Advertisement

Best lenses for Astrophotography in 2022

July 2, 2022

Best lenses for astrophotography – When setting out to make killer pictures of the night sky, great camera gear goes a long way and arguably lens choice is king. To capture as much of the night sky in a single picture, you need a wide-angle, wide-aperture lens in addition to a camera with high sensitivity to light and therefore good low light image quality.

How to find a great lens for Astrophotography

Many lenses in this roundup are designed for full-frame because this is an optimum sensor size for astrophotography, and the most popular focal length is around 14-24mm. For APS-C lenses the equivalent focal length is roughly 9-16mm, while for Micro Four Thirds you’re looking at something between 7-12mm. Even complex vertical-multi-shot panoramas capturing the milky way work well with a wide-angle lens in this region.

The size of aperture is important too – the wider the maximum aperture, the more light is let in, which is crucial for the best possible image quality when working in low light. Anything around f/1.4 to f/4 is appropriate. A common downside to wide-angle lenses is the image quality fall-off in the corners, so you’ll want to pick one that holds detail well. Mirrorless lenses can perform better for corner detail than equivalent DSLR lenses when set to their widest aperture.

There is a choice between zoom and fixed focal length lenses, too. Quality-wise, zoom lenses have come a long way and we feel the main differentiators are around handling rather than image quality. For example, a fixed focal length lens is likely to be cheaper, smaller, and offer a wider maximum aperture, whereas a zoom lens is usually bulkier but affords you focal length flexibility.

One final point is that there are lenses for the likes of Canon, Nikon and Sony cameras, plus plenty third party options available for multiple lens mounts. We can’t sensibly include every suitable lens in this list, although we regularly note alternatives to our top picks. This roundup is ordered by sensor size, working from Full-Frame to Micro Four Thirds.

So without further ado, here’s our guide to the best lenses for astrophotography, starting with the best full-frame lenses, followed by the best lenses for APS-C, and then Micro Four Thirds. 

Best full-frame lenses for astrophotography:

Best Nikon F-mount lens for astrophotography: Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • 1,000g
  • 14 elements in 11 groups
  • Built-in lens hood
  • £1,799 RRP

The most suitable full-frame Nikon DSLR lens has to be it’s long-standing workhorse wide-angle lens, the AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. Regarding fixed focal length lenses, Nikon’s widest offering is the 20mm f/1.8G ED, which is an excellent landscape photography lens and could be a curveball alternative for night skies.

Part of the f/2.8 trio of lenses so popular with professional photographers, the weighty 14-24mm is a super tough metal lens that boasts rubber sealing to protect against dust and moisture. It also has a built-in lens hood, but with no filter thread. When pushed to its limit – which is what astrophotographers will do – there is the expected fall-off in corner detail and brightness, but overall this professional lens comprising 14 elements in 11 groups delivers optically.


Best Nikon Z-mount lens for astrophotography: Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S

Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S with Z7

Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S with Z7, Photo: Michael Topham / AP

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • 16 elements in 11 groups
  • Specialised lens hood with 112mm filter thread
  • Only 650g
  • £2,499 RRP

As things stand, it’s copy paste from Nikon’s DSLRs for its Z-mount mirrorless cameras for our pick of astrophotography lenses. But the Z 14-24mm f/2.8 benefits from the larger Z-mount design, whereby Nikon has been able to create a lens that performs better optically than its DSLR equivalent, in the corners and when using wide apertures. Bingo for astrophotography, and less work in post. See our full review.

It’s also a much smaller and lighter lens at only 650g, plus extensive weather-sealing and fluorine coating on the front lens element stands the lens in good stead for nighttime adventures. Again, if you know 20mm is wide enough for night sky pictures, then the Z 20mm f/1.8 S lens is a more cost effective alternative with 1.3EV brighter maximum aperture. We’d more happily use the maximum aperture in a Z-mount lens too, and so the Z 14-30mm f/4 S is not out of the question for astrophotography, either.


Best Canon EF-mount lens for astrophotography: Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/16
  • Rectilinear design
  • 645g
  • Dust and moisture sealing
  • Now discontinued and £700-900 approx secondhand (£2,309 RRP)

Canon’s professional wide-angle f/2.8 zoom lens is the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM, which might not be wide enough for some astrophotographers, so we’ve gone for the more specialist Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM as the best EF lens for photographing the night skies. It’s part of the professional range of L-series lenses, which means a robust build quality well suited for shooting in harsh environments.

