The Most Exciting Lenses for Astrophotography at Photokina 2014

Astrophotographers should be excited about many of the new lenses announced this year at the Photokina 2014 conference in Cologne, Germany. We see lots of fast lenses and that’s a very good thing.

Here is a quick list of all the new Astrophotography relevant lenses announced at Photokina 2014, who they’re for and why we’re excited about them.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G ED

For astrophotography, this is the lens that excites me the most from the Photokina 2014 conference. A fast 20mm lens is super valuable for astro work: it’s super wide angle of view and fast aperture will provide great views of the night sky and collect plenty of light. The fastest 20mm previously available  for DSLRs was the Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG RF Aspherical but it is too soft wide open and has too much aberration at f/1.8 for astrophotography. Hopefully Nikon can keep aberrations to a minimum on this new offering. If they can, I expect this lens to be the best 20mm lens available for astro work. The cool thing about Nikon lenses is that they’re easily adaptable to other mounts via adapters like the Novoflex Nikon to Canon EOS or Novoflex Nikon to Sony NEX and others. It’s also reasonably affordable

Fits: Nikon F Mount
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Samyang /Rokinon 50mm f/1.4 AS UMC

samyang_rokinon_50mm_f1.4

 

This is the lens that we’ve all wanted Samyang to make for years now. It fills a gap in their already very good lineup of lenses and is their 4th lens with an aperture of f/1.4 (the others are the 24mm/1.4, 35mm/1.4, 85mm/1.4). We tend to love the lenses that come from Samyang. They’re typically very affordable, fast and have some of the best image quality of any of the lenses on the market. If it holds true to all their other lens designs, it will hopefully be great at correcting coma and astigmatism which should make for a great astrophotography lens. The only other 50mm lenses available that we recommend for astrophotography are the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art and the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*, both of which are markedly more expensive than the Samyang. A 50mm will be best used for making detailed astrophotography panorama stitches.

Fits: Canon EF, 4/3, Micro 4/3, Nikon F, Pentax, Samsung NX, Sony A, Sony E, Fuji X, and Canon M
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Samyang /Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS Fisheye

samyang_rokinon_12mm_f2.8_fisheye

Also from Samyang is a new 12mm/2.8 fisheye lens for full frame sensors. There are very few fast fisheye lenses available for full frame cameras and the Samyang / Rokinon 12mm f/2.8 should be one of the widest fast lenses that you can buy. With a field of view of 180 degrees from corner to corner, this lens should be great for large sweeping landscapes. We love their 8mm f/2.8 UMC Fisheye II  (full review here) version for APS-C mirrorless cameras so we’re excited to see an offering to full-frame DSLRs. We can’t wait to try this lens and apply our defishing method to the images.

Fits: Canon EF, 4/3, Micro 4/3, Nikon F, Pentax, Samsung NX, Sony A, Sony E, Fuji X, and Canon M
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Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8

 

 

The Tamron 15-30mm looks like it will be an affordable super wide angle option for full frame DSLRs. We’re particularly interested at how it will stack up against the comparable (but more expensive) and excellent Nikon AF-S Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED lens, and the affordable but manual focus Samyang / Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, some of our favorite super-wide angle choices for astrophotography. Tamron has always been second to Sigma in the third party lens market but consistently offers some great products. This offering is particularly unique because Sigma does not offer a fast full frame zoom in this range.

Fits: Canon EF, Nikon F
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Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 DX

 

The older version of this lens, the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 II is one of the best lenses for astrophotography on APS-C DSLRs and this updated version is expected to improve upon an already excellent lens. If you’re shooting on an APS-C DSLR body and want a super wide angle lens with autofocus, the 11-20mm should be near the top of your list.

