Best Lens for Astrophotography

Best Lens for Astrophotography

What is the best lens for astrophotography and milky way photos on a budget? How much “mm” is enough to capture a starry sky at night?

best lens for astrophotography

What Is the Best Lens for Astrophotography?

Two camera characteristics are important: lens speed and angle of view. The wide-angle is necessary to fit more sky into the frame and decrease the blurring effect of stars evoked by the Earth’s fast movement.

You need a high lens speed because the light, obviously, is really scarce.

best lens for astrophotography

The optimum decision is a model with a static focal length of 20-24 mm (35 mm equivalent) and f/1.4 or f/1.8 lens speed. Zoom or fix with an f/2.8 lens speed is acceptable for an astrophotography lens, but isn’t the best choice.

Best Lens for Astrophotography in 2019

Many lenses can be suitable for shooting the night sky – both affordable and more expensive. To make your choice easier, here is my list of 10 best astrophotography lenses.


1. Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8

sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 best lens for astrophotography View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Big lens speed
  • Impressive sharpness
  • High-quality manufacturing
  • Excellent color rendition
Cons-
  • Haven’t been found
 

This model is the world's first zoom lens with such a maximum aperture value. It was released within the “A” (Art) series of lenses with an artistic emphasis, which means high quality of manufacturing and materials used, outstanding optical qualities and a breathtaking picture.

sigma 18-35mm astrophotography lens image Photo by Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8

The model’s strongest feature is the highest aperture value of f/1.8 over the whole focal length range. Namely, it is crucial to transmitting any available bit of light to the sensor within the shortest possible time.

The lens is sharp and renders colors naturally, with high contrast, plus focuses immediately and has a great miniature design with internal zooming mechanism for APS-C DSLRs.


2. Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

rokinon 24mm f1 4 for astrophotography View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Good sharpness on max aperture
  • Affordable price
Cons-
  • Open aperture vignetting
  • Slight lack of resolution at the frame edges
 

Rokinon 24mm f1 4 for astrophotography is a good choice for amateurs. The stars in 1:1 view are mostly round, with slight coma, the biggest of them showing visible spherical aberration.

rokinon 24mm f/1.4 sample photos Photo by Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

Nothing is automatic in this model and that concerns the focus too but considering that in this genre you only work with manual settings anyways, it should not become a problem. The 14mm version fits more of the sky but nothing works nearly as well for depicting the beauty and drama of the Central Bulge than this Milky Way photography lens.

It can successfully take singular close-up shots of the Milky Way or can be used for stitching compositions from multiple shots.


3. Nikon 24mm f/1.4

nikon 24mm f1 4 astrophotography lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Exceptional optics
  • Immediate focusing
  • Crisp photos
  • Good manufacturing quality
Cons-
  • Edge blur at f/1.4
  • High price
  • Minor barrel distortion
 

With this Nikon 24mm f1 4 astrophotography can be done professionally and with outstanding results. With its 84° angle, it can capture a large segment of the sky, while the resolution capability ensures the visibility of the smallest details in the photo.

nikon 24mm f1 4 astrophotography Photo by Nikon 24mm f/1.4

You can benefit from the quick f/1.4 aperture to avoid star trails when you’re working with a tripod. Going down a few steps, you will still receive clear shots with more detail towards the edges.

Being up for spending a large sum on the best lens for astrophotography, consider this model the optimal choice.


4. Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8

tamron sp 15-30mm f/2.8 astrophotography lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Clear images produced in insufficient light
  • Vibration Compensation stabilizes the image
  • Moisture protection
Cons-
  • Rather bulky
  • Noticeable distortion and vignetting at the shortest focal length
 

With Tamron 15-30 astrophotography will increase both in quality and size. The lens will raise the weight of your camera by another 2.5 pounds but allows it to be multifunctional and sturdy, not to mention the incredible performance.

tamron sp 15-30mm f/2.8 astrophotography lens image Photo by Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8

This astrophotography lens will add a variety of types to your collection of Milky Way photos, all of them equally incredible in quality and detalization. Its coma and sagittal astigmatism are the smallest achievable.

In conditions of insufficient light, the well-designed optics, reduced chromatic aberration and built-in stabilizer will reinforce each other to produce the highest results, which makes it a useful lens for other genres, like landscapes or architecture.


