How to Pick a Lens for Milky Way Photography

How to Pick a Lens For Milky Way Photography

The lens is the most important factor in the image quality of a landscape astrophoto.

There are a number of lens traits that will determine the quality and usability of a camera lens for astrophotography. Let me explain what sort of thinking should go into choosing and using a lens for making astrophotography and Milky Way nightscapes.

There are two basic traits of a lens that will affect how to take your landscape astrophotos: focal length and clear aperture size.

What Focal Length?

For simple non-tracked landscape astrophotography and nightscape images, you will generally want a wide angle lens. I usually suggest something 24mm or shorter on an APS-C camera or 35mm or shorter on a Full Frame Camera. Finally, about 16mm and shorter on a 4/3 camera will do best. These wide angle lenses offer some advantages when shooting images of the Milky Way:

  • Wide angle lenses have a larger field of view (FOV) and allow you to frame more of the Milky Way. This trait lets you collect light from a larger area of the sky and offers a balancing compromise to a typically small clear aperture for light gathering capability. More on clear aperture later. 
  • Short focal length, wide angle lenses produce a smaller image size at the sensor allowing you to use longer shutter speeds without creating star trails from the Earth rotation.

The shorter the focal length, the wider angle the lens. Most APS-C sensor digital SLRs like the Nikon D3100 or Canon EOS T5i come in a kit with an 18-55mm focal length lens. It can zoom from a relatively wide angle 18mm to a medium telephoto 55mm.

Star trails (as shown in the images below) are caused by the rotation of the Earth. For any given angle of view, or any given lens, there is a certain amount of exposure time before the Earth will have rotated enough to start to “smear” or “trail” the stars across your image frame. 18mm on an APS-C sensor is considered a relatively wide angle lens but even so, the angle of view is narrow enough that you will start to see star trails on exposures longer than about 20 seconds.

It tends to be more difficult to take landscape astrophotos with longer lenses like a 50mm or 85mm because the narrower field of view makes movement of the stars due to the Earth’s rotation more apparent. This can be solved by tracking the stars but in turn adds complexity and extra expense for the equipment required to track the stars while make your photos. Tracking is possible with the use of a manual barn door tracker or motorized equatorial mount, sometimes controlled by an autoguider that provides feedback for the motor mount movement. Star tracking is an essential technique for imaging of deep space objects with lenses and telescopes that have comparatively long focal lengths. For nightscapes, however, where we are usually capturing the landscape as well, tracking the stars will in turn start to streak the landscape in the foreground.

star trailing

Use the magnify function on your camera’s image review to check for star trailing. Reduce your exposure time a little or use a wider angle lens to minimize the effect.

When getting used to taking untracked astrophotos, I highly recommend that you check whether the stars are trailing by reviewing the image and zooming all the way into the detail.

Rules to Prevent Star Trailing

I’ve heard of several rules that different astrophotographers use to determine how long your shutter speed should be to prevent star trailing. For full frame cameras, the chart below roughly uses the so called “500 Rule” which means that you take the number 500 and divide it by your focal length to determine the maximum number of seconds of your exposure before star trails are apparent. For example: If we have a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera, we can take 500 and divide it by 24 to get 500/24=20.8 or about 20 seconds.

Note that differences in sensor resolution, pixel size and even the direction you point your camera in the night sky will change how the rule works. APS-C cameras and cameras with higher resolutions sensors need shorter focal lengths to achieve similar shutter speeds without star trailing and the rule becomes something closer to a “300 Rule” for APS-C sensors the guide below. Basically, it differs by camera.

Also, pointing your camera toward the celestial equator line will cause more star trailing than near the poles due to the larger arc length swept by the stars in that portion of the sky. The important thing for you to do is to generally determine what maximum shutter speed will work best for your particular camera and lens combination. Start with the recommendations here for your lens and then adjust accordingly.

Once you have determined the maximum shutter duration with no star trailing for your lens or focal length of choice, remember it. That shutter duration will always tend to work for that particular lens on that particular camera. For instance, at 18mm on my APS-C cameras, I have found that 20 seconds works for most photos of the milky way.

focal-length-comparison-milky-way

The take home point is that narrower, longer focal length lenses will require shorter shutter durations to prevent star trailing. This makes longer lenses more difficult to use for Milky Way photography and nightscapes because it limits your maximum shutter time. For the sake of maximizing the signal to noise ratio in your images (for better image quality), you should try to use as long a shutter speed as you can without trailing the stars. Once you venture past 30 seconds at all but the shortest focal lengths, you will tend to see some star trailing. Just to demonstrate, the animation below simulates different shutter speeds (corrected for exposure brightness changes) to show how longer shutter speeds can create star trails.

star-trailingYou can see that with the longer exposures, the stars appear to get brighter but start to streak across the frame, especially with exposures longer than 30 seconds.

The image below is an example of what we get with a less than ideal setup for landscape astrophotography. It’s an untracked astrophoto made on a fixed tripod with a relatively narrow lens/camera combination: A 40mm/2.8 on an APS-C camera.  With the 14 second exposure that was required to collect enough light, the narrow lens shows star trailing at 100% magnification. Another thing that is very apparent in this image is high levels of noise. The relatively small aperture on the 40mm/f2.8 required the used of a high ISO. This example leads me to the next consideration for a nightscape lens: clear aperture size.

narrow-lens-milky-way

40mm (65mm equivalent) on Canon T2i
14 seconds @ f/2.8, ISO 12800

Clear Aperture Size

The above image is an example of a photo with relatively low signal to noise ratio. In photography, the signal is photons that the camera is collecting and the noise is from any number of things such as stray energy like heat energy from the camera electronics or the environment. Higher signal to noise ratio images will have higher image quality with clearer details, better color saturation, smoother tones and less noise. One important thing that will affect signal to noise ratio in your astrophotos is the clear aperture of the lens for any given focal length. The clear aperture is a measurement of the diameter of the lens opening as calculated by dividing the lens focal length by its relative aperture or f/number. Let’s see how we consider this for nightscape photography. Warning: the next section may be rather verbose.

A 100mm f/2.0 lens has a 50mm clear aperture (100/2=50) while a 24mm f/2.0 lens has only a 12mm clear aperture (24/2=12). Even though the f/number is the same, the longer lens captures more light from one portion of the sky due to its physically larger aperture. For nightscapes and astrophotography, we usually want to be able to resolve as much detail in the night sky as possible, especially really dim features such as nebulae and faint stars. A physically larger aperture for any given focal length will help us achieve more detail in any given portion of the night sky. This is why the world’s best telescopes have huge diameters: to collect more light.

