Written by 10:29 am Night Photography, Photography Lenses • 5 Comments

9 Best Lenses for Astrophotography in 2021

camera shooting stars

By turning your lens to the night sky, you can capture images of unparalleled beauty. With the right techniques, equipment, and processing, your shots can be dramatic and full of vivid colors unlike any earth-bound subjects.

While lenses are arguably the most important part of any photographer’s setup, finding the best lens for astrophotography (or for even just moon photography) is especially vital for those wanting to delve into this style. If you’re looking for the best astrophotography lens, read on to learn what you should consider when choosing a lens. Below we included lenses in a variety of mount types and price points.

Table of Contents:

  1. Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Micro Four Thirds
  2. Fuji XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR
  3. Voigtlander Nokton 10.5mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds
  4. Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art
  5. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art
  6. Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
  7. Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
  8. Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S
  9. Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS

What to Look For in Astrophotography Lenses

When you are getting started in astrophotography, there are certain compositional issues that you have to start thinking about. While the night sky is beautiful, your pictures will often fall flat without some terrestrial feature to ground them. The editing process for astrophotography can be very different from other styles of photography, often stacking multiple shots to reveal distant light and colors that might be invisible to the naked eye or to give a better impression of a meteor shower. There’s also a host of specialized equipment, including computerized star trackers and full-fledged telescopes.

However, the foundation is much the same as landscape photography. You find a composition you like, ensure that any celestial objects you want in your image are actually there (you can only shoot the Milky Way during certain times of the year, for example), lock your camera down on a tripod, and capture long exposures (but not too long – which gets tricky).

When you’re putting together your setup, there are a couple of challenges to keep in mind. The first, and most obvious, is that it’s going to be dark. The second, which may be less intuitive, is that the Earth is constantly moving and rotating. As you use longer shutter speeds to capture more light, you risk turning the pinpoints of distant stars into streaks.

When you’re choosing the best lens for astrophotography, both focal length and aperture become more important.

Focal Length

The night sky is vast and often astrophotographers want to capture as much of it as possible. As a result, wide and ultrawide angle lenses tend to be the go-to choice. For many astrophotographers, there’s no such thing as too wide of a lens.

However, there are times where you may want a longer lens. As with landscape photography, you might want a telephoto lens to highlight specific terrestrial features. Or if you want to highlight a specific celestial object, such as a closeup of the moon, very long lenses might be what you want.

Keep in mind that the longer the lens, the more motion blur will be a problem. You might need higher ISOs (which risk unacceptably noisy images) to keep shutter speed lower or stack more shots, increasing the difficulty and amount of processing work to be done.

Aperture

For astrophotography, you want to limit raising the ISO. The noise introduced by high ISOs will impact your image quality. This means you need a wide aperture to compensate.

You might worry about the depth of field with wide apertures. Fortunately, with the distance to the stars, and likely the distance to other components of your image, you will almost always be shooting focused at infinity and have a very wide depth of field, no matter what your aperture is. You obviously won’t be able to shoot with both close objects and stars in focus (without focus stacking, at least), but that’s rarely a consideration.

For astrophotography, you’ll most want lenses with apertures at least f/2.8, though apertures of f/2.0 or wider are more commonly used.

Other Considerations

Image stabilization is entirely useless in astrophotography because you’ll be shooting longer exposures on a tripod. You’ll almost always shoot with manual focus turned to infinity, so autofocus speeds are also not important.

You do want to find lenses with as little distortion as possible. Chromatic aberration gets somewhat amplified with astrophotography. As a result, primes are generally recommended over zoom lenses. The simplified structure of prime lenses allows them to be made with higher precision and less distortion. There is room for a zoom lens depending on your needs, but if you can get by with a fixed lens instead you should opt for one.

With those considerations in mind, let’s look at some recommended lenses, sorted by focal length. There are a variety of mount types in this list as well as price points.

1. Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Micro Four Thirds

olympus mzuiko lens

Often in astrophotography, getting to your ideal location involves trekking into the remote countryside. As such, size and weight can be a serious consideration, and there aren’t many better options for minimizing your kit size than the Micro Four Thirds system. If you’re looking for a flexible lens suitable for shooting astrophotography with an MFT camera, the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO is a great option.

This lens gives a 14-28mm equivalent focal length which, while not as extreme as the lens’s 7mm would initially imply, still goes wide enough for most of your needs. The f/2.8 aperture is not as impressive as some lenses, but will give you many options both at night and during the day. This is also just a great travel lens, so can perform double duty if you’re shooting night sky work as well as just travel candids.

Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO Micro Four Thirds Key Specs:

  • Focal Length: 7-14mm (14-28mm Equivalent in 35mm Terms)
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 – f.22
  • Micro Four Thirds Mount
  • Format Coverage: Micro Four Thirds
  • 7.87″ Minimum Focusing Distance
  • 114°-75° Angle of View
  • 0.11x Magnification
  • Autofocus and Manual Focus
  • Filter Size: No Front Filter Threading, Front Element Bulges Out
  • Length: 4.17″
  • Weight: 1.17 lbs

2. Fuji XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR

fuji xf lens

Fuji’s X mount cameras boast some truly impressive shooting capabilities. While cameras like the Fuji X-T4 have been mostly adopted by hybrid still/video shooters, there’s no reason why one couldn’t add astrophotography to that toolset.

Designed for the APS-C sized sensor of the X mount cameras, the Fuji XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR lens offers a 12-24 mm equivalent. It features a field curvature correction mechanism designed to adjust based on the position of the zoom in order to maximize edge-to-edge sharpness across the entire zoom range.

Fuji XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR Key Specs:

  • Focal Length: 8-16mm (12-24mm Equivalent in 35mm Terms)
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8-f/22
  • Fuji X Mount
  • Format Coverage: APS-C
  • 9.84″ Minimum Focusing Distance
  • 121°-83.2° Angle of View
  • 0.1x Magnification
  • Autofocus and Manual Focus
  • Filter Size: No Front Filter Threading, Front Element Bulges Out
  • Weather Sealed
  • Length: 4.78″
  • Weight: 1.8 lbs

3. Voigtlander Nokton 10.5mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds

voigtlander lens

If the f/2.8 aperture isn’t wide enough for your Micro Four Thirds camera, the Voigtlander Nokton 10.5mm f/0.95 is an ultrafast prime lens designed specifically for use in extremely low light conditions.

The 21mm equivalent focal length is fairly wide, but may not satisfy shooters looking for ultrawide angles. Being a prime lens, the Voigtlander isn’t as long as the Olympus above but it has the benefit of less distortion. It also has a sleek all-metal build.

Voigtlander Nokton 10.5mm f/0.95 Micro Four Thirds Key Specs:

  • Focal Length: 10.5mm (21mm Equivalent in 35mm Terms)
  • Aperture Range: f/0.95 – f/16
  • Micro Four Thirds Mount
  • Format Coverage: Micro Four Thirds
  • 6.69″ Minimum Focusing Distance
  • 93° Angle of View
  • 0.122x Magnification
  • Manual Focus Only
  • Filter Size: 72mm
  • Length: 3.2″
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs

4. Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

sigma 14mm f1.8

Sigma has an ultrawide 14mm lens with incredible image quality, low distortion, and a very fast f/1.8 aperture. Sigma’s Art line has a huge following thanks to the quality of all facets of these lenses, elevating Sigma from an unexciting third party manufacturer to a genuine flagship competitor. This lens is an ideal one in any astrophotographer’s kit and is available for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony E mounts.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Key Specs:

  • Focal Length: 14mm (22.4mm Equivalent for Crop Sensors)
  • Aperture Range: f/1.8-f/16
  • Available for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony E mounts
  • Format Coverage: Full Frame
  • 10.63″ Minimum Focusing Distance
  • 114.2° Angle of View
  • 1:9.8 Magnification
  • Autofocus and Manual Focus
  • Filter Size: No Front Filter Threading, Front Element Bulges Out
  • Length: 4.96″
  • Weight: 2.57 lbs

5. Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art

sigma 14mm f2.8

As mentioned above, zoom lenses aren’t ideal for astrophotography, but sometimes you need the flexibility of a zoom since objects in the landscape may be far away and you may not be able to carry multiple primes with you.

The Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art gives you a range of wide angles, all the way to a very wide 14mm which is perfect for astrophotography. The f/2.8 aperture isn’t as optimal as wider options, but the lens makes up for it in convenience and flexibility.

This lens is available for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony E mount cameras.

Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Key Specs:

  • Focal Length: 14-24mm (21-36mm Equivalent for Crop Sensors)
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8-f/22
  • Available for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony E mounts
  • Format Coverage: Full Frame
  • 10.24″ Minimum Focusing Distance
  • 114.2-84.1° Angle of View
  • 0.19x Magnification
  • Autofocus and Manual Focus
  • Filter Size: No Front Filter Threading, Front Element Bulges Out
  • Length: ~5.25″
  • Weight: ~2.5 lbs

6. Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

sigma 24mm f1.4

With a super-fast f/1.4 aperture, the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is a fantastic addition to an astrophotographer’s kit. The 24mm focal length fits nicely within the needs of many astrophotographers, especially when used as a complement to the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art listed above

