Astrophotography is one of the most delicate type of photography. For you to capture internet worthy photos, you need to beat the already existing pictures. And to take spectacular photos, you need the best astrophotography lens. Keep reading to find out what to look in lens when starting or perfecting your astrophotography career.
What makes a good astrophotography lens?
Settling for one specific type of lens for astrophotography can be such a big hustle. You are likely to run into over 100 types of
lenses each with different features and suitable for different cameras.
Among those many available lenses, lenses for astrophotography has some very unique features. You might go through a lot of struggles to choose the best astrophotography lens. However, once you get the right type of lens, your journey in astrophotography will be very smooth.
So what do I look in lens for astrophotography?
Since all images of deep skies objects are taken at night, the aperture of the lens matters. Your camera definitely come with some lens that most likely have an aperture that changes with the type of pictures you are taking and the focal length.
Astrophotography lens should have a constant aperture due to the presence of noise. It is recommended you use a lens with an aperture of F/2.8 or greater. There will be less noise when you are using lenses with an aperture of F/2.8, F/1.2 and anything greater.
Focal length of the lenses determine how clear and how much noise will be available in a picture. When choosing lenses for astrophotography, ensure the lenses are wide-eyed and the focal length should be between 18-24mm.
However, if you taking pictures of deep skies objects or the northern light, use telescopes with over 400mm focal length. Besides, telescopes are cheaper than normal camera lens.
Coma and Chromatic Aberrations
Chromatic aberration is what is also known as colour fringing and happens on the edges of your image. It always manifest in purple fringes.
Coma on the other hand is a form of disturbances that results to mysterious light in your images.
Chromatic Aberration and coma are usually found in low quality lenses. So, before settling for any lens, check for these two factors.
Some lens may suffer from the flare effect and some ghost images. This is mostly evident in low quality lens. When using this lens, you will capture some halos, or even some ghost shadows that should not be in pictures.
To prevent that from happening, invest in a high-quality lens. Preferably, lenses that have a filter coating that prevents such flares from happening.
The above discussed factors will determine the quality of the images you take. While some issues like the coma and Chromatic Aberration can be fixed in Photoshop, the others will permanently distort your images. We will discuss further what lenses offer all good qualities of a astrophotography lens below.
What lens is needed for star photography?
When shooting a trail of stars at night, you will need to capture every detail. And since the normal camera lens might lead to distortion of the images, investing in high-quality lens will be a game changer. Some of the things that make lens ideal for star photography include;
- Wide-angled lens: Lens with a constant F-stop of between F/1.8 to F/4 will capture the most amazing star trails.
- Focal length: Lenses ideal for star imaging should ha e a focal length of somewhere between 14-20mm. Again, you can use a telescope if you have access to one.
- Crop sensor: The crop sensor focal lengths should be between 10-17mm.
Examples of cameras with such features include;
- Samyang XP 14mm f/2.4
- Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM
- Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8
Can a telephoto lens be used for astrophotography?
Yes. Telephoto lens are ideal for astrophotography. However, they are mostly used by advanced astrophotography photographers. If you are using telephoto lens, you need to have enough knowledge to balance the colour, contrast and brightness. Otherwise, you will produce whack images.
Best telephoto lens for astrophotography
Telephoto lens are very expensive but more advanced. You can capture some spectacular images with telephoto lens with an F-stop value of F/2.8 without needing to edit. Some of these lens are;
- Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens
- Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens
- Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM Lens
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II Lens
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR Lens
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens
- Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Lens
- Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM Lens
- Nikon F – Canon EF
- Nikon F – Canon EF – Sony E
- Nikon AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED Lens
- Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II Lens
- Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
- Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art
What DSLR lens is best for astrophotography?
Astrophotography DSLR lens can be divided into Top lens and budget DSLR.
|Type||Top DSLR lens||Budget DSLR lens|
|Wide-angled||Canon EF – Nikon FSigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ArtSigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art||Canon EF-S – Nikon FCanon EF – Nikon FCanon EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STMNikon AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR LensRokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS LensRokinon 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC|
|Normal||Nikon F – Canon EFSigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art||Canon’s 50mm f/1.8 lensNikon’s 50mm f/1.8 lens|
|Telephoto||Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM LensCanon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM LensNikon F- Canon EF-Sony ENikon F – Canon EFNikon AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED LensNikon AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II LensSigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM ArtSigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art||Canon EF – Nikon FCanon 200mm f/2.8 L II USM EFNikkor 180mm f/2.8 EDSigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro LensSamyang 135mm f/2.0 ED UMC LensRokinon 85mm f/1.4 AS IF UMC Lens|
|Super Telephoto||Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM LensCanon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM LensCanon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM LensNikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II LensNikon AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR LensNikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR LensNikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens|
What zoom lens is for astrophotography?