Fits: Canon EF-S, Nikon F DX
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Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R

 

We’re huge fans of Fujifilm’s X camera system, it’s what we used exclusively while traveling through Europe. The Fujifilm X-T1 is small and light, great at low-light shooting and the new X-T10 is a perfect compact camera.  The 16mm f/1.4 is the last most needed lens for the system with an equivalent field of view of a 24mm lens and a fast f/1.4 aperture. It will be the fastest 16mm lens ever made for a consumer camera and it could very well be the best astrophotography lens available for the Fujifilm X System. Can’t wait to try this one out.

Fits: Fujifilm X Mount
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Sony Zeiss FE Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZA

 

Sony’s full frame mirrorless a7 series of cameras are excellent camera bodies but the FE lens system is very new and limited in selection with only a handful of slower zooms and a couple standard primes. The announcement of the new Zeiss FE Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 is the first dedicated f/1.4 lens for the Sony full frame mirrorless cameras so it should hopefully be a good compact choice for users with an a7, a7R or a7S who want to shoot in very low light conditions. An interesting thing about this lens is that it’s going to feature a de-clickable aperture ring with stops from f/1.4 to f/16 and an “A” setting for automatic aperture mode.

Fits: Sony E Mount
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Sony FE 28mm f/2.0

sony-zeiss-fe-28mm-f2

The Sony 28mm f/2.0 should be a compact fast wide angle lens for astrophotography on the full frame Sony mirrorless system cameras like the a7, a7R and a7S. There’s not a lot of information available about this lens yet but it’s likely to be the most affordable full frame lens available for the a7, a7R and a7S. We would have preferred to see something with a wider field of view  like a 20mm or 24mm,  but a 28mm will suffice. Hopefully its performance at f/2.0 has low levels of aberration for astrophotography.

Fits: Sony E Mount
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Zeiss Otus APO Planar T* 85mm f/1.4

While a little bit long for the more common sweeping landscapes that we’re used to shooting at Lonely Speck, the Otus 85mm f/1.4 is sure to live up to its steep price tag by offering the sharpest and cleanest image of nearly any 85mm lens. The Otus 55mm f/1.4 is already one of the best standard primes available and we anticipate the 85mm version to be even better. This lens should be excellent for super detailed panorama stitches and for capturing smaller night sky objects.

Fits: Nikon F and Canon EF Mount
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Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PROolympus-m-zuiko-digital-ed-7-14mm-f2.8-pro

The M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 has been in development for years now and should prove to be a top astrophotography choice for those with a Micro 4/3 camera. It will offer an extremely wide field of view and should be fast enough for astrophotography.

Fits: Micro 4/3
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Conclusions

We’re super excited to try out a select few of these lenses as they are released. Photographing the Milky Way is growing in popularity and lens manufacturers seem to be making a lot of suitable lenses for this photographic specialty.

It’s disappointing  that there were no announcements of suitable fast wide angle lenses from Canon. The current Canon EF lens lineup is doesn’t offer any really great choices for astrophotography in our opinion. Most of the fast wide angle lenses from Canon have far too much coma and astigmatism when shooting wide open and as a result we tend to not recommend them for astrophotography. Luckily for Canon users there are a lot of current and new lens offerings from third party lens manufacturers like Samyang / Rokinon, Sigma, Tokina, Tamron and Zeiss.

We were anticipating the announcement of a Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art lens but it was never revealed at Photokina. Perhaps we’ll see it an other exciting products from the upcoming CP+ conference in Tokyo.

We hope to review a few select lenses from this list and more as they are announced. Are there any products that you want to see reviewed on Lonely Speck? Let us know in the comments.

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Thanks so much for being a part of our astrophotography adventure.

-Ian

34 Replies to “The Most Exciting Lenses for Astrophotography at Photokina 2014”

  1. I know this is off topic, but what do you think of using the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Nikkor Wide Angle Zoom Lens for astro photography?

    1. The 14-24mm/2.8 is definitely one of the best lenses for the Nikon mount and it’s a higher quality alternative to the Rokinon 14mm/2.8 that I typically suggest.

