There are a number of essential pieces of equipment that you are going to need if you want to take good photos of the night sky. The first of course is a camera. Ideally it should have a wide angle lens with a large aperture setting (the larger the aperture, the more light that can fall on the sensor of the camera). I use a Canon DSLR with a 17-40mm wide angle lens. The lens has a largest aperture of F4. A larger aperture e.g. F2.8 would be great however such lenses can be very expensive. Camera settings etc will be explored in another post as this post is simply listing the equipment that you will need. Along with the camera I use a remote to take the photos as this reduces the amount of movement that the camera is exposed to. I use a very simple remote but there are others available which can do all sorts of complex functions such as time lapses etc.
Perhaps as important as the camera for taking photos of the night sky is the tripod. It is simply not possible to take good handheld photos of the stars as you are going to be taking 20-30 second exposures (or more) and holding a camera perfectly still for that length of time would be well, quite impossible. Manfrotto seem to have the biggest and best reputation and you are going to need a very sturdy tripod for the types of long exposures you are taking. You will need to consider the total weight of your camera and lenses when selecting the tripod too. It is worth investing in a good tripod upfront as you will be coming back for a more expensive one if you are disappointed. I use a [Pro]Master XC525 which is a bit smaller than the high-end Manfrottos etc. What I like about this tripod is that it is extremely well made, is lightweight, folds down to a very small size for travelling, and can also be used as a monopod. It is a very versatile tripod and I am very happy with it.Lastly, since you are going to be shooting at night and on very dark nights, you will need a torch. Torches can be used not just to find your way and see what you are doing, but also as a very creative light source for your photos. I will explore ‘light-painting’ in a later blog post. The torch I use is a Nightcore SRT 7. Again, this is a very versatile torch that can be used for a number of different scenarios. It is a powerful flashlight which has variable output from extremely low to very high (i.e. like a dimmer on your light switches at home). It also has three low-powered LEDs that can change colours from red to green to blue which are great for light-painting.
If you have any suggestions for equipment that you use when taking photos of the night sky please let me know in the comments below.