The lens construction features 14 elements in 11 groups and the design is rectilinear which means distortion is reduced compared to, say, a wide-angle zoom lens. Star-shooters can therefore expect sharp detail from centre to edges with no chromatic aberrations. An alternative choice would be the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 which you’ll see below is our pick for best third party lens, or if a maximum aperture of f/4 is acceptable, then the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens is worth a look.


Best Canon RF-mount lens for astrophotography: Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8L IS USM

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • 82mm filter thread
  • 840g
  • 5EV image stabilisation
  • £2,389 RRP

Canon is fleshing out its RF-Mount lens range, but as things stand there is no professional ultra-wide-angle, wide-aperture fixed focal length lens available. However, its 15-35mm F2.8L wide-angle zoom lens is wide enough and a fine choice for astrophotography.

It boasts L-Series ruggedness for nighttime adventures, a 5-stop image stabiliser, silent Nano USM autofocus motor, plus you even get an 82mm filter thread so it’s a lens that can easily double up for landscape photography and the like where filters are necessary. And with a complex optical design featuring 16 elements in 12 groups, this is sure to prove a workhorse lens for wide-angle lovers.


Best Sony FE-mount lens for astrophotography: Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM

Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM

Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • 847g
  • 17 elements in 14 groups
  • Sony FE mount
  • £2,900 RRP

Of all lens mounts, full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras are afforded the greatest choice of wide-angle, wide-aperture lenses. We could’ve picked any Sony FE lens from the 12-24mm f/2.8, 14mm f/1.8, 16-35mm f/2.8, or the 12-24mm f/4 – all of which are great lenses, However, we landed on the 12-24mm F2.8 GM lens as the most versatile, albeit the most expensive option. It may be twice the price of the F4 version, but serious astrophotographers for whom low light performance is everything will surely be tempted by the widest angle lens of its kind with constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range.

It’s no surprise that there is no filter thread given the widest 12mm focal length, but this is a relatively lightweight full-frame lens at 847g that pairs well with a camera like the Sony A7 IV that features in our best cameras for astrophotography guide. Being a G Master lens (GM), the 12-24mm f/2.8 is extremely well-built and it is optically very sharp even wide open and from centre to edges. Sony-showmanship at its finest! If 14mm is your focal length, then the Sony FE 14mm f/1.8 is an all-round better option.


Best Pentax K-mount lens for astrophotography: Pentax-D FA HD 15-30mm F2.8 ED SDM WR

Pentax-D FA HD 15-30mm F2.8 ED SDM WR

Pentax-D FA HD 15-30mm F2.8 ED SDM WR

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • 1040g
  • Weather-resistant
  • 23-45mm in APS-C crop mode
  • £1,629 RRP

You’re not exactly spoilt for choice with Pentax wide-angle lenses, which is a shame because the cameras do night photography so well. However, you only need one lens that does the job and the Pentax 15-30mm F2.8 is a fine choice. Launched around the same time as the Pentax K-1 in 2016, it’s a reassuringly bulky lens at just over 1kg. There is no filter thread (not that you will use screw-in filters for astrophotography), but it is weather resistant and therefore a solid pairing with a tough camera like the Pentax K-1 and its replacement the K-1 II.

Benefitting from a lens construction of 18 elements in 13 groups, users report a high and even sharpness from centre to edges even at the maximum f/2.8 aperture, and this aperture is available throughout the entire zoom range, too. What might initially cause confusion to Pentax shooters fumbling around in the dark to manually focus the 15-30mm lens, is that it focuses in the opposite direction to every other Pentax lens. Go figure.


Best Panasonic S-Mount lens for astrophotography: Panasonic Lumix 20-60mm S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6

Panasonic Lumix 20-60mm S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6

Panasonic Lumix 20-60mm S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6

At a glance

  • Maximum f/3.5 aperture at 20mm
  • 350g
  • 11 elements in 9 groups
  • 67mm filter thread
  • £619 RRP

In what feels like a curveball entry, the Panasonic Lumix S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 is the only ‘kit’ lens in this roundup (available with the Panasonic S5 that features in our best astrophotography cameras guide. There is a lack of alternatives for full-frame Panasonic cameras, with the 16-35mm f/4 lens being another option. However, we’ve primarily included the 20-60mm because it is a wider-than-normal kit lens, with its widest focal length particularly ideal for astrophotography.