5. Irix 15mm f/2.4

irix 15mm f/2.4 best lens for star photography View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Weather resistant
  • Rather light
  • Precise focusing depth of field markers
  • Well-tuned optics
Cons-
  • Focus ring could move more effortlessly
  • Less vibrancy and contrast than from some competitors
 

This top-quality model is designed for cameras with a full-frame matrix and has manual focusing, a small body and shows outstanding results. The static focal length provides for a light weight of its simplified construction and allows you take amazing Milky Way shots.

photo taken with the best lens for star photography Photo by Irix 15mm f/2.4

The f/2.4 aperture is helpful, being able to capture additional light as opposed to the similar f/2.8 lenses for astrophotography and allowing you to avoid increasing ISO or shutter speed.

This model has two versions; however, they are equal in optical capabilities and only their barrel designs differ. Either is sturdy and will capture stunning images with a lot of detail and minimal astigmatism.


6. Canon EF-M 22mm f/2

22mm f/2 canon astrophotography lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Sharp output
  • Pleasing bokeh
  • Compact
  • Cheap
Cons-
  • Autofocusing takes a long time
  • No distance measure
 

This Canon astrophotography lens has a wide angle but rather small dimensions, which can sometimes be essential for nighttime photographers. Its bright f/2.0 aperture combines well with large sensor cameras and, as a result, produces exceptional shots in insufficient light, as well as blurs the background.

22mm f/2 canon astrophotography lens image Photo by Canon EF-M 22mm f/2

The aspheric lens element provides for high definition and strong contrasts. This particular model deserves the attention especially of those who have an EOS M series camera, plus those who do not have a lot of money to buy an expensive lens.


7. Sigma 24-35mm f/2

sigma 24-35mm f/2 best astrophotography lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Stunning picture quality
  • Incredible sharpness
  • Numerous focal length options with a wide aperture
  • Top f/2 aperture all over the zoom range
Cons-
  • Rather big
  • No stabilization
  • Distortion throughout range
 

Another good one from the Sigma Art series is the 24-35mm f/2, a great multifeatured night sky photography lens. It will produce varied shots of the Milky Way depending on which focal length you work with.

night sky picture with the best astrophotography lens Photo by Sigma 24-35mm f/2

Set wide open, the lens absorbs a greater amount of light compared to an f/2.8 zoom, almost double the amount, and gives great results at a small depth of field as well. The whole series from the manufacturer is famous for high production quality and rather sharp photographs.

Set to f/2 at 24mm, this lens for astrophotography can show minor astigmatism over the edges. But with such actions as increasing the focal length combined with stopping down the aperture, it will be removed.


8. Rokinon 20mm f/1.8

rokinon 20mm f/1.8 astrophotography lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Small price
  • Excellent central sharpness
  • Minimized barrel distortion
  • Compatible with a variety of mounts
Cons-
  • Not resistant to elements
  • No autofocus
  • Considerable vignetting at f/1.8
 

With Rokinon 20mm f/1.8 astrophotography will become accessible and of decent quality. The model is wide-angled and can fit a lot in the image. It becomes the ultimate tool to be applied with convenience to landscape astrophotography.

image taken with rokinon astroghotography lens Photo by Rokinon 20mm f/1.8

At f/1.8 chromatic aberration can be traced, but it fully disappears before f/2.8. Thus, your nighttime shots will turn out great, with sharp details all over the frame.

The focus will only have to be set manually, which is totally fine for this genre. Among astrophotography lenses of equal parameters, this one definitely offers good value for the price.


9. Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8

tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 night sky photography lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • High-quality design and build
  • Maintains sharpness at any aperture
  • Quick max aperture
Cons-
  • Slow, noisy autofocus
  • Noticeable distortion
  • Not weather resistant
  • No stabilization
 

The brighter viewfinder achieved by its aperture and the stunning clarity are the reasons why this model has remained among the best lenses for astrophotography. The model has a wide angle which could be applicable to a variety of genres.

night sky photography lens Photo by Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8

The design is miniature and lightweight enough to not feel it during long trips. The thoughtful designers placed a special multilayer film coating to avoid flaring. The minimum of chromatic aberrations that the lens shows is also incredibly important for shooting stars.


