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. I have a Nikon d5300 and i like taking night time star pictures. I am looking for a lens that’s more aimed toward this type of photography. Do you have any recommendations? I would like to keep it around $100 or so, and wouldn’t mind a used lens. Thank you for all the help on this site, it has really helped me out!

    1. Sam, in that price range, your kit lens, the 18-55mm/3.5-5.6 is probably the best bet for now. The next closest thing would probably be a used Rokinon/Samyang 14mm f/2.8.

    2. I also have a Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF lens. Should I look for another one or is this a better one than the kit lens?

  2. Ian,
    Excellent information you have provided. I have a new interest in astrophotography and have a question. I have Nikon D7000 that I mainly use for my wildlife photography and Lumix M43 for most other tasks, currently the G7. What is your recommendation, Should I invest in the Rokinon 16, f2 for the Nikon or the Rokinon 12mm, f2 for the M43?

    1. If you’re looking to keep things small, I prefer the 12mm/2. That said, the 16mm on the larger APS-C sensor will make for slightly cleaner images. Slightly.

  3. Hello Ian –
    I love your page! I am a novice photographer and I’m interested in Astrophotography as well as Nighttime scenic photography. I currently have a Nikon D7000 camera. Which lense would be best for me?

    Thanks for your time.

  4. Hey Ian, I’m really torn on what lens to get. I have a Nikon D3200 and want to take landscape Milky Way Photography. Before reading this article I was very sure I was going to get the Rokinon 14mm f2.8 but now I feel like that wouldn’t be best since the image will be cropped. So which of the aps-c lenses above do you think would be best? I like the 16mm but I hope it delivers that wide angle look. also another question: If you get an APS-C only lens does it still get cropped?

    Thanks!

    1. If you want a wide angle look, go for the Rokinon 10/2.8 or Tokina 11-16/2.8 II or 11-20/2.8. Yes, APS-C only lenses still get cropped.

  5. Hello.
    Love your page!
    I’m really enjoying taking Milky Way photos at the moment. I currently have Nikon d90 and use a tonika 11-16mm lens,and am looking to upgrade what would you recommend I buy. Cheers,Robbie.

    1. Robbie, honestly, the Tokina 11-16mm/2.8 is already an excellent lens. I wouldn’t change much. Maybe consider going to a full frame camera? That would provide a small improvement.

  6. Hey Ian – great work and i love the site, thank you! I just started astrophotography and took my first succesful photos this lat weekend using a Nikon D7100 with a 35mm 35mm f/1.8g. The pictures came out good considering i didnt have a remote release. What would you recommend as a good step up from this lense?

    Thanks!

    1. Shane,

      The 35mm f/1.8G is definitely a little narrow for the D7100 unless you’re making panorama stitches. I think a shorter lens like the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 or the Rokinon 10mm/2.8 are good candidates to give you something special to work with. I generally tell people to try starting with super wide angle lenses.

Leave a 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.