Given most astrophotographers will use the widest 20mm focal length, the maximum f/3.5 aperture is reasonable. (The same principle goes for other kit lenses, though they are unlikely to be as wide as this one). And as far as kit lenses go, the 20-60mm is surprisingly well built with dust and moisture resistance and it weighs only 350g – that’s nothing for a full-frame lens. It’s also impressively sharp, even with its relatively straightforward lens construction of 11 elements in 9 groups.


Best third party DSLR lens for astrophotography: Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM ART Lens - FE-mount

Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM ART Lens – FE-mount

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/1.8 to f/16
  • 1170g
  • 1.3EV brighter than f/2.8
  • Available in Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony FE/ E, and L-mount
  • £1,399 RRP

A toss up between the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 and the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8, we’ve gone for the 14mm f/1.8 lens because there are equivalent 14-24mm f/2.8 Canon and Nikon DSLR lenses available, whereas you wont find a proprietary 14mm f/1.8 lens apart from Sony’s excellent offering. Available in Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, and L-mount, this gargantuan lens boasts an ultra-bright maximum aperture and ultra-wide fixed focal length.

We find a lot of astrophotographers like the wider 14mm focal length, and in this lens you gain an extra 1.3EV of light with that f/1.8 aperture compared to f/2.8 – making it completely possible to shoot night skies at ISO 200! Being dedicated for purpose, this ultra-wide lens is impressively sharp from centre to edges. Sigma Art lenses are extremely well built, too, though none officially feature weather-resistance.


Best lens under £500 for astrophotography: Rokinon / Samyang 14mm f/2.8 ED AS IF UMC

Samyang 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC

Samyang 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • Manual focus
  • 530-575g
  • Available in Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Pentax K, Fujfilm X, MFT, Canon M, Sony A mounts
  • £250 street price (available as Samyang or Rokinon depending on market)

A supremely popular lens among astrophotographers, the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 is an excellent value wide-angle, wide-aperture manual focus lens. It is available for a number of lens mounts, and where available we recommend the ‘AE’ version with electronic contacts that provide auto exposure and exposure information (metadata). Handling-wise, the lens lacks weather-sealing, nor does it feature a hyperfocal distance scale or hard infinity stop. Otherwise, for image quality alone you get unparalleled bang for buck.

Samyang ushered in a new dawn by making an autofocus version of this lens for Canon, Nikon and Sony shooters, available for around twice the price. However, for astrophotography, autofocus is largely redundant so we’d stick with this one unless you’ll use it for many other purposes. Building on its popularity, there is also a premium ‘XP’ version for Canon and Nikon DSLR users, although this (still-good-value) version is a tasty £900.


Best APS-C lenses for astrophotography:

Best Fujifilm X-Mount lens for astrophotography: Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR

Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR (on XH1)

Fujinon XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR (on XH1)

At a glance

  • Equivalent 12-24mm focal length
  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • 805g
  • No filter thread
  • £1,799 RRP

Not only is the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 lens the widest X-mount lens available, it is a zoom lens with f/2.8 constant maximum aperture to boot. The equivalent 12-24mm focal length is ideal for astrophotographers, as is the weather-resistant construction denoted by the WR in the lens nomenclature.

For an XF lens, 805g is on the weightier side. Perhaps it’s the complex lens construction of 20 elements in 13 groups. We’ve read reports of excellent optical sharpness even at f/2.8, albeit with a slight fall-off in the edges of the frame. The lack of filter thread might be a headache for landscape photographers, but astrophotographers aren’t know for using lens filters. Launched in 2019, the 8-16mm lens is now available under £1,500.


Best Sony E-Mount lens for astrophotography: Sony E 11mm f/1.8

Sony E 11mm F1.8, top view

Sony E 11mm F1.8, top view

At a glance

  • Equivalent 16.5mm focal length
  • Aperture range f/1.8 to f/16
  • Only 181g
  • Available in Sony E mount only
  • £500 RRP

A new kid on the block in 2022, the Sony E 11mm f/1.8 is a wide-aperture APS-C lens with equivalent 16.5mm focal length primarily marketed for v-logging, but incidentally is plenty wide enough for astrophotography. It is designed for Sony E mount cameras like the 6000-series, and being a miniscule 66mm in length and feather-light 181g, it represents a compelling option for those that don’t want to be bogged down with heavy kit.