10. Nikon 20mm f/1.8

Nikon 20mm f/1.8 milky way photography lens View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Impressive overall sharpness
  • Minimal distortion for such an angle
  • Small and light
Cons-
  • Traceable chromatic aberration at the edges (in RAW)
  • Sensitive to backlighting
 

Installed over a full-frame matrix, this wide-angled lens for astrophotography depicts not just the Milky Way but also some nocturnal landscape beneath it. Setting the fast f/1.8 aperture, you can benefit from lower levels of ISO and shutter speed, which is an irreplaceable 1-1/3 stop of light to get an even crisper starry sky in your shot.

milky way photo with nikon astrophotography lens Photo by Nikon 20mm f/.8

Certainly, a small drawback of sagittal astigmatism can be noted, but already at f/2.5 that can be fully eliminated. An additional benefit is the model’s compatibility with screw-on front filters, which makes it a versatile tool for a multi-genre photographer.


Top 10 Best Lenses for Astrophotography

Image LENS FEATURES  
sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 best lens for astrophotography
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8
OUR CHOICE
  • Large lens speed
  • Nice color rendering
Check PRICE
rokinon 24mm f1 4 for astrophotography
Rokinon 24mm f/1.4
BEST PRIME LENS
  • Sharp at wide aperture
  • Cheap
Check PRICE
nikon 24mm f1 4 astrophotography lens
Nikon 24mm f/1.4
PROFESSIONAL
  • Good optical quality
  • Immediate focusing
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tamron sp 15-30mm f/2.8 astrophotography lens
Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8
BEST ZOOM LENS
  • Stable image capture
  • Moisture protection
Check PRICE
irix 15mm f/2.4 best lens for star photography
Irix 15mm f/2.4
FOR BEGINNERS
  • Pretty light
  • Well-tuned optics
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22mm f/2 canon astrophotography lens
Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM
BUDGET
  • Pleasing bokeh
  • Small size
Check PRICE
sigma 24-35mm f/2 best astrophotography lens
Sigma 24-35mm f/2
  • Nice image quality
  • Sharp
Check PRICE
rokinon 20mm f/1.8 astrophotography lens
Rokinon 20mm f/1.8
  • Cheap
  • Mounts compatible
Check PRICE
tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 night sky photography lens
Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8
  • Well-designed
  • Quick max aperture
Check PRICE
nikon 20mm f/1.8 milky way photography lens
Nikon 20mm f/1.8
  • Sharp
  • Lightweight
Check PRICE

How to Choose the Best Lens for Astrophotography?

It is surely important to own a proper camera and tripod but even after purchasing a star tracking mount, it might all be worthless if you shoot through an unsuitable lens.

1. Prime or Zoom Lens?

For this parameter, you are obliged to decide what kind of images you’re willing to get. A fixed prime lens is required for combining landscape and night sky photography in one shot, getting lots of stars plus some of nature on the background.

That could be achieved with a zoom astrophotography lens as well. But in this case, two shots with different exposures need to be obtained since it will fail to focus at infinity on both subjects.

2. Focal Length

Commonly, photographers prefer wide-angle models to squeeze the largest piece of the night sky into their shot. For collecting the biggest amount of light, these are also helpful. Combining that with a short focal length is optimal for avoiding the smudged star trails occurring because of our planet’s movement.

The best focal length for astrophotography done with an APS-C camera would be up to 24mm. If instead, you’re working on a full-frame DSLR, you can use up to 35mm.

3. Lens Speed and Aperture

Preventing the appearance of the abovementioned star trails and a generally blurry look of your stars caused by the planet’s unstopping rotation, you are restricted to the shutter speed range between 20 and 30 sec.

Wider apertures make it possible to shorten the latter and lower the ISO for obtaining that perfectly clear and bright shot with very little noise, if any. Aim for best lenses for night sky photography with f/2.8 and even lower.

4. Coma and Chromatic Aberration

The best lens for astrophotography should also boast a high level of coma and chromatic aberration control to avoid excessive distortion of light points.

Such features as chemical coatings or top-quality glass for optics could dramatically improve the results of your nighttime shootings, helping you obtain even clearer images.

5. Lens Sharpness

Another key feature to provide the most stunning images is the level of the lens’ sharpness. Certainly, the rule would be the sharper – the better, but an important issue must be taken into account.

The best lenses for astrophotography produce equal sharpness all over the image, and though there might be some sharper models, if it is only concentrated in the center, you will never be satisfied with the results.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a professional blogger, read more