The best lenses for astrophotography are ideal tools for producing vivid, striking images of the stars and the night sky. It's easy for photographers to be intimidated away from astrophotography, but the truth is that it's easier than it looks, as long as you have the right gear. That means a sturdy tripod, a camera with a decent sized sensor, and critically, a sharp, wide-angle lens with a wide maximum aperture.
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• Best Canon lenses (opens in new tab)
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We've dealt with the other two necessities in our guides to the best tripods (opens in new tab) and the best cameras for astrophotography (opens in new tab) – here, we're focusing on the lens. It needs to be a wide-angle, in order to capture as much of the sky as possible, and so you're looking at 14-20mm on a full-frame camera, 1-14mm on APS-C, or 7-10mm on Micro Four Thirds.
Why a wide aperture? Well, at the risk of sounding obvious, you're going to be working in the dark. Your sensor needs to be able to take in as much light as possible, but you also want to keep the ISO low so that the details of the night sky don't get lost amid image noise. There's plenty more to think about too, but to avoid going too long on this, we'll leave it to our astrophotography tips (opens in new tab) and how-to guides (opens in new tab), where you can find all the astro advice you could need.
So, which lens to choose? Well, the decision will already be made to an extent by the camera you're using, which is why we've divided this guide up into sections. First, we've listed our favourite astrophotography lenses that are available for multiple mounts, and then we've drilled down into specific sections for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Micro Four Thirds and Fujifilm. So whatever you're shooting with, there should be an astro lens (or three) to suit you.
Now let's get to the best lenses for astrophotography!
Best lenses for astrophotography
Best multi mount lenses for astrophotography(opens in new tab)
From Korean manufacturer Samyang’s XP stable of premium manual-focus prime lenses for Canon and Nikon full-frame cameras, this 14mm f/2.4 is the most ideal for astrophotography. The lens is sold as the Rokinon SP 14mm f/2.4 (opens in new tab) in North America. The high-quality glass is neatly wrapped in a really solid casing. The rubberized manual focus ring gives a very assured grip and has a long rotational travel with a fluid feel. There’s no weather-seal ring on the mounting plate to guard against the ingress of dust and moisture. To be fair, though, if you’re photographing the Milky Way, you’ll need clear, dry and dust-free conditions.
In our review, we were hugely impressed by how well this lens maintained its image quality when wide open, which is hugely important for astrophotography. It's markedly better than Irix's rival 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone lens or a Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art. Sharpness is both very good and extremely consistent across the image frame. Chromatic aberrations are negligible, while coma and astigmatism are very minimal. Barrel distortion can be visible at close focus distances, but that's not an issue for astrophotography.
Maintaining excellent image quality a lens' widest aperture for astrophotography is a real challenge in an ultra-wide-angle optic, but this Samyang does exactly that – an admirable achievement.(opens in new tab)
Available in Canon EF and Nikon F mounts, this Sigma lens is up against own-brand legends like the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM III and the Nikkor AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED. It beats both of them for image quality and price. Build quality and handling are excellent, with a full set of weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element. The lens is also compatible with Sigma’s optional USB Dock for customisation and firmware updates.
In our review, we found we could produce images with this lens that were nothing short of outstanding. Even at the shortest focal length with the widest aperture, sharpness is excellent across the entire frame, and the lens does very well to retain excellent corner sharpness at wide apertures. Vignetting is remarkably minimal and though barrel distortion is prominent at close range, it's negligible for astrophotography. Lateral and spherical aberrations are also very well controlled.
For full-frame Canon and Nikon DSLRs, this is simply the best ultra-wide, fast-aperture zoom lens on the market, and not just for astrophotography.(opens in new tab)
This recently launched full-frame compatible prime lens for Canon and Nikon DSLRs, as well as Sony E-mount cameras is a full f/stop faster than most other lenses on this list, and it includes super-speedy ring-type ultrasonic autofocus. The wide aperture comes at a price, however: the large-diameter elements required are not only more expensive to make, they also result in a comparatively big and heavy build.
