Best Lenses for Milky Way Photography: Fuji X

Best Lenses for Night Photography: Fujifilm

The very best lenses for my personal favorite compact camera system for astrophotography: the Fuji X-Series.

This is a list of the highest scoring lenses for untracked nightscape photography and astrophotography. The score is a direct representation of light gathering capabilities based on the formula:

Score = (aperture area) × (angular area) × (suggested shutter speed)

Where the shutter speed is the longest suggested shutter speed in seconds based on the “500 Rule” (500/focal length). Aperture area is the surface area calculation of the clear aperture of the lens and the angular area is the angular field of view in square radians. This score is a mathematical calculation based purely on some simple physics. It doesn’t account for other considerations like the lens’s build quality or optical aberrations but it’s a good gauge of overall light gathering capability.  You can also see the complete list of scores here, complete with calculations and further explanation.

All of the lenses listed here are my personal suggestions for photographers looking to get the absolute best astrophotography results with the Fuji X-Series cameras like the X-Pro1, X-E1, X-E2, X-M1, X-A1 and X-T1. These are the lenses that I use for my X-T1 and are the ones I would recommend most. Some of these lenses are manual focus lenses by Rokinon. If you’re willing to learn how to use manual focus, Rokinon lenses are spectacular performers. Note that I’m excluding from this list some of the larger Rokinon lenses like the Rokinon 10mm f/2.8, Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 and Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 even though they are excellent for astrophotography and are all available for the Fuji X mount. The reason they aren’t recommended below is because they are not dedicated mirrorless designs and so they tend to be rather large and heavy for a compact system camera. All of the lenses listed below are designed specifically for mirrorless cameras so they are more compact and balanced on small camera bodies like the Fuji X series.

If you would like to know more about the thoughts that went into creating this list, please read my article on how to pick a lens for Milky Way photography.

X Mount

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R ( Amazon / B&H )

Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R

Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R

  • Standard wide angle makes for a slightly tighter crop that’s good for panorama stitches. Very fast autofocus for regular shooting and a useful and an accurate manual focusing distance scale makes focusing on the stars easy. However, some coma aberration at the extreme corners at f/1.4 keep this lens from being perfect for astrophotography. Stop it down to f/2.0 for the best results.
  • Score: 2967
  • Sample Image:
Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R Milky Way

The XF 23mm f/1.4 give a relatively narrow crop of the Milky Way.

Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS ( Amazon / B&H )

Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS Product Photo

Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS

  • Read the full review of the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS lens.
  • Probably the best all around lens for astrophotography on a mirrorless system because it has the best combination of super-wide field of view and large aperture. It’s coma performance is very good, even at f/2.0. Manual focus.
  • Score: 2176
  • Sample Image:
best-lenses-3-1

The Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS gives you a really wide angle view of the night sky.

Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2.0 R Amazon / B&H )

Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2.0 R

Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2.0 R

  • Extremely compact autofocus lens with a wide field of view. Nearly a pancake lens which makes the camera nice and light. This lens surprised me because it performs pretty well wide-open at f/2.0 and is one of the cheaper lenses available for the X-Series cameras.  Great lightweight walkaround lens that also makes great astrophotos.
  • Score: 1505

 

milky way vietnam

The Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2.0 R is the smallest lens for the Fujifilm X Mount that I would recommend for astrophotography.

 

Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fisheye II ( Amazon / B&H )

Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fisheye II

Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fisheye II

  • Read the full review of the Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fisheye II Lens.
  • Ultra-wide angle fisheye that is both fast and extremely wide. Fisheye distortion requires you to keep the horizon in the center of the frame for a non-distorted look but the extreme field of view allows for exposure times that exceed 30 seconds without star trails. While often considered a novelty lens, a fisheye can provide some amazing views of the Milky Way. In some careful and patient hands, the results can be spectacular, especially when defished. Check out my article on how to defish photographs for spectacular results.
  • Score: 1237
Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye II Milky Way

The Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye II gives a really wide angle view of the night sky that looks great, especially when defished.

Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R ( Amazon / B&H )

Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R

Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R

  • Super-wide angle field of view with excellent sharpness wide open at f/2.8. Autofocus with a manual focus clutch mechanism similar to the XF 23mm f/1.4 R makes this lens great to use for regular shooting too. The manual focusing distance scale is accurate and makes manual focus very nice. It also has no coma aberration, even wide open and so it performs very well for astrophotography.
  • Score: 1032
  • Sample Image:

 

Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 Milky Way

The XF 14mm f/2.8 gives a nice super wide angle view of the sky.

For another good comparison between various Fujifilm lenses for astrophotography, check out Jason Pitcher’s blog post where he tests out the Rokinon 12mm/2, Fujifilm 16mm/1.4, 18mm/2, 23mm/1.4, and 35mm/1.4 in a direct side-by-side comparison!

Other Systems

The Best Lenses for Milky Way Photography on Canon Cameras

The Best Lenses for Milky Way Photography on Nikon Cameras

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Ian Norman

Creator at Lonely Speck
Ian Norman, co-founder and creator of The Photon Collective and Lonely Speck. Ian is a full time traveler, photographer and entrepreneur. In February 2013, he called it quits on his 9-to-5 to pursue a lifestyle of photography. Follow Ian's photography adventures on Instagram.