The light gathering capability of a lens is directly proportional to the area of the clear aperture. Since the area of a circle is proportional to the square of the diameter, the clear aperture area increases quickly with lens size. For example, when you look at equal portions of the night sky between the two lenses, the 100mm f/2 lens collects over 16 times more light from that portion of the sky than the 24mm f/2 lens due to its much larger clear aperture.  (excluding the rest of the 24mm/2’s field of view, sort of like cropping the 24mm/2’s image to the same field of view as the 100mm and then making the comparison.) But wait, didn’t I just finish saying in the last section that we wanted a short focal length so we can use longer shutter speeds? Which one do we actually want?

The 24mm f/2 lens collects light from a comparably wider field of view than the 100mm f/2. Since they’re both f/2, they both capture light at the same “speed”. So for equal shutter speeds, they should provide the same illuminance at the sensor. So in terms of exposure value, the 24mm lens will produce equivalent brightness images for any given ISO and shutter speed because it’s pulling light from more of the scene than the narrower 100mm lens, hence the identical f/number rating. The long lens collects more light at a time from a smaller area of the scene while the short lens collects less light at a time from a larger area of the scene. Without being able to track the stars with an equatorial mount, the limiting factor of the 100mm is then its field of view which will only allow us a 5 second exposure before the stars start to trail. That’s a two stop (four times) disadvantage to the 24mm. Looks like we want the shortest focal length lens with the largest clear aperture.

Unfortunately, short focal length wide angle lenses also tend to have small clear apertures because shape of the lens at these short focal lengths makes it prohibitively difficult to manufacture the lens with a large diameter opening. Everyone wants an ultra-wide 12mm f/0.7 lens for their full-frame camera but it’s a little bit difficult to actually manufacture such a device. Choosing a lens for untracked nightscape photography then becomes a balance between choosing a short lens for less star trailing and a slightly longer lens that may offer a larger clear aperture at the expense of slightly shorter shutter speeds. So which lenses have the best combination of a wide angle field of view and a large aperture?

To make comparison between lenses easier, we can calculate a value to quantify how well a lens will perform for nightscapes based on the amount of light it will collect using the lens’s clear aperture area, the angular area field of view of the lens, and the maximum shutter time we can use for the lens without producing star trails in our image (for the chart below, I use the 500 rule as describe above).

Here is a quick comparison chart of common lenses for the purposes of nightscape photography based on the traits we just talked about:

lens-chart

Don’t see your lens listed? Wonder what happens with different sensor sizes? What about a lens turbo or speedbooster?
Feel free to see the expanded chart with additional lenses and explanation by downloading it here. (Google Drive Doc)

The rating system does not take into account other factors that affect the image quality such as distortion or chromatic and coma aberrations. It’s only good for comparing lenses within one sensor size, but it’s helpful when comparing one lens to another in terms of its overall light gather capability for untracked Milky Way photography. For example, when comparing within one focal length like the 35mm/2.8 versus the 35mm/2.0, the f/2.0 lens scores twice as much as the f/2.8 because it’s exactly one stop brighter. Just as we would expect. (Read more about f-stops here.)

The results compare nicely across constant f/numbers and differing focal lengths as well. For example: a 50mm/2.0 lens scores half as good as a 24mm/2.0 lens because it’s limited to approximately half the shutter speed due to its narrower angle of view.

This means that we can interpret the results across variations in both focal length and f/number ratings: A 35mm/2.0 lens (Score: 1020) scores almost exactly the same as a 14mm/2.8 (Score:1032). Even though the 35mm is limited to a shorter shutter speed due to its longer focal length, it makes up for the reduced shutter speed with one more stop in its f/number rating. The two different lenses should be expected to achieve very similar nightscape results with very different fields of view.

The highest scoring lens I know of to date is the 24mm/1.4 which offers the best mix of field of view and aperture size. However, I have successfully taken nightscapes with some of the lower rated lenses in the chart, such as the 18mm/3.5 so don’t be discouraged if that’s all you have to start with. Just keep in mind that an equipment upgrade will actually make a tangible difference. Here’s an example image made with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 set to 18mm/3.5. It’s a little noisy but still has adequate detail in it. In order to collect a little more signal to make up for the slower lens, I used a higher than recommended shutter speed of 30 seconds. There’s a little bit of star trailing at 1:1 magnification but it works fine at this viewing size:

18mm/3.5 on a Canon EOS T2i. 30s, f/3.5, ISO 6400.

18mm/3.5 on a Canon EOS T2i. 30s, f/3.5, ISO 6400.

The above image is a great example of what you can do with a relatively cheap camera and lens combination. Post processing noise reduction can also make a huge difference in your results when you are limited by your lens. Another method for reducing noise is image stacking and can be very effective when you are lens limited. A better scoring lens will only improve upon these results by collecting more light for a final image with less noise.

Fast wide angle lenses available from nearly every major lens manufacturer but they tend to be a little more expensive. If you are on a budget, I have a few affordable recommendations below:

Affordable Lenses for Landscape Astrophotography

I highly recommend lenses from Samyang or its other equivalent name brands, Bower and Rokinon for astrophotography. Most of these lenses are available for a whole range of cameras including Canon, Sony, Nikon, Fuji, Pentax, Olympus and Samsung. I currently use a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 and Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 for most of the nightscapes you see on lonelyspeck.com. They’re wide, cheap, sharp, and fast.

These lenses are all Manual Focus (MF) only lenses so they will require more patience than your autofocus lenses for everyday shooting but their optics often match or exceed the quality of top-of-the-line Canon or Nikon lenses and at a quarter of the price. About the product links below: I use affiliate links to the respective products that I mention on this page. If you decide to buy one of the products below, consider using the links in this article to support lonelyspeck.com. It won’t cost you anything extra but I’ll get small commission to support this website. I don’t blindly suggest products that I would never buy, everything here is something that I would use (or already use) myself. Here are the lenses I highly recommend for astrophotography:

Some other options that feature autofocus from other third party manufacturers that I have seen great results with are:

For a complete list of the best lenses for your camera system, see my guides below:

All of these lenses are relatively affordable and score above 1,000 with the calculations on the chart above. I use the score of 1000 or higher as a criteria for an excellent lens because it’s the score of a 14mm f/2.8, which is my most used lens for astrophotography. The equivalent focal length and f/number lenses from the major manufacturers like Sigma, Tokina, Nikon, Sony, and Canon will also work great, just use the lens charts above as a guide in your decisions.

