Best Lenses for Milky Way Photography: Nikon Astrophotographers

If you shoot with a Nikon camera and you want to improve your astrophotography, these are the best lenses for the job.

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

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 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 Nikon counterparts. Additionally, most of the Rokinon lenses are sharper and tend to exhibit less coma aberration than their Nikon counterparts. The Rokinon lenses also available with Nikon’s focus confirmation and auto aperture. 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.

FX (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

  • The best night photography and astrophotography lens you can buy. Excellently sharp, even wide open at f/1.4. Manual focus.
  • Score: 2869

35mm/1.4: Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 US UMC or Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

  • 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 or Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF

DX (APS-C Only)

Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC
The Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 offers the best combination of wide angle and large aperture for astrophotography with APS-C sensor cameras.

16mm/2.0: Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC

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

10mm/2.8: Rokinon 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS

  • 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 PRO DX II

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

Other Systems

Best Lenses for Milky Way Photography on Canon Cameras

Best Lenses for Milky Way Photography on Fujifilm Cameras

lonely-speck-logo-icon-16px

121 Replies to “Best Lenses for Milky Way Photography: Nikon Astrophotographers”

  1. Hi ian I’m getting a little confused i am just staring out i have a nikon D5300 what is the best lens for taking pictures of the moon and milky way i have looked at many websites thank you. susanne

    1. Susanne, shooting the moon and the Milky Way are two very different things that require different lenses. For the moon, you will want something like a 300mm or longer lens while for Milky Way shots, your kit lens (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6) or any of the APS-C (DX) lenses listed above are my recommendation.

  2. Hi Ian, you again for all of your reviews. I’ve been considering purchasing a new lens for a little while now. I’m shooting with the Nikon D 5300, so I don’t have a full frame. I’m looking at the Rokinon 14 mm F2.8 vs the 16mm f2.0. In your 24 mm review, you say how much you love the 14, and I don’t see anything in there about the 16. I really like the wide-angle but I think that the wider aperture is more valuable, at a minimal cost increase. I also noticed the score is higher. Do you have any advice for this? I think I’m going to purchase to BNH and have it shipped out. If I purchase through your website for BNH, you will get a kickback?

    1. Hey Sara, thanks! I have a lot of readers and friends that use the 16mm/2 with great results. (I don’t personally own it because I shoot full-frame) I think it’s a great compromise between aperture and field of view. 16mm is still nice and wide (24mm equivalent) and it sounds like the lens that I would recommend you try if you’re looking to get a lens for astro. Remember too that you can combine multiple images to make a panorama stitch for an ultra wide field of view, similar to what I talk about in my stitching article.

      If you purchase from B&H via one of the links on this page, Lonely Speck should get a 2% commission. Thanks for the support!

      I hope that helps,

      Ian

  3. May I agree with all the rest, thanks for the wonderful site and all the help you’ve provided (oh that I understood all of it!). I’ll go and dust my puny 10-20 Sigma off and have a go. I, too, am a Nikon man, currently using D-5100s.
    Cheers and thanks to all who have provided assistance, Ian

  4. great website, im just getting in to photography in general and loving astrophotography, i have a Canon SX50hs and a Nikon D5200 with the stock 18-55mm lens and a 70-300mm sigma, i dont remember the F number on either of them at the mo as at work, the canon ive found restrictive as it wont allow long shutter speeds without locking the ISO at 80 so ive been using the Nikon more and more.
    Any suggestions for a cheap reasonable lense for night landscapes ? may even part ex the Canon despite its epic zoom capabilities

    1. Hey Rob. To start, the D5200 and the kit 18-55/3.5-5.6 should be OK. As an upgrade, I would consider the 10mm/2.8, 14mm/2.8 or 16mm/2 depending on how wide a field of view you want. The 10mm will be ultra wide while the 16mm will be closer to your kit lens, albeit better at gathering light.

  5. Hi Ian,

    Nice review. How about adding a page for m4/3. There are two great lens out there now for astrophotography for m4/3 Olympus and Panasonic cameras. These are the Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye Pro and the Voigtländer Nokton 10.5mm f/0.95, both exceptionally fast and very wide lenses with excellent image quality.

    1. And the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 ASPH lens will start to ship in mid-August. So options for m4/3 astrophotography are looking bright!

  6. Hi Ian,

    Thanks for an awesome article and very in-depth buying guide.

    I am currently using a Nikon 17-55mm/2.8 on a D5500, which sadly falls just under 1,000 on the Astro Lens Score and your recommended 14mm/2.8 doesn’t seem the offer much gain for me here.

    Would you recommend widening my FOV with the 10mm/2.8, gaining a stop with the 16mm/2.0 or gaining 2 stops at the cost of length with the 24mm/1.4?

    Thanks!
    Scott

    1. Scott,

      I wrestled with the same issue when trying to upgrade and went with the 16mm f/2.0 because I felt it was the best balance between having a wide field of view and a fast aperature. I felt that I’d be constantly stitching together images with the 24mm, and that the 10mm would be too wide for everyday shots. If you want the occasional wider shots with the 16mm, you can stitch a few images together. You can see some examples of the 16mm lens here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/saxman1089/

      Hope this helps!

Leave a Reply to Kristi Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.