You won’t get the same level of weather-sealing in this dust and moisture-resistant autofocus lens when paired with a Sony 6000-series camera, but it’ll cope just fine with your regular night adventures. It packs 12 lens elements in 11 groups and despite its wide focal length will accept threaded filters, while its price tag of £500 represents decent value. You could also take a look at the Sony E 15mm F1.4 G if you don’t need something as wide.


Best third party APS-C lens for astrophotography: Tokina atx-i 11-20mm F2.8 CF Plus

Tokina atx-i 11-20mm F2.8 CF PLUS WIDE ZOOM

Tokina atx-i 11-20mm F2.8 CF PLUS Wide Zoom

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • 82mm filter thread
  • 550-570g (Nikon/Canon)
  • Available in Canon EF and Nikon F mounts
  • £500 approx

The Tokina atx-i 11-20mm F2.8 CF Plus is a rare wide-angle, wide aperture zoom lens for APS-C DSLR cameras. This autofocus lens has an equivalent focal length of approximately 16.5-30mm for Nikon F and 17.6-32mm for Canon EF mounts. Optically complex, the lens construction features 14 elements in 12 groups. At 550-570g (Nikon/Canon), the 11-20mm balances well on mid-range DSLRs, plus it features a weather-sealed ring on its mounting plate and an 82mm filter thread for those that want a lens to double up for other endeavours such as landscape photography. Image stabilisation is lacking, but that feature is largely irrelevant for tripod-mounted astrophotography anyway.

All in all, a stellar lens that is overall a more compelling choice for capturing the night skies than DSLR lenses like the Nikkor AF-P DX 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED, and Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM.

If you want to save money, keep an eye out for the previous version, the Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 PRO DX, which can be found for around £300 second-hand.


Best Micro Four Thirds lenses for astrophotography:

Best Olympus lens for astrophotography: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 1:2.8 PRO

The 7-14mm has a very similar design to the existing 12-40mm f/2.8

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2.8 to f/22
  • 534g
  • Weather-resistant
  • No filter thread
  • £999 RRP

It’s been around for a while now, but the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro lens stands the test of time for a multitude of photography disciplines. And with a 14-28mm equivalent focal length and constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, it is the most versatile micro four thirds lens for astrophotography.

Not only is the lens a workhorse regarding its robust build quality, but its complex optical design of 14 elements in 11 groups comprises exotic aspheric and ED elements that combine to deliver excellent quality images, as highlighted in our review of the lens. The only downside is reduced corner sharpness when the lens aperture is wide open, which is a common pitfall of wide-angle Micro Four Thirds lenses.


Best third party MFT-mount lens for astrophotography: Laowa 7.5mm f/2

Laowa 7.5mm f/2 MFT (AW)

Laowa 7.5mm f/2 MFT (AW)

At a glance

  • Aperture range f/2 to f/22
  • Manual focus
  • 170g
  • Equivalent 15mm focal length
  • £499 RRP

Laowa traditionally creates manual focus lenses that do not exist elsewhere, and ensures they are optically sharp to boot. Here in the Laowa 7.5mm f/2, we have the widest-angle Micro Four Thirds lens with rectilinear perspective, of particular interest to architecture photographers. However, this tiny 170g lens for Olympus and Panasonic MFT cameras is a highly compelling choice for astrophotography, too.

Sadly, there is no official note of weather-resistance in this metal lens with 46mm filter thread, nor is there electronic contacts to communicate info to the camera, including metadata. However, in our review of the lens, we found the 7.5mm f/2 lens to be extremely sharp in the centre of the frame, albeit astrophotographers using the widest aperture of the lens might notice softer detail in the corners. If 18mm is wide enough for you, then the similarly priced Panasonic Leica DG Vario Summilux 9mm f/1.7 G ASPH lens is well worth looking into instead.


Featured image: The Lily Windmill, Credit: Robbie Goodall, Getty Images


Once you had a look at the different lens and camera options, you’ll find some great tips on astrophotography in our essential guide to astrophotography, and well as more articles on astrophotography.

Have a look at the best cameras for astrophotography, as well as our latest lens reviews and buying guides!


Follow AP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

SubscribeSubscribe
Free download!

Get your free digital download of Improve Your Photography - Nature!