Canon 6D

My favorite astrophotography lenses: Rokinon 14mm/2.8 and 24mm/1.4

Lens Aberrations

Aberration is another word for defect, deviation or imperfection in the lens. One of the primary benefits of the Samyang/Rokinon/Bower lenses is that they are well corrected for coma and astigmatism aberrations which results in photos where the stars appear properly as pinpoints, especially at low f/numbers. Many fast lenses can tend to blur or stretch the stars at the edges of the frame, creating “coma” comet-like shapes of the stars. While most of the photography generally call stretched looking stars “coma” no matter the cause, there are a number of different aberrations that can cause stretched looking stars, the most common being comatic aberration, astigmatism, and chromatic aberration or a combination of all of them. See the Canon 28mm f/1.8 image below for an example of sagittal astigmatism. Astrophotography is particularly sensitive to this effect because of the pinpoint light sources of the stars and that we tend to shoot at lower f/numbers where stronger aberrations will be present.

spherical-abberation

Example of sagittal astigmatism aberration.
Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

For some reason, most of the major lens manufacturers do not correct their fast prime lenses very well for coma or astigmatism. Canon and Nikon both usually have terrible levels of coma or astigmatism present on their most expensive prime lenses. Nearly every lens produced by Samyang/Rokinon is well corrected for coma and astigmatism and that makes them the most popular lenses for night photography.

aspherical-lens

Samyang/Rokinon lenses tend to have very low amounts of comatic or astigmatism aberrations.
Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Coma and astigmatism is very common in digital camera lenses especially fast prime lenses. I’m constantly on the look out for the best new lenses for astrophotography and Rokinon/Samyang has had the best track record so far. If your lens seems to show coma aberration and you’re using a really low f/number like f/1.4 or f/1.8, try stopping down a little bit to f/2.0 or f/2.8. By stopping down and closing the aperture a little bit, you can reduce the effect of aberration.

Conclusion

When it comes to camera equipment, your lens is the most important part. It is the lens that makes the image, the camera only records it. Different lenses are suitable for different functions. In the realm of landscape astrophotography, the fast wide angle is king. There are a plethora of fast-wide choices available for any given camera. Luckily there a few which are very high quality and relatively inexpensive. Of course, you can make an image of the Milky Way with a cheapo 40mm f/2.8 (as I showed above) but great results will be much easier and much cleaner from a fast wide angle lens instead.

Astrophotography pushes your equipment to its limits. Knowing these limits are the first step to creating great images.  For the best results in your own images, familiarize yourself with the limits of your lens and camera. Test how long of a shutter duration you can use before the stars being to trail with your lens, practice visualizing your lens’s field of view before you even look through the viewfinder and find the suitable f/number that gives you the best balance of exposure and image quality. Once you’ve fully mastered the limits of your equipment, you are only limited by your imagination.

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Believe it or not, Lonely Speck is a full-time job. It’s been an amazing experience for us to see a community develop around learning astrophotography and we’re so happy to be a small part of it. I have learned that amazing things happen when you ask for help so remember that we are always here for you. If you have any questions about photography or just want to share a story, contact us! If you find the articles here helpful, consider helping us out with a donation.

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Thanks so much for being a part of our astrophotography adventure.

-Ian

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99 Responses

  1. tony October 2, 2014 / 5:51 am

    Hi,

    I’m hesitating between Samyang 14mm/2.8 and Samyang 16mm/2.; it’s for Pentax K-5 II. Advantages for 14mm are wider FOV, very good IQ and better dealing with coma but it has huge distortion problem. 16mm, on the other hand, has f2 and, as I can see, excellent IQ but problem with coma and slight vignetting problem @f2.

    http://www.lenstip.com/380.11-Lens_review-Samyang_16_mm_f_2.0_ED_AS_UMC_CS_Summary.html

    http://www.lenstip.com/239.11-Lens_review-Samyang_14_mm_f_2.8_ED_AS_IF_UMC_Summary.html

    Coma in 16mm @ flickr – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ytoropin/9335332637/

    Is distortion in Samyang 14mm a big problem for night sky/landscape astrophotography?

    Thank you,
    Tony

    • tony October 2, 2014 / 5:55 am

      I forget to add something. I will not use this lens only for astrophotography but for landscape photography also.

      Thank you again.

    • Ian Norman October 4, 2014 / 1:48 am

      I don’t find the distortion a problem with the 14mm and it’s easily correctable in post processing. The 16mm coma is not extreme, specially when compared to other fast options. Stopping down to f/2.8 also improves the 16mm a bit. Overall, the FOV of each will still be relatively similar and both are super useful. I would probably opt for the 16mm for the extra stop of light.

  2. MIDNIGHT_SNAPPER September 23, 2014 / 2:44 pm

    Hello again Ian,
    This time I gained a little more insight on how to choose a lens for astrophotography with my NEX-5T body.
    Now my final selection boils down to the following:
    – Samyang 12mm 2.0
    – Samyang 8mm 2.8 Fish-eye
    – (Samyang 14mm 2.8)

    Up until today I thought my decision was final on the 12mm 2.0. But I just read your article on defishing images to achieve a massive field of view—hence the 8mm 2.8—,so now I’m undecided again.
    Also just read very good things about the 14mm 2.8, however I would like to know if you think it’s worth the extra buck, size and weight over the 12mm 2.0.
    I’ve seen the 12mm 2.0 performs very well, but can it actually top the 14mm 2.8, according to your insights?
    What about image quality of a defished photo coming from the 8mm 2.8 compared to the same image made with one of the other lenses?
    And thank you very much again for creating this wonderful website, Ian!
    You make a lot of people happy offering such a haven of knowledge we can all resort to.
    Respect! ;)

    • Ian Norman September 23, 2014 / 3:40 pm

      Get the 12mm. It’s a lot more useful than the fisheye for all around use. The fisheye is great but very much a specialty use lens. You’ll use the 12mm more. Its still very wide and there’s no defishing needed.

  3. NancyP September 22, 2014 / 4:03 pm

    I am really anxious to see the Samyang 12 mm f/2.8 diagonal fisheye for full frame. I am also interested in checking out a full frame circular fisheye. Either would be wonderful for timelapse meteor shower photography. I already use the Samyang 14 mm f/2.8, at f/2.8 if needed, f/3.2 or f/3.5 if there is a little leeway.

    Concerning more mundane matters, do you shoot your Samyang 24 f/1.4 at f/1.4 all the time, and does its sharpness and low aberration hold up wide open? I would love some extra light but it is hard for me to believe that the Samyang 24 at 1.4 or 2.0 will beat out the Zeiss 21 f/2.8 at f/2.8 (one of my regular landscape lenses, the other stalwart being the Sigma 35 f/1.4 Art) in terms of sharpness.

  4. Ioan Marinescu September 11, 2014 / 5:14 am

    Hello Ian and let me thank you for the great info yo’re sharing here!

