Nikon’s new D810A astrophotography dSLR – why bother?

Written by Gary on February 11th, 2015

Nikon has just announced a special version of the Nikon D810 full frame dSLR, the D810A designed purely for astrophotography.

So what is different about it?

  • infrared filter has been modified to allow the H-alpha 656nm wavelengths of light to better image certain nebulae
  • additional features to support long exposure photography:
    • Long Exposure M mode that provides selectable shutter speeds from 4 to 900 sec (15 minutes) – similar to the Olympus Timed BULB mode
    • a virtual exposure preview in bulb and time settings, similar to Olympus Live Time mode
    • a dark frame subtraction mode (called ‘astro noise reduction’ in Raw) – and I thought all cameras had this already!
    • red virtual horizon, so as not to interfere with night vision
    • ability to dim the viewfinder’s OLED

It will set you back $US3800 for the body only.

Is it worth it?

Maybe to some astrophotographers who are just into Milky Way landscape shots but really keen astrophotographers need more than this in an astro camera, such as:

  • cooling of the sensor
  • no SLR mirror to cause camera shake (the mirror is pretty much useless for astrophotography anyway)
  • electronic view finder with Live Boost (as with Olympus OM-D cameras)
  • WiFi full remote control to avoid touching the camera and causing shake

These keen astrophotographers would be looking more to modifications of cameras such as performed by CentralDS

For instance they will take apart your Canon EOS 5D Mark III and totally transform it by removing the mirror housing, changing the IR cut filter, adding in a cooling system for the sensor to keep thermal noise as low as possible, adding in a drop-in filter system, etc.

Perhaps a better suited camera is a mirrorless camera, and so this company will also modify your Sony A7s mirrorless full frame camera and turn it into a dedicated cooled astro camera with IR filter replaced for under $US1000 which should give far better results than an uncooled Nikon D810A:

modified Sony A7s

and this is what happens to thermal noise when you use a cooled camera vs un-modified camera:

thermal noise

 

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