Best Lenses for Milky Way Photography: Canon Astrophotographers

The most common question asked on Lonely Speck answered for Canon shooters!

What is the best lens for astrophotography? The one that collects the most light.

Below 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 their camera. If using the given camera mount, these are the lenses that I would use. Most of these lenses are manual focus lenses by Rokinon which also tend to be much more affordable than their autofocus Canon counterparts. Additionally, most of the Rokinon lenses are sharper and tend to exhibit less coma aberration than their Canon counterparts. If you’re willing to learn how to use manual focus, Rokinon lenses are spectacular performers.

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.

EF Mount (Full Frame and APS-C)

Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC
The Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC is the best full-frame lens for astrophotography.

24mm/1.4: Rokinon 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC ( Amazon / B&H )

 

  • The best night photography and astrophotography lens you can buy. Excellently sharp, especially when stopped to f/2. Manual focus.
  • My full review of the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4
  • Score: 2869
  • This is my go-to lens for astrophotography on a full-frame DSLR. It’s fast, wide and shows very little aberration problems. Still my personal favorite for Canon full frame DSLRs like the 6D, 5D Mark III and 5DS/R cameras.
  • Sample from the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4:
rokinon-24m-f14-mt-shasta
Made with the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

35mm/1.4: Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 US UMC ( Amazon / B&H )
or Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Amazon / B&H )

  • Standard wide angle for tighter landscapes or stitching multiple exposures into larger panoramas. Rokinon is manual focus, Sigma is autofocus.
  • Score: 2084

14mm/2.8: Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC ( Amazon / B&H )

Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 Review
The Rokinon 14mm f/2.8. Lots of glass for the money.
  • Essential ultra-wide angle for large sweeping landscapes. Manual focus. One of the most affordable full frame nightscape lenses.
  • My full review of the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
  • Score: 1032
  • Sample image from the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8:
Canon-EOS-6D-Review-6
Made with the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

 

EF-S Mount (APS-C Only)

Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 AS UMC CS
The Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 offers the best combination of wide field of view and large aperture for astrophotography with APS-C DSLRs.

16mm/2.0: Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC CS ( Amazon / B&H )

  • The best combination of wide angle and large aperture. Manual focus.
  • Score: 1875

10mm/2.8: Rokinon 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS B&H )

  • APS-C alternative to the Rokinon 14mm/2.8. Excellent for ultra-wide angle landscapes. Manual focus.
  • Score: 1184

11mm/2.8: Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 AT-X PRO DX II ( Amazon / B&H )

  • Covers the same range as the two previous lenses combined. Excellent super wide angle zoom with autofocus.
  • Score: 1149 (at 11mm)

EF-M Mount (APS-C Mirrorless)

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

Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS on Canon EOS M
The Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 my favorite lens for astrophotography on a mirrorless system. It’s both fast and wide and it’s very lightweight and compact in size.

 

  • Best lens for astrophotography on a mirrorless system. Nice and compact, best combination of super-wide field of view and large aperture.
  • Score: 2176
  • Sample image from the Rokinon 12mm f/2:
Rokinon-12mm-f2-NCS-CS-Review-Thumb-24
Made with the Rokinon 12mm f/2

22mm/2.0: Canon EF-M 22mm f/2.0 STM ( Amazon / B&H )

Canon EOS M
Canon EOS M and Canon EF-M 22mm f/2.0 lens
  • Surprisingly sharp and extremely compact lens. Also very cheap. Standard wide angle view makes it good for panorama stitches.
  • Score: 1505
  • Sample image from the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM:
IMG_9682-Edit2-2
Made with the Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM

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

    • Ultra wide angle fisheye that both fast and extremely wide. Fisheye distortion requires you to keep the horizon in the center of the frame unless you want a curved horizon.
    • Excellent when defished.
    • Score: 1237
    • Sample image from the Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye:
Alabama Hills Workshop
Made with the Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 Fisheye

233 Replies to “Best Lenses for Milky Way Photography: Canon Astrophotographers”

  1. I have a Canon EOS1100D and was advised by a camera store that the Rokinon lens recommended won’t work at optimum level with my basic model of camera. They suggested I consider the Canon EFS 10-18mm f4.5-5.6 IS STM or the Tamron 10-24mm F3.5-4.5. I’d really appreciate your thoughts as I am new to Astrophotography

    1. The canon 10-18 can be a little more tedious if you don’t have a bright light to focus on as the focus ring does not have a hard stop or any markers at infinity as a starting point. It just spins infinitely without an idea of where you are. I have it and only use it when the moon is out or I reaaally needs it that wide. I just stick with my sigma 18-35 1.8 as I can’t beat the aperture and sharpness. I have not looked if the Tamron has focus market but it already has a faster aperture which is a huge plus.

    1. Your camera will give you excellent results, perhaps better than you expected. For a nice versatile lens I like the Sigma 18-35mm. My favorite is the Rokinon 35mm f1.4 lens because I like a little smaller FOV to see more detail. I also use manual focus; in fact my Rokinon is an older manual focus only lens.

      Go forth and have fun!

  2. Hello… I am very new to photography and I am so confused with many selections of cameras and lenses.

    if I am going to buy just one camera and lens for travelling, street, landscape and astrophotography what would you recommend?

    Thank you

    1. I personally like Canons — almost any of their DSLRs, you don’t have to spend huge amounts of money to get a great body. If I could pick only one lens, it would be the Tamron AF 24-70mm f 2.8 lens. A great all-around lens and incredibly good at astrophotography.

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  4. Hi,

    I am considering taking up astrophotography however I am a complete beginner.
    As I’ll be looking for online tutorials/classes, I wanted to have a head-start and understand if, with my Canon EOS 7D camera, I can use any decent wide aperture lenses – or whether I should budget a new camera…

    Can you let me know if my 7D would do the trick, coupled with a good lens?

    I see your go-to Rokinon 24mm is not suited for my Canon..

    1. The Rokinon 24mm would do fine on your 7D. That would give you 2 stops lower ISO than, say the Tokina 11-16 or the Rokinon 14mm. The noise on the 7D can be quite bad at 3200 ISO, so I would look for a very fast lens from his list (F2.0 or faster).

      Now that the 6D mk 2 has come out, the 6D is a perfect camera for Astrophotography, and if you can find a good copy used, a great buy!

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