    For some time I’ve been saving for a ultra wide lens, but recently I took a trip to the mountains and tried a few shots at the stars. I was amazed by the result, but my crappy 18-105 Nikkor is not up to the task. I own a Nikon D7000 and I wanted to buy a Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX-DC HSM (priced ~ 520 USD) for general landscape photography, but after reading your posts, I’ve also added Samyang 10mm 1:2.8 ED AS NCS (priced ~ 620 USD) and Samyang AE 14 mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC Aspherical (priced ~450 USD) to the list. The 10mm Samyang although APS-C only and more expensive than the 14mm Full frame cousin, has a wider field of view and also a Nano crystal coating; Do you know if any of them is weather-sealed? What would you recommend for general landscape and astrophotography use? Thank you!

    • Firdaus September 18, 2014 / 8:18 am

      Hi Ian, very helpfull article, i have a question about proper lens for my eos m. it’s a bit hard for me to find samyang 8mm f/2.8 on the other hand, there are plenty options for 8mm f/3.5. my question is,
      is there any huge different using 8mm f/2.8 vs 8mm f/3.5 aps-c capturing milky way?
      the price is not my consideraton, the only consideration is f/2.8 lens fits only eos-m, on the other hand, f/3.5 fits all eos dslr.
      also, do you have any review for zenitar 8mm f/2.8? thank you.

    • Ian Norman September 18, 2014 / 1:47 pm

      If you’re looking to be able to use the lens on both your EOS M and your Canon EOS DSLR, you can go for the 8mm/3.5 and the EF-M to EF Adapter so that you can adapt it to your EOS-M mount.

      The extra 1/2 stop of light advantage on the 8mm/2.8 might be helpful but the 8mm/3.5 should work too.

      I have no experience with the zenitar.

    • Firdaus September 18, 2014 / 7:29 pm

      so, the f/3.5 still worth it right? thank you again :)

    • Ioan Marinescu September 19, 2014 / 2:20 am

      Hello again Ian! About my upper topic, what would you recommend?
      Thank you!

    • Ian Norman September 19, 2014 / 11:07 am

      None of those lenses are weather sealed as far as I know. If I were buying, I would get the 10mm/2.8. It’s the widest and fastest of the bunch.

    • Ioan Marinescu September 21, 2014 / 8:59 am

      So 10mm it will be. Thank you again! :-D

  5. Rick Whitacre August 19, 2014 / 4:22 pm

    Hi Ian. Thanks for all the info. Do you have any information on the amount (or lack) of coma flare on the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 II? I believe that coma is very slight on the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art, but wondering if anyone has tested the Voigtlander. Lenstip.com has not tested it. Thanks! Rick

    • Ian Norman August 22, 2014 / 11:11 pm

      Rick! I’m so glad to see you here!

      I have not tested the 35mm f/1.2 II but if it’s anything like the 50mm f/1.1 Nokton, it’s probably not suited to astrophotography. The few images that I’ve seen on flickr (searching: voigtlander 35 1.2 night”) seem to indicate some strong astigmatism and coma wide open. I’m not sure if it get’s better stopped down a bit but I know the Voigtlander 50mm/1.1 needed to be stopped down to f/4.0 before it was up to snuff (not really acceptable).

      I’ll see if I can get a hold of the lens and test it out on the a7S but it might be a while before I can get a hold of one. In the meanwhile, I think the Sigma 35mm/1.4 Art and Rokinon/Samyang 35mm/1.4 still hold the top spots for the 35mm focal length.

    • Rick Whitacre August 23, 2014 / 9:31 am

      Thanks, Ian!

      I am renting the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art for a trip next weekend. My plan is to use it on the Sony A7S and shoot 3-shot panos to get the same field of view as a 24mm (in opposite orientation), but with twice the resolution of a single image. In other words, the Sony A7S with a 3-shot pano at 35mm will give me the same field of view and resolution as a 5DMIII with a 24mm lens; but with much better ISO noise and Dynamic Range. Tradeoffs are less depth of field at a given aperture and more star streaking at a given shutter duration. I don’t think I would use it on every shot, but for those that I think might eventually end up on a large metal print, it might be worth the extra effort. We’ll see

      Very best,
      Rick

    • Ian Norman August 23, 2014 / 7:01 pm

      Rick,

      Sounds like a killer combo with the a7S and the 35mm Sigma. I’ve had a ton of fun using slightly longer lenses, stopping down bit and shooting panos to get more FOV with super sharp details. I think that will get you some awesome results. I wouldn’t worry about the shorter DOF and the slightly shorter shutter shouldn’t hurt the final result. One recommendation I have though is to shoot more than you need. Shoot 6 shots with plenty of overlap rather than just 3 for example.

      Also in regards to the a7S. Something that I just appended to my review is that it’s much easier to frame on the Milky Way when you enable the S Log2 (PP7) or ITU709/(800%) Picture Profiles. It changes the gain on the viewfinder so that everything is a bit easier to see. I’m still experimenting with the Picture Profile settings on the a7S to see what’s best for astrophotography but I do at least suggest messing around with them to make framing easier.

      Ian

    • Rick Whitacre August 24, 2014 / 9:04 am

      Great tips, Ian!! Thanks. I’ll try them

  6. Keith Liew July 31, 2014 / 6:41 am

    This article is so useful! I just shared with my friends this wonderful page! I’m currently using a Canon 600D with 10-24mm/ f3.5 trying to shoot milkyway but no luck due to light pollution. Is there a way to shoot Milkyway at a light polluted sky? I’ve tried 10mm f5.0 ISO3200 but no luck. Thanks.

  7. Philip July 27, 2014 / 7:15 am

    Hey ian
    I actually have a canon 6d that i just purchased with 24-105mm and ive had the t2i before. I upgradd to take advantage of lenses that are better for full frame. But after seeing your photos i want to get into fuji mirrorless for those nice lenses. I was thinking i can sell the 6d and my lens and get a fujifilm x-m1 on slickdeals and get a lens. What do you think?

    • Ian Norman July 27, 2014 / 1:24 pm

      Philip,

      Trading the 6D for the Fujifilm X-M1 will probably feel like a big downgrade. Slower focus, no viewfinder, cheaper build, etc. My suggestion is to start with the 24-105mm/4L and the 6D. Unless you totally require a smaller camera system, I think that the 6D is still one of the best (if not the best) cameras for astrophotography for the money. Even with the f/4 lens, just shoot at ISO 12800 and the results should be pretty clean, especially to start. Not many cameras can shoot as clean photos at such high ISOs.

      I use the X-T1 because I’m willing to accept a few compromises for the reduced size and weight. The X-T1 is also a very different camera than the X-M1. It’s got better build, weather sealing, an excellent viewfinder, faster focus, etc. If you want to switch to mirrorless from the 6D, I would recommend no less than the X-T1 or a Sony a7/S/R. The X-T1 is the first mirrorless camera that was actually good enough for me to set aside the 6D. It’s not necessarily better in every regard, but it’s good enough, especially for its size.

