Deep-Sky Photography with cooled QHYCCD Cameras

Revealing the secrets of the cosmos: captivating deep-sky images with cooled QHYCCD cameras


QHYCCD Deep-Sky cameras for advancedQHYCCD Deep-Sky cameras for beginners

Monochrome camera models

As we gaze into the endless expanses of the night sky, we are overwhelmed by the sheer size of the cosmos. Deep-sky photography allows us to capture the celestial beauty of distant galaxies, shimmering nebulae, and elusive star clusters.

In this blog post, we will introduce the extraordinary capabilities of QHYCCD deep-sky cameras, specifically designed to unlock the wonders of space and take your astronomical photography to a new level.

Unmatched sensitivity for deep sky photography:

QHYCCD deep sky cameras feature state-of-the-art CMOS and CCD sensors designed to provide exceptional sensitivity in low light conditions. These sensors are ideal for capturing the faint details of celestial objects, revealing intricate structures and subtle color variations previously accessible only to professional observatories. With their remarkable signal-to-noise ratio, QHYCCD cameras ensure that even the faintest deep-sky objects can be captured.

Advanced cooling technology:

To minimize the effects of thermal noise in long exposure astrophotography, QHYCCD has incorporated highly efficient cooling systems into its cameras. These cooling systems employ Peltier elements to rapidly lower the temperature of the sensor, allowing longer exposure times without compromising image quality.

Versatile adaptation options:

QHYCCD offers a wide range of deep-sky cameras that are compatible with various telescopes and facilities. Whether you are using a refractor, reflector, or dedicated astrograph, there is a QHYCCD camera for every telescope that will fit seamlessly into your equipment. What's more, these cameras come in a variety of sizes and formats, so you can choose the optimal sensor size for your specific imaging goals, whether it's wide-angle imaging or detailed imaging of galaxies or planetary nebulae.


Our recommendation for getting started with deep sky photography


QHY 533 M/C CMOS Camera (various versions available)

The QHY533M/C is a very good and affordable entry-level camera. It has everything a modern CMOS camera is expected to do. For amateur astronomers interested in all areas of astronomical photography, the QHY533 M/C can cover a wide range of images. With its BSI Sony sensor, the camera is extremely sensitive and low-noise in the deep sky range. Thanks to its good cooling performance, long exposure times can be realized with it. The pixel size of 3.76 µm x 3.76 µm is optimally adapted to shorter focal lengths of 500 to 750 mm. It also features non-existent amplifier glow, very low dark current and readout noise, and extremely high sensitivity. The IMX 533 is a 9-megapixel CMOS image sensor with a diagonal of 15.97 mm (11.29 mm squared) and 3003 x 3003 pixels which are read out with 14-bit data depth via the AD converter and is available in both monochrome and color versions.

IC 433, imaged with QHY 533 mono, narrow band H-alpha and O-III, total exposure 2.4 hours, ©Nico Caver

The two older models, the QHY163M and the QHY183M/C, should not go unmentioned.

For some time now, QHY has been offering a good and affordable camera in the form of the QHY 163M Medium Size Cooled CMOS Cameras (various versions available) (various versions available) , ), which is equipped with a monochrome 4/3-inch Front Side Illuminated Sensor (FSI). The Panasonic MN34230 sensor achieves a maximum sensitivity of 60% quantum efficiency (QE) and has a sensor size of 21.9mm. With a pixel size of 3.8 µm, the camera achieves a full resolution of 16 megapixels.

Also available is the QHY 183M Medium Size Cooled CMOS Camera (#1931086 , € 1090,-) , which is equipped with a monochrome 1 inch Back Side Illuminated sensor and thus higher sensitivity. Both sensors are technically mature and therefore well suited for beginners. However, many semi-professional deep sky astrophotographers consider the sensor area to be too small; today, 35mm full-frame sensors are increasingly in demand.

In addition, both camera models have only 12-bit analogue digital conversion (12-bit data depth). In order to achieve the low value of 1e- of the read noise, one must either increase the gain and thereby accept losses in the image dynamics, or reduce the gain and then lose precision in the analogue digital conversion. Nevertheless, both models are good cameras for beginners.

QHYCCD cameras for experienced astrophotographers

For experienced astrophotographers, we would like to introduce exceptional deep sky cameras:

The QHY268M/C is a high-resolution, cooled APS-C camera with 26 megapixels (6280 x 4210 pixels), true 16-bit A/D conversion and 3.76 µm pixels. It is available in both a monochrome and single shot colour camera. The sensor size of the Sony IMX571 Back Illuminated Sensor is 23.5 mm x 15.7 mm (28.3 mm diagonal).

