With all the fanfare this past year over the latest developments in camera technology, it's easy to get caught up in gear envy. And that's completely natural. But what if there's a better camera out there that most of us have forgotten about?
With landscape astrophotography in particular, it’s easy to covet the new cameras on the horizon, in the hopes that they will be more sensitive, better performing under low-light conditions, and have higher resolutions. In doing so, we may have relegated some cameras to the trash-heap far too soon.
In this eye-opening video, astrophotographer Alyn Wallace proposes that the best budget camera for landscape astrophotography is a 10-year-old relic, the Canon 6D. Originally released in November of 2012, the 6D was Canon's budget entry into full-frame DSLRs, coming in at $1,500 less than the 5D Mark III, which had been released eight months earlier. Alyn brings up some important data from the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition, which points out that the Canon 6D has been the most popular camera in the competition for at least the last three years, even beating out the most dedicated astronomy cameras! That's no small feat, considering the age of the camera and its competition.
So, what do these professional astrophotographers know that the rest of us don't? The secret can be broken down into three parts. First, the sensor in the 6D is full frame, with a rather large pixel width of 6.55 µm, which helps its low-light performance. Second, the Canon EF range of lenses is vast, meaning photographers have a wide variety of superb optics to choose from. And thirdly, the 6D is relatively cheap, both to buy secondhand and to modify. A cursory check of eBay finds dozens of 6Ds for sale under $500. And the astro modification service Alyn mentions in the video can be done for around $200.
I missed the boat on the 6D. I had already purchased a 5D Mark III by the time the 6D was announced, so I am one of the many who completely disregarded this camera. But if you are lucky enough to still have one or have $500 knocking about and want to get into landscape astrophotography, now may be the time. Scoop one up and go capture the stars!