    • philip July 31, 2014 / 6:22 am

      Thanks for the reply. The XM1 is a really beginner’s camera, and I am looking at the XT1 because it is similar in price with the 6d and it has better lenses too. But from your review, it seems like you’re not really making any compromises when you say you are.
      Obviously, just being honest here, you switched. And you sold off your 6d. So let’s just pretend I didn’t already buy the 6d. And I wanted your advice on what to buy, you would say the Fuji XT1 right?
      I mean, is there ANY reason that I should want the 6d instead of the XT1? It just seems better in every way from your reviews. I am kind of bummed out here because I purchased the 6d after seeing your review on how it’s the astrophotography king and all, and a couple articles later, you don’t even own it anymore. And I’m just here with a brand new 6d thinking, yeah, i wish I had the XT1 instead.

    • Ian Norman August 2, 2014 / 9:48 pm

      Philip, I guess I would say that it depends on your priorities. For image quality they are actually very similar. For handling, I much prefer the X-T1. It’s smaller and has a tilting LCD, the lenses are all smaller and are very high quality. But the 6D has better video quality and control over the video settings. The lens selection is also much larger on the 6D and I actually prefer the final image quality of the large Rokinon lenses on the 6D over the more compact Fujifilm lenses. The Fujifilm lenses are all great but still need to be stopped down one stop to reduce aberrations ( the 23/1.4 and 35mm/1.4 in particular). This is not the case on the larger Rokinon lenses on the 6D. That’s honestly reason enough that I would reason to keep the 6D: the full-frame lenses available for it are in fact still slightly better.

      I also miss the superwide rectilinear look of the 14mm/2.8 on the 6D. The widest rectilinear lens on the X-T1 (that’s good for astrophotography) is the Rokinon 12mm/2.0 but it’s still 20 degrees narrower than the 14mm/2.8 on the 6D.

      To make matters a tad more confusing, I just got my hands on the new Sony a7S and discovered a lot of things I really loved about it too, particularly the ability to frame and focus much more easily in low light so I’m considering adding the a7S to my gear bag, the issue there being that the selection of native full-frame Sony FE lenses is small and using the larger Rokinon lenses can feel rather imbalanced on the small body of the a7S.

      If you think you’ll benefit significantly from having a much smaller camera system than the 6D, by all means get the X-T1 instead and stick with native Fujifilm lenses or the dedicated mirrorless designs from Rokinon. But if you’re looking for the best image quality, a switch will probably won’t pay any significant dividends.

      I didn’t ditch the Fujifilm because it made better photos than the 6D, it’s just smaller and more compact which became more of a priority for my travels than necessarily having the absolute best lens for the job.

      Your question is honestly a hard one to answer but I hope I have perhaps communicated it a little better this time. Sorry it’s not perfectly clear cut.

  8. Finley July 17, 2014 / 3:29 am

    Thanks that lens looks like it scores 1875. (Over 400 points better than 35mm 1.8 @ 1259)
    I might just go ahead and save the money. It does cost over double the 35mm lens, but I’m worried the Nikon lens will have horrible aberrations. Right now that is my biggest problem (other than adjusting to CC and LR.. I just upgraded from CS2…… … …)

    I am learning to blend in CC though.

  9. Finley July 16, 2014 / 3:39 am

    Thanks for this article. I just started landscape astrophotography earlier this month and have been having a really rough time with it. I started with a D3000 and 18-55/3.5 DX lens. I had horrible noise at 1200 iso. I managed to pick up a used D7000 for $500 which has less noise, but I am still on the same cruddy lens.
    I have been eyeing the Nikon DX 35mm/f1.8 lens ($180) and using a 0.43x wide angle converter. I know it will distort the edges some and possible reduce some light, but I plan to crop to the middle some. I’m thinking this will give me few more seconds without star trailing and more stars without coma (if I crop to the original 35mm focal length area)
    Any experience with wide angle cenverters?

    • Ian Norman July 17, 2014 / 2:33 am

      Finley,

      I cannot really recommend a wide angle converter. For the reasons you already know, you’ll lose light, the image quality will suffer (and if you’re cropping, what’s the point of the converter in the first place). I would suggest setting the $$ aside and saving for the 16mm/2.0. In the grand scheme of things it’s not that much more expensive than the 35mm/1.8 plus wide angle converter and your results will end up better. To hold you over until you can get a better lens, I would suggest trying some image stacking to reduce noise in your shots. It’s amazing what an 18-55mm kit lens can do just by stacking 4 exposures.

  10. Iris July 13, 2014 / 6:39 am

    Thanks for the guide! I’ve printed it off to go with me to Botswana in 3 weeks. Unfortunately, I’ll get increasing moon but vast plains, too.
    I’m into m43, and will be taking my Panasonic 14mm/f2,5 lens especially for night sky photography. I have the panasonic wide angle converter to go with it (making it a 11mm lens, I think) I also have a Rowi semi-fisheye lens (that decreases quality though). Should I consider the additional “attachments” or take the 14mm plain. And what about filter?
    Thanks so much – I hope, I can come back with some great shots.
    Iris

    • Ian Norman July 13, 2014 / 10:38 am

      I wouldn’t put on any more attachments other than your wide angle convertor. Additional filters or glass can reduce quality and reduce light transmittance.

  11. Rafa García July 3, 2014 / 7:53 am

    Hi Ian Thanks for your article. Could you explain how to calculate the angular area?

    • Ian Norman July 3, 2014 / 1:20 pm

      You can calculate the angle of view of a lens for any given sensor size by using the angle = 2arctan(d/2f) formula where d is the dimension of the sensor in the direction you want to measure and f is the focal length. More on this here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angle_of_view

      Once calculating the vertical and horizontal angular dimension, they can be multiplied to get the angular area. Units are in radians.

  12. Val June 29, 2014 / 10:00 am

    Thank you so much for this post! I love astro and night photography. I was completely lost in a sea of lenses, and most of them would have had me drowning in debt..I really appreciate the recommendations, settings and photo examples you shared. Bookmarking this one! Thanks again!

  13. Giorgio Litt June 23, 2014 / 4:14 pm

    Thanks so much for this post. I have a quandary! I’m very interest in astro starscapes, and I’m about to go out and try to get milky way shots in some Dark Sky country.

    I have a Zeiss 15 f2.8, which I adore, as well as Zeiss 35 f1.4 for possible stitching Panorama in the future, and a Zeiss 21 f2.8, which I don’t think is terribly relevant to my question and getting milky way shots. I just wanted to include it in case you think it actually has astro value. MY gut is though it’s sexy for lots of things, it may not be very sexy for Astro.