40 Responses

  1. johnny August 2, 2016 / 1:22 pm

    Ian,

    What about the Fuji 16mm 1.4?

  2. Kobe May 14, 2016 / 12:53 am

    What about the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8?

    • Ian Norman May 14, 2016 / 7:11 am

      I personally do not like the Zeiss for its focus by wire system. It’s rather imprecise and resets to an arbitrary position when changing camera modes (such as playback), even in Manual Focus mode. This is the experience I had on the Fujifilm version of the lens, not sure if the Sony mount version is better.

  3. Oscar July 20, 2015 / 3:46 am

    Hi Ian!!
    I bought the a7 camera from sony and I want to know if the lens Carl Zeiss Sonnar T SEL35F28Z is good enough against the Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T SEL1635Z F4 for milky way wide angle photos.
    Thanks!!!

    • Ian Norman August 10, 2015 / 4:35 pm

      The Sony 35mm/2.8 will work but has a substantially narrower field of view versus what is possible on the 16-35mm/4.

  4. Twan June 25, 2015 / 11:48 pm

    Nice to read and great article. Thanks

    Just a questions. Lenses like the fuji XF 23 1.4 seem to have a bit coma aberration at 1.4 in the extreme corners. Normally, Lightroom corrects this nicely, but how does that work for longer exposures at night?

    • Ian Norman July 2, 2015 / 11:19 pm

      Lightroom actually has no correction for coma but CAN correct chromatic aberration. For the coma, the only way to really correct for it is to stop down a bit to f/2 or f/2.8.

  5. Mark June 24, 2015 / 5:34 am

    I am very interested in your opinion on the Fuji XF 16mm f/1.4. “Admiring Light” noted that coma limited its value for astrophotography. How does it stack up against the other options for the Fuji X-series?

    • Ian Norman July 2, 2015 / 11:17 pm

      From what I have heard, it’s necessary to stop it down to f/2 to help reduce the coma. I personally would probably opt for the cheaper Samyang 12mm/2 before the Fujifilm if astrophotography is a priority.

  6. Briano June 3, 2015 / 5:24 am

    What a great article for someone like me who considering move to fuji x ecosystem.
    Currently, I have the X100T, and consider buying the WCL 100 to capture milky way. Do you think it is a great idea to do milky way photography with X100T + WCL 100?

    • Ian Norman July 2, 2015 / 11:16 pm

      I think it should be a fine combination!

    • Ian Norman February 5, 2015 / 4:56 pm

      Great results Mathieu!

    • Bel August 8, 2015 / 4:15 pm

      Wow, this is a great photo. I am looking at buying this Samyang lens now and your photo helps with my decision. Thanks.

  7. Dave Weber January 21, 2015 / 9:41 pm

    Ian, I see that B&H sells a
    Samyang 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS Lens for Fujifilm X Mount Cameras.

    Might you have an thoughts (or experiences) with using this lens with a Fuji X digital camera for night photos? Also, I wonder how you suspect it might compare with the Fuji 18mm lens.

    • Ian Norman February 5, 2015 / 4:51 pm

      I didn’t list that lens here because it’s rather large (it’s an adapted SLR lens design. I have experience with the 18mm/2 and it’s pretty darn good for night photography; it would be my preference for the X cameras until Fuji releases their 16mm/1.4

  8. Arnold van Wijk January 19, 2015 / 12:58 am

    First of all, great article!

    I did some aurora shooting last oktober in Iceland with the X-T1, Samyang 12mm f/2 and Fuji 10-24 f/4. Both excelent performers for this kind of photography. With the 10-24 you need a strong Aurora, but you do benefit from the in camera corrections which the Samyang lacks.

    Here are some examples, first one is shot with the Samyang 12mm, the second one with the Fuji 10-24.

    https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3940/15302258898_4afd4a86ba_o.jpg
    https://farm6.staticflickr.com/5597/15485775281_a4649368b3_o.jpg

    What do you think about long exposure noise reduction? I’ve turned it off to shorten waiting time between the shots. I shoot in RAW, but is there any benefit from turning the in camera feature on when shooting RAW?

    Regards,
    Arnold
    Netherlands

    • Ian Norman January 20, 2015 / 1:57 am

      Arnold, great shots! There is a benefit to shooting with long exposure noise reduction, particularly in warm conditions. It helps remove any fixed pattern noise from warm electronics, even when shooting in RAW. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it’s not worth the wait. If it’s real cold outside I tend to leave it off.

    • Ian Norman February 5, 2015 / 4:44 pm

      Long Exposure noise reduction can be beneficial especially in warm conditions but I mostly shoot with it off.

  9. vibranze November 23, 2014 / 6:19 pm

    Hi Ian, can I check with you if Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 is a good choice for astrophotography? I didn’t see you mention it in this article.

    Thanks.