At least this lens is also big on performance. When we reviewed the lens we found the image quality to be fabulous, with exceptional sharpness for such a fast-aperture lens with an ultra-wide viewing angle. Equally impressive are contrast, colour rendition, and the absence of spherical and lateral chromatic aberrations. There is very noticeable coma and astigmatism towards the corners of the image frame, but go down one stop and these virtually disappear, making overall image quality for astrophotography altogether excellent.
This is the widest lens in Sigma's growing range of I-series primes for Sony E-mount and Leica L-mount, and it's a solid choice for astro work. The optical path of the lens is particularly impressive, especially considering how small the lens is – 13 elements are somehow crammed in there, including three high-precision glass-molded aspherical elements, one SLD (Special Low Dispersion) element and one FLD (Fluorite Low Dispersion) element. Then there's also Sigma's Super Multi-Layer Coating and Nano Porous Coating.
Therefore, as you might expect, the Sigma 20mm F2 DG DN | C performed very well in our testing, delivering excellent sharpness. We found that vignetting was a little severe when used at wider apertures than f/5.6, and there is some distortion that will require cleanup in software, but nothing ruinous.
The 'C' or 'Contemporary' designator means it's a lightweight and portable lens – though this doesn't matter as much for astrophotography as it does for other disciplines, as you're always going to be tethered to your tripod. Still, the metal construction is pleasingly solid, and the addition of an aperture ring is welcome.(opens in new tab)
This manual-focus Samyang has an astro-friendly ‘effective’ focal length on crop-sensor cameras, ranging from 15-16mm on APS-C format bodies to 20mm on Micro Four Thirds. It’s available in many mount options, but only the Nikon fit has built-in electronics. This enables the aperture to be set from the camera. Compared with most prime lenses for crop-sensor cameras, this one is unusual in combining a wide viewing angle with a fairly fast f/2.8 aperture.
Manual focusing is precise and assured. Build quality feels solid, but there are no weather-seals. Performance is good in terms of coma, spherical aberration and vignetting, helping stars to retain their natural shape across the image frame, even when shooting wide-open at f/2.8. Sharpness isn’t fabulous, however, but it doesn’t drop off much towards the edges of frame. Colour fringing can be more noticeable than usual towards the image corners, and there's a fairly typical amount of barrel distortion for this type of wide-angle prime.
This lens works well for Micro Four Thirds and APS-C format astrophotography, where the lack of autofocus isn’t really a drawback. It’s great value at the price. See our full Samyang 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS review (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
Designed in Switzerland and built in Korea, the full-frame compatible Irix 15mm is available in Firefly and Blackstone options. They’re optically identical, but the Blackstone has a magnesium alloy rather than plastic casing, four weather-seals instead of three, and fluorescent engraved markings for easy reading.
The lens is satisfying to operate, as we noted in our review. As a manual-focus lens, the focus ring has a smooth, precise operation and feels absolutely impeccable. A secondary ring enables you to lock the focus ring at any position. Another nice touch is that you can fine-tune the focus ring so that the distance scale is calibrated to your camera body.
Image quality is excellent, with minimal aberrations. Sharpness is excellent across most of the frame, even at the widest aperture. Vignetting isn’t too bad at f/2.4, but coma and astigmatism are pronounced, giving an irregular shape to stars. Both factors are improved by narrowing the aperture by an f/stop though.
This is a great wide-angle prime for general shooting, and comes at a very attractive price. Coma and astigmatism at the widest aperture are the only spoilers for astrophotography.
Best Canon lenses for astrophotography(opens in new tab)
If you own a full-frame Canon DSLR, this is Canon’s most ideal zoom lens for astrophotography. It may not be as wide-angle as the company's EF 11-24mm f/4L USM, but it's an all-important f-stop faster. The maximum viewing angle is admittedly slightly less than the 14mm and 15mm full-frame on this list, equating to 108 degrees compared with 114 or 110 degrees.
