Best Gear for Taking Pictures of the Solar Eclipse
When the total solar eclipse sweeps across the U.S. on Aug. 21, you'll want to be armed with the best photography gear to capture it. Not only will you need solar filters to protect your camera and eyes, but you'll also need zoom lenses that are powerful enough to reach the sun, 93 million miles away.
Here's all the best gear for capturing the upcoming eclipse.
Credit: Tom's Guide
Be Prepared, and Be Safe!
A word of caution before photographing the eclipse: Looking directly at the sun can not only damage your equipment, as well as your eyes. Our sister site Space.com has tips for safely photographing the eclipse, as well as some more general guidelines on how to get a great shot of the eclipse.
Canon EOS Rebel T7i Solar Eclipse Kit
For the eclipse, Canon is selling a kit which includes the Canon EOS Rebel T7i with an EF-S 18-55 IS STM lens, an EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM zoom lens, a camera bag, a HOYA PRO ND100000 67mm Filter, and a 58-67mm Stepping Ring, all for $1,099. The T7i is a great DSLR camera for beginners, and boasts a huge 24-MP sensor, which will come in handy if you want to crop in on the sun without seeing a loss in image quality.
Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera
The Nikon D3400 is an excellent DSLR camera for beginners that won't break the bank. It boasts a huge 24-megapixel sensor, which will come in handy if you want to crop in on the sun without seeing a loss in image quality. DSLRs also allow you to attach telephoto lenses and telescopes, providing the best possible view of the eclipse.
For a slightly cheaper alternative, try the D3400's predecessor, the D3300.
Nikon VR 55-300mm Zoom Lens
If you're shooting the eclipse with a Nikon DSLR, the AF-S DX Nikkor VR 55-300mm lens is a perfect choice. The maximum focal length of 300 millimeters is the equivalent of 450 mm on a DX camera, such as the Nikon D3400, providing excellent views of the sun.
This lens also features vibration-reduction technology, which helps to minimize camera shake when you zoom in on distant objects. If $400 is more than you care to spend on a lens, a similar version is available without vibration reduction for a fraction of the price.
MORE: Nikon Lens Guide
Nikon Coolpix P900 Camera
The Nikon Coolpix P900 is easily the best point-and-shoot camera for photographing celestial bodies, thanks to a powerful 83x optical zoom lens and 16-MP sensor. The lens is so impressive that people have used it to capture the rings of Saturn.
The P900 can also record full-HD video and offers slow-motion and time-lapse options, just in case you want to film the eclipse. If the $579 P900 is too pricey, consider the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, which has a 65x optical zoom lens, and costs around $329.
Sony a6000 Camera
The Sony a6000 is a lightweight, mirrorless camera with a large 24-MP sensor and excellent image quality. For shooting the eclipse, we recommend attaching a telephoto lens or a telescope (with the help of an adapter) to get a detailed view of the sun.The a6000 is only compatible with Sony "E-mount" lenses, but an LA-EA4 adapter will also let you attach Sony Alpha and Minolta Maxxum lenses.
Sony E 55-210mm Zoom Lens
Sony's E 55-210mm lens is a good, reasonably priced option for shooting the solar eclipse on an a6000 camera (or any other Sony camera with an E-mount). It also features image-stabilization technology, which helps to minimize camera shake when you zoom in on distant objects.
The maximum focal length of 210 mms is a bit short for solar photography, but the 24-MP sensor on the a6000 will allow you to crop in without a significant a loss in image quality.
Canon EF 75-300mm Zoom Lens
Canon shooters looking for a telephoto lens should consider the EF 75-300mm lens, which retails for a reasonable $200 on Amazon. The maximum focal length of 300 mm is the equivalent of 480 mm on an APS-C cropped sensor (which includes all Canon Rebel models), and the lens provides excellent views of the sun.
MORE: Canon Lens Guide
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod
A tripod is essential to minimize camera shake while photographing the solar eclipse. The Alta Pro 263AB 100 is constructed of sturdy but lightweight aluminum and includes a ball head that can support up to 15 pounds. It's available on Amazon for $179.
Astromania Deluxe Solar Filter
You should never photograph a solar eclipse without a solar-grade filter on the front of your lens. Not only can zooming in on the sun damage your camera's sensor, but it may also harm your eyes when you look through the viewfinder. The Astromania Deluxe Solar Filter comes in a variety of sizes and can be tweaked to fit your specific lens. The 80mm version should fit over all of the lenses mentioned in this article.
Solar Filter Sheet
Telescopes can offer a stunning view of the eclipse, but you should only use them with a solar filter, to protect your eyes and camera from the sun's harmful rays. Solar filter sheets are an affordable way to transform an ordinary telescope into a solar-safe one. The sheets can be trimmed to fit on various telescope models, camera lenses and even binoculars. Remember that it's only safe to remove the filter when the sun is in full shadow.
Credit: Thousand Oaks Optical
Solar Eclipse Sunglasses
These plastic eclipse sunglasses have ISO-approved solar filters and, unlike the paper glasses, are built to last. They can also be worn over your regular glasses, making it easier for you to focus and operate your camera. ($20 from Rainbow Symphony)
Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker Telescope
With the right adapter, it's easy to photograph a solar eclipse using a traditional telescope. If you're shooting with a DSLR, Sony mirrorless camera or even an iPhone, you should be able to get a decent shot by using a telescope instead of a telephoto lens. We recommend the Celestron 127EQ PowerSeeker because it's both affordable and sturdy enough to support the weight of a DSLR camera.It also includes an adjustable-height, stainless-steel tripod.
For a slightly nicer telescope, consider the Orion 9024 AstroView 90mm Equatorial Refractor.
Gosky Universal Cell Phone Adapter Mount
With the help of a telescope, it's actually possible to photograph the eclipse using a smartphone camera. The Gosky Universal Cell Phone Adapter Mount will connect your phone to the telescope's eyepiece, allowing you to capture the view down the barrel. This mount works with most telescopes, including the Celestron 127EQ. If you don't have a telescope, it can also be used with binoculars and monoculars.
Camera to Telescope Adapter
Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can be mounted to telescopes with relative ease. However, you will need a T-ring, which attaches to your camera's lens port, and a prime focus adapter, which replaces the telescope's eyepiece. If you're unsure how the pieces fit together, a quick YouTube search will reveal a host of video tutorials to help guide you. You can buy adapters for Canon, Nikon and Sony kits on Amazon.
Adobe Photoshop Elements
Whether you need to stitch together a series of eclipse shots or simply want a tighter crop on the sun, the right editing software can dramatically improve your images. Now in its 15th iteration, Adobe Photoshop Elements is an affordable and easy way to make your photos look their best. Downloads for both Mac and Windows are available on Amazon for $69.99.