Zoom lenses are lenses with adjustable focal length. Some of the most common zoom lens are;
- Canon 18-55 f/3.5-5.6
- Canon 55-250 f/4-5.6
- Sigma 18-200 f/3.5-6.3,
- Nikon Coolpix P1000
Best lens for milky way photography
Although the camera is a crucial part in milky way photography, the type of lens also matters a lot. Below is a chart showing the best milky way photography lens and the cheapest available options in the same category.
|Budget milky way photography lens||Best milky way photography lens|
|Rokinon 14mm f/2.8Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USDIrix 15mm f/2.4 BlackstoneVenus Laowa 15mm f/2Sony 20 mm f/1.88||Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSMNikkor Z 20mm f/1.8 SCanon RF 15-35 mm f/2.8Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DGZeiss 18mm Batis f/2.8|
All the Milky way photography lens mentioned above are either mirrorless or DSLR mirrorless.
What to look for in a lens for milky way photography
Most ideal lens for milky way photography should be wide-angled and full framed. This types of lenses have the capability to capture enough light to avoid the always occurring noise in images. Aside from that, the things listed below should be considered when choosing milky way photography lens;
- Coma and Chromatic Aberration
- Low-light performance lens
- Wide-angled lens
- Medium and long focal length
- Look for any form of distortion
- Check for signs of vignetting
- And finally are the lenses zoom or prime?
Best lenses for deep sky astrophotography
You do not have to use a telescope to capture amazing pictures of the deep skies. With a good quality lens, you can adjust and make the lens work. However, ensure the lens you are buying are compatible with your camera.
Again, you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to buy your lens. Among the 100’s of lenses in the market, I have chosen the best budget deep-sky lenses and best deep-sky lenses. They are included in the table below.
Best budget deep-sky lenses
|Best budget deep-sky lenses||Best deep-sky lenses|
|Specific type||Rokinon 135mm F/2.0||Tamron 150-600mm F/5-6.3|
|Sensor compatibility||Full-frame, APS-C, Micro Four Thirds||Full-frame, APS-C|
|Compatible cameras||Canon, Nikon and sony||Canon, Nikon and Sony|
What to look for in a lens for deep sky astrophotography
Focal length: lenses for deep-sky astrophotography should have a focal length of somewhere between 100-600mm
Aperture: lenses with a wide aperture are ideal for this type of photography. The ideal aperture should be between F/6 and greater.
Can I use a telescope instead of a lens for deep space astrophotography?
Yes. You can use a telescope for deep space astrophotography instead of lens. However, there is some challenges to it. You can adjust the focal length in lenses up to a certain range. On the other hand, the focal length in telescope is fixed.
What size lens do I need for astrophotography?
Any lenses that have a zoom capability and an adjustable focal length is ideal for astrophotography. However, each lenses no matter what size it is has its own advantages and disadvantages. The table below gives a summary of the pros and cons of a variety of short and long focal length lenses.
|18 mm||AffordableLightweightSmallSharpest||Does not work with full-frame|
|20 mm||Great image qualityCompact and lightweight||Feels cheapThe quality of images at the corners is whack|
|24 mm||Accurate and fast autofocusLightweightFlexible||The sharpness of the images at wide aperture is poor|
|35 mm||Better quality imagesCan pick some smaller objects in the skiesAccurate autofocus and speed||Have a limited range of apertureImages may be distorted.|
|300mm||Creates amazing perspectiveYou can capture even the slightest objectThey have a wide variety of apertures||They are quite expensiveMost of these lenses are heavyMight produce distorted images|
Best budget lenses.
If you already own a common m50, there are over 50 lenses compatible with these camera. However, we will mention at least 5 best budget lenses for m50;
- Tamron AF 18-200mm F/3.5-6
- Canon EF-M 11-22mm f/4-5.6 STM
- Canon EF-M 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 – Best For Travel
- Canon EF-M 18-150 mm f/3.5-6.3 – Best Wide-Angle
Other brands with best budget lenses are included in the list below;
Sony E Mount:
- Rokinon AF 18mm f/2.8 FE Lens for Sony E
- Rokinon AF 24mm f/2.8 FE
- Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSDM
Nikon Z Mount:
- NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.2 S
- NIKKOR Z 20mm f/1.8 S
- NIKKOR Z 35mm f/1.8 S
- NIKKOR Z 24mm f/1.8 S
- NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S
- NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S
Canon RF Mount:
- Canon RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro STM
- Canon RF 85mm f/2 Macro IS STM
- Canon RF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Choosing the right type of lenses for astrophotography is not that complicated anymore. If you know have figured out the ideal focal length and aperture, you can pick any lenses with ease. If you don’t have any clue about astrophotography, the guide above will be of so much help when you are shopping for lenses.
Justin Parker is a professional photographer and has been in the industry since 2007. He attended the University of Georgia. Justin combines his passion for photography and his interest in writing to give life to this blog which talks about photography in order to help and inspire young photographers.