produce time-lapse movies with smooth brightness change
Click here for the exposure-smoothing function

From sunset to moonlight night [time-lapse movie]

Takayuki Yoshida

Camera: D750
Lens: AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED (shot at 20 mm)

Test-shoot settings (still images):

Exposure: [A] mode, f/6.3
High ISO NR/Long exposure NR: Normal/Off
White balance: Color temperature (4500K) Sensitivity: ISO 100 (Auto ISO sensitivity control: ON [up to ISO 6400])

Movie settings:

Frame size/frame rate: 1920x1080/30p
Movie quality: high quality

Time-lapse movie settings:

Interval: 15 seconds
Shooting time: 2 hours
Exposure smoothing: On

Recommended Nikon digital SLR cameras

Nikon offers a full range of digital SLR cameras from compact and lightweight DX-format cameras that deliver enough capability for stellar sky shooting, to the large FX-format cameras with image sensors that can collect even faint light from the stars for sharp depiction.

Useful features
Convenient features
Nikon’s original features

— D3300

Take this compact and lightweight body to night-sky shootings. Supports long-exposure shots over 30 seconds.

24.2 MP

ISO
100-12800

Bulb
Time

RAW

MC-DC2 Remote Cord
ML-L3 Remote Control

Approx. 460 g*

Noise
reduction

*Body weight with a battery and SD memory card, excluding the body cap.

— D5500

The vari-angle LCD monitor offers a comfortable experience in night-sky shooting. Equipped with interval-timer photography function.

24.2 MP

ISO
100-25600

Bulb
Time

RAW

MC-DC2 Remote Cord
ML-L3 Remote Control

Approx. 470 g *

High ISO NR

Long exposure NR

Vari-angle LCD monitor

Interval-timer photography
up to 9,999 frames (exposure smoothing)

*Body weight with a battery and SD memory card, excluding the body cap.

— D7200

Sharply depicts the stellar sky with minimal noise. Supports creating time-lapse movies in-camera.

24.2 MP

ISO
100-25600

Bulb
Time

RAW

MC-DC2 Remote Cord
ML-L3 Remote Control

High-ISO NR

Long exposure NR

Virtual horizon

Time-lapse movie
(Exposure smoothing)

Interval-timer photography
(exposure smoothing) (up to 9,999 frames)

— D610

The FX-format image sensor captures the starry sky with rich gradation. Highly mobile body allows snappy shooting.

24.3 MP

ISO
100-6400

Bulb
Time (using ML-L3)

RAW

MC-DC2 Remote Cord
ML-L3 Remote Control

High ISO NR

Long exposure NR

Virtual horizon

Time-lapse movie

Interval-timer photography
(up to 999 frames)

— D750

Tilting LCD monitor allows comfortable focusing for night-sky shooting. Delivers superior performance even in astrophotography.

24.3 MP

ISO
100-12800

Bulb
Time

RAW

MC-DC2 Remote Cord
ML-L3 Remote Control

High ISO NR

Long exposure NR

Tilting LCD monitor

Virtual horizon

Time-lapse movie
(Exposure smoothing)

Interval-timer photography
up to 9,999 frames (exposure smoothing)

— Df

High sensitivity performance rivals Nikon’s flagship cameras. Sharply renders the stars with the FX format.

16.3 MP

ISO
100-12800

Bulb
Time

RAW

MC-DC2 Remote Cord

High ISO NR

Long exposure NR

Virtual horizon

Interval-timer photography
(up to 999 frames)

— D810A

Captures red mysteries of the cosmos with ultra-high definition. A digital SLR camera designed exclusively for astrophotography.

36.4 MP

ISO
200-12800

Bulb
Time

RAW

MC-36A/MC-30A/MC-22A Remote Cord
ML-3 Modulite Remote Control Set

High ISO NR

Long exposure NR

Virtual horizon

H-alpha supported

Time-lapse movie
(Exposure smoothing)

Interval-timer photography
up to 9999 frames (Exposure smoothing)

Long-exposure manual (M*) mode

Virtual horizon display
remains lit in red in the viewfinder

— D810

Experience the ultimate in astrophotography with 36.3 megapixels – the highest resolution amongst Nikon digital SLR cameras.

36.3 MP

ISO
64-12800

Bulb
Time

RAW

MC-36A/MC-30A/MC-22A Remote Cord
ML-3 Modulite Remote Control Set

Long exposure NR

High ISO NR

Virtual horizon

Time-lapse movie
(Exposure smoothing)

Interval-timer photography
up to 9999 frames (Exposure smoothing)

— D4S

Capturing stars with a flagship camera that provides superior performance at high ISO sensitivity and withstands harsh conditions.

