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The best lenses for astrophotography in 2021: fast ultra-wide lenses for the night sky

Included in this guide:

best lenses for astrophotography
(Image credit: Getty )

The best lenses for astrophotography can make shooting the stars and night sky so much easier. If you've tried to shoot the night sky with a kit lens that features a slow and variable maximum aperture, you'll understand what a challenge it can be, even when you're working on a beautifully clear evening. 

That's why we've compiled this list of the best lenses for astrophotography. But what makes for a good lens when it comes to shooting the Milky Way? Ideally you want a wide-angle zoom or prime; it's best to work in a focal range of around 14-20mm in 35mm equivalent terms (so about 10-14mm on APS-C or 7-10mm on Micro Four Thirds based camera). But this is only half the story: you also need a wide aperture for light-gathering purposes, as using too high an ISO setting will crank the grain up too high and render the stars illegible. There's a lot more to say here, but if you want more tips, check out our Astrophotography tips and how-to guides.

We've split our guide into sections to make it easier to navigate. Using the navigation bar on the left you can easily jump to sections for Canon, Nikon and Sony users, while we've also bought together the best lenses for astrophotography that are available in a range of lens mounts. You'll not only find great options for Canon and Nikon from a range of top-notch third party brands, but also for Sony, Fujifilm, Micro Four Thirds and more. 

Now let's get to the best lenses for astrophotography!

Best lenses for astrophotography

Best multi mount lenses for astrophotography

(Image credit: Samyang)

The best prime lens for astrophotography on Canon and Nikon DSLRs

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon F
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: No
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 114 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 87x106mm
Weight: 791g
Reasons to buy
+Generous viewing angle+Superb image quality+Good build and handling
Reasons to avoid
-Only for Canon and Nikon DSLRs 

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 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.

Image quality for astrophotography at the widest aperture is markedly better than from the 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.

(Image credit: Sigma)

The best zoom lens for astrophotography with a DSLR

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sigma
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: Ring-type ultrasonic AF
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 114 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 95x126mm
Weight: 1,150g
Reasons to buy
+Focal length flexibility+Superb all-round image quality+Superb, weather-sealed build
Reasons to avoid
-Price higher than most

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.

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.

(Image credit: Sigma)

It's big and heavy, but a very classy ultra-wide with an extra-large max aperture

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony FE, Sigma
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: Ring-type ultrasonic AF
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 114 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 95x109mm
Weight: 1,170g
Reasons to buy
+Fast AF+Fab sharpness, contrast and colour+Luxury build
Reasons to avoid
-Big and heavy

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. Image quality is fabulous, as sharpness is exceptional 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.

(Image credit: Tamron)

It's the best stabilized lens for Canon and Nikon DSLRs

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon F
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: Ring-type ultrasonic AF
Stabiliser: Yes
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 110.5 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 96x135mm
Weight: 1,100g
Reasons to buy
+Constant f/2.8 aperture+Fast, high-torque autofocus+Handles with smooth precision
Reasons to avoid
-Mediocre off-centre sharpness

Unusually for a wide-angle zoom lens designed for Canon or Nikon DSLRs, this Tamron includes an optical stabiliser, with 4.5-stop effectiveness. That’s useful at dusk or indoors, but of zero benefit for long exposures in astrophotography, where it’s best switched off. Though there’s little change in the optical line-up, this updated G2 lens revision gains an additional anti-glare coating and a more durable fluorine coating on the front element. Unlike some similar zoom lenses, this Tamron has a large zoom ring at the front and a relatively small focus ring at the rear.

The lens delivers impressively little barrel distortion and vignetting at its shortest focal length. At 15mm from f/2.8 to f/4, sharpness is lacklustre outside the central region, but otherwise excellent. There's also a little more coma and astigmatism towards the corners of frame, while barrel distortion is average at close range and minimal for astro shooting.

Overall this Tamron G2 lens is a solid performer and an improvement over the original. Its image stabilisation system works well for general use, though it isn’t of any benefit for astrophotography.

(Image credit: Tokina)

A rare zoom lens for astrophotography with a crop sensor DSLR

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF-S, Nikon DX
Full-frame compatible: No
Autofocus: Electric motor AF
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 104 degrees (APS-C)
Dimensions (WxL): 98x145mm
Weight: 560g
Reasons to buy
+Respectable overall image quality+Great build quality
Reasons to avoid
-Basic, noisy AF-Corner sharpness nothing special

Ultra-wide zoom lenses with fast aperture ratings for APS-C format Canon and Nikon cameras are few and far between. The main competitor to this lens is Tokina’s own AT-X 14-20mm f/2 AF Pro DX, which is a little pricier and has an even faster aperture rating. However, its maximum viewing angle is a little restrictive compared with this 11-20mm lens. The autofocus system feels basic, powered by a rather noisy electric motor. Build quality feels very solid and robust though, and the zoom and focus rings operate smoothly.

The Tokina’s corner sharpness drops off substantially at the short end of the zoom range when using the widest aperture. Vignetting and spherical aberration are well controlled, and there’s little coma and astigmatism. Barrel distortion is unusually well-controlled at the short end of the zoom range, and negligible at the long end.

If you're after a zoom lens for APS-C format astrophotography on a Canon or Nikon DSLR, this is the best overall choice – but Tokina’s 14-20mm f/2 also works well.

