Best Lenses for Astrophotography

With so many photographers seeking creative ways to get out and explore, it’s not surprising that crowd-free, natural environments are in the spotlight. More and more photographers are expanding their scope, and recently, that includes experimenting with astrophotography.  

What is astrophotography?

Astrophotography is photography of objects in the night sky, including the moon, constellations, star trailing, and even the Milky Way.

What do I need to do astrophotography?

You can get started with a basic kit including a camera, tripod, shutter release, and the right lens. Many photographers prefer specialized equipment and accessories, but choosing the right lens is an important first step toward capturing great photographs of the night sky. Ideally you should have a fairly wide-angle lens and shoot at a wide aperture.

Here are some of the best camera lenses for astrophotography. Note that our picks are for lenses that are compatible with SLR and mirrorless cameras. 

1. Best for the Sony enthusiast: Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM

The Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8GM is a fantastic, high-tech, ultra-wide angle lens. Unlike many other ultra-wides, the maximum aperture of f/2.8 is constant throughout the zoom range, allowing you greater flexibility of use and a consistent look at any focal length.

Three XA elements help improve resolution from edge to edge of the image, while carefully crafted extra-low dispersion glass elements minimize chromatic aberration and increase sharpness. A revolutionary Nano AR Coating II helps minimize ghosting and flare to combat the top frustrations of night photography. If your goal is to create impressively rich and detailed images of the night sky with your Sony mirrorless camera, this is the lens for you.

Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens for Sony E
Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 GM Lens for Sony E

2. Best for the Canon purist: Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

The Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8L boasts many similar features and benefits to the Sony FE 12-24mm. As a member of the L series, this lens offers the upper echelon of glass elements and quality coatings in a durable, weather-sealed case.

With a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, you can achieve fast shutter speeds in low light at any focal length. Astrophotographers will especially appreciate the subwavelength coating and air sphere coating which combat reflections, aberration, and ghosting. No matter how bright your celestial subject is, this lens will help produce clean images.

Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens

3. Best for the Nikon gearhead: Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED-IF

Not to be outdone by competitors, Nikon’s 14-24mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S Zoom lens by Nikkor offers equally excellent design, build quality, and implementation in this high-end ultra-wide lens. The maximum aperture of f/2.8 remains constant throughout the zoom range, and thanks to extra-low dispersion and PGM aspherical elements, every shot is optimized for edge-to-edge sharpness.

With an ultra-quiet silent wave motor internal auto-focus system, this lens quickly and accurately adapts to your needs to assure tack-sharp focus from 10.8 inches to infinity. The 14-24mm f/2.8 works seamlessly with full-frame and crop sensor cameras, so even if you’re not quite ready to upgrade your camera body, you can benefit from this fantastic lens. 

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S NIKKOR Lens F/DSLR Cameras - U.S.A. Warranty
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S NIKKOR Lens F/DSLR Cameras – U.S.A. Warranty

4. Best third-party ultra-fast ultra-wide: Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

Sigma is a trusted brand for quality lenses with competitive features and technology, and the 14mm f/1.8 Art lens from Sigma is no exception. What you lose in flexibility to the fixed focal length, you gain in speed thanks to the f/1.8 maximum aperture. Even at an ultra-wide 14mm, this lens features minimal distortion and fantastic edge-to-edge brightness and clarity.

The AF system is fast but you can easily override it for manual focus adjustments, ensuring that you get the perfect focus every time. You can purchase this lens for compatibility with Canon, Nikon, Sony, Leica, and Sigma mounts, so no matter what camera you use for astrophotography, this is a great option for achieving superior image quality.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART Lens for Canon EF
Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART Lens for Canon EF

5. Best affordable third-party: Samyang 14mm f/2.8

At roughly half to one quarter of the price of other lenses on this list, the Samyang 14mm f/2.8 is a great option for astrophotographers on a budget. It has a compact design and a collection of carefully designed lens elements to ensure reduced aberration and improved sharpness. Those factors make this lens a great choice for photographing the night sky. It’s available for Canon, Nikon, and Sony mounts.

Samyang 14mm F2.8 Full Frame Super Wide Angle, Auto Focus Lens for Canon EOS RF
Samyang 14mm F2.8 Full Frame Super Wide Angle, Auto Focus Lens for Canon EOS RF

Summary

So, what’s the best lens for astrophotography? The answer will vary from one photographer to the next. In fact, it depends on two key factors: your budget and your preferred camera. But with some help from our list, hopefully you can find the right lens for you to capture the beauty of the night sky.