    So what I’ve heard is the Rokinon 24 f1.4 is the jam. And as I’ve dumped a ton on glass recently, I’d like to take a break, but it’s so so tempting to grab this $500 beauty.

    Before I ask my question, realize that I’ll be backpacking, and not taking really really expensive glass has its obvious advantages, as does packing in only 1 lens instead of 2. As does not buying anything. So my question is, if I want to do both star time lapse (I’d like this to be wide if poss) and also a great contrasty and colorful pic of the milky way , would you grab the Rokinon 24 f1.4, and use just that? Would you grab it and also bring in the Zeiss 15mm, and just do some more leg squats to deal with extra weight? I don’t think I’m interested in buying the Rokinon 14 f2.8 because my sense is that I wouldn’t get THAT much of a better shot with the Rokinon 14 f2.8 vs the Zeiss 15 f2.8, which I find to be baller!

    I’m on a 5DM3, by the way.

    Thanks,

    SoulofWit

    • Giorgio June 23, 2014 / 4:16 pm

      Not sure it got signed “Soul of Wit,” but I meant to sign my name!

      -Giorgio

    • Ian Norman July 3, 2014 / 1:21 pm

      My initial recommendation is to just shoot with what you have. That said, the performance of the 24mm/1.4 for astrophotography in particular might be worth the purchase. I say test your gut feeling by trying it out with the Zeiss Glass. The 5D mark III can handle some slow glass so even if you have to stop down, it should give good results. Skip the 14/2.8 the Zeiss 15 should be very similar.

      My last workshop participant had both the 21/2.8 Zeiss and the Rokinon 24/1.4. We definitely decided that the Rokinon gave better results.

      Hope that helps.

  14. Mike June 19, 2014 / 4:21 pm

    Thanks for the article. I’m debating between two lens and I can’t decide one way or another. I don’t have any side and fast lens for Milky Way photography. I’m using a Nikon D800 and I’m considering between:
    1. Samyang 14mm f/2.8
    2. Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8

    The Samyang seems to be a no-brainer due to its cost, but at the same time I would want to spend money on a multipurpose lens. If I do get the Samyang, I probably would only use it for star photography, and honestly I do that only a few times a year. For the Tokina, because of the AF and the zoom, I can do other photos like family photos or group photos.

    The cost difference is not a deal breaker, but do you think the 2mm loss, the sharpness loss, and the added weight, outweigh the benefit?

    Ultimately, if the Tokina can perform the same as the Samyang in terms of milky way photography, I would pay the extra cost and get the flexibility. I’m concerned that if I do get the Tokina, the milky way image will be noticeably inferior than the Samyang.

    • Ian Norman July 3, 2014 / 1:27 pm

      I think the Tokina should be OK. It will just have some coma in the corners when shooting at f/2.8. Since astro will probably be only %10 of your shooting, go with the more useful lens.

  15. Robert June 17, 2014 / 9:06 am

    I have a sony nex f3 what lenses should I use for being a beginner?

    • Ian Norman June 17, 2014 / 2:37 pm

      Grab the Rokinon 12mm for Sony E-Mount. The Sony 16mm/2.8 Pancake would probably be decent as well.

  16. Mojo June 12, 2014 / 11:18 pm

    would the Rokinon 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS Lens on a caon 7D be efficient for this application?

    • Ian Norman June 13, 2014 / 12:16 am

      Yes! The Rokinon 10mm f/2.8 should be a good lens for astrophotography on the 7D.

  17. Josiah May 30, 2014 / 11:19 am

    I was curious of your recommendation of the 12mm f2.0 Rokinon lens. I have only seen a few reviews and was wondering if you had first hand experience with it.

    • Ian Norman May 31, 2014 / 4:26 pm

      Josiah,

      I have been workig on a complete review of the Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 lens for the last month. First impressions are very good. It’s sharp wide open and has very low coma. Full review coming soon!

    • Ian Norman June 3, 2014 / 1:44 am

      The review of the Rokinon 12mm f/2 is here!

  18. Marco May 28, 2014 / 7:22 pm

    Thank you for this very helpful article.
    I own a Canon EOS 6D (fullframe) and I’m thinking about either buying the samyang 35 1.4 or samyang 14 2.8. Which one is better for astrophotos? I thought 35mm is a bit long even on fullframe, but then, I could do panoramas with it. On the other hand, with the 14mm it’s a very wide field of view but has only f2.8. I don’t know what to pick. Tend to go with the 35mm. What could go wrong?

    greetings
    Marco

    • Ian Norman May 29, 2014 / 1:21 am

      Marco,

      The 35mm/1.4 is a bit long but can work well with stitching if you’re familiar with the process. I have even used a 50mm/1.4 on the 6D to make some panorama stitches. It all depends on where your priorities are. If you want a super wide angle photo, get the super wide angle lens. If you’re instead looking for a more “standard” lens for more than just landscapes, or look forward to stitching perhaps 35mm will be a more suitable focal length.

      They’re both such different lenses that I I were given the choice, I would have both a 14mm and a 35mm (which I do!) :) Throw in a 24mm and you have the full gamut of wide angle covered from ultra wide to standard.

      If you’re gut is telling you the 35mm, go for it by all means.

  19. Scott May 27, 2014 / 8:32 pm

    Great article, thanks for sharing your knowledge. Thinking of either the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 or 24mm f1.4. I do have a Tamron 28 -70 f2.8 so does it make more sense to go with the 14mm as I may be able to use the Tamron at 28 at a f2.8 setting, or do I have to worry about coma aberration with that lens? What are your thoughts?

    Thank you

    • Ian Norman May 29, 2014 / 1:14 am

      I think the 14mm f/2.8 is probably the better lens to start out with because of the extra wide field of view. It makes it much easier to start out when you are using a super wide angle lens.

      If you’re shooting on full-frame, the Tamron at 28mm and f/2.8 should be just fine for astrophotography. If you’re on an APS-C body, it will be a little bit too narrow.

  20. darethehair May 27, 2014 / 10:47 am

    Love the article and the accompanying Google Docs spreadsheet! For me, the question boils down to this: Samyang 16mm vs Sigma 18-mm? Both have high ‘untracked astro photo’ ratings. I already have the Samyang 8mm, but I am forced to drop down from F3.5 to F5.6 for clarity. The Sigma is (apparently) good clarity way up at F1.8, but from bits and pieces on the web it sounds like the Samyang 16mm needs to be stopped down from F2.0 to F2.8 — cutting its high rating in half! True?

