Shooting at night is one thing, but capturing the stars, constellations, and rest of the night sky in all its glory? Whole other ball game.
Even if you do happen to be shooting during a clear evening, the low lighting conditions and everchanging elements of the milky way dictate, so don't expect to get great results if you just point, shoot, and hope for the best. No, you need a specific lens to do the job.
So, what makes for a good lens for shooting the Astrophotography? Well, you’re going to want to get your hands on a wide-angle zoom or prime lens to ensure the expanse is captured, as well as ensuring it has a wide aperture to ensure the best light possible, especially as some shoot in near pitch-black conditions.
If you’re unsure of what lens might be a good fit for you, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, you’ll find a roundup of the top 5 lenses for astrophotography available to purchase today, as well as a buying guide that will make sure you know everything you need to know before picking a lens.
This lens from Rokinon has been purposefully designed with astrophotography in mind. Its ultra-wide lens and impressive aperture range make this a versatile shooting lens that you can use for both Astro and landscape photography. For nighttime photography, the higher aperture setting is able to let in more light for a clearer picture.
Not only that, but it’s also designed to reduce grain and noise by reducing the curve that light has to travel through. Plus, thanks to the UMC Multi-Coating finish, the chance of light flares and ghosting are significantly reduced.
Here’s why it’s our top pick:
Compatible to be used with mounts from Canon, Sony, Nikon, Fujifilm, and Olympus
Its ultra-wide-angle lens is able to capture the expanse of the night sky
The Rokinon 14mm F2.8 provides a frame-filling ultra-wide rectilinear view that is perfect for astrophotography
Its low coma and excellent sharpness are perfect for shooting the night sky
Best Lenses for Astrophotography – Comparison Table
Regardless of whether you’re an astrophotography pro or just starting out, the Rokinon 14mm Ultra Wide Lens will be a welcomed addition to your lens bag!
Designed with nighttime shooting in mind, the Rokinnon 14mm is a prime lens meaning that it is sharper, lighter, and can work in lower lighting conditions better than a zoom lens could.
Not only that, as it is a prime lens, it has a faster (and wider) maximum aperture and fewer lens elements, meaning that is able to gather and pass through more light. As a result, even in poor lighting conditions, you’ll be able to get fantastic images. Plus, thanks to the small size of the Rokinon, 14mm, it won’t weigh you down as you travel from different shooting locations.
Ensuring that you capture the vast expanse of the night sky, The Rokinon 14mm F2.8 provides a frame-filling ultra-wide rectilinear view, while the UMC multi-coating across the lens is able to reduce flare and ghosting, all the while increasing light transmission and contrast.
It has also been designed to reduce reflections and light scattering within the lens which helps to prevent image degrading haze, low contrast, and interference from bright light sources, while Its low coma and excellent sharpness is ideal for shooting the night sky, ensuring that each star and constellation will be captured with incredible detail and clarity.
Low coma is able to help prevent comatic aberration for clearer images.
Low flare and ghost is designed to reduce reflections and light scattering within the lines to prevent any haze or low contrast from interfering with the image result.
Next up we’ve selected the Altura Photo 8mm Professional Ultra Wide Angles Lens, a reasonably priced, manual focus lens that won’t break the bank.
Unlike other types of lenses, the Altura lens has a metal lens and a hybrid aspherical element that is able to promote a wide-angle, making it ideal for astrophotography because it will be able to capture the width of the area of sky you are capturing without any distortion.
Not only that, but this nighttime lens from Altura also has multi-layer coatings across the lens to ensure the highest quality image possible while also being able to reduce flares and ghosting.
The Altura Photo 8mm also has manual aperture control for optimum customizability. The aperture has six diaphragm blades and has an aperture range from f/3 to f/22, allowing you to tailor the lens to suit the environment and lighting conditions.
Not only that, the Altura Photo 8mm Ultra Wide Angle Lens even comes with its very own storage case, making it easy for you to take it anywhere without it getting damaged.
Multi-layer coatings to reduce flare and ghosting
Suitable for wide-angle astrophotography
The focus on wide portraits can be difficult to control
If you’re a professional photographer or looking to make an investment purchase, the Canon EF 16-35mm might be the astrophotography lens that you’re looking for.
Offering the ultimate combination of wide-angle and low-light performance, as well as L-series optics and a super lightweight construction, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/4.0L IS USM Lens is a premium option that will ensure every image you take of the night sky will be of professional quality.
Doing the hard work for you, this fantastic lens incorporates an Optical Image Stabilizer to prevent a shaky hand from interfering with the image quality, as well as offering up to four stops of correction for bright and clarified images even at night.
It features three aspheric lens elements and two UD lens elements to minimize aberrations throughout the zoom range, plus optimized coatings to help minimize ghosting, including one large-diameter aspherical element and two ultra-low dispersion elements.
Offering total versatility, the lens is compatible with all Canon cameras as well as multiple other cameras too. It has a maximum aperture of f/4 that helps to take clear pictures with a continuous zoom range which in turn helps to reduce chromatic aberrations.
Additionally, a chlorine coating on the lens further helps to remove flares, while its USM AF motor allows for quick and effortless focusing. The lens is water and dust resistance, making it ideal for astrophotography, all the while ensuring that its performance is not compromised – especially as you’re going to be outdoors!
Supports wide-angle portraits, making it ideal for shooting the night sky
Water and dust resistant to ensure high performance, regardless of whether you are outdoors or indoors
If you’re the type of photographer that prefers to keep their lens bag to a minimum, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 35mm Fixed Zoom Lens is versatile enough to be used for astrophotography, as well as landscape, art, and architecture photography, too!