It also features non-existent amplifier glow, very low dark current and readout noise combined with extremely high sensitivity. In extended mode, even a full well capacity of up to 75 ke is possible. The round design, the sensor and the pixel size make this camera ideal for the Celestron RASA and Hyperstar systems.

The chip of the QHY268 has the same features as the flagship QHY600.

M16, imaged with QHY268 M, Celestron RASA 11", Narrowband H-alpha, O-III and RGB, total exposure time 22 h © Yannick Akar

The QHY 600 sets a new standard for astronomical CMOS cameras. It uses the IMX455, a highly sensitive 60 megapixel back side illuminated full-frame sensor in 35mm format with a square pixel size of 3.76µm and is therefore also very well suited for shorter focal lengths. The camera is available in both monochrome and single shot colour versions. In addition, the QHY 600 also features true 16-bit analogue digital conversion, which was previously reserved for cameras with CCD sensors.

Read more about the technology in the QHY600 and QHY268 CMOS cameras:

The QHY600 is available in three camera models. The models PH-L(LITE) (only available with monochrome sensor), the QHY 600 - PH (PHOTO) and the QHY 600 - PRO. The PRO version can be optionally equipped supplied with 2x 10 Gigabit fibre optic interfaces and a QHY PCIE kit for faster data download. In addition, the monochrome PRO and PHOTO models are supplied with an industrial (Grade K) class sensor.

For more information about the special versions of the QHY600, please visit the product page

Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF), imaged with QHY600M, Celestron RASA 11", LRGB 40 min, ©Michael Jäger.

Special feature QHY294:

The QHY294M is technically a special case and is supplied by Sony with a fixed pixel binning of a 2x2 matrix as standard. As a result, the Back Side Illuminated Sensor delivers 11.7 megapixels at 4.63 µm and 14-bit data depth in standard mode (readout mode 0).

QHY has managed to switch Sony's "on-chip" binning on and off in the monochrome version of the 294 PRO, thereby enabling two different readout modes. Readout mode 1 "unlocks" the binning to produce 46.8 MP images with 2.315 µm pixel size at 12-bit data depth per pixel. The ability to trigger the 294 PRO with two different pixel sizes also allows it to be used for two different imaging focal lengths to match the optimal resolution of the telescope.

Which cameras are suitable?

The reason for recommending the QHY533 as an entry-level camera and the QHY268 M/C or QHY600 as a full-frame version for experienced astrophotographers is based on the basic requirements for a good deep sky camera. It should have the following features:

  1. Back-Illuminated Sensor: QHYCCD uses back-illuminated sensor technology in all new cameras with Sony sensors, which significantly increases the quantum efficiency of the sensor. This results in higher sensitivity, better signal-to-noise ratio and improved performance when capturing faint astronomical objects.
  2. High Dynamic Range (HDR): Some QHYCCD models (including the QHY533 and QHY268/QHY600) offer HDR capabilities that allow you to capture a wider range of brightness levels in a single image. This feature is particularly beneficial when capturing celestial objects with varying brightness levels, such as nebulae or star clusters. Full Well Capacity: QHYCCD cameras have generous full-well capacities, allowing you to capture bright stars or intense nebulae without saturation. This ensures that you can capture the fine details across the entire dynamic range of your subject, even in high-contrast celestial objects.
  3. Active cooling monitoring: QHYCCD cameras feature a sophisticated temperature control and monitoring system that provides real-time feedback on the temperature of the sensor. This enables precise adjustments and ensures optimal image quality throughout the entire imaging session. QHYCCD's proprietary technology provides significantly better noise reduction than any other astronomy camera on the market.
  4. True RAW Image Output: QHYCCD cameras offer TRUE RAW IMAGE OUTPUT, producing an image that consists only of the original signal, allowing maximum flexibility for astronomical image processing programs after capture. In comparison, the typical DSLR implementation has RAW image output, but it is usually not fully RAW. Upon closer inspection, there is some evidence of noise reduction and hot pixel removal. This can have a negative effect on the image in astrophotography, e.g. the "star eater" effect.
  5. Monochrome or colour: A variety of the QHYCCD camera series are offered with monochrome or colour sensors. Colour sensors allow a colour image to be captured directly and are therefore easier to use than monochrome cameras (which require a number of filters, such as an LRGB set, to reconstruct the image in colour using special processing techniques). However, monochrome cameras have one important advantage: they are more sensitive than the corresponding colour cameras for the same sensor. This not only allows you to capture fainter details with the same exposure time, but more importantly, it allows you to use narrowband filters against light pollution (such as H-alpha, OIII and SII filters), which greatly increase the contrast of the nebula against the sky background (and also reduce the size of the stars so that you can see the framed nebula better), making astrophotography possible even in areas of heavy light pollution.
  6. Software integration and support: QHYCCD deep sky cameras integrate seamlessly with popular astrophotography software for a comprehensive and streamlined imaging experience. Whether you use a dedicated capture software such as N.I.N.A or an image processing software such as PixInsight, QHYCCD cameras are fully supported so you can maximize the potential of your image data.