This lens gains a large and complex double-surface GMO (Glass Moulded) aspherical element at the front, adding to two UD (Ultra-low Dispersion) elements and a ground aspherical element at the rear. Upgraded, high-tech coatings include both SWC (SubWavelength Coating) and ASC (Air Sphere Coating) for greater resistance to ghosting and flare. Weather-resistant attributes are extended to include moisture- and grease-repellent fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements. The lens is quite long at 128mm, considering that it doesn’t have a built-in fixed hood. Unlike with some rival lenses, the separate bayonet-fit hood enables the easy attachment of filters, via an 82mm thread. Build quality is up to Canon’s usual robust L-series standards.
We tested the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM III in our lab, and found sharpness and contrast to be exceptionally impressive across the zoom range. The Mk III has much-improved corner sharpness compared with the previous edition, but still lags behind the competing Sigma 14-24mm zoom. There’s very little spherical aberration at f/2.8, but coma and astigmatism can be quite visible near the extreme corners of the frame.(opens in new tab)
If you've got an EOS R5 or R6 and want to do astrophotography, this is the dedicated lens for you. It's no surprise when you look at the focal range and maximum aperture available to find out that this is a big and heavy lens. It just about balances okay on one of Canon's mirrorless cameras, but should be less of an issue for astrophotographers. A nice touch is the separate hood that means it's possible to attach filters if desired via an 82mm filter thread, while there's also built-in IS.
We found the focusing performance of the Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L IS USM to be brilliant in testing, with the lens enjoying a Nano Ultrasonic AF system for virtually silent focusing. Oh, and did we mention that stellar image quality? A brilliant lens, but it does come with a hefty price tag.
Best Nikon lenses for astrophotography(opens in new tab)
With its ultra-wide zoom range and fast, constant-aperture design, this Nikon FX-format lens was a world-first when it was launched back in 2008. It’s become something of a legend in its own lifetime, but struggles to retain its crown against new Sigma 14-24mm and Tamron 15-30mm pretenders to the throne. The Nikon matches the Sigma zoom lens for maximum viewing angle and is slightly wider than the Tamron.
Optical highlights include two ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and Nano Crystal Coat. A rubber weather-seal is featured on the mounting plate but the lens lacks a comprehensive set of weather-seals or a keep-clean fluorine coating on the front element, as featured on the Sigma and Tamron lenses.
Centre-sharpness is excellent but corner-sharpness at the shortest focal length and widest aperture lags behind that of the Sigma zoom, more on a par with the Tamron. Vignetting and barrel distortion are rather worse than in both other lenses. Coma and astigmatism are controlled very well, again similar to the Tamron lens but not quite equaling the performance of the Sigma.(opens in new tab)
The Nikkor Z 14-24mm f/2.8 S is Nikon's latest effort to attract pros to the Z mount system. Completing the holy trinity of fast f/2.8 S-line zooms, it slots in neatly next to the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S and promises uncompromising wide-angle image quality. The 16-element optical stack includes 3 aspherical elements, along with Nikon’s Nano Crystal and ARNEO Coat for reducing ghosting and flare.
As you might expect, Nikon went all guns blazing with the design of this lens to try and sway photographers to the Z mount. As such, the build, handling and image quality of this lens are all absolutely top-tier. Copiously weather-sealed, with scintillating sharpness, this is a lens for those who demand the best (and it comes with the kind of price tag you might expect).
The front element gets a smear-resistant fluorine coating, and the lens is fully weather sealed. Add the included HB-98 lens hood and huge 112mm filters can be used - Nikon offers Neutral Color and Circular Polarizer options.
