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Introduction to the Different Types of ZWO Cameras

ZWO offers a wide collection of astrophotography cameras and accessories to help you get the best out of your imaging experience. ZWO cameras are highly regarded in the astrophotography community, as they're easy to use, affordable, produce excellent images, and usually come with everything you need to get the camera attached to your telescope. For cooled color and monochrome cameras, they come with adapters and spacers to connect to standard M42 and M48 threads. Planetary and guide cameras come with attachments to slip into 1.25" focusers or ports , and planetary cameras specifically come with the right adapters to attach to M42 threads. Learn more about what ZWO has to offer below. Check out this best planetary cameras guide or best deep space cameras guide for more astrophotography inspiration. 

Cooled Color Cameras

ZWO Cooled Color Cameras

Best for deep sky imagers who want a color image straight from the camera 

ZWO provides a color version of all of their CMOS astronomy camera designs, and they are perfect for the astronomer on the move. Easy to use and without any need for complicated processing, you can simply connect to a telescope system and capture full-color images. Though monochrome cameras still have a slight edge over color cameras in resolution and image quality, color cameras are much simpler to use, do not require extra hardware (filters & filter wheel), and are easier to process images from. Because of this, we recommend them for beginner to intermediate deep sky imagers. Overall, these cameras are fantastic for getting full color images of deep sky objects.

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Cooled Monochrome Cameras

ZWO Cooled Monochrome Cameras

Best for deep sky imagers that want the best possible quality images

ZWO offers monochrome versions for a number of their cooled color camera designs, providing the highest level of image quality and clarity possible. Monochrome astronomy cameras capture far more data than their color counterparts, but require more processing and the addition of a set of filters to produce full color images. For this reason, we usually recommend them for intermediate to advanced imagers. Overall, these cameras are great for anyone looking to capture the highest possible resolution images of the night sky. 

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Planetary Cameras

ZWO Planetary Cameras

Best for using high frame rate imaging to capture the planets, moon, and the sun

Planetary cameras are perfect for capturing the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and more! Planetary cameras are meant for short exposures, and therefore they do not need a cooling system. By stacking a small percentage of short exposures when the sky conditions are at their best, you can capture excellent images of objects within our solar system. To accommodate that, planetary cameras feature a high-speed USB 3 port and cable for rapid data transfer. Planetary cameras even come with an ultra-wide angle lens included for all sky imaging.

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Guide Cameras

ZWO Guide Cameras

Best for autoguiding with a guide scope or off-axis guider

When tracking the night sky with most mounts, the use of autoguiding can greatly improve your mount's tracking accuracy. To do that involves using a guide camera on either a guide scope or off-axis guider (OAG). Although very similar overall, these mini versions of planetary cameras only use USB 2, since USB 3 is not needed for autoguiding purposes. For that reason, if you hope to do planetary imaging as well as guiding, you should invest in a planetary camera instead. Overall, these mini guide cameras are a perfect way to get great autoguiding results without breaking the bank.

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Camera Kits

zwo camera kits

Best for having everything you need in one package. 

ZWO packages together full kits centered around some of their higher-end cameras. These kits include filters and a filter wheel to accompany high-end monochrome cameras, greatly simplifying the process of finding everything you need to capture top-quality full-color images regardless of your local conditions.

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Filters & Filter Wheels

zwo filters and filter wheels

Best for astrophotographers who need to swap filters frequently

The filter wheels and filters made by ZWO are perfectly suited for use with their monochrome cameras. They match together cleanly and easily for maximum efficiency and effectiveness, allowing your monochrome cameras to pierce light pollution barriers and take stunning high-resolution full-color images.

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zwo accessories

Best for optimizing your images and astrophotography equipment

ZWO manufactures and supplies a range of accessories meant primarily for their own cameras, but capable of interface with other similar models. These accessories range from high-efficiency telescope control units like the ASIAIR Pro, off-axis guiders (OAG), and atmospheric diffraction correctors (ADC) to simple adapters. These accessories are a great value and provide convenient benefits for working with any astronomy camera.