Compare all models:

QHY 183


QHY 533


QHY 174


QHY 168


QHY 163


QHY 294


QHY 410


(no longer available)

QHY 268


QHY 600


Sensor IMX183 IMX533M IMX174 IMX071 MN34230 IMX492 IMX410 IMX571 IMX455
Format 1" 1" 1/1.2" APS-C
4/3" Full Frame APS-C Full Frame
Sensor Size 13,3 x 8,87 mm 11,3 x 11,3 mm 11,25 x 7,03 mm 23,76 x 15,78 mm 17,7 x 13,4 mm 19,28 x 12,95 mm 36 x 24 mm 23,5 x 17,5 mm 36 x 24 mm
Quantum Efficiency 84% 90% bei 450 nnm 78% - >60% 75% >80% >87% >87%
Dark Current Noise (@ -20° C)
0,015 eps 0,0005 eps 0,2 eps 0,0007 eps <0,01 eps 0,002 eps 0,002 eps 0,0005 eps 0,0022 eps
Resolution 5544*3694 (20 MP) 3008*3028(9 MP) 1920*1200 (2,3 MP) 4952*3288 (16 MP) 4656*3522 (16 MP) 4164*2796 (11,7 MP) bei 4,63 µm / 14 Bit Datentiefe (Modus 0) 46,8 MP bei 2135 µm / 12 Bit Datentiefe (Modus 1) 6072*4044 (24,6 MP) 6280*4210 (26 MP) 9600*6422 (61 MP)
Pixel Size 2,4 µm 3,76 µm 5,86 µm 4,8 µm 3,8 µm 4,63 / 2.315 µm 5,94 µm 3,76 µm 3,76 µm
Framerate @ Full Resolution
15 fps 18 fps 138 fps 10 fps 22,5 fps 16,5 fps 19,2 fps 6,8 fps 2,5 fps
ADC-Bit-Depth 12 bit 14 bit 12 bit 14 bit 12 bit 12/14 bit 14 bit 16 bit 16 bit
Full-Well Capacity 15,5 ke- 58 ke- 32 ke- 46 ke- 20 ke- 65 ke- 120 ke- 51 ke- / >75 ke 51 ke- / >75 ke
Pixel-Fov (@1000mm)
0,5" 0,78" 1,21" 0,99" 0,78" 0,96/0,48" 1,23" 0,78" 0,78"


Which advantages do the mentioned deep sky cameras have in detail:

The QHY533 is a popular camera among beginners in astrophotography because of its many advantages. Here are some of the main advantages of the QHY533 for beginners:

  • Sensor performance: Sony's BSI CMOS IMX533 sensor offers excellent sensitivity and low noise. The pixel size of 3.76 µm enables an extended dynamic range and better performance even in low light conditions.

  • High resolution: With a resolution of 9.1 megapixels, the QHY533 delivers detailed and sharp images. This high resolution allows beginners to capture fine details of celestial objects, including galaxies, nebulae and star clusters.

  • Versatile field of view: The QHY533 has a relatively large sensor (1-inch format) that allows a wide field of view.

  • Cooling system: The QHY533 has a built-in cooling system that reduces the temperature of the sensor during long exposures. Cooling the sensor reduces thermal noise, resulting in cleaner, higher quality images.

  • Fast readout speed: The camera's high-speed USB 3.0 interface and efficient readout system enable fast transfer of image data to your computer.

The QHY533 is available in both colour and monochrome versions. With the colour version, you can capture normal one-shot colour images of galaxies and nebulae. For the monochrome version, we also offer a set with an integrated 7-position filter wheel. This allows the convenient use of multiple filters for narrowband or broadband images.

For the experienced astrophotographer who wants a slightly wider field of view, we recommend the QHY268 or QHY600. These cameras are based on the same Sony sensor technology, but with a much larger sensor area.

For the larger camera models, such as the QHY268 and QHY600, QHYCCD also offers user-selectable readout modes that allow the camera to be perfectly matched to the respective celestial objects and lighting conditions. Different readout modes provide different image results. Each readout mode has its advantages and disadvantages. The main differences are in the maximum full-well capacity, the readout noise and the image dynamics.

Here is an example of how the readout noise behaves in the 6 readout modes and with different gain settings. Many of the modes have a "switching point" for high and low gain. Here, the readout noise decreases from 3.5 e- to 1.5 e- (example: high gain mode 2CMS between gain 55 and 56).

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