This f/1.8 lens will help you to capture the night sky with crystal clear clarity, while its maximum angle view of 50mm will allow you to capture the width of the night sky without compromising on depth.
Not only that, but it also has aspherical lens elements that will eliminate any distortion and flares, while the Super Integrated coating allows you to capture each image with enhanced contrast and color. As well as this, it has a 7 blade diaphragm that allows you to softly blur the background to bring more attention to the subject or center of the frame.
This lens has a focal length that offers a picture angle similar to the normal human eye (so what you see will be what the image result looks like!), while the light transmission efficiency of this lens produces sharp images that are free of any distortion, ghosting or flare.
Moreover, the innovative Silent Wave Motor enables sharp autofocus, while its maximum aperture of f/1.8 makes shooting at night possible, so it’s a great choice for astrophotography.
If you’re on the hunt for a lens that offers a wide aperture, we think that you’ll love the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens.
The uniquely wide f/1.8 aperture within this Canon lens is able to let in more than 8x the amount of light compared to a standard zoom lens. This results in sharper images with less motion blur, as well as a reduced need to use flash in dimly lit conditions so you can easily capture the atmosphere of a low light environment, making it absolutely perfect for capturing the beauty of the night sky authentically.
As well as this, its 50mm focal length will allow you to capture the night sky from corner to corner of the frame in incredible clarity. Plus, thanks to Canon working to create a similar perspective to the human eye, the image of the night sky you see above you will be the exact image you capture on your camera. Pretty impressive, right?
Another feature that stands out to us is that this Canon lens features a near-silent STM (Stepping Motor) technology, that is able to focus extremely quickly when shooting, so you capture fleeting moments before they pass, especially as the stars move quickly.
Lightweight and compact, you’ll easily be able to travel from shooting location to shooting location thanks to its little design, while its circular 7-blade design will leave a beautiful background blur, adding a dreamy effect to each image. Not only that, but the updated lens arrangement within the new lens coatings is able to provide better color balance than older Canon lens models.
Very affordable and made by industry favorite Canon
The portable design will slot itself easily into your shooting bag and won’t weigh you down
Wide-angle for corner to corner clarity
Stepping Motor Technology is responsive and fast, making it ideal for astrophotography
So, now that you’ve discovered the top five lenses for astrophotography, here are some key points to keep in mind before making your decision:
First and foremost, a lens that offers a wide-angle view, with corner to corner clarity is vital due to the nature of the subject you planning on shooting: the night sky! A wide-angle view will make all the difference and ensure that the images you take will be free from distortion.
It will also ensure that the depth and vast expanse is not compromised, to offer the most realistic result. With that being said, we recommend going for lenses that offer anywhere from 8-14mm, with an f/2.8 or lower.
Additionally, a fast wide-angle is ideal for enhancing the quality in low light conditions. With apertures falling between f/1.4 to f/2, these super-fast wide-angle will gather two to eight times more light than the typical lens could!
So, even if you’re shooting in the dark, these lenses will be able to take in more light while ensuring incredible clarity across the entire frame. Fast wide-angles are a favorite of professional photographers and hobbyists, alike! They are a little more expensive, but we strongly believe them to be worthy of an investment.
Chromatic Aberrations and Coma
The occurrence of chromatic aberration is a lens deficiency that results from the different waves of light getting focused at different distances and becoming mixed together. This is known as ‘color fringing’ and can lead to a purple haze being present in the corners of the frame, as well as distortion.
The best lenses for astrophotography will be able to counteract the chances of this happening, and are often described as having a ‘low coma’.
No matter whether you are planning to shoot photos of the night sky or simply just in low light conditions, you will need a lens with a fast aperture! Not only will this allow you to ensure maximum exposure, but it will also ensure that the images you capture are as bright and clear as possible.
What is the best lens for astrophotography?
One of the biggest deciding factors when it comes to night sky photography is first deciding whether or not you plan on capturing the stars! If you do not plan on including stars in your shots, the selection process is a lot easier because you don’t need to factor in any lens elements that can permeate through the clouds, light pollution, as well as counteracting the light of the moon.
On the other hand, if you plan on shooting the night sky and capturing the stars, you’ll need to purchase a lens that is a little more specific. Starlight is very dim and, as we said above, light pollution and other factors can affect the image and make the stars almost invisible in the frame.
Therefore, you’ll need a lens that is able to capture them in great detail and a good indication of this ability is a lens that has a big aperture, wide lens, as well as being multi-coated. Each lens we have included above has the ability to capture the stars, as well as constellations when the sky is clear.
Why do I need to maximize exposure for Astrophotography?
Besides the low light conditions and the huge size of the night sky, the stars are constantly moving (or, rather, that the earth is spinning, but it appears as though the stars are moving to your camera) and believe it or not, it’s happening really quickly!
Due to this, you want to give yourself as much wiggle room as possible to capture the different celestial events occurring before they have moved or changed. The best way to do this is to maximize your exposure and work with the low light conditions rather than against, and the top three factors for a successful astrophotography evening heavily depend on your shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
Generally speaking, when it comes to other kinds of photography (like landscape) you could open up the shutter speed for a long time to achieve maximum exposure. However, when it comes to night sky photography, you don’t have that luxury since the stars and clouds are moving, meaning your shutter speed is going to be limited to somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds.
If you expose any longer, the camera will pick up that movement and it will show up as blur or distortion in your pictures, which is something you don’t want to happen. We recommend keeping an eye out for lenses that have a large aperture (to better capture the subjects in low light conditions) while ensuring that you select a lens with lightning-fast shutter speed.
Last Updated on 2020-10-20 //Source: Affiliate Affiliates
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