    • Ian Norman May 27, 2014 / 11:42 am

      If I had to pick between the two I would go for the 18-35/1.8. Better image quality wide open, autofocus and an awesome zoom range make it a much more desirable lens than the Samyang 16/2.0. Granted, it’s also twice as expensive as the Samyang but I think the extra cost is fully justified; it’s a much nicer lens.

  21. Aaron W May 26, 2014 / 6:57 am

    Ian, thank you for writing such a detailed and easy to read guide for us aspiring photographers. I have been looking for a lens to put on my Canon Rebel t3i that will serve to take decent Milky Way photos as well as landscapes/stormscapes without breaking the bank. I like the idea of the newer Rokinon 10mm f2.8, however, I don’t know if spending an extra $200 over the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 makes sense if I plan to upgrade to a full frame Canon in the future. Which of these lenses would you recommend for my t3i? I will be using your links to buy, and again, thanks for all the hard work!

    • Ian Norman May 26, 2014 / 4:26 pm

      Aaron, even on an APS-C camera, 14mm is still my most used focal length so I think the Rokinon 14mm/2.8 is a pretty good start, especially regarding the price! If you upgrade to full-frame eventually, it’s a great lens to have on hand. I think your decision to start with the 14mm /2.8 makes a lot of sense. Thanks for supporting by using my links!

  22. mSet_One May 19, 2014 / 2:04 am

    Thanks for such a great read. Can I ask for some advice on the best lens for a m 4/3, above you mention 16mm or lower. I’m just starting out with a second hand Lumix G3 with a 14-42mm X Vario 3.5-5.6 but thinking this might not be fast enough? I picked up a very nice Canon FD 50mm 1.4 but with the conversion this seems a bit long and I noticed it picks up trails very easy.

    • Ian Norman May 19, 2014 / 6:53 am

      I think you should try out the 14-42mm at first to get used to the process. It is a little slow so you should probably expect to use a higher than recommended shutter speed and end up with some star trails or, if you’re trying to minimize star trails, expect some noise. Some brighter/faster alternatives that I think should work pretty well are the Rokinon 12mm/2.0, Olympus 12mm/2.0 or the SLRMagic Hyperprime 12mm/1.6. They’re fast enough and wide enough to make for some pretty good astrophotos. I’ve personally used the Rokinon 12mm/2.0 on an APS-C camera (Fuji X-T1) and first impressions are good. I’ll be posting a review of it relatively soon.

      Fisheye lenses are also a good consideration (although specialized) and in that case, I would recommend the Rokinon/Samyang 7.5mm/3.5.

    • mSet_One May 20, 2014 / 2:21 am

      Thanks Ian. Yes I really want to minimize the star trails, a little noise I can handle and treat in post production. I take it fisheye still looked curved even with the conversion of focal length on a M4/3 camera?

    • Ian Norman May 20, 2014 / 3:44 am

      Yes a fisheye is still very curved, even on a m4/3 camera. It makes for some very specialized shots but if used right can be very interesting.

  23. Jim May 16, 2014 / 8:35 am

    What a fantastic article, very well written and extremely comprehensive, thank you so much!!! Any thoughts on the tokina 11-16mm 2.8 vs the Rokinon 14mm 2.8? I know they both have aspherical elements for reduced coma and similar focal lengths. I like the idea too of having a lens that will also work for my landscape photography interest.

    • Jim May 16, 2014 / 8:36 am

      By the way I am on a crop sensor body- d5200.

    • Ian Norman May 16, 2014 / 8:47 am

      Jim, I think that the Tokina is probably the more versatile lens because it has a wider field of view and also has autofocus. If I had to choose between the two, I would choose the Tokina. For the lens with the best price, the Rokinon is hard to beat.

  24. steven hoffman May 15, 2014 / 10:11 am

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience.

    I have a full frame Canon and the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM Wide Angle Lens. Is this a good lens for capturing the Milky Way?

    • Ian Norman May 15, 2014 / 1:44 pm

      Steven,
      The Canon EF 28mm/1.8 is a decent lens for capturing the Milky Way. However, it’s prone to comatic aberration when used wide-open at f/1.8. You can see an example of that here.
      I recommend stopping down to f/2.0 or f/2.2 to reduce the coma in the corners of the image.
      A good starting exposure is 20 seconds, f/2.0 at ISO 3200. If coma is bad, try 20 seconds, f/2.8 at ISO 6400.

  25. Regug May 14, 2014 / 5:29 am

    Wow!! A really great article! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  26. John May 13, 2014 / 6:35 pm

    I’m fairly new to dlsr photography but am really interested in photographing the milky way and nightscapes. I have a Nikon d3200 and was looking at picking up the Rokinon 14mm 2.8 for an upcoming camping trip to an area with a dark sky. It seems that the 24mm 1.4 might be better for getting more light with less trailing. Is it worth almost twice the price of the 14mm? Since the d3200 isn’t full framed will it be a little too “cropped” to capture all the grandeur? I really enjoyed this article and your photographing the milky way article. I look forward to continuing learning to eventually understand all the tech talk…

    • Ian Norman May 14, 2014 / 4:08 am

      John, I think you have the right idea. The 24mm f/1.4, while very good, is a little bit narrow for Milky Way photography on the D3200 because of the crop, particularly if you’re just starting out. I think it’s a little bit easier to try a wider angle lens when starting out.

      For an APS-C (cropped) sensor like on your d3200, the 14mm f/2.8 will probably give you results with more “grandeur” just because their field of view is so much larger than the 24mm. The 24mm will allow you to resolve more fine detail in the Milky Way than pretty much any other lens (without using a tracking equatorial mount) but the 14mm f/2.8 will give you a bigger view of the sky.

      My opinion: start with the 14mm. It’s much cheaper, it has a wider field of view so composition will be much easier. It’s a better bang for the buck than the 24mm. After some heavy use of the 14mm you’ll know if you want to try something narrower but brighter like the 24mm. Perhaps by then you’ll decide that you want something even wider and may want to try one of the newly announced 10mm/2.8 lenses.

  27. Jonathan Riddle May 12, 2014 / 7:29 pm

    Thanks for the info in this article, still trying to decide which lens to get but the article gave me some really helpful information. Random question that really has nothing to do with the article itself…what font did you use for the title photo?

    • Jonathan May 13, 2014 / 9:59 pm

      Thanks for the info on the typeface, just downloaded it myself. Question number 2 for you…I have a Pentax K30 and want to shoot some astrophotography while I’m out in Yellowstone/Grand Teton this summer. I read through your recommendations but am still having trouble figuring out what lens to buy. I’m on a pretty tight budget and thought about going with the Pentax 35mm/2.4 because it’s on sale but after reading your article I’m concerned about its aperture. I’m trying to find a lens that would be versatile enough for other uses as well. What is your opinion on the Pentax 35mm/2.4 and do you have any other specific recommendations for me on a budget for the K30? Thanks.