  2. Hi Ian,

    Gear question for you. I have a Grand Canyon hike planned for late March, and I’d like to do some astrophotography in addition to my normal landscape work.

    I shoot Fuji, and I’ve been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the 16mm f/1.4; I’ve always liked the 24mm equiv. focal length, and f/1.4 sounds like it would be perfect for shooting the stars. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear like it will be released by then.

    So I was sitting here this morning trying to rationalize how I might go with Fuji’s very well-received 14mm f/2.8 instead. I was thinking about star trails, and how the shorter focal length of the 14mm (20mm equiv.) would allow a longer exposure before star trails begin appearing. It is hard for me to estimate whether it would be a full two stops-worth (the difference between f/1.4 and f/2.8), but it seems reasonable that I could shoot for longer than the back of the envelope 30 seconds at f/2.8.

    The prospect of being able to shoot at lower ISO with the 16mm excites me a lot, making me think maybe I should just be patient and hold off until this lens comes out. The consideration about the wider angle 14mm minimizing star trails and increasing the length of possible exposures weighs against that, although I know that I’m starting to run into sensor noise issues the longer the exposure lasts.

    Considering that I also own the 8mm Rokinon f/2.8 (per your recco) and the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 (so, 28mm f/2.8 equiv.), I am wondering how you would weigh these options when adding a new astrophotography toy to the arsenal.

    Thanks in advance,

    Don

    1. Don,

      In my experience with the Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R, the maximum shutter speed is about 25 seconds before star trails start becoming really noticeable. You can push 30+ but expect to start seeing some trailing.

      Now the jury is still out on the 16mm/1.4, no one’s ever used one yet so we don’t know how well it will work for stars. If it’s anything like the 23mm/1.4, it will still need to be stopped down by one stop (to f/2.0) before the edges of the frame really start to look excellent.

      I have no hesitation recommending the 14mm/2.8. It’s simply a very good lens and does astrophotography very well. If you’re looking for a wider field of view than your 18-55/2.8-4, it will suit your needs well.

      Also don’t forget the Rokinon 12mm/2.0. It’s got a nice wide field of view that’s just a hair larger than the 14mm and has that extra stop of light too. Keep in mind though, it’s manual focus only, just like the 8mm/2.8 fisheye.

    1. Dave, I too am looking forward to trying the new Loxia line. I didn’t list them here because it seems like the designs might not be geared toward astrophotography as they seem to be re-hashed versions of the older 50mm Planar and 35mm Biogon lenses for Leica cameras, both designs that have shown some pretty bad aberrations in the corners when shooting wide open. If I can get my hands on them I’ll try to test them out.

      Ian

  3. Thanks for the round-up Ian! Very useful article. Exciting to see indeed and something for every budget! I’m sure you’ve got plans to test some of them? 😉

    1. Thanks Jono, I’m particularly interested in that Samyang / Roki 50mm/1.4 and the New Nikkor 20mm/1.8. I’ll try my best to get some reviews together for at least those in the near future. Some of the others might not be released until 2015 so we’ll have to just be patient.

  4. Hi Ian, thanks a lot for this preview. I’m looking forward to read about the Sony 28/2. Also a comparison of the Sony Zeiss 35/1.4 to the new Loxia 35/2 would be interesting.

    1. Xaver, I am also interested in the Loxia line too but an initial look at the specs and it seems like they might not be as suitable for astrophotography. It looks like the designs might be essentially re-packaged versions of the old Leica mount designs which aren’t too great with aberrations when shooting wide open. We’ll, of course, see what they’re like when they are released. Hope they’re good.

  5. wheres the voigtlander 10.5mm t0.95? This should be the most interesting astrology lens for m43 apart from the new olympus imo 🙂

    1. Al, thanks for the suggestion, looks like there were a few Voigtlander and Mitakon lenses that I left out. I’ll take a closer look and perhaps add some to this list.

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