(Image credit: Samyang)

6. Samyang 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS

Using a crop-sensor camera? This is the lens for you, and it's awesome value

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF-S, Canon EF-M, Nikon DX, Sony E, Sony A, Fujifilm X, MFT, Pentax K, Samsung NX
Full-frame compatible: No
Autofocus: No
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 6
Max angle of view (diagonal): 106 degrees (APS-C)
Dimensions (WxL): 76x98mm
Weight: 590g
Reasons to buy
+Precise manual focusing+Solid build quality+Great value
Reasons to avoid
-Average sharpness

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.

(Image credit: Irix)

7. Irix 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone

A great wide-angle prime for general shooting, but there are drawbacks for astrophotography

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon F, Pentax K
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: No
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 110 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 100x114mm
Weight: 685g
Reasons to buy
+Solid build with florescent markings+Well-priced+Excellent centre-frame sharpness
Reasons to avoid
-Lacklustre corner sharpness

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. As a manual-focus lens, the focus ring has a smooth, precise operation. 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

(Image credit: Canon)

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

A top quality - if rather pricey - wide-angle zoom for Canon DSLRs

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: Ring-type ultrasonic AF
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 108 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 89x128mm
Weight: 790g
Reasons to buy
+Top build quality+Fast, accurate AF+Weather-resistant
Reasons to avoid
-Corner sharpness nothing special

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.

When it comes to performance, sharpness and contrast are 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.

(Image credit: Canon)

A pro-spec constant-aperture f/2.8 ultra-wide zoom for EOS R cameras

Specifications
Mount: Canon RF
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: Nano USM
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 110 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 88.5x127mm
Weight: 840g
Reasons to buy
+5-stop Image Stabilizer+Smaller than EF equivalent+No apparent distortion
Reasons to avoid
-Edge definition average

If you've got an EOS R5 or R6 and want to do astrophotography, this is the dedicated lens for you. It's no surprize 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. Focusing performance is brilliant, 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

(Image credit: Nikon)

10. Nikon AF-S 14-24mm f/2.8G ED

It may be over a decade old, but this is still the best own-brand Nikon ultra-wide

Specifications
Mount: Nikon F
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: Ring-type ultrasonic AF
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 114 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 98x132mm
Weight: 1,000g
Reasons to buy
+Wide viewing angle and fast aperture+Useful zoom range+Great build
Reasons to avoid
-Vignetting and distortion at 14mm

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.

(Image credit: Nikon)

No-compromise wide-angle zoom for Z5, Z6 & Z7

Specifications
Mount: Z FX
Autofocus: Pulse (stepping motor)
Stabilizer: None
Min focus distance: 0.28m
Max magnification: 0.13x
Filter thread: 112mm (plus rear filter slot)
Dimensions (WxL): 88x124.5mm
Weight: 650g
Reasons to buy
+Uncompromising optics and coatings+Fast constant aperture+Fully weather sealed
Reasons to avoid
-Twice the price of Z 14-30mm f/4 S-No VR

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. 

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

(Image credit: Sony)

A stunning lens for astrophotography, but it comes at a price

Specifications
Mount: Sony FE
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: Linear motor AF
Stabiliser: No
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 122-84 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 98x137mm
Weight: 847g
Reasons to buy
+Impressive image quality+Impeccable handling+Ultra-wide maximum viewing angle
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive option

Only until recently, the FE 12-24mm f/4 G 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. 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.

(Image credit: Tokina)

13. Tokina Firin 20mm f/2 FE AF

An astrophotography lens exclusively for Sony E-mount cameras

Specifications
Mount: Sony FE
Full-frame compatible: Yes
Autofocus: Ring-type ultrasonic AF
Stabiliser: yes
Diaphragm blades: 9
Max angle of view (diagonal): 92 degrees (Full-frame)
Dimensions (WxL): 89x92mm
Weight: 464g
Reasons to buy
+Fast AF useful for general shooting+Great centre sharpness+Minimal distortion
Reasons to avoid
-Focal length relatively restrictive

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.

Best Fujifilm lenses for astrophotography

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

The widest lens in Fujifilm's X line-up (or anyone else's) but pricey

Specifications
Mount: Fujifilm X-mount
Elements/groups: 20/13
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: Linear motors
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.25m
Max magnification: 0.1x
Filter thread: n/a
Dimensions (WxL): 88x121.5mm
Weight: 805g
Reasons to buy
+Amazing wide field of view+Fully weather sealed
Reasons to avoid
-Big and hefty-Can't take screw-in filters

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. 

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!

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

15. Fujinon XF18mm F1.4 R LM WR

This ultra-fast wideangle is optically brilliant

Specifications
Mount: Fujifilm X-mount
Elements/groups: 15/9
Diaphragm blades: 9
Stabilizer: No
Min focus distance: 0.2m
Max magnification: 0.15x
Filter thread: 62mm
Dimensions (WxL): 68.8x75.6mm
Weight: 370g
Reasons to buy
+Fast f/1.4 maximum aperture+Physical aperture ring+Powerful linear AF motor
Reasons to avoid
-Very close in spec to the XF16mmF1.4-Internal 'clonking' when powered down

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 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.

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