    • Ian Norman May 14, 2014 / 4:36 am

      Jonathan, about the lens for your K30. I think that you will find the 35mm/2.4 a little bit too narrow a field of view on the K30. That doesn’t mean it won’t work, but you’ll have a hard time fitting more than a slice of the Milky Way in the photo. When I use a 35mm lens on an APS-C camera like the K30, it’s usually necessary to stitch together several photos in a panorama in order to get an adequate view of the Milky Way. My recommendation is to get a lens with a focal length no longer than 24mm. The easiest option is probably the Rokinon 14mm/2.8 because it’s relatively affordable.

  28. miDnight_snapper May 8, 2014 / 10:57 am

    Hi,
    Thank you for the quick reply! :)
    I actually found one made by Kiwi, sold on several sites (Amazon, Ebay etc.)

    A link to one here: http://www.enjoyyourcamera.com/Lens-Mount-Adapter/Adapter-for-Sony-NEX-E-Mount/Kiwifotos-Lens-Adapter-X-Fujinon-Sony-NEX-E-Mount::6209.html?language=en

    You speak of focus by wire, so the ring seen on the lens can’t be used for manual focus then?
    I see a small clip on the adapter for the Fuji Lens, what does this do then?

    Thanks for helping out!

    Cheers

    • Ian Norman May 8, 2014 / 11:38 am

      Yeah, that adapter will not work for modern Fuji X lenses, it will only work with the 1970s manual focus ones.

      The modern mirrorless Fuji lenses require power from the camera to drive the manual focus. So when you rotate the ring, you’re actually telling the camera to rotate the focusing motor rather than rotating the focus mechanism directly.

  29. miDnight_snapper May 8, 2014 / 5:19 am

    Hi,

    First of all, wow, a great article! Thanks so much for this, you did a great job here!

    What would your opinion be on using the Fuji X 18mm 2.0 along with an E-Mount adapter on a Sony NEX-5? Will I still have all the mentioned benifits of this lens, or does this go lost when using an adapter ring in between?
    Thanks a lot!

    • Ian Norman May 8, 2014 / 9:30 am

      It’s actually impossible to mount a modern Fuji X mirrorless lens to a Sony E mount. There are no adapters available and even if there were, the electronics are different. Since the Fuji X lenses rely on focus by wire, there would be no way to adjust focus. You might be confused by the availability of Fujica X adapters which are made for adapting the old manual focus Fujica X lenses made in the 1970s.

      So I guess my opinion is that it can’t be done. I would however recommend any of the Rokinon Lenses made for the E-mount like the 16mm f/2.0.

  30. Miguel Kieling May 5, 2014 / 9:26 am

    Ian, what do you think of a Sony E 24mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T for a Sony A7? Do you think it will be as good as a Ronikon 24mm f/1.4? Many thanks.

    • Ian Norman May 7, 2014 / 2:27 pm

      Miguel, something to keep in mind is that the Zeiss E 24mm f/1.8 is an APS-C lens meaning your A7 will switch to cropped mode. This means that the field of view will be closer to a 35mm on a full-frame camera. So basically it’s not very similar to the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 My opinion is that you should get a dedicated full-frame lens like the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 for your A7 if you want the best results.

      Just looking at the specifications of the lens, it looks like it should work just fine for astrophotography. It’s relatively fast so it should be pretty good although you should expect some coma (kurtmunger.com) at low f/numbers.

  31. Matthew Cimone April 17, 2014 / 5:34 pm

    Hi Ian,

    Fantastic article. Just ordered the 24mm F1.4 based on your recommendation on this page (used the links on the page to make the order).

    I am doing an 8 day trip through the Atacama with an organization called Impossible2Possible. (impossible2possible.com) Visiting ALMA and such. Wanted to get a new lens to do some milkyway photography while I was there. Really appreciate the insights.

    • Ian Norman April 18, 2014 / 3:15 am

      Matthew!

      Thanks for using the affiliate links to support Lonely Speck! I’m glad you like the article. And WOW. The Atacama desert is certainly a bucket list item of mine. I really want to go there to shoot astrophotos. I checked out chasingatlantis.com, what a great site! Be sure to share your astrophoto results!

  32. Salem Pasha January 28, 2014 / 1:14 pm

    Awesome article!

    Quick question, is there a quick and dirty guide, similar to the “Rule of 600 etc” above, in choosing which minimum ISO to use so you don’t end up with unnecessary noise?

    I have a Nikon d7000 and got some amazing shots using my 35mm f/1.8 in Kenya. I went far away from our lighted camp, manual focused on a fire extinguisher at distance for an “infinity” focus, went with ISO 6400 and used the 600 rule for exposure time. Using my 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 18mm isn’t getting me as great shots in Dubai (where I live). Too many factors have changed and need some help. I think the ISO has got something to do with it.

    Thank you!

    • inorman January 28, 2014 / 1:23 pm

      Thanks Salem. Determining which ISO setting is cleanest is a bit camera specific but your lens f/number usually determines roughly how high it should be set. The lower f/number lenses allow you to use lower ISOs for cleaner photos. Your 35mm f/1.8 is a better choice than the 18-300mm because of its larger aperture size. My quick guide has an exposure flow chart that shows you generally what ISO I use for what aperture setting. Hope that helps!

  33. philodox January 28, 2014 / 9:21 am

    Great article, thank you for writing it up and sharing your research.

    I dropped full sized DSLRs a couple of years ago in favor of Micro 4/3 but it has a really hard time with astrophotography, which I’ve been wanting to get serious about. Your article may have just convinced me to pick up the DSLR gear again :)

    • inorman January 28, 2014 / 11:41 am

      philodox, thanks!
      Glad to see you wanting to try out astrophotography.

  34. Lachlan November 20, 2013 / 5:48 am

    What’s your opinion on the sigma f2.8 4.5mm circular fisheye for stars?

    • inorman January 28, 2014 / 9:24 am

      It will work well, particularly if you can extend shutter speeds to about a minute or more, taking advantage of the very wide field of view. However, I’m not personally a fan of circular fisheye distortion. If it’s your cup of tea, by all means try it out.

  35. astrowomp September 9, 2013 / 2:31 pm

    A great article – thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    After getting a DSLR last Christmas I have spent the last 9 months dipping my toe into the world of photography & have become hooked on astro & it’s incredibly steep learning curve!! After many, many hours of research I bought the Samyang 14mm last week…..wish I’d have had your article to make the decision easier!! lol

    • inorman September 10, 2013 / 2:34 pm

      I’m sure you will be happy with the Samyang 14mm!

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