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

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

  1. Hi IAN!
    Thank you for your website and for your time!
    I actually have a D5000 with few lens and one RONIKON 14mm, ( Which is not a DX Lens) SO far I was able to get some cool shot, but I start to realize that I’m limitied in the photo quality. So I woud like to upgrate to a better body.
    So I’m looking between the D7200 and the D610.
    D7200 seem to have Higher ISO and few more advantage… But it’s still a DX.
    What would you recommend?
    Thank you in advance for your answer.

    Sincerely

    Julien

  2. Hi Ian,

    I love the website! I’m a complete novice to astrophotography (and only a relative amateur to DSLR photography in general) but these articles have made me desperate to give it a go despite living in the UK and having very few clear nights in which to see the stars! I’ve got a Nikon D5100 with the normal 18 – 50mm kit lens which I use as my usual day-to-day lens; plus a couple of cheap telephoto’s too.

    I am considering an upgrade to a better “walk around” lens with the hope that I could use this for the occasional bit of milky way photography too? (and as my wife and I are going on our honeymoon/holiday-of-a-lifetime to Hawaii in August, a star gazing trip to Mauna Kea will be a must!) Unfortunately, all of the wide-angle lenses you have suggested are out of my price range so I’ve been having to look into lower budget options which I could hopefully also use more frequently. I have had my eye on the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM with the hope that it will be more versatile, have a better image quality, and the lower f/ will make it a better lens for the night-scapes that I want to capture. Do you think it would be a worthy investment and improvement over the kit lens? or would it’s benefits be negligible?

    If you have any suggestions that you think may be of use closer to my £200 ($300) budget it would be much appreciated!
    Thanks again!

    1. Edit: I am also looking at the Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM as I can get it for about the same price. Thanks

  3. Thank you for the informative post; some wonderful information on here! I am looking into buying a new lens (I just purchased a D3300) for photographing the northern lights. I am leaning towards either the Rokinon 16mm f/2.0 ED AS UMC or the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 PRO DX II; would you recommend one over the other? Or a different lens altogether? Thanks!

  4. Great article thank you alot

    i’ve nikon d810 , what lens you recommend for it ( Astrophotographers )

    looking for sharpness and clearness

    thank you

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