  10. sloanie August 10, 2014 / 9:04 am

    So I take it that the 16mm 1.4 that’s on the Fuji roadmap for 2015 will take the top of this list, no? Thinking next year may be the year I go totally Fuji (currently have an X100 and a Canon 6D. Starting to wish my X100 was a X100s because my x100 doesn’t do too hot in low light.)

    Is the Fuji system your favorite for how compact it is? (obviously paired with the quality of their lenses– seems to be the shortcoming of Sony’s full frame compacts at the moment.)

    Do you notice much of a loss of image quality as opposed to a full frame Nikon or Canon? Kinda torn on going back to APS-C, but I’ve loved my X100’s image quality, so maybe I just need to get over this attachment to full frame.

    • Ian Norman August 13, 2014 / 12:27 am

      sloanie,

      I imagine the 16mm/1.4 will be a pretty darn good lens. I hope that Fuji will be able to keep coma and astigmatism to minimal levels with this new lens. If they can keep aberrations to a low level, it should be a great lens.

      I have used a lot of different camera systems now and I still think that the Fujifilm X-Series is my favorite overall system. It’s small, they have a great selection of lenses and the quality of the photos are top notch. I find that with a fast enough lens, image quality can match a full frame camera. Don’t get me wrong, cameras like the 6D and the D610 are amazing but Fujifilm has created a really great system that presents itself in a way like no other camera system.

      The thing to keep in mind with all of this is that all of these cameras are pretty much amazing and I would warn anyone that switching systems rarely results in better photographs. The main reason I started looking into mirrorless cameras was primarily for the reduced size.

      I really want to see more from Sony for sure. I think the a7 cameras are spectacular but the lens lineup is definitely immature. That said, only a couple years ago, the same could be said for the Fujifilm X system so hopefully Sony delivers a better lens selection in a years time.

  11. Wayne June 20, 2014 / 5:16 pm

    Hey Ian, will you be updating this post with the soon-to-be released Samyang 10mm f2.8? I can’t decide between that and the 12mm f2 for WF astrophotography.

  12. Nick May 14, 2014 / 5:23 am

    Thank you so much, Ian. I just sold my 14 mm. to get 10-24 mm. Bad luck. Luckily 18 mm. is quite cheap here in Thailand. Hopefully, I will have a chance to try during my next trip. :)

    • Ian Norman May 14, 2014 / 8:42 am

      Nick, I would be interested to hear how the 10-24mm works. If I were you, I would try it out. The Fuji X-Trans sensor handles noise very nicely so I might be worth a shot. Let me know what it’s like!

  13. Nick May 14, 2014 / 12:20 am

    How about XF 10-24/F4.0? as it seems that it only scores around 500. Please advise. or I guess I should do it with 18/2.0 then.

    • Ian Norman May 14, 2014 / 3:47 am

      I have not personally tried the 10-24mm/4 so I can’t speak from any direct experience. It’s my opinion that the XF 10-24mm/4 is a little bit too slow but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. You’ll be able to take photos just fine but you’ll likely find that even at 30 seconds and ISO 6400 in a dark sky location, the exposure will be a bit dark. Having to push it any brighter with post processing will likely increase noise levels a bit. If you don’t mind a bit of noise, then the lens will still make a good photo. If you have the lens, try it out for sure but if you’re looking for a lens that will give you the best results, there are better options. The 18mm/2.0 is surprisingly good, I only wish it was a little bit wider.

  14. Debbie May 5, 2014 / 6:35 pm

    I read your post on ETTR. I live in a light-polluted area and am interested to try this technique using my Fuji X100. Is it possible to achieve this using the bulb function, and if so, what settings should I use?

    • Ian Norman May 14, 2014 / 2:40 am

      Either Bulb (B) or Time (T) mode will allow you to take photos with a long shutter speed. I recommend trying T Mode. Start with 20 seconds, f/2.0, ISO 3200 and adjust accordingly.

  15. Greg May 2, 2014 / 2:08 pm

    Hi Ian, first of all, I love your website! Very informative…. I was wondering if you could give your opinion on using the kit 18-55mm fujinon lens for astrophotography? At 18mm, it should open up to an aperture of 2.8, so although it’s probably not ideal, it seems like a viable option…. And to put it in context, I would probably be using this wroth an X-T1 or X-E2.

    • Ian Norman May 2, 2014 / 3:43 pm

      The 18-55mm should work fine at 18mm/2.8. Expect to shoot at ISO 6400 with a shutter of about 20-25 seconds. You’ll have to push in post processing a bit but the results should be good.

  16. Jeffrey April 29, 2014 / 10:23 am

    I had a question. I currently have a Fuji X-10. It’s not very professional but I am a beginner and have not yet invested in a more expensive dSLR. Would it be possible to take pictures of the milky way using my current Fuji X-10? Your advice is much appreciated!

    • Ian Norman April 29, 2014 / 11:55 am

      Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the Fujifilm X10 puts a restriction on long exposures at high ISO. If you try to select a high ISO like 3200, it will automatically limit your shutter speed to something short. I think a 30 seconds shutter can only be used at ISO 100. This is a similar problem on other enthusiast compacts and it’s an unfortunate limitation of these small cameras.

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