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Four 35mm Lenses Compared for Night Sky Photography

Gear Talk

In The Best Lenses for Night Photography, night sky specialist David Kingham recommended Rokinon lenses due to their lack of coma and low purchase/rental price. He has compared the Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 with the recently-released Sigma 35mm f/1.4, along with the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 35mm f/1.4. See which one rises to the top!


The Best 35mm for Night Photography
by David Kingham 

Here’s the lineup:

Rokinon 35mm f/1.4
Zeiss 35mm f/1.4
Sigma 35mm f/1.4
Nikon 35mm f/1.4

LensesTop

Keep in mind that this test is for a specific style of night photography that captures the stars as points of light. This requires wide open apertures and high ISOs. You can see more of this style of night photography in my Nightscapes gallery.

Coma

Coma

Coma is an aberration that can make stars look more like streaks at the edge of the frame when shot wide open. I was surprised to find that all of these lenses performed very well as far as preventing coma goes. Rokinon 14 & 24mm lenses blow away their Nikon and Canon equivalents but at 35mms it’s a different story. The Nikon actually performed the best, followed by the Sigma. The Zeiss performed the worst and the Rokinon in between. None of them performed poorly in this area, though, so I wouldn’t base your buying/rental decision on this alone.

Sharpness

CenterSharp

I was surprised by the lack of sharpness from the Zeiss in the center of the frame. Oddly, it’s sharper on the edges than the center. Based on this alone I can’t recommend the Zeiss for night photography. Overall the Sigma had the best sharpness, followed closely by the Rokinon.

Vignetting

There was not a big difference in this area that I could detect. I didn’t shoot a white wall so this test is not very accurate or significant. I could obviously see that the Rokinon performed better than the rest as far a vignetting goes for my shooting purposes.

Chromatic Aberration

CA

Chromatic aberation in night photography shows up as glowing edges around the brightest stars. This is where the Sigma really shined, having almost no chromatic aberration whatsoever. The Rokinon did not fare well in this test. You can really see the bloom around the bright stars.

Color Rendition

Color

I feel the Sigma blew the rest out of the water for color rendition. The Sigma has less green haze than the rest and has more purple coming out of the Milky Way. The Nikon performed well and the Zeiss and Rokinon were not impressive -both had yellow/brown haze results.

Focal Length

LensesSide

The Sigma doesn’t seem to be a true 35mm. It appears to be more around 32mm as compared to the others. I’m not sure how to verify this but when you overlay the images it is obvious.

Weight

The Rokinon is quite a bit lighter than the rest, something to consider if you’re hiking to remote locations to do night photography.

Rokinon – .92 lbs
Zeiss – 1.87 lbs
Sigma – 1.47 lbs
Nikon – 1.3 lbs

Autofocus

I do not use autofocus at night so I did not factor this into the final score but I want to note that the Sigma and Nikon have AF while the Rokinon and Zeiss do not. The AF on the Sigma is the quietest I have ever heard – a very nice bonus.

Price

A big consideration with gear is, inevitably, price. These lenses vary widely in this category. Below are the approximate prices as of October 2013:

Rokinon – $450
Zeiss – $1850
Sigma – $900
Nikon – $1620

Scores

Here are my final scores, 10 being the best:

Coma

Center Sharpness

Edge Sharpness

Vignetting

Chromatic Abberation

Color Rendition

Weight
Price
Total
Rokinon
6
6
8
7
3
5
7
8
50
Zeiss
7
3
6
5
2
4
3
1
31
Sigma
8
8
7
5
8
9
4
5
54
Nikon
9
5
5
5
6
7
5
2
44
f1.4-Nikon-Web

Nikon ©David Kingham

f1.4-Rokinon-Web

Rokinon ©David Kingham

f1.4-Sigma-Web

Sigma ©David Kingham

f1.4-Zeiss-Web

Zeiss ©David Kingham

Conclusion

The new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is the clear winner. It creates the most appealing images out of the group and the price is reasonable compared to the Zeiss or Nikon. However, if I only had $900 to spend would I get the Sigma? At that price I could get the Rokinon 35mm and the Rokinon 14mm and still have money to spare! So what will I do? I’m selling my Rokinon and getting a Sigma. I do this for a living so having the highest quality lens is important to me.

If you can’t decide between these lenses based on the info read here and elsewhere, I would recommend renting them from BorrowLenses and doing your own tests before making the commitment.

More by David Kingham:

Nikon D7100 – Cropped Sensor for Night Photography?
The Best Nikon for Night Photography
The Best Lenses for Night Photography: A Case for Rokinon Primes
Reviewing the Sigma 15mm f/2.8 and Nikon 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye Lenses for Night Sky Landscape Photography

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Alexandria Huff is a portrait photographer based in San Francisco. Her tutorials can be found here on the BorrowLenses Blog, 500px, Shutterfly, Snapknot, and SmugMug. She specializes in studio lighting. Follow her work on 500px.

Comments

  • Kevin says:

    I would’ve loved to see the Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95 in this mix and how it fares with these other lenses.

  • Kevin says:

    Great review btw!

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