Night-sky Photography with the Sony A6000

As you will no doubt have noticed I haven’t been particularly active over recent months. Work, weather and other interests have been taking up most of my time.

My son is due to make the trip from New Zealand to Canada to visit friends there and has been trying to decide what camera to take. Its come down to two cameras at the moment, that being the Sony A6000 and the new Nikon D55000, both with a standard 15 -55 lens.

Last night we were able to test the A6000 with a f-2.8 to 5.6 16-55mm and fixed aperture f2:8 30mm lens. The intention is to capture night-sky imagery whilst in Canada, the Aurora and various areas of the night-sky.

Below are a few images I have processed from the RAW files from the A6000. It was quickly apparent that the A6000 did provide good JPEGs but the RAW was much better for extended processing. You would still be able to get very good images shooting just JPEG as the headroom of the JPEGs was better than first indications.

The images show the area around the Southern Cross and up towards the Saggittarian Arm of the galaxy. The large Red/orange star is alpha scorpii more commonly known as Antares.

B & W
The southern cross lies on its side towards the right bottom with the black of the Coal Sack directly above. The two bright Pointers are mid image with the Eta Carina nebulosity top right. 20 seconds at ISO 1600 @16mm f 2.8 – Edited in LR & Photoscape. Approx 50% crop.
Raw to jpeg - 3435
This is the full width image of the black and white above. All shooting parameters are as above. Again processed in LR & Photoscape with a H-alpha filter too reduce the red in the image.
Raw to jpeg 4346-1
Shot with the fixed aperture f2.8 30 mm lens. Image scale is much larger thanks to the longer focal length. This shows the Southern Cross and the Coal Sack with the two pointers at the top. Shutter @20 seconds. ISO 800
Part of the Saggittarian arm showing the bright red/orange star Antares top right. Shot at 30mm f/2.8, ISO 800 – 20 sec. Push processed in LR & finished in Photoscape.

One of the things that is quickly clear is the difference between 16mm and 30 mm. Not only is the 16mm giving a really nice field of view but even at 20 seconds exposure time there isn’t a lot of star trailing evident, wheres as the 30 mm shows a small amount of star trailing and a degree of distortion in the final image is evident.

When processing the RAW files in Lightroom  I used the Sony lens correction filters to flatten the image and reduce distortion.

This is an unprocessed JPEG image shot at 16mm, f/3.5 ISO 1600 for 20 seconds. The image itself is quite pleasant but there is a great deal of information that isn’t showing and will require careful processing to get the best from it.

The A6000 provides a good image and noise isn’t too serious at ISO 1600 in the RAW files, however Noise Reduction in camera for the JPEGS wasn’t overly aggressive, but in some of the higher ISO images the red channel was a little too strong. Below is the processed image of the above JPEG. There’s a large amount of headroom in the JPEGs, surprisingly so.

Note the Large Magellanic Cloud (galaxy ) is visible in this image at the bottom left, not seen in the original image.

Hopefully in the next few days we will be able to repeat the process with the Nikon D5500 and see which camera has the goods.

6 thoughts on “Night-sky Photography with the Sony A6000

  1. Damn! These are amazing. It astounds me that we can now photograph stuff that was once the domain of the pros. Gotta give this a go with my Lumix FZ1000. A beast of a camera which reminds me in some ways of the HS20. It needs to be tamed…


  2. Hey! I was planning on buying the same camera for night-sky photography and landscapes. Shall I go for it?


    1. If you are buying new and want to use the a6000 for astrophotography work, then no I would avoid it as it will come with the latest firmware and the “Star Eater” issue will possibly come into play.
      The a6000 that we tested was produced 3 or 4 years back and didnt suffer from the firmware issue thats seen in later models. For any other style of photography it would be fine, bear in mind though that the lens range isn’t fabulous and the prices for good lenses are expensive but if you are happy with kit lenses then its pretty good value. A new A6000 twin kit

      If you are really interested in astrophotgraphy, and want to stay with mirrorless then Fuji is probably your next option, as most other mirrorless are micro 4/3 sensors and you really want the biggest sensor you can afford. Fuji XA2 or XA3 would do very well, just remember that they dont come with a EVF.
      The latest Canon EOS-M cameras could be a possibility but again the kit lenses arent good.

      If you dont mind DSLR’s then theres plenty to choose from, but most kit lenses that come with the DSLR’s are too slow and just plain crappy for astro work. Thats where Fuji wins hands done. All of their lenses are excellent and the XC 16-50 is a great kit lens to start with. Thats primarily what I used for our XT-10 and XA2 shots.

      But the short answer for astrophotography is Sony is not an option I would choose.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I searched on Google and in a discussion, one said that the bug would go away if ‘bulb mode’ is turned off. Can you please describe the bulb mode to me and if this is true?


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