If cost is more of a concern than space and weight, combining those two lenses covers most of the Sigma 14-24mm focal range while providing you with wider apertures. As with the other Art lenses, it is available for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony E mount cameras.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Key Specs:

  • Focal Length: 24mm (36mm Equivalent for Crop Sensors)
  • Aperture Range: f/1.4-f/16
  • Available for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sony E mounts
  • Format Coverage: Full Frame
  • 9.84″ Minimum Focusing Distance
  • 84.1° Angle of View
  • 1:5.3 Magnification
  • Autofocus and Manual Focus
  • Filter Size: 77mm
  • Length: 3.55″
  • Weight: 1.46 lbs

7. Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA

sony planar tfe

While people don’t typically think of “normal view” lenses, such as a 50mms, as astrophotography lenses, there is certainly opportunity to create unique compositions with this focal length. The Sony Planar T* features an optical design from Zeiss Planar. It’s distortion-free with little to no chromatic aberration, making it ideal for astrophotography.
In addition to its astrophotography uses, this lens has a fast, accurate autofocus and physical aperture ring (which can be de-clicked for smooth exposure and depth-of-field transitions) that make it a great choice not only for still photography (particularly street and portraits), but also for video use.

If you don’t shoot Sony, both Canon and Nikon have comparable lenses, including the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L for EF mount cameras, Canon RF 50mm f/1.2L for RF mount cameras, and Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Milvus ZF.2 for Nikon F mount cameras.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Key Specs:

  • Focal Length: 50mm (75mm Equivalent for Crop Sensors)
  • Aperture Range: f/1.4-f/16
  • Sony E Mount
  • Format Coverage: Full Frame
  • 17.72″ Minimum Focusing Distance
  • 47° Angle of View
  • 0.15x Magnification
  • Autofocus and Manual Focus
  • Filter Size: 72mm
  • Length: 4.25″
  • Weight: 1.7 lbs

8. Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S

nikon z70

A 70-200mm f/2.8 lens is a key part of many photographers’ setups. As we’ve seen above, while wide angles are the standard approach to most astrophotography, sometimes you need a longer lens. Choosing a 70-200mm gives you a lot of flexibility for creating compositions that show off Earth-bound features surrounded by stars.

If you’re looking at a 70-200mm lens for astrophotography, you have an abundance of options including first and third party lenses with and without image stabilization. For astro work, an f/2.8 version would be preferable to an f/4, but image stabilization systems are not a priority (unless you want that capability when shooting at other times).

Nikon Z 70-200mm f/2.8 VR S Key Specs:

  • Focal Length: 70-200mm (105-300mm Equivalent for Crop Sensors)
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8-f/22
  • Nikon Z Mount
  • Format Coverage: Full Frame
  • 1.64′ Minimum Focusing Distance
  • 34°20′-12°20′ Angle of View
  • 0.2x Magnification
  • Autofocus and Manual Focus
  • Stepping Motor
  • Image Stabilization
  • Removable Rotating Tripod Collar
  • Filter Size: 77mm
  • Length: 8.66″
  • Weight: 2.99 lbs

9. Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS

sony fe 400mm

This is a niche option that isn’t going to be the go-to for many astrophotographers. Typically thought of as a lens for sports, wildlife, and fast-paced events, the Sony 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS has the extreme reach needed to really bring small parts of the night sky into the spotlight.

You can shoot moons hanging over a cityscape and even start to photograph other distant celestial features. Of course, that comes at the cost of a huge lens with an equally huge price tag. It might be preferable for many to start looking at dedicated tripods with camera adapters, but if you’re able to shoot with a 400mm f/2.8 you can capture scenes that would be impossible with other lenses.

Sony FE 400mm f/2.8 GM OSS Key Specs:

  • Focal Length: 400mm (600mm Equivalent for Crop Sensors)
  • Aperture Range: f/2.8 – f/22
  • Sony E Mount
  • Format Coverage: Full Frame
  • 8.86′ Minimum Focusing Distance
  • 6°10′ Angle of View
  • 0.52x Magnification
  • Autofocus and Manual Focus
  • Filter Size: 40.5mm Drop-In Filter
  • Image Stabilization
  • Dust and Moisture Resistant
  • Rotating Tripod Collar with Removable Foot
  • Length: 14.13″
  • Weight: 6.37 lbs

Astrophotography is ripe with potential for images unlike anything else you can capture. For many, the best lenses for astrophotography have wide angles and wide apertures, but that doesn’t mean that you have to limit yourself to any specific approach. Fantastic images are waiting to be captured by any given focal length. If you’re just getting into astrophotography, rent some different lenses and find out what works best for your personal style.

Tags: , Last modified: July 7, 2021
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