The Camera – Nikon D5300

One thing I have realized, is that starting out astrophotography with your 10 year old underwater imaging gear leaves something to be desired. A lot in fact.

I had a Nikon D300 which was in awesome shape, and most of the articles online about starting in astrophotography recommend using the gear you have. However, while the D300 is built like a tank, there are a few issues

  • It needs a serial cable (yes, you read that right) for remote-control of the BULB mode.
  • It’s heavy
  • It’s noisy

The bulb-mode issue was really the big one for me. At first when I heard about apps like Backyard EOS/Nikon or Astrophotography tool, I wondered “Why bother” — why not just get a physical intervalometer and use that ?

Then I used APT and realized the power these tools bring, even for people like me, using just a star tracker. Just to list a few

  • Planning and sequencing
  • Help with light frames, dark frames & Bias
  • Plate solving
  • Focus aids

The problem being that for any non “Single shot” exposure over around five seconds, APT uses BULB mode. Which needs the serial cable. Which I don’t have. You can either build your own (non-starter) or get one here.

I really didn’t feel like sinking more money into an ancient camera, plus having one more cable that can fail and jam things up, so I decided to bit the bullet and get a new camera

Every blog post I read seemed to be recommending the Nikon D5300 or a budget Canon camera. This seemed somewhat counter-intuitive, — why go to a budget camera from the sturdy D300 — but ultimately makes sense.

Are there better cameras than the D5300 ? Yes. Do they cost more (quite a lot more?) some of them do.

Are they hugely better than the D5300 ? For a beginner, probably not.

Would a dedicated astro-cam be better ? Most likely, but much harder to setup and manage, and as a beginner there are so many things to learn that dealing with a camera that needs a laptop just to operate is one more headache.

Do many people give up on astrophotography having sunk a lot of money into gear they have a hard time utilizing ? Probably/possibly

So in the end it made sense, even though the build quality is not the same as a pro-sumer or full-frame camera. For the money, for a beginner like me, the price / performance of the Nikon 5300+- series (or equivalent Canon) just makes the most sense.

Be careful though as I have heard that the D5100/5200 use a different (non-Sony) sensor which doesn’t have the same behaviors as the D5300 and if you are getting a new camera, should be avoided (although I have not verified this)

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