Best Sony lenses for astrophotography(opens in new tab)
Only until recently, the FE 12-24mm f/4 G (opens in new tab) has been Sony’s most wide-angle zoom. However, with a constant maximum aperture of f/4, it isn't suited to astrophotography. Step forward the Sony FE 12-24mm f/2.8 G Master. We tested out this lens both in our lab and out in the field, and completely fell in love. Its impeccable image quality and ultra-wide viewing angle makes it an outstanding choice for astrophotography.
Boasting a diagonal coverage up to an incredible 122 degrees, while also delivering a fast and constant f/2.8 aperture, this combination makes it the world’s fastest lens in its class. There's no getting away from the hefty price, but this is a lens that delivers supreme image quality, while the AF system is quick, smooth and quiet. Factor in the lovely handling and rock-solid build quality and this is a stunning lens.(opens in new tab)
Designed for full-frame Sony E-mount cameras, the Firin 20mm is available in two versions, either with or without autofocus. This 'AF' autofocus version looks clean, simple and in-keeping with Sony mirrorless cameras. Autofocus is reasonably quick and generally very accurate. It’s definitely worth having for general shooting. When focusing manually, the large focus ring operates with smooth precision. Compared with the other lenses on this list, the Firin has a reduced viewing angle of 92 degrees, but its f/2 aperture rating is faster than average.
Shooting wide-open, coma and astigmatism are apparent towards the corners of frame, but narrowing the aperture by an f/stop cures the problem. However there's no cure for the disappointing corner sharpness, which is especially poor until you stop down to f/4. There’s remarkably little colour fringing, even at the extreme corners of the frame, and distortion is practically non-existent.
Overall the Firin is a fine lens, although its viewing angle can feel a little restrictive for astrophotography. See our full Tokina Firin 20mm f2 AF review (opens in new tab).
Best Micro Four Thirds lenses for astrophotography
The 2x crop factor of Micro Four Thirds cameras can make it tricky to find a high-quality lens that's wide enough for astrophotography – however, we really rate this Olympus lens, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 7-14mm 1:2.8 PRO. Mounted on an MFT body, it provides an equivalent focal range of 14-28mm, and thanks to its bright f/2.8 aperture that runs through the zoom range, is an excellent choice for astro work.
In our review, the lens achieved impressive results throughout our lab tests, delivering excellent sharpness even when used wide open. It's well built too, with enough weather-sealing to handle the long nights it'll spend outside while you're busy shooting the stars. It's on the expensive side for an MFT lens, and arguably on the heavy side too, but since you won't be shooting handheld, the latter shouldn't be too much of an issue.
Best Fujifilm lenses for astrophotography(opens in new tab)
In 2019, Fujifilm debuted its widest lens yet, the Fujifilm 8-16mm f2.8 XF R LM WR Fujinon Lens. Its size and price tag put it firmly in the same camp as the pro optics; weighing more than 800g, when it's paired with one of the larger cameras like the X-T3, this lens makes for a setup that calls the mirrorless reputation for lightness into question. Don't get us wrong though, this is a fantastic lens, as we noted in our full review.
A sophisticated optical construction ensures pin-sharp image quality, while it also has an extra f-stop over its nearest comparison point in the X stable, the 10-24mm (see below). It's worth being aware that the lens lacks optical image stabilisation of any kind, and its wide front makes it incompatible with screw-in filters. Nevertheless, this is as wide as ultra-wide zooms get, with a full frame equivalent focal length of just 12mm at its widest setting!(opens in new tab)
This is a pretty compact and lightweight lens for a wide-angle f/1.4, and boasts a really neat design and an everyday 62mm filter mount. The optical performance is stellar, even wide open, though there is already a 16mm f/1.4 in the Fujinon lens range, so it feels as if this lens is squeezing into a gap that isn't quite there.
There's no image stabilization, which we wouldn't expect in a fast prime anyway, but when we tested the lens we did find that there is an annoying 'clonking' sound from what we think is the AF actuator when the lens is removed from the camera and its AF system is not being powered.
How we test lenses
We test lenses using both real world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-word testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics.
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