16.2 MP

ISO
100-25600

Bulb
Time

RAW

MC-36A/MC-30A/MC-22A Remote Cord
ML-3 Modulite Remote Control Set

Long exposure NR

High ISO NR

Virtual horizon

Time-lapse movie
(Exposure smoothing)

Interval-timer photography
up to 9999 frames (Exposure smoothing)

Capturing the starry sky brilliantly with Nikon 1 J5

The Milky Way shot with Nikon 1 J5 [fixed-mount shooting]

Takayuki Yoshida

Lens: 1 NIKKOR 18.5mm f/1.8
Image quality: 12-bit RAW (NEF)
Exposure: [M] mode, 30 seconds, f/2.0
High ISO NR/Long exposure NR: Off/On
White balance: Auto
Sensitivity: ISO 1600

The great summer triangle shot with a Nikon 1 J5 and a fast wide-angle lens [fixed-mount shooting]

Takayuki Yoshida

Lens: 1 NIKKOR 10mm f/2.8
Image quality: 12-bit RAW (NEF)
Exposure: [M] mode, 30 seconds, f/3.2
High ISO NR/Long exposure NR: Off/On
White balance: Auto
Sensitivity: ISO 3200

Useful features
Convenient features
Nikon’s original features

— Nikon 1 J5

20.1 MP

ISO
160-12800

Bulb
(up to 2 min.)

RAW

Approx. 265g*

High ISO NR

Long exposure NR

Tilting LCD monitor

Time-lapse movie

Interval-timer
photography

* Body weight with a battery and micro SD memory card, excluding the body cap

The Nikon 1 J5 features 20.8 effective megapixels, with a backside illumination CMOS image sensor. The camera sharply depicts the stars even at higher sensitivities due to the efficient way it captures light. The camera’s tilting LCD monitor offers excellent usability in astrophotography for easily checking the monitor even when the lens is pointed directly up at the sky. It also features a time-lapse movie function that allows you to create great time-lapse movies in-camera, without the need for specialized software.

Tips

When you mount a 1 NIKKOR or NIKKOR lens to a Nikon 1 camera body, the angle of view becomes equivalent to that of a lens with a 2.7 times focal length in the 35mm format. For example, the 1 NIKKOR VR 6.7-13mm f/3.5-5.6 becomes an 18-35mm-equivalent lens, and the 1 NIKKOR VR 30-110mm f/3.8-5.6 becomes an 81-297mm-equivalent lens, respectively. You can shoot expansive shots of a star landscape at the wide-angle-end 18mm equivalent, or zoomed in shots of the stars at the telephoto-end near 300mm. Choose your lens according to what you plan to shoot.

Capture the bright shine of the moon and the planets splendidly – the COOLPIX P900/P610

Shot with the COOLPIX P900 with the scene mode set to ‘Moon’

Lucas Gilman

Focal length: Approx. 2000 mm equivalent (in 35mm format) Scene mode: Moon
Exposure: 1/500 second, f/6.5
Sensitivity: Auto
Lens servo: Single-servo AF (AF-S)
White balance: Auto
COOLPIX Picture Control: Standard
Vibration Reduction (VR): Off

The moon’s craters shot using the COOLPIX P900’s ultra-high-power zoom

Yasuteru Yamano

Focal length: 5200 mm equivalent (in 35mm format/with 2.6x digital zoom)
Focus mode: Manual
Exposure: 1/80 second, f/6.5
Sensitivity: ISO 100
Focus mode: Manual
White balance: Direct sunlight
COOLPIX Picture Control: Standard
Vibration Reduction (VR): Off

Equipped with a ready-to-use, Time-lapse movie function

Shot using the COOLPIX P900 with the Time-lapse movie option set to 'Night sky'.

Junichi Noguchi

Shot using the COOLPIX P900 with the Time-lapse movie option set to 'Star trails'.

Junichi Noguchi

Useful features
Convenient features
Nikon’s original features

— COOLPIX P900

16.1 MP

ISO
100-6400

83x optical zoom

24-2000 mm focal length
(35mm format equivalent)

f/2.8-6.5 maximum
aperture

ML-L3 Remote
Control

Vari-angle LCD monitor

Time-lapse movie

Interval-timer
photography

Moon mode

Boasting an 83x ultra-high-power optical zoom, the P900 is a good option for astrophotography with its vari-angle LCD monitor. Its maximum focal length of 2000 mm (35mm format equivalent), which is almost in the class of astronomical telescopes, enables you to clearly capture the moon’s craters. For beginners, the camera also features a convenient [Moon] mode for capturing the moon in a magnified view. Also, you can create time-lapse movies of the night sky with beautiful star trails with easy setup. For aspiring users, the P900 offers the potential to attempt images of Jupiter’s bands or Saturn’s rings.

— COOLPIX P610

16.1 MP

ISO
100-6400

60x optical zoom

24-1440 mm focal length
(35mm format equivalent)

f/3.3-6.5 maximum
aperture

Vari-angle LCD
monitor

Time-lapse movie

Interval-timer
photography

Moon mode

The compact and lightweight P610 features a 60x ultra-high-power optical zoom. It is also equipped with a vari-angle LCD monitor that proves useful for astrophotography shooting. Also, the focal length extends to whopping super-telephoto range of 1440 mm equivalent (in 35mm format). The camera also features a convenient [Moon] mode for shooting the moon in a magnified view. In addition, you can create time-lapse movies of the night sky with beautiful star trails with easy setup.