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

41 Responses

  1. Raimy Abdul January 4, 2017 / 12:32 am

    What about XF 10-24mm f4 OIS? Are they good for astrophotography?

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

    Ian,

    What about the Fuji 16mm 1.4?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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