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Still have questions? We have answers.

Which camera is best for deep sky astrophotography?

The short answer: any of the latest cooled astronomy cameras are going to perform very well for deep sky astrophotography, but the right camera depends on what you’re trying to image, your budget, and what equipment you may already own.

The long answer: finding the right cooled astronomy camera for your setup will depend on a few different factors. These factors include:

- Whether you plan to image in color (beginner) or monochrome (advanced)
- What size image circle your telescope/corrector can cover, which will determine the largest sensor diagonal you can use
- What your pixel scale will be at your telescope’s focal length
- What your budget is

If you need help figuring out the answers to the above, our Sales team is always ready to assist you and recommend the right camera for your setup and needs. Click Here to Contact Us.

Which camera is better for deep sky imaging, a color or monochrome camera?

From a purely technical standpoint, monochrome cameras are inherently better than color cameras due to their sensor design. We'll save the "why" for a future blog post, but monochrome cameras produce a cleaner and slightly sharper image than color cameras can. However, monochrome cameras are more expensive, and they require a filter wheel/drawer plus costly filters to produce a color image.

Color cameras, on the other hand, can produce color images right out of the box. Although monochrome cameras still have the upper edge, color camera technology and astronomy filters have gotten so good in recent years that it can be difficult to tell the difference between two images made from each camera type.

If you're just beginning astrophotography, we recommend starting off with a color camera. If you're already an experienced astrophotographer, consider upgrading to a monochrome CMOS or CCD camera.

What is cooling and why is it good for deep sky astrophotography?

Camera sensors heat up over the course of long exposures, and that heat causes unwanted noise (like film grain) in digital images.

ZWO cooled cameras, like most dedicated deep sky astronomy cameras, use a cooling system in the form of a fan to radiate heat away from the camera sensor. By doing this, it can keep the camera sensor many degrees colder than the ambient air temperature, as much as -35ºC or more. Doing this drastically reduces the overall noise in the final image for a long exposure.

This is the main reason why a cooled astronomy camera has a significant advantage over a DSLR or mirrorless camera. For short exposures, cooling has less of an effect, hence why most DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, and planetary cameras do not need it.

How do I attach my camera to my telescope?

With ZWO cameras, attaching your cooled astronomy camera to your telescope is easy. All ZWO cooled cameras come with both M42 and M48 adapters for seamless attachment to most telescopes. Planetary cameras can attach via M42 connection, or you can use a 1.25" barrel to attach it into any 1.25" port. Guide cameras can attach to any 1.25" port, such as a 1.25" focuser, guide scope, or off-axis guider.

What is the correct back focus for ZWO cameras?

It's a common misconception that back focus is a requirement of the camera. In fact, back focus is a property of the telescope, or any corrective optic behind the telescope. That includes field flatteners, reducers, and reducer/flatteners. Check what the back focus is for your telescope or corrective optic, and then use spacers to reach that distance.

For many (but not all) telescopes, the back focus is 55mm. ZWO includes adapters with every cooled camera to reach 55mm of back focus, and you can find helpful charts on ZWO's website for each camera to find out what order to place the adapters in. You only need to purchase additional adapters or spacers if your telescope's back focus is different than 55mm.

If you're curious about back focus, you can read more about it in our helpful article here!

Are ZWO cameras compatible with other accessories?

ZWO cameras are designed to work great with other ZWO products. More specifically, the spacers that come with your cooled ZWO camera can be easily swapped out for a ZWO off-axis guider or ZWO filter wheels/drawers without changing the back focus spacing of your imaging setup.

The ZWO ASIAIR Pro is a smart control unit can be used to wirelessly control (via smartphone or tablet) your entire astrophotography rig, including the mount, your ZWO cooled camera or DSLR, your ZWO guide camera, and your ZWO electronic focuser. Although the ASIAIR Pro is only compatible with mainly ZWO products, it's an excellent way to capture your astrophotography data without needing to be outside or touching the telescope.